Years ago, during a visit to Niagara Falls, I went for brunch at one of those American diner chains, I forget which, but needless to say it had extremely friendly waitresses and bottomless acrid filter coffee. I was very likely hungover.
With few gourmet or healthy options to tempt us, we decided to go for broke and order the American equivalent of a fry-up: bacon, sausage, eggs, home fries, etc. Having already travelled in America a bit, we weren’t surprised by anything that turned up on our plate, nor the sheer size of the portions, which I will leave to your imagination. We did, however, raise our eyebrows and exchange looks when our waitress came back with a side of pancakes, stacked high with a pat of butter on top, EACH.
Serving pancakes on the side of a fry-up did little to dispel the dreadful ‘fat American’ stereotype that still pervades despite the growing healthy eating movement on that side of the Atlantic. Far from being appalled at their traditional approach to excess, we Brits have positively embraced it, from the gargantuan burgers on offer across the city, to the Man vs. Food-style eating challenges that have become de rigeur at stag parties – the modern equivalent of necking twelve shots of sambuca, if you will.
We have become such yankophiles these days that these stacked American-style pancakes have replaced the old British pancakes on breakfast menus across the city. It seems we want them vertiginous and pillowy, rather than rolled up with lemon and sugar as in Shrove Tuesdays of old. I confess that I like both equally, but make the American style pancakes more often, at about a ratio of three to one.
I’ve scoured the internet for recipes, testing them and adapting them until I created the perfect pancake. I wanted a plain pancake that I could add fruit and other ingredients to, but keep the base recipe the same. It’s taken about a year, but I’ve finally got it to the point where it is good enough to share. This recipe makes about twelve pancakes, so I often halve the quantities if I am making breakfast for just the two of us. It does keep well in the fridge overnight, if you can bear to have pancakes two days in a row.
I read somewhere that beating in stiff egg whites would make fluffier pancakes, and was skeptical at first, but it does work. I urge you to try it.
3 eggs, separated
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk and egg yolks until smooth. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk until you have a smooth batter.
In the bowl of a freestanding mixer with a whisk, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whisked egg white into the batter, being careful not to knock out the air as you do so.
Place a large frying pan or skillet over a high heat and melt a knob of butter. Add a ladleful of pancake batter and cook and cook until the edges start to firm and bubbles appear on the surface. Flip the pancake on to the other side and cook until browned. Repeat with the rest of the batter.