For some reason, my little sister asks how to make pancakes. She says she’s tried many recipes.
The trick — the trick to lots of cooking — is to think things through. Be systematic and think ahead, and it’s easy.
From the pantry, get
- baking soda
- baking powder
Get them in one trip, not four separate trips. If you go to the pantry once, it’s breakfast. Four times, it’s a production. You’re making pancakes, not a big tsimmes. Put them on the counter. (Professional cooks call this getting your mise en place. You can sing this while you’re cooking pancakes; it's sure to brighten your morning.)
From the cupboard, get
- a mixing bowl
- liquid measuring cup
- flour measuring cup
- wooden spoon
- measuring spoons
The same rule applies: know what you’re getting, get it, put it on the counter.
From the refrigerator, get
- milk or buttermilk (buttermilk is better. Get a carton; it's not a big deal and it keeps really well)
- maple syrup
You can do this by running down the ingredients in Joy of Cooking and fetching them one by one. That’s how I started out. It means thirteen treks across the kitchen to get started, and that takes time. Think ahead, keep related things in the same place, and you can do this in three steps. You can gather everything you need in under a minute.
I didn’t put the kitchen scale in this list, because most pancake recipes use volume, not weight. By volume, you want the same amount of flour and milk (which is easy to remember) and about 1 extra-large egg for each cup of flour. By weight, this works out to about 4oz flour, 6 oz milk, and 1 egg.
- 3/4 C flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda (if you use buttermilk, which you should)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
Mix the dry ingredients. Then add
- 3/4 C milk or buttermilk
- 1 egg
and stir until mostly mixed. Don't worry too much about lumps. Don't whip it to a froth. Let it sit for a minute. Then cook the pancakes.
Pancakes are not finicky. I say the ratio of flour to liquid (by weight) is 2:3. Ruhlman says 1:1, because Ruhlman likes his pancakes a little heftier than I do. Lately, I’m on a fluffy pancake kick, even stretching to the warm, creamy interior they manage so well at Dottie's True Blue Cafe (522 Jones St, San Francisco). Pancakes are forgiving, so you have a lot of latitude.
You can put stuff in your pancakes. Crumble a few pecans; they’re good. Or a few blueberries. Or cut the kernels off an ear of corn, leave out the sugar, and you've got corn crepes to go with dinner. That’s not leftover beef stew: it’s braised beef in fresh corn crepes!
(I cribbed this from a booklet I started on dormitory cooking, Duck Confit and Other Birds, intended for the cohort of nieces and nephews who were about to go to college. Now, the first batch are graduating and I’m still shilly-shallying. Oh well.)