• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Thursday, December 2, 2010


David likes pancakes for breakfast.

I think what he likes most is all the 'stuff' that can be varied and used as toppings: syrup - of many flavors [that,
need I say, usually accompanies most other toppings], peanut butter [it is just fun to make trenches in with a fork to channel the syrup], apple butter [a true old time favorite], honey, jam - often blackberry but any berry will do, jelly,  fresh fruit in season, and many other tidbits and tantalizing tastes.

What do you like on pancakes?

Myself I prefer waffles (not often for breakfast) - the kind with little holes not big ones - but just try to find that kind of waffle iron.  And yes let me know if you do.

I learned to make pancakes as a child.  Even a very young child knows a bubble when they see it.  I remember standing on a chair at a safe distance watching for bubbles.  My job was to call dad or mom when the bubbles started to pop. Mornings were a very busy time at the Forsyth house and I suppose this helped them get other things done while the batter cooked.  (Later, when we got big enough we were taught to flip the pancakes over.)

We had a large, heavy aluminum griddle that spanned two burners and could cook 8 four inch pancakes at one time.  Dad often made them for breakfast - for the 13 of us!

One of the first lessons was to flick water at the griddle to be sure it was hot enough.  I bet I said, "Why" enough to drive my parents insane (and still do). The tiny drops of water would hiss and dance before quickly evaporating.  I have a cast iron griddle and test it the same way.  Dad would turn on the electric burners at a medium setting before he started mixing the batter.

He said that the griddle temperature is the most important thing for good pancakes - too hot and it smokes and will burn the pancake outside before it is done in the middle, too cool and they stick and do not brown well - they tend to be creamy in color. He said it works out better if the griddle heats a bit more slowly.

My personal peeve is doughy middles - YUCCKY - not a lot worse than raw in the middle pancakes!  He said it is caused by a griddle that is heated too hot or too fast and that a pan that isn't heavy enough to hold the heat might as well be thrown out. In my mind I can still see where those burner settings should be adjusted - it was a very specific place - different for each burner.

Although temperature settings will be different for every stove usually it is slightly below half - experiment with your range to determine the ideal place. Batters can influence the settings.  Check a small spoonful first - it will allow you to check and adjust flavor too - or maybe only keep baby happy while s/he waits.

The next thing dad taught is how much batter to put on the pan - a specific amount for a specific size. Yes he did get creative.  I think that was something he liked about pancakes - he might make a face or an animal - all free form art.  We never knew when he would get all creative and cook fancy ones - dad just cooked what he cooked.  Sometimes he dropped chopped apples into the batter, or fresh berries in summer.  We loved Dad's pancakes!

Besides - I not only hated mush but in the mornings food often looked back at me and pancakes could be buttered, sugared, and eaten later on the bus like a sandwich.

When the pan was ready and not until - and after the batter was poured out onto it then we watched for the bubbles. When they begin to rise in the middle and pop, it is time to turn the pancake over.  It will be nicely brown. Don't wait until the all the middle ones are popping because the edges will be drying out and the pancake may be overdone and dry (or burned even, if the griddle is too hot).

Flipping pancakes is an art in and of itself.  I am not great and still miss at times but I can do it well enough to get it done - especially on my griddle - I do one at a time.On the big griddle the pancakes sometimes ran into each other and had to be cut apart before turning.  And at times when they were flipped they landed on other pancakes or even off the edge of the pan.

 FUN stuff learning to flip flapjacks!!

The second side is done when a crisp brown edge is visible (like a thin line against the pan) - if in doubt I just slide the pancake turner under them and peek.

Sometimes we made dollar pancakes with a Tablespoon of batter at a time - 15 or 20 at once. Often the first ones were ready to turn by the time you got them all poured. They must have been a bit of a nuisance because we didn't have them often.  I did love them.  My idea of a nice pancake is still that size, smothered in butter and dusted with granulated sugar.

 I never was a syrup fan.
I liked my sugar straight!

And btw - one of us likes to butter them and eat them right (1st) side up (and can't imagine anyone so silly as to turn them over) and the other thinks they taste better bottom (2nd) side up.

 Can you guess who likes them which way?