Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Flapjack Secrets

The Secret to Practically Perfect In Every Way Pancakes
(It's not what you think....)

The Secret to Practically Perfect in Every Way Pancakes is not the recipe for some reason. I searched and searched and found dozens and dozens self-proclaimed “perfect” recipes for pancakes out there. Most of them make a pretty good flapjack. I suspect you could probably fling the basic ingredients willy nilly at a bowl and hope for the best and you could make it come out right - as long as you cook them properly. So here’s a couple of simple good recipes to work from.  Others may be just as good.


Dry Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour (King Arthur cause I like knights and swords)
1 tablespoon baking powder (Clabber Girl – also a great name if you can still find it at your grocer)

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks, 3 egg whites (they kind of come in the same package)


Wet Ingredients:
1 cup flour (Gladiola – cause it sounds springy)
1 tsp. baking powder (any kind - Americans aren’t picky about basic cooking chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (apparently we also like a little extra fizz in our flapjacks)
1/4 teaspoons salt (and a little salt)
1 tablespoons sugar (and pouring syrup on it never makes it sweet enough)

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 tbs. melted butter
1 egg

As near as I can tell Canadians like their hotcakes simpler and less tasty. I think they use real butter and maple syrup though, which may be why they go for a blander formula

How to Mix it Up:

(Secret Alert #1) Mix all the dry stuff in a glass bowl. Don’t ask me why, but all the great cooks mix pancakes in a glass bowl.

(Secret Alert #2) Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and beat the egg whites until they make stiff peaks.

Mix the rest of the wet ingredients like milk, buttermilk and egg yolk until smooth. Pour wet stuff sans egg whites into dry stuff. (Secret Alert #3) Fold about a third of the stiff egg whites into the batter. Now, quickly fold in the rest of the egg whites. Beat hard till no egg white streaks are left and the lumps just disappear. The batter should be light, but not runny, so that it lightly falls off the spoon.

(Secret Alert #4) Let the batter sit for no less than 20 minutes. Some say 1 to 3 hours standing time is supposed to be even better, though I do not know why. Perhaps the delicate balance between ptomaine poisoning and not ptomaine poisoning that you get from leaving something with raw egg in it out on the counter for a long period of time is what provides the flavor. Kind of like hanging a dead goose by the neck till the head falls off to age the meat. I don’t get it, but I’m assured this really works. Something about the flour absorbing the wet ingredients fully or the starch swelling so the air bubbles pop and strengthen the structure of the pancake. Since this means you have to get up 3 hours before breakfast to make the pancake batter, I never do it and always have thick greasy crispy edged, mis-shapen pancakes with holes all in them (which by the way, that’s how I like them). But we’re talking about perfect pancakes, not fattening, delicious greasy griddle cakes the way I like them.

It is axiomatic that the first pancake is for the dog. That makes me a St. Bernard, because my favorite pancake of the batch is always the ugly, too thick, crispy, greasy edged first one off the grill. To prepare the grill do this:

Lightly oil the griddle or frying pan over medium high heat (whatever that is). Some cooks just lightly brush the griddle with butter. On my electric skillet I set the temp somewhere between 375 and 400 degrees depending on the oil. (Secret Alert #5) You want it to just start to smoke before dumping the batter - brown smoke not blue smoke.

(Secret Alert #6) Use a small soup ladle to pour the batter onto the grill. If you make them all the same size you can get yourself into a rhythm while cooking them so you don’t over or undercook. Go for a light colden brown. Don’t let them linger on the grill.

(Super Secret Alert #7) Two words – “peanut butter”. Pancake connosieurs are frequently appalled at this suggestion, but for my family, peanut butter on your pancakes is a family tradition. I’m just sayin’. Take it or leave it, but you’ll be missing something. Real butter and maple syrup are the supposed ideal toppings, but you can dump fruit compote (whatever that is) on there if you want or lots of other sweet things. When I was growing up and we ran out of syrup, I would use apple butter (which is cheaper than jelly). Grape jam is also good on pancakes with margarine and a little PB. For syrups, I like Blackburn syrup because it’s made near my East Texas home in Jefferson, Texas and it’s comparable in cost to the store brands and it comes in great big bottles so you don’t run out so quick. Besides, I like to support local industry. There’s something morally wrong about syrup being made in China or Mexico.

If you are the cook, do not expect to enjoy your pancakes with the family. By the time you finish enough for everyone, the ones on the bottom will be cold. Just serve everybody straight off the griddle, one at a time so they are piled up at the peak of perfection. I put that ugly first one or two pancakes on a plate by the griddle, add syrup and peanut butter and margarine and eat it while I’m cooking the rest. For some reason, you always run out of customers about the same time you run out of batter and if you didn’t get yours first, you either have to mix a new batch for yourself (which my grandmother's invisible voice in my head says is just wrong) or skip breakfast altogether.

It would be sad if you had to skip it!


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