Thursday, March 18, 2010

On the pedagogy of making pancakes

In my home, we've recently begun experimenting with making our own pancakes from scratch. The first thing we realized is just how easy it is to prepare excellent tasting, nutrious pancakes from scratch. We felt almost deceived by the pancake mix companies (you know who you are) for tricking us into thinking we needed pancake mix. Then we realized that we had allowed that to happen.

The interesting thing about making pancakes is how it mixes both science and art. You can easily get a recipe from the Internet to make pancakes of any description. The quantities of ingredients needed and the order to mix them is easy to follow. However, I have learned that the art of cooking the pancake is not so easily described.

I find myself sometimes watching the pancakes closely as they cook in the pan. On these occasions I tend to flip them before they are ready and they just don't look nice once they are done. On other occasions, I become distracted, either intrinsically or extrinsically, and forget to flip the pancakes and they burn. However, on those rare occasions the right mix of attention and distraction occurs and I flip the pancake at the perfect moment and it looks, well, good enough to eat.

I've tried to scientifically determine when the pancake should be flipped. The recipes say to wait until the bubbles have formed deep in the middle. However for my combination of cheap stove and cast iron pan, that causes them to burn. Some days I need to flip before bubbles form and other days I need to wait to flip. There appears to be no consistent pattern regarding the flipping of the pancake. It seems to be determined by the state of the mix, the pan and the stove on that particular day.

Sure things may work better if I had a stove that actually distributed heat properly. Or maybe if I chose to use a Teflon pan. But regarding the stove, I work with what I have. Regarding the cast iron pan, it may be archaic, it may be more work, but it makes everything taste so much better.

To spice up the pancakes, we experiment with adding fruit to the mix. Pineapples, apples, bananas, and strawberries have all made it into the mix at some point. These small additions help keep things fresh.

Now, when we first started we went on a pancake bonanza and ate them everyday for a week. That resulted in the avoidance of pancakes for the next week. Now we try to balance pancakes with other meals like a nice hearty oatmeal or some greasy French toast.

I know that every time I make pancakes I do it better, faster and easier. I am better able to predict when to flip the pancakes to have them turn out perfectly. I still screw up here and there and burn one or under cook some, but I take those mistakes in stride, learn from them and move forward.

Just some food for thought ... (sorry, its late couldn't resist the horrible pun)

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