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Sunday Morning Pancakes: Of buttermilk and hangovers

Has this ever happened to you? It’s Sunday morning and you wake up with a yen for pancakes. Perhaps you overindulged the night before and need a little bulk to face the day. Or maybe you overindulged then picked a fight with your husband and are feeling just a tad guilty. It may even be that your in-laws are visiting and you’d rather cook than discuss the Sunday papers, your “drinking problem” or how you can be such a bitch to their golden boy who is also the perfect husband. Maybe it’s all three, not that I’d know much about that. Anyhoo, whatever the reason, it is safe to say that when we crave pancakes (or white cake, or biscuits, or whatever) it’s best that the monkey be fed. For everyone.

So as I was saying, there you are on Sunday morning, all ready to whip up a batch of the best when you realize the recipe calls for half a cup of buttermilk, which of course you do not have. I for one don’t even know what buttermilk is, nor do I care enough to bother to find out, and I certainly wouldn’t waste valuable cold storage space – space that is required to keep champagne at the ready and at least one bottle of white in reserve – on buttermilk, which only comes in quarts and will have to be located and thrown out in three months after I’ve forgotten all about it and it’s gone rancid and is stinking up the kitchen.

Now I know what you’re thinking – there’s no buttermilk in the instructions on the Aunt Jemima box. I thought we understood each other on the issue of baking mixes by now. Well all I can say is once you’ve had scratch pancakes, which are about the easiest thing in the world to make, you will never go back to the nasty, grainy, plastic ones from the box, no matter how kindly and reassuring the face under the headscarf may be. And I’m not even going to get into buckwheat pancakes. Why in the name of all that’s holy would anyone eat those?

Here’s the good news: there is no need to have buttermilk on hand, or go out searching for it at odd hours while trying to conceal your pajamas under your trench coat, as long as you keep powdered buttermilk on hand. Oh yes, it comes in powdered form, just like the dry milk you use in bread machine recipes. Saco makes it, and there’s even an organic version available from the good folks at Organic Valley. You can order it online, it never goes bad and you keep it in the pantry.

Alternatively, you can substitute either of the following for a cup of buttermilk:

  • For each cup of buttermilk, pour a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a one-cup measure and fill with milk, then let it sit for ten minutes or so.
  • Drop a heaping tablespoon or so of plain yogurt into a one-cup measure and fill with milk. Mix and use immediately.

For those of you who can’t be bothered with any of the above, here’s my no-buttermilk recipe. Although buttermilk pancakes are best, the regular milk version is still head and shoulders above anything from a mix. This recipe is utterly foolproof and goes a long way toward getting those pesky in-laws off your back happily fed on a Sunday morning.

No Panic Pancakes  (makes about 10 smallish pancakes)

In a bowl, mix:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour (don’t even think about whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Add:

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup milk (whole is best, low fat will do, skim only in an emergency)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil (or use melted butter, which I prefer). Almond oil is also nice for a slightly nutty flavor.

Stir until just blended and still a little lumpy, then cook on a hot, oiled griddle as usual.

A note on additives:  If you’re adding fruit, and this is important, don’t add it to the batter in the bowl. Instead, sprinkle each pancake with the fruit (or chocolate chips, which are delicious with bananas or strawberries, btw) right after you pour the batter on the griddle, then flip.

And now, for those of you who have hung on to the bitter end, a little John Malkovich to go with your flapjacks.

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