Pancakes! What is there not to like? Bread like goodness with syrup! I have learned however, there is an art to making the perfect pancake and while I am not at perfection level by any means, I have discovered a few key points and created a fantastic recipe for tasty, fluffy pancakes!
Anatomy of a Pancake (Written by Rick Martinez on Bonappetit)
Flour and liquid create the structure in any dough. Mixing the two together develops gluten, the protein that gives elasticity to dough. When making bread, gluten is a good thing; it allows the bread to hold its structure and supports the formation of the gas bubbles created by the yeast. Without gluten, bread would not be able to rise.
However, gluten in quick breads, pie crusts, cakes, and pancakes is not good. You want these baked items to be soft and tender with a delicate crumb, and that means as little gluten as possible. Over-mixing pancake batter develops the gluten that will make the pancakes rubbery and tough. For light, fluffy pancakes, you want to mix just until the batter comes together—it’s okay if there are still some lumps of flour.
Fat (melted butter) makes the pancakes rich and moist. Adding too much fat will make them seem more like pound cake; they’ll have smaller bubbles and won’t rise as much. On the other hand, too little fat will make them dry and crispy—almost cracker-like.
With little gluten, pancakes rely on eggs to provide the additional structure necessary to hold the bubbles and allow the pancake to rise. The fat in the yolk also provides richness and flavor. Too much egg, however, will make the pancake dense and custard-like; not enough will make it drier and more biscuit-like.
Baking powder and baking soda are the chemical leaveners typically used in pancakes. They are responsible for the bubbles in the batter, and for making the cakes light and fluffy. Baking powder (double acting) provides two rises: The first occurs when the baking powder comes into contact with a liquid, the second when it’s exposed to heat. Too much baking powder will create a very puffy pancake with a chalky taste, while too little will make it flat and limp.
Baking soda rises only once when exposed to an acid (like buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt). Baking soda also controls the browning of the batter in the pan. Not enough soda will result in a blonde, flat pancake. Too much will result in a tall, dark, soapy-tasting pancake.
Cooking to Perfection
Pancakes should be cooked on medium heat. Cast iron griddles are best, but a wide heavy skillet with low sides will work too. Always make the first pancake as your test cake or “chef’s snack,” to make sure that you have the heat just right.
Lightly brush the griddle with oil before you pour the batter (a third to half a cup per pancake is standard). Cook pancakes until bottoms are golden brown and bubbles are forming and bursting in the center, about three minutes. If the pancakes are getting too dark but the bubbles haven’t started to burst, lower the heat. If they are still blonde but the bubbles are bursting, increase the heat. Flip and cook until cooked through and other side of pancakes are golden brown, about two minutes longer.
Everything that he said makes perfect sense! I kept getting very dense pancakes and I contribute that to overmixing. Who knew!
So here is the recipe I came up with and I hope y’all enjoy it as much as we do.
1 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbl honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 tbl unsalted butter, melted
2 bananas, mashed or other fruit such as blueberries
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the honey, eggs, milk, and melted butter. Whisk together thoroughly, but do not overmix! Read the article as to why.
Gently fold the mashed bananas into the batter with a spatula.
Heat a griddle or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat griddle with oil and pour batter in. I use a tablespoon and spoon in making perfect sized pancakes for my lil one.
When the pancakes have begun to turn golden brown on the bottom, flip them over to cook the other side.
If you really want to experiment add pure vanilla extract or almond extract to the wet ingredients. I also top with more fruit such as strawberries or blueberries. I also add crushed walnuts to mine. (Not lil dudes) If you want more of a dessert try Nutella and chocolate chips on top!