Monday, October 22, 2012

Banana Pancakes

A couple weekends ago, I woke up with this song in my head and the most incredible craving for banana pancakes. As soon as the idea of hopping out of bed and whipping up a batch popped into my head, I couldn't let it go. I started doing some mental inventory: Bananas? Check. Eggs? Check. [The excitement was mounting] Syrup? Check. [Yes, yes!! It's really going to work!] Buttermilk? Buttermilk?? [Cue huge letdown]

And then I remembered: didn't I see a delicious looking recipe somewhere for pancakes that didn't call for buttermilk? Why yes, yes I did- but it called for using vinegar to sour the milk. I knew people did this as a substitute for buttermilk, but it kind of freaked me out, and I always assumed the real deal would be superior. Here's the moral of the story: I was wrong. 

Using self-soured milk consistently produced the most delightfully tall, fluffy, restaurant-quality pancakes I've ever made. Do you remember the elementary school experiment someone inevitably did for the science fair every year? The one where you build a fake volcano, add baking soda and vinegar, and watch it "erupt"? That's, more or less, what's going on here- only not so dramatic. The vinegar in the soured milk meets the baking soda in the dry ingredients, and begins to form little carbon dioxide bubbles. All those tiny pockets of trapped air in your batter ensure that the finished product is perfectly light and fluffy. Fear not: there's no icky, sour, vinegary taste, just a batter that bubbles up (almost like yeast batter) and produces lofty, golden cakes.

Now, if you've never put bananas in your pancakes before, I suspect you've been harboring an uncomfortable feeling that you're missing out on something incredible, and you would be right. I also suspect that this recipe is all the nudging you'll need, so I'm not going to bother trying to convince you. You know what to do.


Note: If you've been hiding a sadly neglected cast-iron skillet in your cupboard, now is the time to pull it out and fall in love all over again: it will give the perfect crispy edge to your pancakes.

Fluffy Banana Pancakes
Adapted from

Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes

1 1/2 cups milk (ideally 2%)
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour                                       
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. fine sea salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 ripe bananas

Combine milk and vinegar in a medium bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to sour.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the eggs, vanilla, and butter into the soured milk, then pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and whisk gently, just until everything is evenly distributed. There will be some lumps. Set your batter aside to puff up and bubble a little more (resist the temptation to stir away the bubbles- those are the loft in your pancakes!).

Slice the bananas onto a small plate or bowl so they're ready to go in the next step.

Heat a large (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium heat and brush with vegetable oil. Scoop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the skillet. Add several banana slices to each pancake, pressing down slightly to adhere bananas to batter. This batter is quite thick and won't spread much on its own, but adding the bananas seems to spread it out just the right amount (if you don't use the bananas, you can spread the batter gently with the back of a spoon, if you desire). Cook for several minutes, until bubbles appear between the banana slices. Flip and cook a few more minutes on the other side, until golden brown. Make sure you scrape off any sticky banana residue in between batches and re-oil the pan.


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