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Pancake Paradise Lost – The good, the bad, the inedible at OHOP

It was Pancake hell weekend at RW Orange’s House of Pancakes.

Here’s the short version

What’s your favorite pancake recipe?
Do you have any deliciously different ideas?
What are your tips for producing that perfect pancake?

I found this site with about 86 pancake recipes that seems to have interesting ideas:
http://recipes.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Ca...

This is the long version which is must me blathering on about some truly bad pancakes I made. The above sums it up.

I no longer should be allowed the privilege of criticizing the worst slop from any restaurant because of the little pancakes of horror I made.

The adjectives: limp, gummy, flaccid, greasy, oily, thin, runny, lumpy ... all at once ... pale except for charred spots.

I don’t like to cook but this was so bad it is now a personal challenge. I tried again this morning with equally awful results.

I used the basic pancake recipe from the link above.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tbs. sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. The pan was sprayed as lightly as the ozone layer covering the arctic.

2. The skillet was heated until drops of water jumped like hyperactive children in inflatable party-bouncers after eating too much cake at a birthday.

3. The batter spread as thin as Donald Trump’s skin ... except for the little lumps here & there like the bruises of his opponents.

4. I walked one room away to pick up the Sunday paper & the smoke detector went off

5. The pancake was as black as the heart of (politician of your choice) and stuck to the pan like Glen Close to Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction.

Repeated steps 1-3.

Hover over pan, adjust heat slightly down ... and wait ... and wait ... and wait. It was like waiting for Godot ... long, boring and unending ... like this post.

The pancakes browned like Conan O’Brian on a beach ... either remained pale or burned.

Yes ... as many similes and metaphors as spam emails from Nigerians ... but I’m trying hard NOT to say the pancakes eventually tasted like (explicative deleted).

Help ... help ... for some reason I’m compelled to get this right ... I mean this is so simple ... I followed the recipe ... what oh what is wrong?

Must a griddle be used? Stale baking powder? Bad recipe? Is an egg beater needed to get the lumps out? Too much butter in the batter? The pan only had a light spray of oil so they should not have been that greasy.

Threw a little batter in a dish and microwaved it ... yeah, that doesn’t work ... but if anyone DOES have a from-scratch microwave recipe it would be of interest. Standing over a stove isn’t my thing.

It took me five Thanksgivings to finally make a decent turkey and I went through LOTS of chorizo before perfecting that cooking task. I want a short-cut other than trial and error.

I’ve done the bad and ugly and would like the good. I’ll report back when successful ... I’ll invite you to breakfast.

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  1. I think you're using too much milk. I use 1/2-3/4 of a cup for every cup of flour. You also might want to get some new baking powder. I add about 2 tablespoon sugar for every cup of flour and a good squeeze of lemon juice - gives 'em a little added umph. Good luck.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bryan

      Equal flour and buttermilk gives the texture I like. Your ratio would produce heftier ones, which I don't prefer. There seem to be strong personal preferences between thinner, eggier pancakes and thicker, more cake-y fflapjacks. To each his own.

      The pan should be somewhere in the med - medium high range. Test the temperature by making a coin-sized pancake and see if it cooks up the way you want.

    2. LOL, pancakes paradise lost but your post was a laugh. Have you seen Good Eats about pancakes? It was really good. Here's the recipe.

      http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

      Rather than hyperactive children on a balloon bounce water drops, try Emmitt Smith in Dancing with the Stars, some movement, but not hyperactive. Lumps in batter are fine. Have the Sunday paper ready so you don't have to leave. VERY lightly butter instead of spray (Alton Brown says to wipe it off and I've found it helps to do that. Did you use a nonstick pan? I find that easier to use. I want to say it takes about two minutes (wait for the bubbles) before it's ready to flip. Finally, I have a perfect pancake maker pan if you want it--free.

      1. I've been using this extremely easy recipe, an old one from Gourmet, with the best results so far (at least for me). http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

        --you want to have the heat on medium low and yeah they're going seem like they take forever to brown but the first one is always the worst.

        1. Best. Post. Ever! I read it out loud to my husband who, quite frankly, just didn't get it.

          My "everyday" pancakes are Bisquick cooked on a T-Fal griddle. My "company" pancakes are these Blueberry Buttermilk wonders from the FTV site:

          http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

          1. I have actually been craving pancakes lately, and finally made them this weekend. I used a recipe from the LA Times food section, which was printed as part of a feature on pancakes probably 8-10 years ago now. It makes fabulous pancakes -- light, tender, fluffy & tasty.

