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Here in the U.K. (as well as other places, I'm sure), Shrove Tuesday (the last day before the start of Lent) is also celebrated as Pancake Day. We've lived here for the last three years, and although British pancakes are tasty, we really enjoy American-style pancakes with maple syrup most of all. The recipe that I've used for quite a few years now is from The Best Recipe, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. It is of the never-fail variety, and should you be searching for the Holy Grail of pancake recipes, you need not look any further.
Light and Fluffy Pancakes
Serves 3-4 (Makes about 8 3-inch pancakes)
This batter serves four perfectly for a light weekday breakfast. You may want to double the recipe for weekend pancake making, when appetites are larger. If you happen to be using salted butter or buttermilk, you may want to cut back a bit on the salt. If you don't have any buttermilk, mix three-quarters cup of room-temperature milk with one tablespoon of lemon juice and let it stand for five minutes. Substitute this "clabbered milk" for the three-quarters cup of buttermilk and one-quarter cup of milk in this recipe. Since this milk mixture is not as thick as buttermilk, the batter and resulting pancakes will not be as thick.
1 cup ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
2 teaspoons SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon SALT
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER
1/4 teaspoon BAKING SODA
3/4 cup BUTTERMILK
1/4 cup MILK, plus a tablespoon or so extra if batter is too thick
1 large EGG, separated
2 tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER, melted
VEGETABLE OIL, for brushing griddle
1. Whisk dry ingredients in medium bowl. Pour buttermilk and milk into 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Whisk egg white into milk mixture. Mix yolk with melted butter, then stir into milk mixture. Dump wet ingredients into dry ingredients all at once; whisk until just mixed.
2. Meanwhile, heat griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush griddle generously with oil. When water splashed on surface sizzles, pour batter, about 1/4 cup at a time, onto griddle, making sure not to overcrowd. When pancake bottoms are brown and top surface starts to bubble, 2 or 3 minutes, flip cakes and cook until remaining side has browned, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Re-oil the skillet and repeat for the next batch of pancakes.
Follow recipe for Light and Fluffy Pancakes, pouring a little less than 1/4 cup batter at a time onto griddle. Starting with 1/2 cup blueberries, drop about seven blueberries on top of each pancake. Proceed as directed in Master Recipe.
Whole Wheat Pancakes
Follow recipe for Light and Fluffy Pancakes, substituting 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour.
Toasted Pecan Pancakes
Heat pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup pecans, chopped fairly fine; toast, shaking pan frequently, until nuts are fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Follow recipe for Light and Fluffy Pancakes, stirring pecans into dry ingredients along with wet ingredients.
Whisking the egg whites gives pancakes an especially light texture. Don't bother with a hand mixer for beating one egg white. By the time you've assembled the mixer, you could be folding the hand-whipped egg white into the batter. Don't make the mistake of using too small a bowl, either. The egg needs space to aerate, so use a whisk and a large metal bowl.
Follow recipe for Light and Fluffy Pancakes, whisking egg white in large bowl to stiff peaks. Gently fold egg white into completed batter and continue with recipe, spooning rather than pouring batter onto griddle.
Reprinted with kind permission from the The Best Recipe Cookbook, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. Selected articles, recipes, books, and subscription information are available online at www.cooksillustrated.com.