- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pancakes are dessert in Europe. In Asia, they are savory accompaniments to lunch or dinner. Only in the United States are pancakes nearly always for breakfast.

The American preference for pancakes dates to an era when homes on the prairie lacked ovens and breakfast breads were cooked on griddles. Necessity was the mother of pancakes. Lucky for us.

We also tend to think of a pancake or waffle breakfast as a weekend event, but it is actually easy to have during the week.

The batter keeps well for several days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. So you can make the batter in the evening and enjoy pancakes the next morning. Several days later, you can savor an encore performance from the same batter.

During storage, the surface of the batter may oxidize and turn a harmless dark color. Just stir it back in, and it will disappear.

The batter will probably also thicken, and this is fine. Just spread out each pancake with the back of a spoon when it hits the griddle. You can also thin the batter to its original consistency by adding a little water or milk.

There are certain challenges to creating a good pancake. Just remember these pointers:

• Be careful not to undercook pancakes, or they will be unpleasantly damp and raw-tasting.

• Don’t overhandle pancakes, or they will be tough. Minimally mix the batter, and turn the pancakes only once. Be absolutely sure they are done on the underside before turning them over. (Vegetable-based pancakes, on the other hand, may be mixed and turned over to your heart’s content, but we’ll save those for another time.)

• Once cooked, pancakes should be served immediately and not kept warm or left to stand after being cooked.

• Always preheat the griddle and keep the heat at medium-high intensity throughout the cooking process.

Blueberry, raspberry or strawberry pancakes

My children were amazed and impressed with themselves for loving these “healthy” pancakes. The truth is, when you use protein powder and bran in the right proportions and you don’t overwork the batter, healthy pancakes can be light and fluffy enough to earn thumbs up from the under-20 crowd while still offering sufficient nutritional complexity that they won’t crash at midmorning.

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup soy protein powder (see note)

1/4 cup unprocessed wheat bran

1/4 teaspoon salt (rounded measure)

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

11/3 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more butter for greasing pan, if desired (see note)

Nonstick cooking spray

About 11/4 cups fresh or frozen (not defrosted) berries (see note)

Toppings of your choice

Combine all-purpose flour, protein powder, wheat bran, salt, baking powder, baking soda and sugar (if using) in a medium-size bowl. Measure 11/3 cups buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measure. Add eggs and beat gently until smooth. Beat in the vanilla.

Pour buttermilk mixture, along with 1½ tablespoons melted butter, into dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from bottom of bowl until dry ingredients are all moistened. Don’t overmix; a few small lumps are OK.

Place skillet or griddle over medium heat. After about a minute or two, spray it lightly with nonstick spray and, if you like, melt in a little butter. Use a quarter-cup measure with a handle to scoop batter onto the hot griddle.

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons berries to each pancake right after you’ve scooped the batter onto the hot griddle. Use a dinner knife to gently spread batter over the berries.

Cook pancakes for about 3 to 4 minutes on first side, or until golden on the bottom. (Don’t turn them too soon. The trick is to flip them only once, which keeps them light and tender.) The second side will go a little faster; usually 2 to 3 minutes will do it, depending on the heat. Serve right away with chosen toppings. Makes 10 4-inch pancakes.

Note: The soy protein powder used in this recipe is the beige, fluffy kind that comes in bulk bins in natural-foods sections of grocery stores. If you can’t find it, just increase the flour by 1/4 cup. Canola oil can substitute for some or all of the butter. Use the smallest fresh berries you can find. Strawberries should be sliced. If frozen berries are used, they should be added before defrosting.


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