Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Pancakes!

This weekend, Sparky decided it was time for him to learn something new - his first suggestion: Cake shaped like a truck. Second suggestion: biscotti. I decided to go with the third suggestion: pancakes, something every young man should know how to make.

I'm sure his reason for suggesting pancakes had a lot to do with this video, brought to our attention by our friend Joe - Sparky aspires to use the "force" as a kitchen tool. I, also, had an ulterior motive for this episode: my arch-enemy is the school's "brunch for lunch," prepackaged machine-perfect orbs mislabeled "pancakes" and a small tub of maple-flavored HFCS. I wanted a pointed illustration of how frumpier homemade cakes are better (fortunately, he's nearly as horrified as I am by "bruch for lunch.") So, I poured myself the biggest cup of coffee I could find, and a corresponding cup of juice for the boy, and assembled our mess-en-place.

These cakes have a lot of ingredients, but they create what I believe is the perfect pancake - the recipe is based on Joy of Cooking's Multi-Grain Pancakes.


1 cup whole-grain flour (in this case we used whole wheat, but you can sub whatever. Buckwheat, rye, whatever you've got; I love the flavor of buckwheat in pancakes)
3/4 cup AP flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (this is crucial IMO)
1/4 cup oats
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
(the recipe suggests cinnamon and nutmeg which I never use, these have such terrific flavor by thmeselves)
1 3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
3 eggs

First, all the ingredients up to and inculding the baking soda were combined and whisked thoroughly in one bowl.  Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined. These two mixtures were then put together in a bowl and mixed just until combined, so as not to awaken the gluten in the AP flour - the batter is decidedly lumpy.

The bowl was brought next to the stove, and set aside while we waited for the pan to heat up. A small amount of butter went into our large non-stick skillet on medium heat. When it melted completely and fizzled, batter was poured in, about 1/8 cup to a cake.

The real trick to perfect pancakes is knowing when to turn: when they go from looking like this (bubbling but the edges are still wet)... looking like this,  (there's a pronounced dry edge not visible in this photo, you can see it better below, but the real tell are the bubbles -they should make tunnels near the edge and fill fairly slowly near the middle) you flip them.

Sparky was really into flipping the cakes, he picked it up very quickly and did the entire batch himself. It's imperative to watch the heat - if your pancakes are too brown when they're turned, turn it down a few notches; if your pan starts smoking take it off the heat until it stops. If the cakes are taking forever to reach stage 2, bump it up a notch. I manned the stove knob while Sparky flipped the flapjacks, turning out  perfectly imperfect cakes that were a joy to behold:

(note: this recipe tends to brown a bit more than other pancakes, due to the sugar content - they also burn quite easily if you're not careful)

Sparky took one look at his efforts and - channeling his inner politician - said "That's not just a mountain of pancakes, that's a mountain of knowledge!" Out of the mouths of babes...

So, we all sat down to a terrific Sparky-made breakfast and stuffed ourselves silly.

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