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KeithA
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I've been tasked with cooking a special, pancake birthday breakfast. After an recent, awful experience with a Trader Joe's mix, I'm going to try making them from scratch. Please share your best, no-fail pancake recipes. Thanks.

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I would say two things: with all due respect to TJs and Williams Sonoma, be deeply distrustful of any mix that claims to serve more than 1 purpose (pancakes are different from waffles which are different from bisquits etc.) and never use a mix that doesn't call for fresh eggs to be added. If you follow these rules, Aunt-Jemima (original, add-egg recipe) will always do in a pinch, though I'm sure this board can do better.

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There are probably a lot of great recipes out there and much depends on you have a preference for a thick batter that yields high, fluffy cake-like circles or if you go for a very runny batter that makes flatter, wider pancakes.

For me, melted butter and a top-notch buttermilk are crucial. I like Deborah Madison's recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone which calls for:

3/4 cup AP flour

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 T sugar

Mix together dry ingredients.

Melt 1 T butter

Beat 1 large egg in a measuring cup. Check the side--it should be about 1/4 c. Pour in 3/4 c. buttermilk so that you've got a cup of liquid. Mix it up. Pour in the cooling butter. Mix all into the dry ingredients, just until a uniform batter is formed. Add more buttermilk to thin batter if you'd like. Makes about 7. This is half the original recipe and it can be easily increased. Mark Bittman has a similar recipe.

Also great are corncakes made with buttermilk and kernels, especially with frozen wild blueberries simmered in maple syrup just until soft and starting to burst.

Ditto buckwheat cakes made with a yeast starter (James Beard--but I add egg and milk to his ascetic recipe).

I just bookmarked this the other day since I have some rhubarb compote in the fridge that I thought would suit griddle cakes: Edna Lewis's recipe.

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I know that you are looking for a recipe, but wanted to pass along that the William and Sonoma Outlet in Leesburg, Virginia is selling a large can of their holiday eggnog pancake/waffle mix for less than four dollars.
Not to brag but I have had tons of compliments on my pancakes and here is what I do. I like them very light and fluffy while some prefer a denser, cakier flapjack. If that is you then ignore this post. I use regular old hungry jack buttermilk pancake mix (I have tried others but this works the best) and alter it a bit. I do everything by eye but I will try to use measurements here. A few general tips: make sure and mix all the dry ingedrients and wet ingredients separately before mixing them together. Also try to do the final mix in something tall and skinny as opposed to low and flat (I read some where that this allows fewer air bubbles to escape.) Mix the liquid ingredients in that container and then add the dry on top of that to mix. You will spend less time scraping those still dry bits of flour from the bottom. Finally mix as little as possible. I usually mix for less than 10 seconds with a wisk, and then let it sit for a few minutes while your pan heats up.

So, I use 2 cups of the mix, 1-2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of baking poweder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and a few pinches of salt (I also like to add cinnamon and nutmeg to my pancakes sometimes but that is purely optional). For the wet ingredients: 1 and a half cups of lowfat buttermilk instead of water, 1 egg, about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a small squeeze of lemon juice (one small wedge, sounds weird but trust me). If the mix looks a little too thin or a little too thick add pancake mix or buttermilk accordingly. If you aren't sure err on the side of thin because as the buttermilk and lemon juice react with the baking soda/powder the bubbles will make the batter seem thicker. Also if it is too thick the inside may still be batter when the outsides are done cooking. Make sure the pan is decently hot (dancing water droplets) and grease with butter or spray with pam. If you are planning on doing nuts or berries or chunks of banana or something I usually place them immediately after pouring the pancake onto the pan. This way you can distribute them evenly and if you put them in while you are mixing the batter, sometimes clumps of flour form around them and a lot of them will sink to the bottom.

Also another nice touch, if you have a blender dump in some syrup along with a pitted peach (if they are in season) and puree. When they are not in season I usually do this with a handful of frozen mixed berries (available in the freezer section of any grocery store). This not only cuts the sugary sweetness a bit, but gives it a thicker saucier consistency which keeps the pancakes from absorbing as much syrup and becoming soggy. It's also a great way to use up peaches that are too ripe to eat by hand.

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Supposedly, the biggest mistake is overmixing; you should just barely combine the wet and dry ingredients, and if there are flour lumps, that's fine. I think that was from an article in the Wash Post a few years ago, or maybe Cook's Illustrated; sorry I can't quote the source. I don't make pancakes very often. My mom used to make nice fluffy ones, and as I recall she would whip the egg whites separately and fold them into the batter.

A really good resource is Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book, (click ) which must have more than a dozen pancake recipes; particularly good are the thin cornmeal pancakes and German apple pancake (baked in a skillet in the oven).

