By Dawn Perry
Photo: Alex Lau
We really like pancakes, and not just because they’re a vehicle for butter and maple syrup. And while it’s simple to open a box of pancake mix, we wanted to create a classic buttermilk pancake recipe so good and so easy that we’d turn to it every Sunday.
For the pancakes, we wanted lift and lightness and a barely-crispy, well-defined edge. We started with a Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake recipe—it’s one of our favorites—but we don’t always want berries or other flavors in the mix. Now, we won’t fault you if you douse your stack with butter and syrup, but these pancakes are so good you could eat them all by themselves. We’d go so far to say they are our Best Buttermilk Pancakes: fluffy, tender, stackable.
Two Leaveners Are Better Than One
The recipe we started with only called for baking powder. But when we used only baking powder in our new version, the pancakes fell back in on themselves and became flat and kind of spongey. So we tried half baking powder and half baking soda instead. When mixed with acidic buttermilk, baking soda creates carbon dioxide gas, adding lift and aiding in browning. So why not use all baking soda? Because you can taste it if you use too much—yucky and kind of metallic. Half powder and half soda created the perfect thickness, a tender crumb, and the golden brown we were after.
Try a Little (Buttermilk for) Tenderness
There’s a reason buttermilk is so often used in pancakes. The acid in the buttermilk kickstarts the baking soda into action for extra height. It also helps to break down strands of gluten, leading to a fine and tender crumb. Additionally, it lends a subtle tang, exactly what we had in mind for our classic stack. There’s just no way to get fluffy pancakes without it.
A Little Sweetness Goes a Long Way
We also played with the sugar content. Pancakes should be tasty enough to eat by themselves, but they should still be able to handle a drizzle of pure maple syrup if you so desire. We tried batches with 2, 3, and 4 tablespoons of sugar. And while the amount of sugar didn’t affect flavor that much, it had a huge impact on texture. Three tablespoons of sugar offered superior tenderness and helped create that well-defined edge we wanted without becoming overly sweet.
Cooking ‘Em Right
There wasn’t a whole lot to learn when it came to cooking our new favorite pancakes. Yes, you can use butter to cook—the flavor is certainly nice—but then you have to wipe out the skillet if the butter gets too brown between batches. A neutral-flavored oil like vegetable or canola holds a steady heat and doesn’t mask the flavor of the pancakes. Plus, you can (should?) always add a pat or two of butter along with your (warm) maple syrup.
Commit to the Flip
Most importantly, have patience. It’s true what they say about the first pancake: it’s never perfect. The first pancake is your chance to play with the stove’s heat and take a taste. We call for cooking pancakes over medium heat, but every stove is different and you might need to adjust a little up or down between batches. You drive the stove, don’t let the stove drive you. Keep an eye on it. Remember to wait for a set edge and bubbles on top before you flip. Use a wide, thin spatula and remember to flip quickly and confidently.
Know How to Hold ‘Em
Pancakes are best served right away, but if you’re making a big batch you can definitely hold them on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet in a low oven (like 200° or 250°), so everybody can eat at the same time. Also—and this is really important—you can freeze pancakes for snow days and other emergencies. Let them cool completely, then stack them between sheets of parchment and place in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer. Defrost in the toaster.
Recipe by Jessie Damuck
Serves 4 (about 8 pancakes).
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1¼ cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil (for griddle)
Pure maple syrup (for serving)
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, and butter in a medium bowl; stir into dry ingredients until just combined (some lumps are okay).
Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium; brush with oil. Working in batches, scoop ⅓-cupfuls of batter onto griddle. Cook pancakes until bottoms are golden brown and bubbles form on top, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until cooked through and other side of pancakes are golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Serve pancakes with maple syrup.
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