Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just Gotta Finish Up That Left Over Buttermilk...

Buttermilk Pancakes 
*(I never follow recipes to the T, something in me just doesn't allow it, I'm defiant in that way, but this one I did and they came out just right)
The Wets
1.5 cups (350ml) buttermilk
1 egg
3 Tablespoons (50g) melted butter - use microwave *(I just melted in the pan I cooked the pancakes in)
2 Teaspoons (10ml) Vanilla 
The Drys1 cup (125g) white flour
3 Tbsp (40g) sugar
1/2 tsp (3g) baking soda (make sure it's not 3 years old... ;-)
1/2 tsp (2g) baking powder
1/2 tsp (4g) salt

Put the wet and dry ingredients into separate bowls. Whisk each one lightly. Add roughly half of the dry mix into the wet and whisk smooth, not too long. Add the remainder of the dry mix and barely whisk together. Make sure all of the flour is mixed in. You don't want to beat this too much as it strengthens the gluten in the flour and makes the pancakes tougher. Don't worry, you can't screw this up; just don't put it in an electric mixer and let it run forever.... If possible, let the batter rest for a few minutes to allow the baking soda and baking powder to perform their magic. This will make for airier pancakes.
NOTE: The batter should be fairly thick, not runny. The perfect batter should pour onto the fry pan and not move much; it should only require a few taps of the measuring cup to spread it out. A few UK readers have commented that they get runny batters and this is most likely due to thin buttermilk. If this happens don't worry, just add a bit more flour, a few tablespoons at a time until it thickens up.

Cooking the pancakes

A simple non-stick fry pan is all you need. Heavier is better as it spreads the heat, prevents burning, and browns the pancakes nicely. Heat the pan on the lowest setting on your stove top as it is easy to burn pancakes. If you have an electric skillet, set it to 325°F. By the way, don't try to make it work with a scratched 20 year old camping pan. This has to be a good quality non-stick surface to work well.

TRICK: Usually, it helps to put a few drops of oil on the fry pan and rub it around with a paper towel. Even with a non-stick surface, it helps the batter release easier.
Drop a 1/4 cup scoop of batter onto the pan. You might need to spread it around just a bit if the batter is extra thick.  You should hear a *slight* sizzle when you pour the batter; if it sizzles loudly, or worse, big bubbles form as you pour, the heat is way too high, turn it down.
The most important point is to cook these pancakes slowly. Too fast and you'll burn them, or worse yet, you'll have pancakes with gooey liquid centers. A good rule of thumb is 90-120 seconds per side. If they burn before that, your pan is still too hot. If things are at the right temperature, you'll know it is time to flip, without timing, by the small bubbles forming at the top of the pancake. When it is covered in small holes, the edge of pancake will start to look dry. This is the time to flip.

It is a good idea to get good at 'peeking' under the edge of the pancake with the spatula. This gives you a good idea of how quickly the bottom is browning. Still a bit yellow? Keep it on for a few more seconds. Browning too fast? Flip it and turn down the heat.
Flipping takes a few tries to get the hang of it. If you've got a good thick batter, there will still be plenty of 'goo' there in the center. When you flip, you've got to do it quickly so it doesn't sploosh across the pan. It might take you a few tries at first but it isn't hard, just do it fairly quickly. This is REALLY fun to do with your younger kids, just start off with scant cups of batter to make them even smaller and easier to flip.
TRICKIf you want, substitute Splenda instead of sugar. This makes the batter handle higher temperatures without burning and doesn't affect the texture or flavor much.
The first pancake usually has 'white spots' on the first side. However, after the first one, the following pancakes will have much more uniform color and pattern. If you want 6 bigger pancakes, use a 1/3 cup instead of 1/4 cup. They are harder to flip so make sure you're comfortable with the smaller ones.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Scott Jenson

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