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If you follow these rules, Aunt-Jemima (original, add-egg recipe) will always do in a pinch, though I'm sure this board can do better.
I think it was on the Alton Brown buttercream episode that Alton Brown said he actually recommends using cake mixes. He said that they can use a lot of additives (please ignore the negative images conjured up by that word) and specially produced flours and such that home cooks don't have access to but really help the cake texture and taste. I kind of assumed that the same was true for pancake mix. I am sure the flour used has some optimal level of proteins and there are additives to help it stay moist etc. This why I always alter pancake mix instead of making it from flour. (I have had bad results with cake flour by the way, I definitely recommend AP if you are going the flour route, by the way) Maybe this is all just in my head though...
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I've been getting positive feedback recently by making banana-coconut pancakes. Instead of doing the traditional banana pancake thing of laying slices of banana on top of the circle of batter on the skillet, I throw a banana in the blender with all of the other ingredients and then use coconut milk as the liquid portion. After the blender has pulsed a few times to combine everything, I throw in some shredded coconut. Also, whatever pancake recipe I am making gets some cardamom, freshly grated nutmeg and vanilla extract. If I am making plain or blueberry pancakes, I add some lemon zest, too. Whatever recipe I am using, Bittman's or anyone elses, I always add a little bit more baking powder than they call for, so that the pancakes rise more and are a bit fluffier--don't like those flat, rubbery ones.

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Supposedly, the biggest mistake is overmixing; you should just barely combine the wet and dry ingredients, and if there are flour lumps, that's fine. I think that was from an article in the Wash Post a few years ago, or maybe Cook's Illustrated; sorry I can't quote the source. I don't make pancakes very often. My mom used to make nice fluffy ones, and as I recall she would whip the egg whites separately and fold them into the batter.

That is the tip that I was going to chime in with. Makes them very light and fluffy.

Stay away from the mixes. Pancake batter is very easy to make so there is not much to worry about, except over mixing. Alton Brown and Joy of Cooking have good recipes, but I don't have them on me at the moment.

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Instead of doing the traditional banana pancake thing of laying slices of banana on top of the circle of batter on the skillet, I throw a banana in the blender with all of the other ingredients and then use coconut milk as the liquid portion.
This reminds me of my own pancake question - what do you all find is the best way to do "mix ins"?

I've tried both the obvious ways: (1) add to the batter beforehand, or (2) add to already poured pancake in pan. Method #2 works but then the mix ins end up weighted on one side, and sometimes over-browned when the pancake is flipped. I like how the fruit is distributed uniformly with Method #1 but then sometimes end up with raw batter around the fruit pieces, even when the pancakes is otherwise cooked.

All in all, I've gone with #2, but I'm not that happy with it. What am I doing wrong?

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This reminds me of my own pancake question - what do you all find is the best way to do "mix ins"?

I've tried both the obvious ways: (1) add to the batter beforehand, or (2) add to already poured pancake in pan. Method #2 works but then the mix ins end up weighted on one side, and sometimes over-browned when the pancake is flipped. I like how the fruit is distributed uniformly with Method #1 but then sometimes end up with raw batter around the fruit pieces, even when the pancakes is otherwise cooked.

All in all, I've gone with #2, but I'm not that happy with it. What am I doing wrong?

Well, with method #2, with the fruit laid on top of the batter after it is poured, you are always going to get browned fruit when you flip the pancake--unless you spoon some additional batter on top of the fruit, after you set it in place.

I've always preferred method #1. I've never had the problem you describe. Here are a couple of suggestions--turn down the heat and cook your pancakes slower and longer, and put them onto a platter or baking sheet in a moderate oven (say 275-300F.) for a few minutes after they come off the griddle. I always do this while I am making a batch of pancakes, and it insures that the pancakes are fully cooked. Serve in two batches, so that the last ones off the griddle spend some time in the oven before they are brought to the table.

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I've heard about the whipped egg whites folded in tip, but since I learned about not overmixing--that has made all the difference in my pancakes. As Porcupine said, barely combining the wet and dry ingredients, and leaving the flour lumps. Trying to mix-in the flour lumps was my main problem in the past, and once I tried this method and it was so successful, I figured why bother with whipping egg whites! Amazingly light and flavorful...buttermilk, of course. Betty Crocker has never steered me wrong.

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Grandpa always use beer (Bud, iirc) instead of water: I have tried a few times to duplicate this, but the effects are never quite as stunning as I remember them being. The theory is a nice one, though, that the bubbles in the beer keep the pancake light and fluffy. Not sure if it's actually true, but worst case is that you have a few ounces of beer left over, and your pancakes have a little extra flavor (emphasis on "little" if using Bud or similar)

Also: Flappy, I've got good news! I've decided not to kill you!

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My recipe, from memory since the recipe is at home (but it should be close):

Dry ingredients:

1 cup AP flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

Wet ingredients:

1 egg

2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 cup buttermilk

Sift all the dry ingredients together. I know Alton often says sugar belongs with the wet ingredients, but I've always added it here with the dry and haven't messed around with it. Beat the egg until it changes color to a lighter yellow. I almost never have buttermilk around (which is a damn shame) so I usually end up using 1 cup of milk mixed with 1 1/3 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar instead. I heat the milk for about 20 seconds in the microwave and then give the apple cider vinegar 5-10 minutes to do it's job, stirring every couple of minutes or so. Add the buttermilk to the egg and give a good whisk to mix it together.

