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How to Make the Perfect American Pancakes

American pancakes are a joy, if not a right, when it comes to a lazy breakfast, brunch or afternoon treat.

There’s something about pancakes that just makes us flip out!

Served in a piping hot stack surrounded by fresh fruits and berries and drizzled in maple syrup. What could be more irresistible than freshly made pancakes from the griddle?

As an American bakery, we have a lot of time for this mainstay of the American breakfast and we thought we’d share a few top tips to get your pancakes fluffy and golden every time.

How does an American pancake differ from a flat pancake?

Baking powder is the special raising agent that transforms flat pancake batter into well-risen American pancakes. The mixture also tends to be much less runny, so that the batter doesn't spread across the hot pan.

Lots of pancake recipes include buttermilk, which helps with the reaction of the baking powder by producing carbon dioxide bubbles (fluffy pancakes ahoy!).

How can I get the perfect pancake batter?

When mixing up pancake batter, less effort means better pancakes! Over-stirring the batter makes pancakes tough as it can agitate the gluten in the flour and make them heavy.

Gentle folding is the best technique to mix a light batter. Mix the batter as lightly as possible until all the ingredients are sufficiently combined.

Do I need to remove all the lumps from my pancake batter?

Lazy bakers will be happy to hear that the answer is no! Lumps are okay – these will cook out over a hot pan.

Taking the time to remove all visible lumps will only result in a heavy pancake.

When do I flip my pancakes over?

When the top of the pancake starts to go dry and it starts to bubble, usually after about 1-2 minutes, it’s ready to flip.

Make sure you wait for the bubbles to pop before turning them over. You only need to flip the pancake once.

Oh no, my first pancake went wrong!

Don’t panic, the first pancake often comes out either the wrong shape or undercooked. Allow for a test pancake, they do get better!

My pancakes are heavy, what’s going wrong?

You might be over-stirring or over-cooking your pancakes. Try stirring the batter less or try cooking them for slightly less time.

In some cases, your raising agent might be out of date, which can alter its effectiveness.

When should I make my pancakes?

We recommend straight away. The longer you leave the pancake batter the more air is lost, so don’t wait around. Fresh batter makes the best American pancakes.

Can I make my pancakes the night before?

If you are making American pancakes, the answer is no.

If pancake batter is left for too long, the raising agents become less effective, it loses those vital air bubbles which make the finished pancakes fluffy and the dry ingredients absorb too much of the moisture making the mixture heavy and dry.

Flat pancake batter can be made the night before, but American pancakes need to be made right away.

Buttermilk Pancakes Image small

Buttermilk Pancakes from 'Life is Sweet' cookbook by The Hummingbird Bakery

 

I want to add blueberries, chocolate chips etc. to my pancakes. Can I do this?

Yes, you can add whatever additional tasty ingredients you like. The best way to do this is to sprinkle them over the pancakes evenly while the batter is still wet in the pan before cooking.

The mixture is then studded with delicious fruit or chocolate that can then be flipped and caramelised on the hot pan.

Can I experiment with different flours?

There are plenty of different flours that will work well for pancakes, but we recommend for any of our recipes that you use the flour suggested to avoid any mishaps.

Can I make gluten-free pancakes?

Yes, just substitute the dry ingredients with gluten-free alternatives.

What is the purpose of vanilla extract in the batter?

Some of our recipes recommend adding vanilla extract to the mixture, this is to counteract the taste of egg that can come through when the mixture is cooked. It adds sweetness and balance to the flavour of the finished pancake.

How do I oil the pan?

When oiling your frying pan, it’s preferable to drizzle only a small amount of vegetable oil into the pan before heating. Too much oil can make the pancakes greasy and claggy. If you like, you can use a clean paper towel to distribute the oil more evenly around the pan before heating.

Can I fry with butter instead of vegetable oil?

The reason we suggest using vegetable oil is because it doesn’t burn or separate like butter is prone to do in a hot pan. When you see white dots appearing in butter when it heats, those are the milk solids separating away and these are what burn in the pan.

A little pat of butter, however, is perfect for melting over your pancakes when serving.

How do I prevent my pancakes from burning?

With round after round of pancakes, a pan can get very hot from the residual heat. It might help to turn the heat down after you’ve made a few in order to regulate the temperature.

Wipe down the pan with a clean paper kitchen towel and add a little more oil after every few pancakes to prevent a build up of residue and burnt bits in the pan.

I don’t have any maple syrup. What can I drizzle over my pancakes?

Maple syrup, which is made from the sap of maple trees, is the American pancake topping of choice. If you don’t have maple syrup to hand, any runny honey, golden syrup or agave nectar will do. All add sweetness and flavour to your pancakes, while imparting them with a delicious sugary glaze.

Drizzle your chosen syrup liberally over the pancakes while they’re still hot.  

What other goodies can I top American pancakes with?

Here are a few suggestions for American pancake toppings:

Sweet:

  • Fresh berries and fruits (blueberries, sliced banana, sliced strawberries, chopped mango, chopped apples, chopped papaya, passion fruit)
  • Stewed fruits or compote (pears, rhubarb, plums – whatever is in season) • Thick Greek yogurt
  • A dusting of icing sugar
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon
  • A spoonful of whipped cream
  • Nutella or chocolate spread
  • Salted caramel (delicious with crushed pretzels)
  • Toffee, chocolate or butterscotch sauces
  • Chocolate or butterscotch chips (available in American food stores or online)
  • Mini marshmallows
  • A scoop of frozen yogurt or, for a real treat, ice cream (find our ice cream recipes in the ‘Life is Sweet’ cookbook)
  • Peanut or nut butters
  • Jams or fruit curd
  • Crushed nuts (pecans are an American favourite)
  • Chia seeds
  • Grated fresh coconut
  • Grated lemon zest
  • Cream cheese syrup (which can be found in our ‘Life is Sweet’ cookbook)

Savoury (if topping plain or savoury pancakes):

  • Soft cheese or crumbled goats cheese
  • Eggs, cooked the way you like (scrambled is traditional)
  • Griddled tomatoes
  • Griddled crispy bacon (streaky is best)
  • Sautéed spinach
  • Sliced avocado and salmon
To order your copy of 'Life is Sweet', visit our Cookbooks page for links to stockists.