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Pancake help?

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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.


      2 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        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.

        1. re: synecdoche

          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.


      2. 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.

        1 Reply
        1. re: eamcd

          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.


        2. 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
          Fold in:
          1 1/4 C flour - Just to remove the lumps.

          I cook these on an electric griddle set at 350 degrees.

          1. 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.

              1. re: Davwud

                Also, this probably goes without saying, but don't double flip - it'll make them flat and rubbery..

              2. When I don't feel like being disappointed by a scratch recipe, I use Krusteaz (kept in the freezer), add approximately equal amount of ice cold water, and a dash of salt. Mix with a whisk just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Leave it lumpy. Butter the griddle, when hot, pour on batter, watch for bubbles to form and break. Flip once only. Pour melted butter on top and add your favorite syrup.

                1. Tyler Florence had a great recipe using ricotta- delicious

                  1. Lots of good advice here. Keep trying and you'll eventually find a method that works. I believe you'll find that the most important elements are (1) blending all wet ingredients together (including sugar - that's a wet ingredient) and then adding it all at once to the dry ingredients and; (2) not over-mixing. I would not let the batter rest because I don't want any more gluten development in the batter than necessary and I don't want to reduce any of the leavening ingredient action by allowing it to sit in a static environment. One point that is often overlooked when making pancakes:
                    Pancakes need to be "turned" on the grill. Never lift the pancake and drop it back down on the grill. Also, never oil the grill, Wipe it down (when it's warm) with a crumpled piece of waxed paper and you'll find the finish to be crispier and more evenly browned.

                    1. Tonnes of excellent advice to put into practice for next Sunday. Thanks so much everybody! We'll see how things turn out this time...

                      1. If you can find a Betty Crocker Cookbook, the buttermilk pancake recipe is flawless. I've made it many times, and the only change I make is sometimes add a bit more buttermike than called for. They are light and fluffy, very tasty...

                        1. Success! Thanks for all the help, everyone. I think the overmixing was the main problem. Today they weren't rubbery at all. Still not perfect, but they'll get better in time, with practice-- and certainly tastier than last week.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: synecdoche

                            I don't make pancakes often, but when I do, I use cake flour, which makes them particularly light - I think I read that in the Cake Bible. I like to add just the tiniest bit of vanilla extract to them.

                            Glad your more recent batch went better.

                          2. I just made pancakes from scratch for breakfast this morning, so your post caught my eye. I'd forgotten how easy the recipe I use is. It's Marion cunningham's recipe for buttermilk pancakes. Light,tasty and so simple to do. I think everyone is right about not overmixing at all. In fact even tho it's hard for me to do, I really try to mix just until the flour is absorbed. There will be lots of lumps, but do not stir them out or over mix. Also, don't cook them too long. Cook just until you see bubbles appear on the top of the pancakes then turn them over and continue to cook for only about 1 more min. They should be brown on both sides, but still tender in the middle. The other secret is to use real buttermilk. It's hard for me to be able to use a whole container of buttermilk, so I always freeze in 1 cup amounts. Take out of freezer, micro on defrost till just defrosted with maybe a few crystals still in milk and then use just as fresh. It's taking much longer to type all of these intructions than it does to whip up a batch of these pancakes! I'll share the recipe if you'd like. Good luck on making those fluffy pancakes you want!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jackie de

                              Hey, I'd love to check out that recipe if you can share. I have a little collection going now and intend to try them all out eventually. :)

                              1. re: synecdoche

                                Sorry about not getting to you sooner--here is my version of the Marion Cunninghams recipe.

                                M. C. Buttermilk pancakes

                                1 cup a.p. flour
                                1/2 tea. baking soda
                                1/2 tea. kosher salt
                                1 T. sugar
                                1 large egg
                                1 cup buttermilk
                                3 T. melted butter (unsalted)
                                1 T. butter or oil for the pan

                                Sift flour, baking soda, salt and sugar into a bowl. Crack the egg and pour it into the center of the flour mixture. Pour the buttermilk over the egg.
                                With a fork or whisk, stir the ingredients together just until a lumpy batter forms and the flour is absorbed. Do NOT overmix. Pour in the melted butter and quickly mix into the batter.
                                Preheat skillet or griddle. Brush with butter or oil. Put about 1/4 c. batter into the skillet. Spread batter slightly with the back of a spoon to form a circle about 1/4 in. thick. You can make small or large pancakes--your choice.
                                When bubles begin to appear on top of pancake, turn them over and continue to cook for about 1 min. They should be brown on both sides but tender in the middle.
                                You may drop fresh fruit, like blueberries right on top of the batter on the griddle before the pancakes are cooked

                            2. Synecdoche,

                              I wanted to thank you for the thread. I've always said, "I can cook just about anything, except for a pancake." I don't know why, but this thread has lead me to believe there's hope for us. I will be trying again soon.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: othervoice

                                My pancakes have already improve miles since I got so many useful replies, and I am sure yours will too!