A really, really long time ago, making perfect pancakes completely from scratch was one the first real cooking goals I ever set for myself. To be more exact, I had set a general learning goal to make as many things as possible from scratch, and I thought I was starting small with pancakes. Well, after several unsuccessful batches of homemade pancake batter, I can tell you that as a novice cook all those years ago I completely underestimated the “simple” pancake.
Word for word, I followed the directions in pancake recipes that I found in old recipe card sets and cookbooks I had, and without fail the pancakes were disappointing. It was a different sort of failure for each and every batch, but basically they turned out flat, tough or just completely flavorless.
I didn’t understand it. There was no way all of those recipes were that flawed. They were published by big names in the cookbook industry and surely someone had put them through a quality test, right? So, logic forced me to admit that the problem was most likely a classic case of user error. But, since I had followed the steps in the recipes to a “T”, I just wasn’t really sure how I was screwing it up.
After a few more weeks of pancake disasters, I decided to try making homemade sandwich bread to break the monotony. (Reach for the stars, right? Why not!) When I began researching bread recipes and bread-making techniques on the internet, I came across an article about gluten, bread-making and proper kneading. Reading that information was nearly life-altering for me.
Seriously, after reading that enormously useful article, I realized that my problem with pancakes came down to over-mixing the batter. Yep, I was a serial pancake batter over-mixer and I was definitely the one killing the Sunday morning pancakes! In a nutshell, what I learned was that, like cake batter, pancake batter has to be handled gently so that gluten doesn’t over-develop in the mixing process. That way the gluten in the batter can trap more air that’s created during the cooking process and cause the pancake rise with a soft, fluffy texture.
It was learning to correct my mistakes in making successful, simple pancakes that proved to me that there truly is a lot of science and conscious technique involved in cooking and baking. This realization made me more daring when it came to trying new methods in the kitchen, but now I do my research first.
So, I’m happy to pass on the fruits of my labor to you. This is the only basic buttermilk pancake recipe I ever use anymore. And for the love of Pete, just take it easy when you’re mixing up the batter!
Perfect, Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes printable recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup lowfat milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t)
1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
Love pancakes! And it took me a bit of time to learn that more mixing made worse pancakes! Yours look great — thanks.
Isn't science wonderful, Marcelle? I remember learning that about cakes from a middle school teacher, not my mother. My mom's were perfect, but she never knew why. Love the pancakes… wish it were Sunday morning instead of Sunday evening! Next weekend!