Monday, June 4, 2012

Buttermilk Pancakes

During the week, I don't have the time or energy to put together a fancy breakfast so I usually stick to my green smoothies and a piece of fruit. However, since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, even on weekends when sleeping in is the most welcome idea, I like to make something a little more "high brow." Pancakes are quick and easy and pretty universally liked. To be honest, I actually used to DESPISE pancakes because my family always had a box of Aunt Jemima in the pantry and we'd always have pancakes for breakfast on Sunday and frankly, I got sick of them. They tasted so eggy and flat and I swear the mix absorbed the cardboard-y taste of the box it was packaged in.

But, after my 5 year pancake hiatus, I rediscovered them at a diner last year and decided I loved fresh, non-box-mix pancakes. I think pancakes made from scratch just taste so much better. And seriously, they're so easy. These pancakes are super fluffy and amazing, and I swear you'll never want to use a box mix ever again.

Ingredients [serves 4, or 2 ravenous people]:
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
**And as you can see, the ratios in this mix are pretty easily doubled and halved.
Start by combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

And in another bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Melt the butter first (I use the microwave) and then whisk together with the egg (quickly). This helps create an emulsion so that the butter doesn't start to congeal and solidify again once the cold buttermilk hits it. Of course, this is not an issue if all of your ingredients are at room temperature, but personally, I don't live on a farm with fresh eggs and milk so all that stuff is stored in my refrigerator. Once the egg and butter are combined, add in the buttermilk, milk, and vanilla extract and whisk until it's smooth. Don't freak out if it looks lumpy or congealed; it's probably just the buttermilk reacting with the alcohol in the vanilla extract. Buttermilk is v. fussy.
Just before you're ready to cook the pancakes, get a frying pan or griddle heating up on the stove first and then combine the wet and dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. It's okay if it's lumpy! If you whisk too much, you'll agitate the gluten in the flour and the pancakes will be tough and chewy and gross. And the reason you want to wait until the last minute to combine the two is that the baking soda and the buttermilk will start to react with each other and get bubbly, which is what makes the pancake fluffy. You don't want to waste those precious gases though by letting the batter sit for too long. You'll notice in the third photo, the batter is lumpy but not bubbly and in the last photo frame the batter is bubbly. It took maybe 20 seconds for those bubbles to form. Also, you see the cookie scoop? I used that to make sure that all my pancakes were uniform; two scoops per cake, which is about 3 tablespoons of batter.
Melt a little butter so the pancakes don't stick to the pan and start cooking! You know the pancake is ready to flip when you start to see bubbles forming and popping towards the center of the pancake. Flip the cake and let it cook on the second side for another minute until the second side is golden. Go ahead and flip it again to check and make sure it's golden brown before you take it off the pan and set it on a plate.
Repeat until you've used up all the batter and you have a stack. I ended up with 12 pancakes.
I served mine with eggs over easy and bacon (not pictured). I like my pancakes with a touch of butter and a tiny drizzle of syrup.
OH! And some fruit compote. I just took some frozen assorted berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are what was in my market-made mix), a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and heated it in a saucepan until the berries thawed and gave off some juice. Can you see the air bubbles in profile of the cakes? Maybe not - but take my word for it that these pancakes are SUPER fluffy, light, airy, and delicious. Oh, and don't be limited to eating these for breakfast - they make a great snack... or dinner.

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