            Pancakes:

            Dry ingredients:

            1 C. flour
            1 T. sugar
            1/2 tsp baking soda
            1/4 tsp salt.

            Wet indredients:

            1 egg
            1 c. buttermilk
            2 T. melted butter

            Mix together dry ingredients in bowl & set aside. In a separate bowl, beat egg well then whisk in buttermilk. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients -- mix until the flour is just blended in, then add butter. If too thick, thin with up to a 1/4 C. more buttermilk. If still too thick, thin with milk. (The consistency should be that of yogurt -- thick but pourable -- the batter in your description sounds like it might have been too thin).

            Let batter rest for 1-2 hours. Cook pancakes on a hot, buttered griddle or cast iron pan. You must use a WELL-greased pan. Do a test pancake first -- do not flip it over until the bubbles on the surface hold their shape and the edges of the pancake look firm-ish. If you are getting blackened pancakes, your pan is too hot. It also could be the pan you are using. I definitely find that using cast-iron is the way to go for pancakes.

            1. Oh, how sad and funny- loved your post! What were you doing for pancakes before this "disaster"?
              I've posted this recipe on the HC board before (I think I got if from the SF Chron several years ago), and as I said then, my husband always preferred his mom's pancakes until I came upon this recipe. My method: I use an nonstick electric griddle, set to approximately 350 degrees and preheated while I mix the batter (I adjust the temp ever so slightly if the pancakes seem to be cooking too fast or slowly). I spray the griddle or slather butter over it. I will often add maybe another 1/4-1/3 cup milk to this recipe if it looks a little "thick" once I mix it, but the batter shouldn't be really "runny". Also, I don't overmix the batter- it should be slightly lumpy and seems to "deflate" when mixed too much- just until the larger lumps are out, and I use a whisk. Once the pancakes are on the griddle: When the edges are starting to dry and the surface starts to "bubble" and some of those bubbles begin to pop, I peek underneath to check how the pancake is browning. Don't turn them more than once- they get tough.

              Buttermilk pancakes
              Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl:
              2 c. flour
              2 Tbs. sugar
              2 tsp. baking powder
              1 tsp. baking soda
              1/2 tsp. salt

              Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the dry ingredients all at once:
              2 eggs
              2 c. buttermilk
              1/2 c. milk (I use non-fat, just 'cause that's what's in the house)
              1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted

              Mix and pour about 1/4 c. batter onto griddle for each pancake.

              Good luck- and BTW, saw your profile- don't know if they're still there, but the McDonald's in Suisun on hwy 12 had McRibs pretty recently....

              6 Replies
              1. re: sweet ginger

                "What were you doing for pancakes before this "disaster"?"

                Asking on Chowhound what restaurants served good pancakes. I actually think I've never made pancakes in my whole life before this. French toast & waffles yes. Pancakes no ... the waffle iron went in a moving sale long ago.

                Anyway thanks all. Better today. I got brown and avoided char. These still have lots of problems, but getting there. I need to find the right heat level. It may be using a regular frying pan too even if it is a heavy one.

                I used DanaB's recipe but didn't have buttermilk ... which leads to a few questions

                1. Does buttermilk add anything other than tang ... like texture of fluffiness?
                2. Baking soda vs baking powder ... how would they differ the result?
                3. Why so often do recipes say to let pancake batter sit for a while? Is it like a bread/yeast kind of thing?

                That look for the consistency of yogurt thing was a good indicator. Also, I got bubbles in the pancakes while they cooked for the first time.

                Thanks for the offer for a free pancake maker ... my goal is to get rid of most of my kitchen stuff ... I know my limits ... of course if the pancake maker is a person ... that's a different story.

                Anyway thanks to all for all the tips and great links.

                1. re: rworange

                  Actually, the buttermilk has acid which balances out the baking soda/powder and "tenderizes" the pancake. If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute regular milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar added and let it sit for around 10 minutes. Otherwise, you should use a recipe designed for regular milk.

                  1. re: rworange

                    1. Does buttermilk add anything other than tang ... like texture of fluffiness?

                    yes the reason one of the reasons to use buttermilk is that it gives the batter the properly thick consistency which gives a thicker fluffier pancake. In a pinch I've used thinned yogurt or sour cream with relatively good results. oh yeah i've seen creme fraiche used and that makes a really fluffy pancake, perhaps too fluffy.

                    2. Baking soda vs baking powder ... how would they differ the result?

                    baking powder is actually baking soda+cream of tartar and something else, I would guess a stabilizer but I dont want to go check the can. the only thing i don't like about baking powder is that you get that metallic taste if you use too much which you dont get w/ baking soda. homemade baking powder (baking soda mixed w/ cdream of tartar on the fly) doesn't have the metallic taste. as far as differences in function, I must admit I've never actually used baking powder in pancakes as all the recipes i've looked at used baking soda strangely enough.

