Perfecting Pancakes

PancakeOK, so why is a finance blog writing about cooking?  Well, one of the biggest drains on a family income is eating out.  Even buying prepackaged meals is substantially more expensive than cooking from scratch.  So just learning to cook basic meals will allow you to save enough to put money towards investing to the tune of a couple hundred dollars a month.

Today I thought I’d share some secrets about one of my favorite breakfast foods: Pancakes!  Believe it or not, pancakes are actually really, really easy to make from scratch.  Why do most people make them from a mix, or go to McDonald’s to have them make pancakes from a mix for them?  You’ve got me.

Here is how to make the perfect batch of pancakes in about 3/4 hour, including cooking time (you can even mix the dry ingredients in a tightly sealed bag and make your own mix to save time):

Ingredients:  (Pancakes for 2-3 – double the recipe for 4-5 or more)

Wet:  1 large egg, 1 tbsp oil, 3/4 – 1 cup milk

Dry:  1 cup flour, 3 tsp baking power, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup sugar

Optional:  1 tsp vanilla extract, nuts, chocolate chips, fruit, or other additions of your choice)

(Note tbsp = tablespoon, tsp = teaspoon)

Step 1:  Beat the egg(s) in a medium bowl with a whisk or a mixer.  This is a secret to fluffy pancakes – beat the eggs until they become fluffy.

Step 2:  Add the oil to the egg and mix together.   Then add the milk and mix.  You want the fat from the oil and milk to combine with the egg molecules.

Step 3: Add the flour, baking power, sugar, and salt.  Purist will mix these in another bowl and then pour the wet ingredients on top.  I find that just adding the dry ingredients on top of the wet works if you spread out the baking power and salt as you add it.

Step 4:  Fold the wet and dry ingredients together.  This mean scooping from the bottom of the bowl with a big spoon or a rubber spatula and turning everything over.  Continue until the flour is almost entirely combined and very few lumps remain.  Secret:  Do not over mix.  With a baking power batter, the more you mix the tougher the product becomes.  Some people leave a few lumps in rather than over mix trying to get out every lump.

Step 5:  Very lightly grease a frying pan or griddle.  Secret 1:  Use very, very little oil or butter.  You just want a wisp of oil on the pan for the first set of pancakes to keep them from sticking – you aren’t deep-frying.  Secret 2:   The best pan is cast iron since it has enough mass to stay warm when you add the batter.  If you don’t have cast iron, get your heaviest non-stick skillet.  Put your pan over medium heat and let it get warm (the oil should spread out before you add any batter.)

Step 6:  Add the batter to the pan using a ladle or a large spoon (you can also add it to a measuring cup or pitcher and pour).  Keep them small enough so that you can flip them in your pan.  Cook on one side until you see bubbles everywhere.  Slide your spatula underneath and flip.  Cook on the other side until golden brown.  Secret:  You want the heat hot enough that you get bubbles fairly quickly but not so hot that they burn before the inside is cooked.  If you set a timer and they are golden brown after about a minute on a side, that is about right.

You can keep a plate in the oven set to 150-200 degrees and add pancakes as they are ready, or just dole them out right from the griddle one person at a time.  If you want to add things like nuts or fruit pieces, drop handfuls onto the batter when you put it on the pan to ensure even distribution.

So there you have it.  Really, the only thing more difficult than using a mix is having the dry ingredients separate.  I guarantee it will taste a lot better than a mix, and it will cost less.  You should be able to feed your family for about fifty cents per person.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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