For Americans, pancakes are a celebration of simplicity. They are the pinnacle of nutrition done well. They are a reminder to us in a world of sous vide and triple-cooked hot chips that sometimes amazing food can be made of sugar and flour and not much more than that. A plate of pancakes contain all the touchstones of comfort: Sweetness, fat, warmth, and an emotional connection.
Pancakes are an archetypal meal; there is a version of flour-batter-cooked-on-hot-metal in virtually every culture in the world. And for that reason, this Christmas, I would like to present to you the quintessential American pancake recipe, one that will produce a stack of flapjacks so picturesque, you can put it in the background of a Cheerios commercial. Let's get started!
|Part of a complete and nutritious breakfast!|
The first thing you need to do is to take a pat of butter, out of the fridge, about 25 grams' worth, and let it sit on the counter until it warms to room temperature. If you'd like, you can cut it into chunks to speed things up.
|About 25 grams. Doesn't need to be exact.|
One of the keys to making classic American pancakes is getting the light, airy, fluffy texture. That's why you've often heard that "buttermilk" pancakes are somehow better than normal ones, because the buttermilk helps with the leavening process. My problem with that is, after you use the quarter cup that you need, what are you gonna do with the other 400ml in the carton? Who even uses buttermilk on a regular basis anyway?
In this recipe, we will be substituting buttermilk with "curdled milk". You read that right, but don't be alarmed; I've tested this recipe at least 6 times in the last month, and I still haven't died yet. So to begin, mix your little sachet of citric acid with the milk in a large mixing bowl, and give it a couple of little swirls. After a few seconds, your milk will look like this:
Set it aside, take a deep breath, remind yourself that you implicitly trust Dan, and let's move onto the next part. Empty the big pouch of dry ingredients into another bowl mixing bowl. Chuck in your softened butter. If it is still cold and hard, be patient with it, and don't be tempted to microwave the butter, because believe it or not, melted butter is a different ingredient to room temperature butter.
Once the butter's ready to go, or you've lost your patience, start to gently knead the butter into the flour mixture. If you coat the butter with the flour before you start to knead, it'll keep it from melting onto your fingers.
|Getting floury fingers is unavoidable..|
Once it's all incorporated, turn back to your curdled milk. Whisk a large egg into it, and it's ready to be mixed into your flour/butter mixture. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients like so:
And pour the wet ingredients into the middle of it. Now here's the tricky part. You want to do your best to thoroughly mix it together without disturbing it too much. The soured milk is now reacting with the leavening agents in the flour to create tons of tiny little carbon dioxide bubbles, and these bubbles, when cooked into the pancakes, is the difference between a fluffy, feathery flapjack and a dry, dense disappointment. With a spatula, start stirring from the side of the bowl, and gently folding the mixture together. Once most of the flour dissolves and there are no obvious dry chunks, you're done.
|Stir slowly, deliberately, and in one direction|
If you've made pancakes before, you might be used to seeing a wetter, more watery batter, but I've purposely kept the liquid to a minimum. A watery batter might spread out too thinly in the pan before setting, whereas a chunky batter will create nice, thick pancakes. American pancakes should imitate American people: Hefty, containing lots of butter, often associated with bacon, and always welcome at breakfast time.
Warm up your pan to about low-medium heat. If you're unsure how hot the pan should be, err on the low side, because pancakes can burn surprisingly fast. Even if you are using a non-stick pan, spray it with some cooking spray or brush a little bit of butter onto the surface, to lend additional richness to the final product. When you dollop the batter onto the pan, the batter will stay lumped together.
If it's TOO thick, you can prod it with a spoon to flatten it a little bit. When the edges look to be setting try to slide a spatula under the pancake. If the batter is still too raw, don't try to flip it just yet. But if it is feeling pretty solid underneath, flip away!
Because of the thickness of this recipe, these pancakes will take a while to cook: About 3-5 minutes per side. These are "slow-cooked pancakes", but I promise you that they are worth the wait! While cooking, you can cover the finished pancakes with foil to keep them warm. When you're done, stack 'em up, and the real gluttons among you can chuck another pat of butter on top for the picture-perfect look.
Breakfast is served!