                    3. Why so often do recipes say to let pancake batter sit for a while? Is it like a bread/yeast kind of thing?

                    since you're only supposed to stir pancake batter until dry is just incorporated with wet, the function of the sitting time is to let all the dry stuff get moisturized thus giving your leaveners a chance to leaven, making a more pourable batter and a better pancake. oh and you're only supposed to stir the pancake batter just until incorporated because you don't want to allow the gluten to form because that equals tough pancake.

                    actually now that i think about it, the fluffiest pancakes i ever made was with sour cream that wasnt thinned that much. the batter was so thick i had to spoon it on the pan and spread it around a little. delish though.

                    1. re: choctastic

                      Thanks so much for taking the time for that ... great hint about homemade baking powder.

                      Really useful tip too about stirring too much because I was doing that ... beating the heck out of those lumps ... voila ... the tough pancake.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I also agree with the other poster that you are probably cooking over too high heat. i would start out at low and then if that's not enough, crank it up just a tiny bit. pancakes need gentle heat and a little time.

                        --oh i forgot to say that another reason I like buttermilk and not regular milk is that you can use less leavener (because it reacts better with the baking soda) and it adds a nice tanginess. I hate using more leavener because I don't like tasting it at all. I just want it to do its job and go away.

                  2. re: sweet ginger

                    I totally agree with the electric skillet, it controls the temperature much better than any stove of mine. Also, buttermilk is key, with homemade mix, or Bisquick.

                  3. Here is my family's recipe for pancakes, I think it came from some cookbook long ago, but I'm not sure. It has always worked very well for me, and I am certainly no expert. I tend to have a hard time watching other people make pancakes because usually people have the wrong technique and thus they come out bad. So I think the technique of preparing the batter and the technique of cooking really makes the difference more than the ingredients. But here it is:

                    1.5 cups flour
                    3 Tablespoons sugar
                    1 and 3/4 tsp Baking powder
                    3 Tablespoons melted butter
                    1 and 1/4 cup milk
                    2 eggs
                    dash of salt

                    Melt butter, add to milk. Separate eggs, beat yolks and add to milk/butter. Mix the dry ingredients and add mix w/ the mik/butter/yolk mixture until it is just mixed (still lumpy). Beat egg whites until stiff (they should be able to stand up on their own - this is important). Fold egg whites into batter lightly (don't overmix). Cook on ungreased griddle or pan on medium heat.

                    Key points (IMO): 1) Don't overmix 2) Beat egg whites thoroughly and fold them in gently without stirring too much 3) When pancakes have bubbles, flip them, then leave them alone. Don't press on them, allow them to puff up. 4) Use cast iron if you have it (griddle or pan) but definitely ungreased

                    We usually make silver dollar pancakes which are easier to flip I think. I suggest this. I have added practically every type of fruit to this recipe and it's been great...I always defrost and/or drain the fruit first.

                    'Finally, rworange, I will definitely take you up on the breakfast offer. :)

                    Dave MP

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Dave MP

                      And when I achieve that perfect pancake I will definately throw a pancake breakfast ... although I just found a local restaurant with pumpkin pancakes and cinnamon butter ... that is nearer to me than the great place you reported and had me salivating. Now how do I dare critisize them if they are not great.

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          fatapples? i had pumpkin pancakes at fatapples before. they were pretty good.

                          1. re: choctastic

                            Alvarado bar & grill ... haven't tried them yet ... was going this morning but too much of a slug to get out of the house and get there. Probably will give a try this weekend. Keep in mind that my first visit here only resulted in ok-ness. It is near my home and the food is good and I want to try a few other things ... like the pancakes ... before deciding.
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/364312

                    2. whole wheat pancake mix,walnuts on pancake,then syrup,then whip cream

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: billjriv

                        Hmm ... not for your idea, but I just purchased a can of peppermint whipped cream from the holidays marked down to fifty cents. Just found recipes for chocolate pancakes. That might be good.

                        Again thanks to everyone. I WILL conquor this. If it was some fancy complicated thing to make I wouldn't bother ... but it's PANCAKES ... how tough is that supposed to be? For me it seems, as tough as my pancakes ... stop overmixing ... will do.

                      2. The real problem here is that you're cooking the pancakes at way too high a heat. It's better to cook pancakes in a pan or on a griddle that's over a low flame but well preheated. You can control the heat much better that way.

