Sunday, June 23, 2013

Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes

In my house, this recipe is called "Grandpa Colditz Pancakes".  I really only have one memory of my Grandpa Colditz, since he died when I was still a toddler.

We were visiting him and Grandma in Tennessee.  I remember him taking a coffee can, and taking me with him out to a little dark building.  He took a long nail and nailed it into the rim of the coffee can (they were metal back then), and then removed it and did the
same thing on the other side.  I stood there in the dusky light and watched quietly, wondering what he was doing.  He then took a thick wire and bent it into the nail-holes and formed a handle on the coffee-can bucket.

He gave it to me, and it was my bucket for picking raspberries.

I do not remember him making any pancakes, nor do I remember any meal we ate at their house.  

But I sure do remember the raspberries.

When my mom wrote out her dad's recipe for buttermilk pancakes for me on a recipe card -- which are, by the way, the fluffiest, most perfect pancakes EVER --  she wrote at the end:  "Serve with fresh Tennessee raspberries."

Grandpa Colditz Pancakes indeed.

The Step-by-Step

Mix the wet ingredients

First of all - put your griddle on the burner to heat up.  Medium heat.  (In all of the rest of life, I call that pan a frying pan.  But there's something about pancakes that compels me to call it a griddle.  Don't ask me why).  

So. While that's heating up, measure out the buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Add the egg and the oil.  Whisk together with a fork.

Mix the dry ingredients

Now, in a mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.

Do NOT, in an attempt to amp up the fluffiness factor, add extra baking powder or baking soda.  I have tried this.  It never worked.  I recently found out there is a scientific reason for this.  Apparently, if there is too much leavening power, it makes your pancakes rise alright, but then there's too much air inside and they structurally can't hold up.  In a word, they collapse.  Then you get the dense pancakes you were trying to avoid.  Ah ha. 

Pour wet ingredients into dry

Take your liquid and pour into the dry mixture.  Stir it just until it's all mixed in.  Some lumps are just fine.

Okay, now you are looking at that batter, and you are saying to yourself -- "that batter is too thick.  Pancake batter is not supposed to look like that.  I can't even pour it onto my frying pan griddle! I must have done something wrong.  I'll just add a little liquid to thin it down."  

Stop!  Don't do it!

This pancake batter is thick.  It scoops more than it pours.  See how it's not dripping off the spoon at all?  This is just perfect.  Trust me.

Cook the pancakes

I have a non-stick pan, and I do not grease it at all.  If you don't have a non-stick pan, you may need to grease it in between batches.  It's not really desirable, because the surface of the pancake will look different, but better that than a stuck pancake.  Do what you gotta do.

Okay, so you spoon some batter onto your griddle, the amount depends on the size pancakes you want.

You actually may need to spread it out a bit in the pan with the back of a spoon.  That's a good thing.  It means it won't spread out too thin.  It'll puff up nice and tall.

Wait until you've got some nice bubbles appearing before you flip.  It should be golden -- not pale and pasty, not too dark.  (Similar to a healthy summer tan).  Adjust your heat if you need to.  Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Remove from pan, and serve immediately.

And by all means, serve with raspberries.   

The Recipe

Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes  


1 1/4 cups buttermilk (кефир for my Ukraine friends)
2 Tablespoons oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat griddle on medium-high heat.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk the oil and egg into the buttermilk.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Mix the liquid into the dry, stirring just enough to combine.  Lumps are okay.

Cook on a medium-hot griddle til bubbles appear and the cooked side is golden.  Flip.  Remove from heat when both sides are golden and inside is cooked through.

Serve with syrup, butter, fresh berries, jam, or whatever other topping you enjoy.