People love whipping up humble, delightful pancakes any time of day or year

Pancakes have been a staple in American cuisine since the early Dutch settlements in North America.
Pure maple syrup is poured over chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes prepared by Amy Cantor of The Omelette King Catering Company in Saratoga Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Pure maple syrup is poured over chocolate chip and blueberry pancakes prepared by Amy Cantor of The Omelette King Catering Company in Saratoga Springs.

They’re perfect for lazy, late-morning Saturday breakfasts, an unexpected treat on snow days, and the perfect dinner for moms and kids for those times when dad’s out of town on business. They can be made with ingredients that most every kitchen has readily on hand. This perfect food is pancakes.

The pancake’s origin goes back thousands of years, with roots in ancient Egypt. The ancient Romans called them “alita dolcia” (Latin for “another sweet”). American Indians had, in Narragansett, “noekehick” (“it is soft”). Chemical leaveners such as baking soda and powder invented in the mid-19th century allowed for these originally flat breads to evolve into light and fluffy variations.

Just about every culture has its own version. The Russians have blinis, the French crepes, and the Indians dosas, to name a few.

Pancakes have been a staple in American cuisine since the early Dutch settlements in North America. Slaves used to carry a homemade dry pancake mix in a pouch out to the fields, because at mealtime it was easy for them to add water and cook pancakes over a fire on the blades of their hoes. The day before Mardi Gras, thrifty housewives traditionally made pancakes to use up ingredients that were forbidden during Lent.

Anytime is good

Americans today still love their pancakes — year-round.

Restaurateur Al Lapin built an empire, the International House of Pancakes (IHOP), around this humble food after opening his first restaurant in 1958 in Toluca Lake, Calif. Now, there are 1,328 IHOPs in 49 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and Mexico. Each year, the chain serves about 700,000 each year and roughly 16 billion since the first IHOP opened.

Pancakes’ simple ingredients and ease in preparation have always made them popular. Yet, despite that simplicity, they lend themselves to infinite variation by changing flours and by throwing in different add-ins, changing spices and topping them with different things. Maple syrup is the No. 1 traditional topping, but there are a variety of other flavored syrups, as well as sliced and pureed fruit. You can also sprinkle them with powdered sugar or spoon on whipped cream.

Amy Kantor, owner of the Saratoga Springs-based catering company The Omelette King, likes to add chocolate chips to some of her pancakes, as well as blueberries. She shops for fresh, locally grown blueberries in season at Winney’s Blueberry Farm near Schuylerville. She freezes them so she has them to use all throughout the winter. Adding fruit, Kantor said, is a way to get a little more fiber into the dish.

Kantor uses a “secret box mix” for her pancakes, but it’s not the just-add-water type. This one calls for 2 percent milk, eggs, vegetable oil and a little vanilla. She finds that even though her clients add pancakes to their breakfast and brunch menus for the kids, the adults end up enjoying them just as much. She makes them to order, so they’re hot and fresh.

In search of perfection

IHOP offers the following suggestions for cooking “perfect pancakes.” The water added to the mix should be chilled to less than 50 degrees. The restaurant uses ice to bring water to this temperature. Be careful not to overmix the pancake batter; lumps are good. Smooth batter does not make for fluffy pancakes. The grill should be 350 degrees and be evenly heated. IHOP judges the readiness of its pancakes by their appearance. It takes about 21⁄2 minutes for bubbles to form on the surface. After flipping, the pancakes are cooked for about another two minutes.

Pancake breakfasts are time-honored fund-raising events for many organizations. IHOP celebrates its 50th birthday this year with its third annual “National Pancake Day,” on Feb. 12, when it will give away a free short stack of its signature buttermilk pancakes and request that customers make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s hospitals across the country. Last year, IHOP helped to raise $625,000 for the organization.

Regardless of where or when you eat them, they’re a delight.

“Once the syrup goes on and they’re nice and hot, there’s really nothing better in the world,” Kantor said.

Fluffy Canadian Pancakes

Recipe submitted by W. King to www.Allrecipes.com.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup milk

3 egg yolks

3 egg whites

In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Stir in milk and egg yolks until smooth.

In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1⁄3 of the whites into the batter, then quickly fold into remaining whites until no streaks remain.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1⁄4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot.

Wheat Germ Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Recipe from www.eeecooks.com.

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 cup wheat germ

2 eggs

2 cups buttermilk

Blueberries

Preheat griddle to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix them well.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs slightly with a fork. Add the buttermilk and stir until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Spoon 1⁄4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Immediately distribute three or four blueberries in the batter before it begins to get heated.

When the edges of the pancakes begin to harden (the bubbles that form in the batter no longer disappear), flip the pancakes. Cook the opposite side for about another minute and serve immediately.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Recipe from www.eeecooks.com.

This is an interesting take on traditional pancakes. We add some pumpkin purée to give the pancakes a different flavor.

2 cups flour, all-purpose, unbleached

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

1 teaspoon cloves, ground

1 teaspoon ginger, powdered

2 eggs

2 cup milk, skim

1 cup pumpkin, canned puree

Ginger, candied, for garnish

Preheat griddle to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs lightly and then add the milk and pumpkin purée. Stir well. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until well combined but still just a little lumpy.

Pour 1⁄4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook each pancake for about 90 seconds per.

Add ginger for garnish.

Serves 4.

German Pancakes

Recipe submitted by Cheryl Gross to www.Allrecipes.com

11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

16 ounces applesauce

4 ounces raisins

2 tablespoons white sugar

3 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds

1⁄4 cup butter

Preheat over to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, prepare pancake batter by blending flour, 2 eggs, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup milk.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or medium skillet over medium heat. Pour approximately 1⁄8 of the batter onto the griddle. Flip with a metal spatula when bubbles begin to form, and cook until golden brown.

Repeat with remaining batter, making 8 pancakes.

Place applesauce in a medium bowl, and mix in raisins. Spread the applesauce mixture over one side of each pancake. Roll pancakes jelly-roll style, and cut in half vertically. Arrange pancake halves cut side down in a medium baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix remaining egg, salt and milk with sugar and almonds. Pour mixture over the pancakes. Dot pancakes with butter, and bake 40 minutes in the preheated oven.

Serve warm.

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