                        Here's what I do. This is my standard batter:

                        1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                        1/2 cup rice flour (gives it a nice light texture -- just use 2 cups AP if you don't have any)
                        1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                        1 teaspoon baking powder
                        1 teaspoon salt
                        2 teaspoons sugar
                        2 cups buttermilk
                        2 eggs
                        4 tablespoons melted butter

                        1. Sift all dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.

                        2. Pour buttermilk into a small bowl. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and melted butter.

                        3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the buttermilk-egg mixture into it. Whisk quickly for about 30 seconds, until the mixture comes together. Don’t overmix; you want it to be slightly lumpy.

                        Then, walk away and let that sit for about half an hour to 45 minutes. (Or make it the night before and leave it in the fridge.) This hydrates the flour lumps and lets the soda and powder do their lifting thing.

                        Now, what I cook pancakes on is a Lodge cast iron two-burner griddle. The whole point of cast iron is that it retains heat really well, so I put the griddle over a pair of burners, turn the burners on low (about 2 out of 10) and go put the bacon together. (Bacon on rack in half-sheet pan, into a cold oven, set to 425 degrees and keep an eye on it.) After 10 minutes or so, I turn the gas down to its lowest setting under the griddle burners and it's pancake time.

                        Lightly grease the griddle surface. (If your cast iron is seasoned well enough, you won't need to do this at all, but a little insurance never hurts.) Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to pour the batter, so the cakes are all about the same size. Don't try to cook more than two until you feel comfortable with what you're doing. Now, wait. It's gonna be at least two minutes before they're ready to turn, but you'll know when they are: the edges will be dry and the surface will be pockmarked with bubbles. Flip them, then cook about 90 seconds on that side. Serve.

                        1. The only pancakes that I will eat are homemade. Seriously, it's one of those dishes that tastes so much better at home, as most restaurant versions taste doughy, cold, heavy, dry, etc. It's also so cheap and easy to whip up at home. My brother was over for breakfast one morning and I said, "how about pancakes?" He said that he didn't like pancakes, but I told him to try homemade and then decide. He's now converted. This should hopefully give you incentive to continue your quest...

                          The recipe/method you used sounds to me like it:
                          1. was too runny and loose
                          2. didn't have enough seasoning
                          3. was cooked on too high of heat

                          A few tips on what makes my pancakes delicious to me:
                          1. Use a sourdough starter: adds complexity and a tender creaminess (buttermilk may also mimic this)
                          2. Flavorings: one version I make has grated apple (leave peel on), cinnamon and nutmeg. Another has lemon zest and blueberries (frozen is fine).
                          3. Cooking method: nonstick skillet, med. heat, butter in pan, do not overcook (I hate dry pancakes!).
                          4. Serve warm w/ butter and really good maple syrup warmed in microwave.

                          1. I use King Arthur's "Simple but Perfect Pancakes" which don't call for buttermilk or egg separation or anything. I would paraphrase the recipe, but I'm at work and thus away from my cookbooks. This produces very light, tender pancakes with very little effort.

                            There are a couple of tricks used to do this:

                            1) Beat the heck out of the eggs. They're not separated, but beaten whole for a couple of minutes, which gives them a surprising amount of volume.

                            2) As other people have mentioned, letting the batter rest is key. Fifteen minutes is good; overnight is better. Besides moistening any lumps (because you've mixed very gently, right?) it also somewhat alleviates the problems caused in case you did overbeat because
                            it allows any developed gluten to relax.

                            Happy pancaking!

                            1. I've been making the cornmeal pancake recipe from the (1970's) Joy of Cooking for years with great success. It's never failed me and it's fabulous with blueberries added to the batter. Check your book if you have it.

                              1. That sounds like the pancakes I used to make on my mother's stove... I gave up after five or six attempts and didn't make them again until I was married. My answer? Change stoves! They come out much better on an electric stove because the gas was too hot. Too-hot-stove equals charcoal outside and raw inside. I cook my pancakes on medium heat and flip them when the bubbles start to appear.
                                There shouldn't be any lumps in the batter - use a whisk to mix it and they'll magically disappear.

                                1. Whatever recipe you use (lumpy/not lumpy, rested/not rested), the most important thing is to preheat the griddle and then grease it lightly. My personal pancake guru taught me to use a folded-up paper towel, and to just wipe on the shortening - Crisco in his case, though I'd use lard (butter has too much moisture and it burns; spray grease can't be sprayed onto hot surfaces, and is too damn thin anyway). Keep the towel and the grease handy and wipe more on as needed, but it should be a film rather than a shallow lake.