There are precious few foods that slip easily under a door. Lettuce leaves come to mind, along with matzo and veal scaloppine. But none of these will ever replace my favorite from the flat food group: pancakes.

These little discs of deliciousness have plenty of names: flapjacks, hotcakes, griddle cakes, and more. Whatever the moniker, though, what they have in common are four ingredients: wheat flour, eggs, dairy and a leavener.

As you probably know, it’s the gluten in wheat flour that allows the pancakes to rise and become fluffy and light. All-purpose flour is dandy, though some cooks with palates more refined than mine prefer softer flours. Seriously, though, all-purpose is fine. It’s a pancake.

There are two basic parts of the pancake process: mixing and cooking.

Mixing: Don’t overmix your batter. Use the “muffin method” of mixing: Put all your dry ingredients in one bowl and your wet ingredients in another, then pour the wet into the dry. Mix only enough to incorporate. Overmixing develops gluten too much, giving you pancakes that are tough and leathery. Leave some lumps, and your pancakes will be as soft and tender.

Cooking: Pour your batter onto your griddle. If you don’t have a griddle, use a cast iron pan. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, use whatever wide, flat pan you have. If you don’t have a wide, flat pan, get one. I never grease the pan, but, if you want, you could add just a bit of oil or butter, then pour the batter. After about a minute, when the pancake bottom is golden brown and bubbles form and begin to pop on the top, flip and brown the other side to cook through.

Variations on a theme

Even if your pancakes are perfect, you might like a little change of pace. In that case, you can add grains to the mix, dress up your batter with a more novel dairy element than milk or dabble with some banana pancakes. Just take my basic pancake recipe and make the following tweaks.

Oats. Grains such as oats have been shown to be good for your heart. Generally, you can’t go wrong with a 50/50 mix of wheat flour to grain in your batter; the flour still gives your pancakes that nice fluffiness, while the oats add texture and nutritional value.

Mascarpone. Milk is the most common dairy used in a pancake, but the more fat your dairy has, the richer and more luxurious your final product. Try 1 cup mascarpone with 1 cup milk and 4 ounces butter, plus the dry ingredients from my basic recipe. Once cooked, stack up your pancakes and spread mascarpone between layers.

Bananas, blueberries or chocolate chips. Add pretty much whatever sweet treats you like to your batter, and cook it up the same way you would otherwise. It’s all good. Now, grab the syrup and dig in.

Pancakes with Sautéed Apples

Makes 12.

Note: Use less liquid for thicker batter and pancakes, more liquid for thinner. You’re the boss. From James P. Dewan.

• 2 c. all-purpose flour

• 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• Pinch salt

• 1 1/2 c. milk

• 3 eggs, beaten

• 1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, melted

• Butter, unmelted, as needed

• Maple syrup, as needed

• Sautéed apples (see recipe)


Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine milk, eggs and melted butter.

Pour liquid into flour mixture, and combine with a rubber spatula or whisk until just blended. Do not overmix.

Pour desired amount of batter onto a greased hot griddle or cast iron skillet and cook until bubbles form on top and just begin to pop. Flip pancakes and cook on other side until done, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately with butter, maple syrup and sautéed apples.

Nutrition information per pancake w/out apples:

Calories 185 Fat 10 g Sodium 280 mg

Carbohydrates 18 g Saturated fat 6 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 5 g Cholesterol 70 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 2 fat.

Sautéed Apples

Makes about 12 servings.

Note: From James P. Dewan.

• 1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter

• 4 apples, peeled, cored, cut into medium dice

• 1 tbsp. brown sugar

• Cinnamon, as needed

• Salt as needed


Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. When foam subsides, add apples and sugar; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Season with cinnamon and salt to taste; serve immediately.

Nutrition information per ¼ cup:

Calories 65 Fat 4 g Sodium 30 mg

Carbohydrates 8 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 6 g

Protein 0 g Cholesterol 10 mg Dietary fiber 1 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ fruit, 1 fat.