Everyone loves sitting down to a plate of fluffy, golden, flavorful pancakes, but making them is another matter. Nobody wants to run out for buttermilk or sour cream before the first meal of the day, never mind haul out (and then clean) their stand mixer to whip egg whites. That’s where box mixes come in, but their convenience is hardly worth the results they deliver. Besides, most prefab products still require you to add milk and eggs to the dry mix, so at that point, why not throw together a batter of your own?
That’s exactly what we set out to do. We limited ourselves to basic ingredients — no buttermilk or sour cream.
To make the pancakes tall and fluffy, we prepared a thick batter by using a relatively small amount of liquid and lots of baking powder and mixed it minimally. With less stirring, the lumpy batter was noticeably thicker than a batter mixed until smooth because lumps obstructed the flow of free water. The lumpy batter was also better able to hold on to the air bubbles formed during cooking, producing taller, more leavened pancakes. And the flour pockets didn’t taste like flour; letting the batter rest briefly allowed them to hydrate slightly before cooking.
For the pancakes’ flavor, we used sugar, vanilla and baking soda, which provided sweetness, depth and saline tang, respectively. Baking soda plays a more important role in the flavor of baked goods than you might think: Many pancakes, biscuits and quick breads rely on its saline tang and are noticeably flat-tasting without it. A mere 1/2 teaspoon did the trick here; it also helped the pancakes brown more deeply (baking soda increases the pH of the batter, which speeds browning reactions) and rise higher.
By the end of our recipe development, tasters were unable to distinguish these pancakes from a more traditional buttermilk type. That means you can now make and enjoy a great pancake breakfast even before your morning coffee wakes you up.
Easy PancakesCourse: America’s Test Kitchen
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk eggs and 1/4 cup oil in a second medium bowl until well combined. Whisk milk and vanilla into the egg mixture. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined (batter should remain lumpy with a few streaks of flour). Let the batter sit for 10 minutes before cooking.
- Heat 1/2 teaspoon of oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out oil, leaving a thin film on bottom and sides of skillet. Drop 1 tablespoon batter in the center of the skillet. If the pancake is pale golden brown after 1 minute, the skillet is ready. If it is too light or too dark, adjust heat accordingly.
- Using a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, portion the batter into the skillet in three places, leaving 2 inches between portions. If necessary, gently spread the batter into a 4-inch round. Cook until the edges are set, the first sides are golden brown and bubbles on the surface are just beginning to break, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a thin, wide spatula, flip the pancakes and continue to cook until the second sides are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Serve. Repeat with remaining batter, using remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil as necessary.
- The pancakes can be cooked on an electric griddle set to 350 F. They can be held in a preheated 200-degree oven on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet.