I'm slightly embarrassed to be asking for help on pancakes of all things, but I don't think I've ever made good ones without the help of a boxed mix. Sad, I know. But I tried making some again this morning, and they turned out horribly-- bland, flat, chewy, and generally unpleasant.
Today I used the recipe for Basic Pancakes in Bittman's How to Cook Everything, with the simple additions of some chocolate chips, a tiny bit of cinnamon, and a little bit of vanilla. Same thing. Absolutely no flavour in the cakes themselves (ie not including the chocolate chips), and they were very chewy. (I have had similar results with another recipe I tried some time ago, but decided to give it another shot.) Oddly enough, I can make some decent crepes. Pancakes elude me.
I was hoping I could maybe get a diagnosis, or at least some suggestions, here before I give up and go back to a boxed mix. Am I over-mixing? Would that cause the problem? Or something else? I just want tasty, fluffy pancakes. Thanks.
if they are chewy, then, yes, you are over mixing them. Pancake batter must be mixed just enough to combine the ingredients. To make it easier, I usually mix the eggs, milk (and any other wet ingredients) well before adding them to the dry. That way, you don't have to mix much to blend in the eggs with the flour. Stir quickly, making sure to pull up the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. I really prefer my pancakes at least partial whole wheat flour to add flavor.
There was a thread recently about pancake recipes. Try a search.
Considering the ingredients of basic pancakes it shouldn't be surprising that they are bland - flour, eggs, milk, some sugar, bit of salt, butter or oil. Most of the flavor comes from the toppings - butter, syrup, jam, etc. Depending on your tastes, the 'from scratch' versions might be a bit low on salt and/or sugar. Some commercial mixes list barley flour or malt, which adds some flavor. Increasing the amount of butter in the batter should also add flavor.
Are your crepes bland? Do they have more sugar or seasonings?
Toughness may be, as others indicate, a matter of over mixing. Most directions say it is ok to leave some lumps. Another possible factor is cooking temperatures. If cooked too long they get dry and tough. Are you turning them once bubbles start to appear on the uncooked surface?
How thick was the batter? How thick were the pancakes? Since you have success with crepes, you might want to experiment more with a thin, crepe-like batter. In effect, crepe batter with some baking powder added. Then move to a thicker batter as you gain experience. Another thought, increase the proportion of eggs in your batter, adding richness, and making the batter thinner.
I think it must be the overmixing. I don't think I left any lumps. I probably added too much milk to the recipe, too, come to think of it-- the batter was pretty runny and spread out quite thin in the pan.
I've collected a few recipes now, from the threads linked by eamcd, so I will have to give it another try next weekend and see how things go, being sure to not be too zealous with my wooden spoon.
Does letting the batter rest make much fo a difference? I didn't do that either, though I do with my crepes.
I'm aware of the resting period of crepes, but don't recall seeing it in recipes for others. I believe with crepes resting lets the flour fully hydrate; it may also relax any gluten development. But CO2 starts being produced right away when baking soda and acid are mixed, or when liquid is added to baking powder. With resting this would partially dissipate. With baking powder some more CO2 is produced during cooking, so the batter doesn't have to be used right away.
Here's the other thread I was thinking of:
I agree with PaulJ too about watching how long you cook them. You need the bubbles to be breaking and the bottom "set" -- but still wet enough on top to give you some "rise" when the rest of the baking soda gets the heat.
For years I used Bisquick and was pretty happy. Then I found this recipe and have not looked back--fluffy, light, really good... I do make sure that the baking powder does not have aluminium in it...metallic taste yuch! Rumford is a good brand or sometimes I make my own baking powder. I also add vanilla.
This recipe makes nice light pancakes for me. Maybe it will work for you.
2 eggs - beat thoroughly
In order, stir in:
1 1/4 C buttermilk
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
2 T melted bacon fat
2 T sugar
1 1/4 C flour - Just to remove the lumps.
I cook these on an electric griddle set at 350 degrees.
When I have house guests, people rave about my pancakes, including one friend whose wife tells me is a major pancake lover. My recipe? Aunt Jemima Complete - just add water! My secret? Mix just until the LARGE lumps are gone, and do it the night before. Leave the batter in the fridge overnight. I get good, light, tender pancakes every time.