Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pancake Madness


Pancakes are probably my favorite breakfast food, and one of my favorite comfort foods, as well. They're not something to eat every day, sure, but when you do have them, and when you do have a good version, they're satisfying and delicious. I've experimented with a number of different pancake batter recipes, but the one I've found works best is Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything. However, as great as that recipe is, I still like testing out other recipes, as well, so when I was reminiscing about the wonderful chocolate chip pancakes at the Night and Day Cafe on Coronado Island a few days ago, I decided to try and find a good recipe for diner-style pancakes. I'm not sure exactly what would qualify a pancake as being diner-style, but I suspect it has something to do with slightly thinner, less puffed-up, and less dense pancakes that cook up nicely and evenly on a griddle. After some extensive Googling, the best-looking recipe actually seemed to come from a website for the fictional Big Knob Diner in some young adult book called Casual Hex. Like I said, extensive Googling!

The recipe worked great, but like most basic pancake recipes, it was pretty straightforward so I don't think it really merits the step-by-step pictorial treatment. Also, for those of you griddle fans out there, these pancakes cooked up excellently on our griddle. I love using the electric griddle, because I get to do some serious flipping of various breakfast foods, and you know, it's fun playing short-order cook. Anyway, we're about to get into some seriously atypical pancakes, so a little preface first: the cookbook that most expanded my horizons about what can be done with basic breakfast foods was Kenny's Shopsin's Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. The book's needlessly vulgar at points, and I'm not really wild about his customer philosophy, but Shopsin does have some fascinating ideas about, say, what a pancake can be. He offers dozens of pancake varieties on his menu (reprinted in the book, and endlessly interesting to read), some of which are traditional, and some of which are a little more out there. In today's post, I'll share some of his creations that I've made in the past, some that I made in the last couple days with this new recipe, and some of my own recipes, which were most assuredly inspired by his ideas about how to make pancakes a little more interesting.

Peach Pancakes

First, we have peach pancakes, which provide a pretty good example of Shopsin's ideas about making pancakes. He conceives of there being two kinds of non-plain pancakes: the kind where ingredients are mixed into the batter, and the kind where ingredients are placed on, or sprinkled on, the pancakes as they cook. In the case of these peach pancakes, which I made earlier in the year, chunks of fresh peach are added just before the pancakes are ready to be flipped, to help ensure that the 'cakes become cooked through thoroughly enough before the peach addition begins to impede the cooking of the second side. These turned out pretty well, with the peach chunks caramelizing nicely on the griddle.

Mac'n'Cheese Pancakes

Here we start to head into more esoteric pancake territory. Shopsin's mac'n'cheese pancakes are known as one of his specialties, and they're just like the peach pancakes, except cooked elbow macaroni is tossed onto the pancakes, along with shredded cheddar cheese. Think of this bizarre creation as the ecotone of breakfast and lunch foods, the strange point where the two categories intersect, with surprisingly delicious results.


Now we're onto the more recent pancakes that were just made in the past couple days. These first 'cakes were my own creation--when the pancakes had just begun cooking, I added in a homemade trail mix made of peanuts, almonds, cashews, M&M's, and raisins, and--



--voila, trail mix pancakes. These were actually really excellent, with a great nutty flavor and occasional chocolate-y bite. I'm including a more zoomed-out picture of the plate with this first pancake, so you have a frame of reference--the plates used for these pancakes were all appetizer- or snack-sized plates, so each 'cake was pretty small.



Next, these brown sugar banana pancakes were one of Shopsin's recipes. Here, thinly-sliced banana is placed on the pancake just before it gets flipped, and once the 'cake is cooked through,brown sugar is sprinkled onto the banana side and then cooked briefly.


These were pretty good, too--the brown sugar glaze, as Shopsin calls it, went really well with the banana.


This 90 day-aged Gorgonzola cheese in the fridge was calling out to me, so I decided to adapt one of my favorite flavor combinations into a pancake.


The Bartlett pear was sliced thinly and placed on the pancake about halfway through the first side cooking.


Just before flipping the pancake, some Gorgonzola was sprinkled on.


As you can see, the Gorgonzola actually formed a Gorgonzola crisp underneath the pancake, which made for a delicious 'cake. The pear flavor came through strongly, too. This was one of the best pancakes of the batch.




The next pancake was the other favorite--raspberry and chocolate chip. The tartness of the raspberries contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the chocolate. Oh, and just as a sidenote, if you're wondering why I didn't just use Shopsin's recipe for pancakes, it's because he doesn't provide one, and suggests you use Aunt Jemima pancake mix instead. To me, that would just feel like I was cutting a corner to yield an easier result, because pancake batter made from scratch, I think tastes much, much better than a pancake mix. That strikes me as a good shortcut if you need one--as someone working in a high-volume restaurant like Shopsin's might--but one that will result in less delicious pancakes if you have time to make the batter from scratch at home.




The penultimate pancake used deli-sliced turkey and Colby cheese for a kind of pancake take on a hot turkey and cheese sandwich. This one wasn't bad, but the flavor of the cheese strongly overpowered the flavor of the turkey, which is a pretty surprising feat for the Colby to have pulled off, considering what a mild-flavored cheese it is.




The final pancake was a simple and classic, but delicious, combination of strawberries and banana. This was another one that Jen and I both really liked. After the pear/gorgonzola and raspberry/chocolate chip pancakes, this pancake and the trail mix pancake were probably our next two favorites.


Thanks for stopping by Beach City Cooking, and I'll see you all tomorrow for another post. Have a great night, and stay cool!


  1. thanks for the kind words, here’s some other batter stuff- Ken
    1. spread the batter very thin, flip, caramel, roll to a cylinder
    2. lemon zest mixed with batter, fold in ricotta in non-uniform small chunks, blues on top, flip
    3. fresh baby spinach on the griddle, amorphous batter on top, grated gruyere, pine nuts
    4. dip thin floured chicken cutlet in batter; deep fry (chik-fil a)
    also works well with bananas
    5. roast red pepper, corn, batter, masarepa to thicken, deep fry
    6. pancakes, mini chocolate chips, cover with graham crumbs,
    flip, marshmallows on half, cover with others (s’mores)
    7. in an aebelskiver pan add chopped shrimp and cilantro
    to the batter (takoyaki)
    8. fresh strawberries, ricotta, powdered sugar gently mixed
    and cold between two pancakes (cheese cake)
    9. change the batter by addition- pumpkin, poppy seeds, instant coffee etc. then use this base for related pancakes
    i.e. turkey pumpkin
    10. use the pancakes as bread- two pancakes with maple glazed bacon between them, two sunnys on top
    11. mix powdered sugar, maple syrup, heavy cream to make a frosting, dip pancakes in and they will form white glaze

  2. That's funny that a young adult novel had the best recipe--although I must confess I often cook from children's cookbooks (they can be very user-friendly, too).

    ^Is that comment above from the legendary Kenny S? I remember reading that Kenny uses Aunt Jemima batter, which I always dissed after bad childhood experiences (although he says it is all in the technique, not the composition).

  3. It's so easy to make your own pancake batter from scratch, why bother with a boxed mix. That seems ridiculous to me. Tell us how to avoid the nasty outcome of burned chocolate (not caramelized) or burned fruit, when doing these variations. We have experimented endlessly trying to get chocolate chips not to burn, and have ended up placing them in between the finished pancakes, after they are stacked on our plates, to allow them to melt in with a pat of butter (also placed in between each pancake in our stack).