In terms of morning comfort food, nothing approaches the pancake. It's literally a food blanket that says "come here, my child, and let me wrap you in my warm, carby body. You are safe now." Almost every culture seems to have its own version of the breakfast staple, and we've rounded up some of the most delicious ways to eat them, whether you call them "flapjacks," "pancakes," or "crepes."
The North American beauties pictured above are typically made of flour, eggs, milk, and some sort of chemical leavening agent like baking powder. This fluffy breakfast staple goes by many names — "pancake," "flapjack," "hotcakes," or "griddlecakes" — but should always be consumed with butter and real maple syrup.
They're also extremely easy to whip up. Though you could buy one of those boxed mixes, you really don't need to, as you can make your own out of ingredients you already have in your cupboard.
To make enough mix for 48 pancakes — which should last you a while, depending on your brunch-time appetite — follow The Kitchn's recipe and scoop out as much or as little as you need when the craving strikes:
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
For two cups of mix (which will yield about 12 pancakes), you'll need 1 ¾ cups of milk (sometimes I sub some buttermilk in there), two eggs, four tablespoons of melted, cooled butter, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix the liquid ingredients together, then slowly incorporate that mixture into your dry mix, whisking until smooth. Fry in butter and drown in maple syrup.
Make Some Tweaks
Let's talk variations. If you can't enjoy eggs for some reason, but still wish to get in on the the warm and fluffy pancake action, do not despair. Chickpeas — or chickpea liquid, really — have your back.
The liquid inside a can of garbanzo beans — called "aquafaba" if you're a "real foodie" — has the ability to fluff up and stabilise all kinds of eggless batters, and The Food Lab has a fantastic, completely vegan recipe that you should peep if you're into that sort of thing. It takes a little bit of prep work, as aquafaba performs best if you whip it real good before folding it into the batter, but I'd say that a stack of pillowy flapjacks is worth a bit of work.
Speaking of work, let's say you want to cut down on the amount you're doing. Let's say, that instead of standing over a hot griddle, flipping a dozen or more hotcakes, you'd rather make and serve one giant, towering, mountain of a pancake and focus on frying up some bacon. If this is your story, you should enlist a rice cooker. It's almost too easy. Just pour the batter in, hit start, and wait. When the appliance beeps, flip out your behemoth flapjack, slice like cake, and top with your favourite toppings.
Add Some Flair
Now, let's talk flavorful add-ins. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the classic, "plain" pancake, they are also the perfect canvas on which to paint your brunchy masterpiece, whether it be sweet or savoury. Some options:
- Bits and Pieces: Chocolate chips, blueberries, nuts, and shredded coconut are all great sprinkled in batter with excellent results. I once chopped up a bunch of Halloween candy and stirred that in and then took a five-year nap.
- Spices: A couple teaspoons of cinnamon, pumpkin spice ('tis the season), nutmeg, or even a little curry powder can really elevate your pancake game.
- Freeze and Stuff: Are you ready to have your mind blown? For perfect pancakes with ooey-gooey, chocolaty centres, freeze disks of Nutella until firm, pour some batter in a pan, place your Nutella-disk on top of said batter, and top with more batter. Cook like you would "normal" pancakes, only much more smugly. After you eat your fill of those, try with other fillings like nut butters, jams, and cookie butter.
- Toppings: Your imagination is the only limiting factor here. Whipped cream, fresh berries, bananas, fruit syrups or jams, or chocolate buds all work, even altogether (maybe not though, unless you're some sort of "Keith Richards of sugar.")
- Meats: Hot, crispy bacon loves to be nestled next to pancakes, but why not let the sweet and salty pairing get even closer by stirring cooked, crumbled (and drained) bacon into the batter? Really, can you think of a reason? You should probably try it with pancetta or some sort of savoury sausage too. Any super salty pork product would actually be a good plan.
Just as not all heroes wear capes, not all pancakes come in fluffy stacks. Let's explore some thinner, drapier, European relatives of the American flapjack.
The United Nations of Pancakes
Crepes, Swedish pancakes, and British pancakes are all very similar, and all very delicious. The subtle differences stem from the ratio of egg, liquid and flour. All, however, benefit from a good pan flip, which you can master by watching the above video (which also features an excellent recipe for crepes).
The British have an enthusiasm for pancakes that I enjoy. I remember the exact moment when a beautiful Brit schooled me on the magical UK tradition of "Pancake Day" (Shrove Tuesday). The pancakes made on this day are simple, and don't contain any leavening ingredients. Rather than being relegated to the hours before noon, these pancakes are consumed more like crepes, and can be made either savoury or tooth-achingly sweet. I use my friend Natalie's recipe, which "makes maybe 8 or so, including the one rubbish one at the beginning.":
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup of milk
- A knob of butter
- Pinch of salt
Click the link above to let Nat walk you through it, but they're very easy to make, which is good, because that leaves more brainpower to focus on toppings. As with the toppings above, it's a choose-your-own-adventure situation, but we'll highlight some classics:
- Lemon and Sugar: This is the classic British topping that no Pancake Day is complete without. Just a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkling of white sugar is all you need for this tart-sweet treat.
- Golden Syrup: This light treacle is used much like North Americans use maple syrup. It's sweet. It's good. It goes pretty well with everything.
- Any of the Bits and Toppings I Mentioned Above: Nutella, fresh fruit, candy bits, shredded coconut, also savoury fillings like cream cheese, meats, or anything else that does well wrapped in warm, carb blanket.
Swedish pancakes are thicker and eggier than either of their European cousins, and feel a bit more substantial. (Recipes list anywhere from 3-5 eggs, and some even include sour cream in the batter.) They're also sweeter than the French or British guys, and benefit from a lemon curd, sour cream, and powdered sugar. If you want to try your hand at Swedish pancakes, you could do a lot worse than this one from the New York Times.
Don't Flip Out
The final two pancakes we are going to cover aren't made on the frying pan, and don't require any fancy flipping, but still have a certain amount of presentational flair that will elicit many "oohs," "ahhs," and perhaps a marriage proposal or two.
Dutch, Dutch, Baby
I love anything cooked in a cast iron skillet, and this pancake-meets-popover delicacy is one of the best uses for yours. To create this eggy, tender delight ,you'll preheat your skillet at 425°F while making your batter. (I like The Kitchn's recipe.) After a period of rest, the thin batter is swirled around and a hot pan before the whole thing is popped back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so. Once the pancake puffs up, remove it from the oven and watch it cave in on itself like a beautiful dying star. Dust with powdered sugar, cut into wedges, and serve with a variety of sweet toppings and fresh lemon wedges.
Ebelskivers Are Worth The Special Pan
While it is true that you cannot make ebelskivers without a special pan, it is also true that, once you purchase the special pan, you will make them all of the time. The batter is pretty similar to that of a traditional pancake, but the special snowflake pan renders it into delightful little puffy balls or wonder, rather than flat, floppy disks. If you need a recipe, I recommend this one from Serious Eats.
Once your batter is blended, add a tablespoon of batter to the pan, top that with some lingonberry jam if you like, and layer on another tablespoon of batter. Cook for about four minutes, flip (chopsticks are best for this,) and cook for another three minutes. Serve with lemon curd. Be happy.
If none of those are able to bring comfort and joy to your morning, you should probably just go back to bed, as you are probably beyond help. (Or just keep eating pancakes. Maybe more than one type.)