Why you should know how to make pancakes from scratch

This is not a post about why pancakes made from scratch are better than pancakes made from a mix. Pancake mix is fine. I grew up eating pancakes made from Bisquick, and while I haven’t had a Bisquick pancake in a while, if I did I bet I’d enjoy it a lot.

But I don’t have any Bisquick in the pantry. And what if I wanted a pancake? What if I woke up, groggy, wanting pancakes, only to find just a half cup of mix left in the bottom of the bag? If mix is your only path to pancakes, it means either an early-morning trip to the store or finding something else for breakfast.

But if you know how to make pancakes from scratch, you’re never in this predicament. (Assuming that is, you’re unlikely to be out of flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda, eggs, milk and butter. Which is true around here!) This recipe might not make the world’s best pancakes — or even the same pancakes each time. But it does allow me to make pancakes whenever the mood strikes without much thought about the pantry or a trip to the store.

To start, I mix together in a large bowl:

  • Two-ish cups of bread flour or all-purpose flour. We have ours in a big container with a scoop and a heaping scoopful seems about right. You can also mix in a little whole wheat flour or rye flour if you’re feeling fancy (or if that’s the only way you’re going to have enough flour).
  • A half teaspoon of baking soda
  • Two teaspoons of baking powder
  • A third-to-a-half cup of sugar
  • A tablespoon (probably less?) of salt

Then melt two tablespoons of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Whisk in an egg and add … a quantity, maybe 2 or 3 cups? of milk. (Buttermilk is even better. And in a pinch, you can water down some yogurt or sour cream. Or reconstituted powdered milk.) Better to go with a lower amount at first — it’s easy to add liquid later to get the right consistency.

Whisk that together, then pour it into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together with a rubber spatula.

This is where some judgment comes in. The batter should be wet enough that when you drop it in the pan it will spread out into a roughly circular shape, but not so wet that it spreads out too thin, like a crepe. It has taken some practice to get this right. One thing I’ve learned recently is that if you want to thin the batter, it’s better to add water than more milk — that makes for lighter pancakes.

From there, it’s standard pancake operating procedure: fry large spoonfuls of batter in a hot pan. Flip when bubbles start to burst on the surface of the batter. I use a cast-iron pan with plenty of oil. The oil gives the pancakes crispy edges (a trick I learned from my father-in-law).

These pancakes were made with a little bit of rye flour.

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