Monday, November 5, 2012

The Great Pancake Debate

This weekend, I made pancakes. A lot of pancakes. Seven different kinds of pancakes, actually.

The stack-filled weekend was not the result of a lost bet. Nor was it evidence of my growing insanity into house-wifery. It was all part of my master plan -- my "pancake showdown" if you will.

Since I have way too many recipes for pancakes, I decided it was time to find the "best" one. The only real way to do that is to have a taste-test and see which one comes out on top. So that's what we did. I looked through my saved weblinks, dog-eared cookbooks, and torn magazine pages, and found the ones that sounded best. I decided on seven different kinds and set up shop for the weekend.

The timing of the event was pretty good, since we would have an extra pancake-eater for the weekend. As part of my husband's (early) birthday gift, I flew his best friend in from Indiana as a surprise. It was quite a relief to have a third person to help tackle the 60-something pancakes I ended up making.

I made the dry mixes in advance, so I'd have less to measure out on the morning of pancake day(Actually, I instructed my wonderful husband to measure everything out and put it all in ziplock bags).

Day 1 of my systematic approach to figuring out the best pancake recipe.

It always baffles me how different pancake recipes can be. Some use milk, others buttermilk, others ricotta or cottage cheese (my mom even told me about some phantom pancake that uses club soda!). The first round of pancakes I made were buttermilk or milk based; the second day's pancakes were ricotta or cottage cheese based. For the record, the cottage cheese one was pretty inedible (for two out of the three of us). All the others were at least decent. In general, I thought the milk/buttermilk ones were better than the ricotta. They were more traditional and more of what you think of when you're looking for "good pancakes."

The weekend taste test was interesting. It was nice to slow down and really focus on how something tastes. Flavors, textures... it all went into consideration when we were figuring out which one was best. Some were flat, others chewy, others light and fluffy.

In the end, two pancakes came out on top. I liked one more than the other; my hubby had the order inversed. Since this is my blog and not his, I'm putting the recipe for my favorite one here. It's a definitely the more traditional of the two - a fluffy, tasty, buttery buttermilk pancake. Lauren liked one of the ricotta ones. It was definitely more decadent than the buttermilk (using stiff egg whites gently folded into the batter to make them crazy light) but not quite as traditional. Both of them were super yummy though.

The weekend wasn't without its irony, however. I finally found the recipe for "perfect" pancakes. But in the process, I ate so many that I won't be making them for quite some time. :)

Day 1 Pancakes: Buttermilk & Milk-Based
Day 2 Pancakes: Ricotta & Cottage Cheese-Based
Winning Pancake Recipe
Alton Brown's Buttermilk Pancakes

Instant Pancake Mix:
Make this in advance and store in an airtight container. The day you want pancakes, you'll use some of the mix (like you would store-bought mix) and add wet ingredients.  We halved this part easily. With how yummy it was though, I wouldn't mind making a full batch to keep some on hand.

6 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Buttermilk Pancakes:
2 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk (I made sure not to use the low-fat kind)
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups "Instant Pancake Mix" (from above)

On Pancake Day:
Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the egg whites and buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg milk mixture in a larger bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work out the lumps. (I made sure to use a lot of restraint here... leaving some patches of flour and not mixing it until it was smooth -- or even combined).

Make sure the griddle is hot enough (place a few drops on the surface. If the water dances across it, it's ready). Lightly butter the griddle by rubbing a stick across the surface. Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle. Sprinkle fruit on top, if desired. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until pancake is set.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

*If you're in the mood for something a bit more decadent, here's the recipe for the (runner up) Ricotta Pancakes. We didn't make the lemon curd, but it looks tasty.

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