Certain friends won't let me forget the time during our road trip I forced them to drive around with me for over an hour in the middle of nowhere so that I could find a place that served pancakes. We were so hungry by the time we finally found a restaurant, everyone was on edge and slightly annoyed with me. But I ordered my pancakes and took a bite and
nearly spit them back out swallowed them and forced a smile. Even though the pancakes were truly terrible, the idea of admitting that to my friends - who had spent the last hour trying to tell me that one couldn't find any good pancakes around here - was even worse.
Years later, I once again forced my friends to travel with me to eat pancakes. This time, however, we weren't looking for a place. I knew exactly where we were headed. I was staying in New York and had been craving pancakes, so googled "best pancakes" and came across Clinton Street Baking Company. The place had been voted best pancakes by New York Magazine earlier that year (2008) as well as in in 2005. It had also received other awards such as "best pie in NYC", "best buttermilk biscuits", "top 10 brunches", "most luscious muffins"... I just knew I had to get there as soon as possible.
As it turned out, that was easier said than done. The first time we went down there, on a Saturday morning, we arrived after 3 subway tranfers in the blistering heat at 11am, only to be greeted by an immense crowd and to be told that there was a 3 1/2 hour wait. Let's just say we went somewhere else.
One week later, we tried again (at this point, even my friends were curious). We got there earlier and only had to wait 40 minutes. When we were taken to our table I looked around and saw an order of pancakes on every single table. All four of us ordered the blueberry pancakes. And they were by far The. Best. Pancakes. I. Had. Ever. Eaten.
Oh, what was their secret? Why were they so light, fluffy, airy? What did they do differently and how could I find out? Oh I would have done anything to know. Turns out, all I had to do was wait two years - in 2010 the owners published a cookbook revealing the recipes of all the dishes on their menu.
Finally, I can have the perfect pancakes anytime I want and my friends don't have to travel anywhere but to my house.
The best pancakes
The recipe makes a lot of pancakes, about 20-25 3-inch pancakes. As it turns out, the reason they are so light and fluffy is because the eggs are separated. The whites are beaten until they form medium peaks and then they are gently folded into the batter.
500g // 4 cups of flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder
150g // 3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
6 large eggs, seperated
700 ml // 3 cups of milk
170g // 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 teaspoons unmelted for cooking
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
500g // 2 1/2 cups of blueberries (or any other berry) or sliced bananas and 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
60g // 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar or cinnamon sugar for dusting (optional)
Maple butter (see recipe below)
Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. In medium bowl, whisk together yolks, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined. Whisk yolk mixture into flour mixture until just combined; batter will be slightly lumpy.
Place egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or whisk by hand, until medium peaks form. Gently mix half the egg whites into batter with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in remaining whites. The egg whites should not be fully incorporated into the batter.
Heat a griddle until hot, about 350 to 375 degrees. Add remaining unmelted butter to hot griddle. Add 1/4 cup pancake batter and let set. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon blueberries or sliced bananas and 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts, if using, over pancakes. When bubbles begin to form, lift pancake; if golden brown, turn. Cook until golden brown on remaining side.
Transfer cooked pancake to a oven-proof plate and keep warm in the oven at 75°C // 175°F. Repeat process with remaining batter, fruit, and nuts. Garnish with confectioners' sugar for blueberry pancakes and cinnamon sugar for banana-walnut. Serve warm with maple butter.
Maple Butter (makes 2 cups)
240 ml // 1 cup pure maple syrup, preferably grade-B organic
226g // 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Heat maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add cold butter to warm syrup, whisking until sauce is smooth and all of the butter is incorporated. Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to use. Maple Butter can also be kept refrigerated, in an airtight container, for up to two months. Reheat before using, but never bring to a boil.