Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The Best Blueberry Pancakes
Last week Jason came home and announced, “Someone sent me a free food magazine today. It looks pretty good. I’m leaving it on the dining table.” I took a glance in that direction and saw a thin booklet with a not-so-attractive cover. Those of you who know me will know that I’m a very visual person, especially when it comes to recipe books and food magazines. If my attention is not grabbed within the first 1/20 of a second, I generally won’t give it a second chance. So the magazine sits in a corner on the table for a couple of days, until Jason hogged the computer again one night and the TV wasn’t showing anything interesting. Bored, I reached for the magazine.
Oh boy, the entire magazine (all 32 pages) was printed in black and white on non-glossy paper! Don’t they know I need to see what the food looks like in full color? Ready to toss it into the recycle stack however, my eyes caught a glimpse of color. Alas, on the inside cover were ten little squares of colored photos. Hmmmm, some visuals after all! One image that stood out was a stack of blueberry pancakes, so fluffy and drenched in maple syrup. Having just bought a pint of blueberries, I was naturally on the lookout for recipes. So I flipped to the page titled “Better Blueberry Pancakes” written by Bridget Lancaster. Instead of a mere recipe, I got the entire rundown on the how’s and why’s of what makes a pancake taste good. Bridget was methodic in her quest for the best recipe and I felt like I was right beside her learning through her trials and errors. By the time I finished reading the article, I had my heart set on the pancakes, and a subscription to the magazine.
The next morning, I followed Bridget’s advice and made the best batch of pancakes I’d ever tasted in my life. Even Jason the pancake-hater voluntarily split the extra one with me instead of pretending he was really full and could not possibly eat another bite. But wait for the best part: I think I might have converted him into a pancake-lover!
So what set these pancakes apart? I feel that aside from the recipe, technique also played an important role. In the back of my mind I’ve always known you’re not supposed to over-mix batter, but I’m sure you all know how annoying it is to see streaks and lumps, especially for a control freak like me. But this time, not only did I resist the urge to extinguish the dry lumps and uneven streaks, I made sure I used the largest whisk and instead of mixing, I scooped up the batter in a big circular motion and tapped the whisk on the side of the bowl to drop the batter back into the bowl. This was repeated while turning the bowl 90 degrees each time until the batter is almost homogenous, but not quite. I feel that this is the best way to ensure the batter is handled minimally to help the pancakes to achieve maximum fluffiness.
Another unusual thing about this recipe is that instead of mixing the blueberries into the batter, they are sprinkled onto the pancake while it’s cooking in the pan. You get golden pancakes dotted with intact berries this way instead of something bluish gray and unappetizing. However, one thing I’ll do differently next time is to cut down the amount of milk. I’ve always noticed that flour in Japan has a higher water content. When using western recipes to make bread, I always have to cut down water by about a quarter. I forgot about it this time and as a result, my batter was a tad too thin and my pancakes weren’t as thick as I would’ve liked them to be. Imagine how much more perfect they’d be if they had thickness too!
So here’s the recipe and I hope you find them as good as I did.
1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon
2 cups milk
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, preferably wild, rinsed and dried
1. whisk lemon juice and milk and set aside to thicken
2. whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to combine (I also sifted the flour with baking soda and powder twice before mixing with the rest of the ingredients)
3. whisk egg and melted butter into milk until combined. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in milk mixture. Whisk very gently until just cocmbined. Do NOT overmix
4. heat nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 1 tsp oil and brush to coat skillet bottom evenly. Pour ¼ cup batter on skillet, sprinkle 1 tbsp blueberries over batter. Cook until large bubbles begin to appear, flip and cook until golden brown on second side.
5. Serve immediately with maple syrup.