Pancakes (along with fried bread and fatty pastries) are traditional Mardi Gras staples, since Fat Tuesday is the last chance to eat rich, fatty foods before the 40 day fasting of Lent. But even if you’re going to skip the fasting, go ahead and indulge in the feasting. There’s no better time to cook up fluffy buttermilk pancakes.
Here are some no-fail pancake making tips I rounded up, with a little help from The Pancake Handbook: Specialties from Bette’s Oceanview Diner.
Don’t Overmix the Batter
The cardinal rule for mixing up pancake batter (and also quick breads) is that you don’t want to overmix. Two reasons: 1) You’ll over-develop the gluten in the four, making the pancakes tough, and 2) You break up the air bubbles released by the leaveners, baking powder and baking soda. One way to avoid overmixing pancake batter is to thoroughly mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, and then mix them together with a brief, gentle stir. Don’t sweat a few lumps.
Troubleshooting: Too Wet or Too Dry?
Even with the best measurements, batter consistency is influenced by many different variables and adjustments often need to be made on the fly. If your pancake batter is too runny it will spread out into thin pancakes, and if it’s too thick it won’t spread and your pancakes will have uncooked centers. You may have to make a trial pancake to test the batter. If you think it needs adjusting, gently mix in a sprinkling of flour if your batter is too runny or a little water or milk if your batter is too thick.
Cooking Them Up
An electric griddle is my pancake-making tool of choice since you can set the temperature to 375 degrees and it remains fairly constant. You can also cook 6 to 8 pancakes at a time. It’s tempting to just spoon batter onto the griddle and eyeball the size, but most pancakes cook and look best if you actually measure 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle.
Ready to Flip?
Your pancakes should be ready to flip after about 2 to 3 minutes, when the top is covered with bubbles, the edges look slightly firm and the underside is toasty brown. Very gently flip the pancakes using a broad spatula, trying to maintain those air pockets trapped in the batter.
After the Flip
Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the other side is brown. If you’re easily distracted, impatient or just plain bad at estimating time (or all of the above), go ahead and set your kitchen timer for 2 minutes.
Ready to Eat
Pancakes are best served straight from the griddle, but you can keep a batch warm in the oven if you want to serve a crowd all at once. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and layer cooked pancakes in a baking dish covered with foil or a kitchen cloth. For toppings, only 100% maple syrup (warmed for a few seconds in the microwave) and real softened butter will do. Time to dig in!
Get Started with These Pancake Recipes: