When I was a kid, pancakes were magical things, even when my mother managed to burn about half the batch. In college, they are still magical things and now I can make them myself.
When I was a kid, we would have pancakes for supper. My dad would boycott these meals, saying that pancakes were only appropriate for breakfast, but my older brother and I would fight over whose turn it was to eat the first pancake. The first pancake was special because it was a pale golden color with a crispy edge from the newly poured oil. At some point, after church breakfasts and breakfasts after sleepovers, I started to realize that most people prized golden-brown pancakes not much bigger than four inches across, with no crispy edges.
In college, my roommates and I would make pancakes on occasional weekend mornings, after we’d slept in and woken up with wild hair and no motivation to do much besides eat and watch television through most of the morning. One of us would wake up a little early and start mixing up batter.
Sometimes I would wake up and know it was a pancake morning by the smell down the hall. Waking up to find breakfast waiting for you is a lovely feeling.
There’s a slight difference in flavor, perhaps more sweetness in the pancakes made from scratch, although I can appreciate the ease pancake mix offers.
Making pancakes is fairly straightforward. Once the batter is made and the griddle is heated, pour the pancakes and watch them form bubbles. The bubbles are very important, because they follow a pattern: they first appear at the outside of the pancake, and then appear closer and closer to the middle. Once that middle bubble pops, it’s time to flip the pancake. When the pancake is flipped, it’s just a matter of watching the center rise. When it’s done rising, the pancake should be finished.
Of course, if the heat is too high, the side that is down might already be dark brown or even black.
I find this to be a sadly time-consuming process if I’m cooking for other people, because the moment I flip a perfectly fried pancake off the griddle, it’s swooped up and onto a waiting plate. It’s better to either cook them for myself or get up half an hour early and make them as a surprise.
That way, I can sit down and be social at breakfast, rather than being the person standing at the stove while everyone else sits down to eat.
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
For smooth pancake batter, start by whisking together the egg and the milk. If you prefer thicker pancakes, use ½ cup milk, and add more at the end until it reaches the right consistency.
Add the sugar and vegetable oil. Other oils can be used, but may strongly impact the flavor. Olive oil, for instance, generally prompts a negative reaction.
Whisking the entire time, sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. This prevents lumps from forming.
On a griddle (or a frying pan if no griddle is handy), pour a small amount of oil. Heat should be at medium, but I like to err on the lower side to avoid burning my pancakes. Test the heat by throwing droplets of water on the oil. When it sizzles and evaporates, you can pour your first pancake.
Make them as big or small as you like. Bubbles will begin to form at the edges and then at the middle. Flip them when the bubbles at the center pop, although you are free to lift up the edge to check the color. When flipped, the baking powder will make the center of the pancake rise up.
When it stops rising, flip again to check that it’s done. Flip onto a waiting plate.
Serve warm, with your choice of butter, syrup, sugar, jam, cinnamon or whatever else you prefer.
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