Pancakes – Secrets from Martin Hill Inn’s Kitchen

Pancakes don’t have to be just for the weekend. At our Portsmouth Bed & Breakfast, we cook them all the time.  A griddle heats in the time it takes to brew your coffee. So with a little planning, you can have hot pancakes to start the cold winter day. Here’s the plan:

The night before, set out your griddle and spatula. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 Tbs sugar, 4 tsp baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt. In a small bowl, beat two eggs with a hand mixer on low. Slowly drizzle in 5 Tbs vegetable oil with the mixer running. When the egg and oil are well combined add the milk and blend briefly. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture. With an ordinary fork, stir just to combine. Leave the lumps. Cover the bowl and refrigerate. This will serve four adults.

In the morning, turn on the griddle (and the coffee). Take the pancake batter out. You will find that it has separated leaving a cake like foam on the top and the liquid on the bottom. Don’t panic. Take your kitchen fork and gently stir to mix the two together. When they are combined give a few strong whisking strokes to get out any large lumps, but don’t worry about the small ones. You are now ready to cook your pancakes! See – quick and easy!

Thoughts on accompaniments:
Real maple syrup:  Why spend extra on the real stuff?  It supports local maple tree farms in New England many of which are family owned.  Also, despite the cost, if you use real maple syrup you don’t need as much on the plate.  The taste is strong and should be considered a compliment to your pancakes, not necessarily the primary flavor.  Homemade pancakes tend to be moister than pancakes from mix which also decreases the need to lubricate them with maple syrup!  Serve the syrup warm.
Bacon and sausage:  Once cooked, these meats last for several days in the refrigerator.  At the Inn, we cook large sheets of sausage patties at a time in the oven, in part because we feed up to 14 people a day, but also because we always want a supply in the refrigerator in case we get a last minute guest.  To prepare for the morning, place paper towel on the bottom of a baking sheet (we use the one from our toaster oven), arrange your cooked bacon or sausage on the paper towel making several layers if necessary.  In the morning, put the oven (or toaster oven) on warm – between 150 and 200 degrees.  Turn the oven on when you turn on the coffee machine.  
Beyond syrup:  Think about other toppings for your pancakes.  These could include sliced fresh fruit, applesauce, your favorite jam or preserve, toasted nuts or the ever popular Nutella spread.
Cooking technique:  So now you have the perfect batter, toppings and sides, what to do about getting golden brown pancakes that are cooked through but not dry.  Well that can be a bit of a challenge, but nothing that can’t be solved with a little patience and testing.   The hardest part about the cooking of pancakes is the temperature of the griddle.  Some people test the temperature by sprinkling water on it and looking for a sizzle.  Others use electric griddles with temperature control.  In either case, here are the important things: 
1) You want an even temperature, so start the griddle on low well in advance (about 5 minutes).  This will give the metal time to heat through reducing hot spots particularly with a gas stove.  Turn the heat up 5 minutes before you want to start cooking.  On our stove, this is about medium heat.  Make a note of where the dial indicates (2 o’clock for example).  Try the sprinkled water test after a few minutes and see what happens.  If the water bounces and pops, too hot.  If it sits there and steams, too low.  If it sizzles and quickly cooks off, you are probably pretty close.
2) Try your first pancake.  We like to make ours about 4 inches across.  If they are too big, they may not cook well in the middle.  It should only take about 2 minutes for the bubbles to appear on the top, the edges to look dry and the bottom side to be lightly browned.  Flip the pancake.  If it takes much longer or happens much sooner, you probably need to adjust the temperature.  After a while you will find the proper “o’clock” for your griddle and temperature will be a no-brainer from now on.
3) Testing – is it cooked inside?  Well you can always cut into the pancake like a piece of steak and see if it is still wet inside, but we find the pancakes don’t look as nice if we do that!  Instead, place two fingers on the top of the pancake and try to move it from side to side.  If the top of the pancake slides as if it is separate from the bottom part, then the inside is still uncooked.  Gently tapping the top like you would a cake is another alternative.  The top should spring back. If the bottom starts to brown too much and you are still waiting for the inside to cook, flip the pancake back to the first side.  I know there are cookbook authors who make this sound as if it will kill the pancake, but trust me, it won’t.  Better to flip an extra time and have the pancake cooked in the middle is my way of thinking.
So now you have the perfect basic pancake.  Visit our website for some other flavors and varieties.
Happy flipping!

P.S. the pancake recipe above can be made with 1 1/4 cup regular flour if you don’t have whole wheat flour on hand.