Last night was Pancake Tuesday, the appropriately subdued Canadian version of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.
I want to tell you about my pancakes.
Pancake styles occupy one point on a continuum between slack batters and stiff batters. Slack, or high-liquid, batters make thin, soft, limp pancakes the size of dinner plates. Stiff, or low-liquid, batters, yield thicker, cakey pancakes the size of tea saucers or smaller. For home-cooking I favour the stiff variety, making a batter that is barely, barely pourable. The resulting cakes are more dense, but still soft and moist. They develop a delicate, crisp exterior during frying, something that the slack batters can’t do because of their high liquid content.
In the name of flavour, I make two substitutions to standard pancake recipes. First, I convert half of the milk called for in the recipe to buttermilk. I’ve experimented with all kinds of ratios, from no buttermilk, to all buttermilk. The purpose of the buttermilk isn’t to make the pancakes sour, but to add a mild acidity that wakes up the palate. Half buttermilk and half whole milk seems to be the right balance.
Second, I convert one quarter of the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe to whole wheat flour, which adds a bit of flavour, texture, and colour to the batter.
My full recipe is typed below.
The Cooking Procedure
The griddle is the supreme cooking vessel for pancakes, as the temperature is easy to control (375°F is the ideal setting) and the heat is uniformly distributed by the dense metal surface. My griddle also has a trough around its perimeter that catches fat. This is important.
Once my gridle is hot I fry an entire evening’s worth of bacon and sausage. Fat renders from the meat and accumulates in the troughs. I remove the meat to a tray and hold it in a 250°F oven. Before cooking each batch of pancakes, I spoon some of the bacon fat from the trough over the surface of the griddle. After the buttermilk and flour, this is the main source of flavour, and I think the key to superlative cakes.
Pancakes for Shrovetide
(buttermilk pancakes in bacon grease)
- 1 pound quality bacon or sausage
- 6 oz whole milk
- 6 oz buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 oz unsalted butter, melted
- 6 oz all-purpose flour
- 2 oz whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Fry the meat on a 375°F griddle until browned and rendered. Remove to a tray and hold in a 250°F oven.
- Combine the milks, eggs, and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will still be a bit lumpy with unincorporated flour.
- Distribute the bacon fat evenly over the griddle. Spoon the batter onto the griddle in 2 oz rounds. Fry until the bottoms are amber-gold, the edges of the pancake have set, and there are bubbles of air appearing on top. Flip. Again, once the bottom is amber-gold, the pancake is done.
- Enjoy with the bacon or sausage, and maple syrup.