On a hike recently I met someone here in Germany who was reminiscing about American-style pancakes, and I suggested that she come over sometime for a pancake brunch. I haven’t made pancakes in a few years, but back in Pittsburgh Derek and I used to make oatmeal walnut pancakes pretty often. But for this brunch I wanted to make something more like what you’d get in an American diner. I asked Derek to pick two recipes and he picked an Alton Brown recipe and one from 101cookbooks.
Just out of curiosity, I compared the Alton Brown (AB) recipe to the pancake recipe on Cook’s Illustrated (CI), and they were pretty similar. But the CI recipe calls for less salt (1/2 tsp. table salt instead of 1 tsp. kosher salt), less sugar (2 Tbs. instead of 3 Tbs.), and instead of 4 Tbs. butter it calls for 3 Tbs. butter and 1/4 cup of sour cream. The sour cream is supposed to make it more tangy and “buttermilky.” I ended up doing a bit of a mix, using 3/4 tsp. sea salt, 3 Tbs. of sugar, and the butter/sour cream mixture.
AB says to make sure the buttermilk is at room temperature, and CI says that they prefer a lower-protein all-purpose flour. I used a German 550 flour. Maybe next time the 405 flour would be more appropriate.
Both recipes say to let the batter rest for a few (AB: 5, CI: 10) minutes before making the pancakes. Apparently this rest time makes the pancakes lighter and fluffier. It allows the flour to fully hydrate, gives the gluten time to relax, and gives the leavening a head start. Interesting note: CI says that using more leaveners will actually result in pancakes with a wet, gummy crumb—apparently the pancakes “overinflate, then collapse like popped balloons, and end up dense and wet.”
The AB/CI buttermilk pancakes came out well. Derek thought they were excellent–full flavored, a little sweet and salty, and a good texture. I wasn’t that excited, but I’m just never that excited about standard American pancakes. I think I’d prefer a whole grain flour though. They did have a nice “tangy” flavor, and I liked the saltiness. I wouldn’t use a full teaspoon of fine sea salt though. Three quarters of a teaspoon was enough.
The 101cookbooks recipe was slightly less successful, but it turns out that I bought high-protein flour (1050 in Germany) instead of whole wheat flour. No wonder it looked so … white. Compared to the Alton Brown recipe this recipe calls for more sugar (5 1/3 Tbs. instead of 3 Tbs.), less salt, less butter (2 Tbs. instead of 4 Tbs.), and slightly more buttermilk (2 1/4 cups instead of 2 cups). They were much fluffier, “restaurant-quality” Derek said. But they had less flavor. Certainly the salt to sugar ratio was off. We couldn’t tell that I had used high-protein flour.
I served the pancakes with a blueberry sauce and a peach compote, and maple syrup of course. My guests brought raspberry jam and dulce de leche.