I don't know if most people do there mixing with a hand mixer, but I stick with a whisk for pancakes. A, I don't want to get the hand mixer out and B, it makes it harder to overmix. Add the flour mix to the egg mix and whisk together. I usually just add it in one large batch, though I'm sure Alton would probably say it should be added in seperate batches. I typically whisk until almost all of the lumps are out, but a couple lumps aren't going to bother me. Then I add the melted butter to the mix and give a short whisk to get it incorporated.

This has worked well for me. I still have troubles balancing outside brown-ness with inside done-ness but that's a work in progress. The few times I've made this with actual buttermilk I had to add a bit more to get the consistency of the batter right. I basicaly aim for what I'd call "gloopy". It doesn't pour out easily, but rather pours slowly and at the end has a couple "gloops" that come out of the measuring cup onto the griddle. This may be a bit too thick and is what is causing my insides to be not quite done when the outsides are the color that I want... something to experiment with I guess.

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Well thanks so much to everyone for the recipes and the great tips. I will be doing a bunch of tests this weekend, before the actual pancake breakfast the following weekend.

I also wanted to get people's take on using buttermilk vs. regular milk (without the added vinegar/acid to make it like buttermilk)? Most recipes call for buttermilk and sing its praises, but when you use it the hotcakes can turn out a bit more sour taste - especially for the eaters like my wife who eat them plain without syrup or butter. So please chime in on why you use one vs. the other?

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I also wanted to get people's take on using buttermilk vs. regular milk (without the added vinegar/acid to make it like buttermilk)? Most recipes call for buttermilk and sing its praises, but when you use it the hotcakes can turn out a bit more sour taste - especially for the eaters like my wife who eat them plain without syrup or butter. So please chime in on why you use one vs. the other?
I make my own yogurt for the same reason I rarely am without buttermilk in the fridge. I love tangy food and contrasts between sour, savory and sweet.

That said, I can't say I detect anything overtly sour in buttermilk pancakes when I eat them with maple syrup or fruit. I always thought the preference in recipes was for the sake of flavor--same reason some cooks like to add a little whole wheat or pulverized oats to the all-purpose flour--but buttermilk also produces a lighter, higher pancake, no? I know it interacts uniquely w leavening agents so that you need BOTH baking powder and baking soda when baking with the stuff and maybe it's just that the recipes I use call for both, so the double-agent thing leads to greater height. The main purpose of either milk or buttermilk is to tenderize your batter as opposed to merely thinning it with water or turning it into rubber with too many eggs. (FYI beer is traditional in blinis, but allowing the batter to ferment for a while is crucial.)

If you decide to make two different batters, one with buttermilk, don't shop at Trader Joe's. They sell buttermilk with added cornstarch. I'm guessing it's thicker that way.

My tastes seem to differ from your wife's. I couldn't imagine eating naked pancakes, though if it's a fear of calories rather than Shaker sensibilities or medically restricted bland diet that motivates her, why not make some stewed/roasted fruit (e.g. frozen peaches w a touch of butter and ginger?) or maybe warm apples cooked in cider and spices to serve as a topping? Swedes like preserves and you can go with an all-fruit spread, slightly warm.

On a final note: If your diner(s) like bacon, bake (or fry) a few pieces, drain, and crumble them into some of the batter.

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So I got way too busy at work last week, didn't have time to try any of your great from scratch recipes. Ended up with Aunt Jemima original pancake mix that you add fresh eggs, oil, and milk too. And...they turned out great. Maybe there is something special in the flour like someone said. I think it helped that I dazzled the crowd with lots of topping options - all sorts of berries, bananas, nuts, and chocolate chips. My dad also brought over a great wild Maine blueberry maple syrup that went well with the blackerry and strawberry hotcakes. He picked up the syrup at a Cracker Barrel of all places. So I guess the lesson is sometimes store-bought non-foodie items can do the trick.

Thanks for the suggestion about coating the fillings with more batter before flipping (I did each cake made to order and some people didn't want the residue of chocolate or berries on the pan).

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Went to visit my folks this past weekend, and my stepmother whipped up these fantastic pancakes. MAN, were they good! I'm not even a big pancake fan, and I don't dig oatmeal. Also, they stand up to freezing and can be defrosted in a toaster.

Her recipe which she stole from a diner somewhere in the backwoods of Idaho:

The night before breakfast:

5 Cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal

1 ¼ Cup buttermilk

Mix by hand, then add and mix:

5 eggs lightly beaten

2/3 Cup all purpose flour

2/3 Cup sugar

1 level Tablespoon baking powder

1 level Tablespoon baking soda

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

2 ½ Cups milk

Refrigerate overnight or longer – can be frozen

STIR IN ¾ CUP MELTED BUTTER before making (can be frozen as batter after the butter is added, too)

Cook just like regular pancakes – takes a bit longer to brown on one side

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