Near Perfect

I know, there must be a gajillion pancake recipes on the world wide web, each with its very own blinking neon sign proclaiming This Is It This Is the One. But I've tried 'em all, and none have ever turned out to be The One for me.

You know what the problem is? The egg. Every single pancake recipe out there measures its amount in whole eggs. This is madness, since eggs come in so many sizes. I only realized recently that all my pancakes have been way too eggy, resulting in what amounted to a thick crepe: all dense and smooth and kind of chewy.

I guess everyone has their own ideal, but I like my pancakes fat and tall, with a medium crumb. One thing I find that helps is a thick batter--like cooked-oatmeal thick. I'm not often proud of the things I produce in my kitchen, but I can't help but feel a little swell of satisfaction over my near-perfect pancakes.

In case Jenny's seeing this and is reeling in horror, I love butter but, no, I'm not some mad butter fiend. That's a square of gouda cheese in the middle.

They're not picture perfect, but they're exactly the pancakes I crave. And every time I polish one off, I collapse back in my chair with a gusty sigh and a small grin.

Here's the recipe. It's for one pancake--I know, this is the kind of thing I do that gets me the "She's not one of us" look. But you end up with a pancake that's just the right size for easy flipping. And I find the small ingredient quantities make whipping one up extremely quick and easy (there's less threat of overmixing), so you can have a pancake just minutes after a craving hits you.

Near Perfect Pancake
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour*
1 tablespoon rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch (1/16tsp) of baking soda

30ml beaten egg
70ml plain (unsweetened) yogurt
1/2 tsp oil
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup**

* I find whole wheat flour makes a sturdier pancake, which is what I prefer. If you like yours kind of floppy and wimpy, you can use all-purpose flour, but you'll have to reduce the amount of yogurt.
** I use maple syrup cause it blends faster and easier into the batter.
***Notice how the egg and yogurt combined add up to 100ml? I eyeball 30ml of egg in my liquid measuring cup, then top up the cup with yogurt until it gets to 100ml. Next into the wet mix is the 1/2 teaspoon of oil, which nicely greases up the spoon in preparation for the maple syrup, which will just slide neatly out.

1. Get all your ingredients together.
2. Start heating up the fry pan with a teaspoon of oil (butter tastes nicer but it burns easily and stinks up the place).
3. Briefly whisk all the dry ingredients together.
4. Add all the wet ingredients to the dry. Gently give the batter about four slow swirls with the whisk--so everything is still very thick and lumpy (should not be a pourable consistency).
3. Give the hot pan a swirl to spread the oil out a bit and then just use some tissue paper to evenly rub the oil around.
4. Spoon your batter into the pan and gently spread it into a rough disk that's about 1cm thick.
5. Well, hopefully you know what to do after this. Just one word of advice: be gentle when you flip your pancake.

If I don't feel like a syrup-doused cake, I sometimes make a small scramble out of the leftover egg, sprinkle cubes of cheese over the batter right after I've spooned it into the hot pan, and then--hmm, should I tell you this?--top the finished pancake with a spiral of Sriracha, quite possibly the best chilli sauce in the whole world. Serve the scrambled egg and pancake together.

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Hey there,

I was having this very same discussion with a friend the other day (Jason) and we came to the conculsion that in addition to the perfect recipie, the perfect pancake pan heated to exactly the right temperature is an elusive ideal...any suggestions? 

from Jaime

4/13/2005 10:47:00 PM  

Rachel - This sounds great and I love the idea of a single pancake, but I was thinking something similar to Jaime - my first pancake never turns out! It's probably just a matter of letting the pan heat up a little longer, but it happens so consistently! It usually has virtually no color. I was also wondering - what does 20 ml turn out to be (most of the time) - one egg of some size or part of an egg? 

from Cathy

4/14/2005 08:21:00 AM  

Hi Jaime and Cathy!

Oooh, questions about exact temperatures--that's something I couldn't tell you. But I can say that I really heat the hell out of my pan (plus the small amount of oil that's rubbed into it) and I also use my jumbo frying pan because...well, I don't have any other frying pan. But it all works out well in the end because, though I could be totally wrong, I think the high ratio of pan to pancake actually gives even more heat and leads to a nicely browned pancake.

As for other theories, my husband sets a thick, wet towel by the stove, heats the pan until it's smoking, and then puts the pan on the wet towel for a few sizzling seconds. Then puts the pan back on the stove and quickly adds the batter. Honestly, I have no idea why he does this but he claims it works.

I've also seen instructions on the back of a Japanese pancake mix box that tells you to heat the pan, add the batter, and quickly turn off the stove for a minute.

I don't know, my technique of using a really hot pan seems the most uncomplicated and it works for me.

Cathy, as for your colorless pancakes, are you evenly coating the pan with hot oil? Also: don't be afraid of heat! Maybe you think you're going overboard, but seriously, heat that baby like you never done before.

As for the 20ml of egg, I'd say that's about... hmmm... 1/4-1/3 of a small egg?  

from Rachel

4/16/2005 02:01:00 PM  

i have to agree, there are few pancake recipes that really sell themselves. the best i've had though had a meringue base which made it light and fluffy like heaven in every bite. the weight of an egg is about 50 grams unless you have really freakishly big eggs over there haha. if you use oil, you want to heat it up just below smoking point, when you swirl it in the pan you should be able to see ribbons in the oil. always use a heavy bottomed fry pan. heavy bottomed commercial fry pans retain more heat than any other regular fry pan on the market for home use. if you can get your hands on a few they sell to commercial kitchens you're set for life and i guarantee your pancakes will turn out the same every single time because there'll be minimal variation in the cooking temperature. how do i know you say? because i'm a chef who hates home cookware. it sucks. 

from cathy x.

6/26/2005 02:29:00 PM  

Hi cathy x!
Those meringue-based pancakes *are* good. I just don't love myself enough to do all that egg white whisking (by hand) when it's for my own solo consumption.

Regarding the size of eggs, in a foreign country, one tends to lose perspective after a while. I don't know if we've got freakishly small eggs or large ones, but I know that the eggs I buy are never the same size (I just get whatever happens to be cheapest that day). So I just don't trust that style of measurement anymore.

Oh, one thing. What does a good, professional frying pan look like? I know you said it should be heavy. Is it the kind with the shiny base?  

from Rachel

6/28/2005 08:03:00 PM  

generally yes, try to find either stainless steel or copper or stainless steel with a copper base and avoid aluminium 'non-stick' cookware. all you need to prevent sticking is a hot pan. 

from cathy x.

7/03/2005 11:06:00 PM  

I must say, after a lifetime of non-stick, those mirror-like steel pans seem rather scary and, well, sticky. I'll keep your "hot pan" tip in mind.

Thanks cathy x!


from Rachel

7/04/2005 12:36:00 PM  

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