About two years ago, on a long family update email chain, Dad simply shared his pancake, crepe, and waffle recipes. That was it. No latest news from him and mom and the younger kids, no stories or anecdotes, just the recipes with a one-liner introduction: "I wanted to share with everyone my recipes for crepes, pancakes, and waffles." While this may seem odd, Sarah aptly replied: "Wow! Thanks, Dad. I feel like you just doled out our inheritance."
The recipe originally came from The Joy of Cooking. But Dad has since tweaked it.
To be precise, Dad has spent over 20 years perfecting his recipe, making them at least once a week. (Pancakes, waffles, or crepes every Saturday and Sunday!) And while we may not have achieved perfect pancake making skill in this household yet (Philip & I are working toward it diligently, once a week!), this recipe never fails. Honestly, no other pancake I've tried has ever compared. These pancakes have got such a yummy, delicious taste (plus for me, a fair dose of nostalgia).
Now, from observing my dad, I've learned a few things. 1st: do not over-mix the batter. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened, then let it be. 2nd: Let the batter rest at least 20 min if not longer. My Dad is an impressively (insanely?) early riser. I'm pretty sure he'd mix the batter up and let it sit for a good long while (an hour+) before any batter hit the pans. 3rd: Preheat your pans (cast iron or these are highly recommended) on low heat for 5-10 minutes before starting. A well heated pan will help set the right temp to cook the pancakes all the way through with golden, even color. Too cold, and the pancakes won't color nicely. Too hot, and they'll get scorched and be raw in the middle. 4th: Use a spoon rest for your ladle to prevent deflating the batter. 5th: Flip the pancake when it is dry around the edges and there are ample bubbles across the surface. Flip the pancake only once.
Now, after laying out all those things to keep track off when making pancakes, let me say there are times when serving someone first is inconsiderate. Dad would always point this out when making espresso drinks. The first one is likely to be the worst, so you should drink it yourself. The same applies for pancakes. The first one tests the heat of the pan and your flipping timing. More often than not, it is a bit off. So serve yourself first, note where tweaks need to be made, then start cranking out that pile of pancakes for everyone else! (BTW: What's the perfect pancake stack height? 2, 3, 4 pancakes? You tell me.)
Serves 8 (makes about sixteen 5-in pancakes). This can easily be halved if you're not feeding a small army of hungry children.
4 scant cups flour
3 rounded tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
9oz (18 tbs, or 2 1/4 sticks) melted butter*
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients.
Quickly whisk moist into dry ingredients. Don't over-mix. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter will be pebbly. (Use more or less milk in future batches to adjust to desired consistency.) Let sit for 20 minutes or more.*
About 5-10 minutes before the batter is done resting, start warming up your pans on low heat. I love using cast iron skillets which retain an even heat. My dad has been using these for the past few years.
Once batter is rested and pans are heated, ladle batter onto pan according to your size preference (the batter will run a little while cooking). Let cook until bubbles cover the surface and the edges are starting to dry. Flip. Continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes until the other side is golden brown. (Don't flip back and forth! If necessary, gently lift up the pancake with a spatula to get a glimpse of it's underside.)
Once cooked, remove pancake from pan (and you really ought to taste it to make sure all is well) and repeat until all the batter is used up. To get stacks of pancakes straight from the griddle, using more than one pan is very helpful. Or a generously sized griddle.
A whole lot of butter, I know. But it's what makes them so good! We have cut back the butter (never using less than 6oz/1.5 sticks), but they are not the same (duh). More for when we've run out of butter without realizing!
The resting is one of the critical steps and 20 minutes is the bare, bare minimum. If pressed for time and can only do 20 minutes or less of resting, make certain there are no rock-sized clumps in the batter. Otherwise, someone could get a bite of baking powder -- not so tasty.