A few weeks ago I was researching the KitchenAid stand mixer and I came across a blog post by someone that I thought was not the best advice. The blog post was all about making pancakes with your mixer (or any stand mixer really). Now the recipe was probably pretty good but the process is what was flawed in my opinion.
For me pancakes are all about being soft and light and fluffy. They should not be dense or chewy or gummy in any way. If I wanted that, I could make a trip to one of those all night breakfast joints and get a stack of hockey puck flap jacks.
No, for me pancakes need to be handled with care and attention. The reason is gluten. Now for a bit of food science. Gluten is a protein, actually it is a composition of 2 proteins named gliadin and glutenin. When water is added to wheat flour and then mechanically mixed, gluten forms. And it is this wonderful gluten that gives bread dough and pasta their chewy and elastic characteristics. But since the gluten content is increased by mechanical mixing or kneading, it is not something we ever want to do if we desire to have light and fluffy pancakes.
So, the next time you want to enjoy some pan fried goodness for breakfast, leave your mixer tucked neatly away. Instead, follow this basic cooking process.
You can use any basic pancake recipe that you like. The key to a great result is in the mixing. What you want to do is mix all the dry ingredients first in a bowl that is large enough for your batter. Next, mix all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
Now, before you add the wet to the dry, get prepared. An electric griddle is probably the best appliance for cooking pancakes at home but if you have to use a frying pan, that will also work. There are 2 differences. An electric griddle has a built-in thermostat which means the heat will remain more constant than with a pan on the stove. Second, the griddle means you can cook a lot more pancakes at the same time. I use a pan on the stove myself but I never cook more than one pancake at a time and I keep them warm in the oven till ready to serve. It's not the best but I have no more room to store a griddle so I chose not to buy one. Using my stove, I heat the pan for 2 minutes at level 5. Then I turn down the heat to 4 when cooking. If I notice that things are taking too long, I increase the heat for about another minute and then lower to 4 again.
Now that you have a hot cooking appliance ready, it is time to mix the batter. You want to achieve the mixing as fast as possible without activating too much gluten. So, take the wet ingredients and literally dump them into the dry. Then take a spatula and fold in the wet ingredients for 10 to 15 seconds. That is it. Some of the dry may not be perfectly mixed but that is all right. I have never had a lumpy pancake using this method.
Next, place some batter on the griddle or in the frying pan and wait. You want to see the bubbles forming all around the outside of the pancake. That is the sign of a flapjack that is ready to be flipped. If the heat is high enough the bottom will be nice and brown. If it is too low it will be pale in color and conversely if it is too hot the bottom will be very dark. So as gently as possible flip the flapjack and continue cooking the opposite side. Normally the second side will cook in half the time as the first.
When serving the pancake always have real maple syrup on hand. It can make all the difference in the world and the taste is like no other. Since you put all this care and attention into making the best pancakes you could, you deserve to have them sweetened perfectly with a little maple syrup.
There you have it. Next time you get a craving for some flapjacks, keep the KitchenAid mixer covered and instead use the dump and fold method for the lightest and fluffiest pancakes you can make at home.