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How to Make Pancakes Without a Recipe

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Dads have monopolized pancakes long enough. Reclaim pancakes as your own, and then customize them however you want.


Wily fathers, as Nicholas Day once revealed, have managed to mark weekend breakfasts as their personal territory. Just say the word "pancakes" and watch as the eyes of those around you glaze over: They're picturing a dad, undoubtedly wearing Tevas and high-waisted cargo shorts, standing at the stove at 11 AM on a Sunday morning, watching batter frying to a golden-brown in hot butter. Maybe Seinfeld is playing on the TV. Maybe NPR is on the radio. (Or maybe this is only our imagination.)

But Dads have plenty of other things: They have baseball, they have math homework, they have terrible jokes. Father's Day is over, so we don't feel bad about saying that it's enough with the Dad monopolies, already. (Sorry, Nicholas). It's time for the mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, and childless people of the world to reclaim pancakes as their own.

More: 2 breakfast classics we're reclaiming over at Provisions? Iced coffee & donuts.

Let's face it: There will come a time when you want to eat pancakes and you can't locate a dad willing to make them for you. But there's no need: It's not that hard to make pancakes yourself. You don't even need a recipe and you can add as many chocolate chips as you'd like.

While we can tell you how to make any pancakes you want, we can't exactly tell you how to flip them. (Maybe you should call your dad for that.) 

How to Make Pancakes Without a Recipe

First, commit your master ratio to memory: 1 cup flour : 1 cup milk : 1 egg. This should be easy to remember, even before your morning coffee. Once you have that down pat, you're ready to get started.

1. Start by whisking together your dry ingredients. For every cup of flour you add, you can expect to feed 3 to 4 people. Use either entirely all-purpose flour or half all-purpose and half whole wheat. If you want multigrain pancakes, replace 1/4 of every cup of flour with rye or barley flour.

2. Add between 2 teaspoons and 2 tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet you want the pancakes. Next, throw in a 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (You can even scale up this formula and keep homemade pancake mix in your pantry for faster pancake creation.)

3. Add some spice -- cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, whatever -- to the dry mix and stir to combine.

4. Now it’s time to gather your wet ingredients. You’ll need 1 egg and1  cup of milk for every cup of flour in your dry mix. If you’re vying for tangier pancakes that are still light and fluffy, consider a mixture of 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/4 cup milk, or use 1 cup of plain yogurt along with a couple of tablespoons of milk.

5. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of melted butter or oil, then add some energy to your batter with flavorings like vanilla extract or lemon zest.


6. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined -- this is one of those rare times in life when you want lumps.

7. Now's your chance to stir in ingredients for even distribution throughout the batter, such as sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, coconut flakes, or mashed banana.

8. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a pat of butter or a teaspoon of oil and let heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet.

9. Let the pancakes be, or adorn them with banana slices, chocolate chips, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or additional nuts. Cook the pancakes until they’re dry around the edges and you can see bubbles forming on the top. You will be impatient and the first one will be undercooked, but don't fret -- there are plenty more to come.

10. Flip with a spatula and cook until golden underneath.

Keep the pancakes warm in a 200° F oven until you’re ready to serve with butter, syrup, and/or whipped cream.

More: What does the perfect pancake mean to you and what are your tips for making them? Tell us in the comments! 

Photos by Mark Weinberg

Tags: pancakes, breakfast, brunch, everyday cooking, baking, how-to & diy

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