Saturday, 1 December 2012

Alex's Ultimate Pancakes

I am very lucky to have amazing foodie friends. They are a great source of inspiration and I just love bouncing ideas off them and picking their brains for cooking tricks. My friend Alex is one such foodie; baking is his specialty, and he gets my mouth watering every time he mentions his latest experiments.

I am very honored to have his permission to reproduce this pancake recipe he spent years perfecting. When he announced he had created the ultimate version, I knew I had to try it.

This is literally a copy-paste of the recipe he sent me, so you'll find the narrative style a bit different from my usual prose; I thought that the best way to detail his recipe was to use his own words.

Dry ingredients:
3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder (do NOT put too much)
Dash of salt

Wet ingredients:
2 large eggs
3 cups of milk
6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
Splash of vanilla extract

Mix the dry in one bowl. Mix the wet in another bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. DO NOT WHISK! DON'T EVEN USE ONE! Mix with... GASP! a SPATULA! Fold and gently mix until well incorporated but still with some lumps. Luuuuumps. We like dee LUUUUUMPS!

Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (no less, not too much more). LIGHTLY stir with the spatula. The flour will have expanded and the lumps should have moistened and will come apart. PRE-HEAT a pan to medium heat (4/10... 5/10... depends on your stove). I use an ice cream scoop to make sure my pancakes are the same size (I'm anal about pancake stacks). You need to flip when they bubble and the edges look dry.

They are soooooo fluffy they DRINK up butter/margarine. We get "Celeb" which is Maxi's house brand of Becel. 2$ less and tastes EXACTLY the same (buttery, with less guilt). I put a lot on them; it melts and the pancakes soak it up. Then I finish with the DARK maple syrup we found this spring at the Marché Jean-Talon. C'est de la tire en canne, c'est tellement bon!

Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and half of that of nutmeg to the batter for a comforting yummy nutty kick!

*If they are not browned enough increase the heat and let the pan warm up.

*Note that a perfectly smooth batter means you over-mixed and hence developed gluten. SHAME! Your pancakes will not be miraculously fluffy, but they will still be delicious. Smile. Just be careful next time!

I followed Alex's instructions very carefully. I used my stirring spatula to gently mix the batter, I preheated my crepe pan with a light psssht! of non-stick cooking spray, measured the batter with my ice cream scoop and used a thin slotted spatula to flip the pancakes. By the way, pancakes are very much like crepes: the first one is always a mess, so don't get upset. Just keep going, the second pancake will already be a huge improvement.

Besides 2 flipping incidents (my hand-eye coordination sucks early in the morning), making these pancakes was quite simple. They are ready to flip rather fast, so give them your full attention if you don't want to overcook them. If they start bubbling too quickly, lower the heat to medium-low: giving the pancakes time to set properly will make them easier to flip and will reduce batter splashing - they will also rise higher if they cook more slowly.

The fascinating part is that once flipped, you can see them rise before your eyes! They have the perfect texture and density to stack up high on a plate and drench in butter and maple syrup, just like in movies and 24-hour diners.

My ice cream scoop is small, so I used 2 scoops of batter per pancakes, and I got 16 little fluffy wonders. Alex usually makes bigger pancakes, and gets about 8.

And they really DO drink butter! A little nub of butter on one of these hot pancakes goes "slurp" and disappears. I am definitely a real butter kind of gal (my dad being French, I was brought up to think margarine was the devil's lube, and therefore, not something fit for human consumption), and when it comes to maple syrup, I like to use a lot. The pancakes drank up the butter and the maple syrup like little sponges, making each bite deliciously oozy.

Given the impressive quantity of pancakes wielded by this recipe, I suggest halving it if you are making them for 2. While they were delicious plain, I am sure a handful of fresh berries or banana slices would make them stellar.

Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe, Alex! You are ze baking-master!

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