Dad’s Fluffy Pancakes

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I’ve made it clear that my mom is the main cook in my parents’ house, but when we were growing up my dad did his share of the cooking. He had a set of solid meals he could whip up, including what we called chicken and onions (served with fluffy mashed potatoes), beef stroganoff, and chicken curry with pears. But his real time to shine was when it came to weekend breakfasts, which we shorthanded to “Special Breakfast.” This meant he would either pull out his parents’ old flower-shaped waffle maker or the long rectangular griddle pan that stretched across two burners. If it was the latter, we would then see him consulting his ancient, falling-apart copy of Better Homes and Housekeeping and reaching for the giant white bowl that has, for as long as I can remember, had one large chip on the top edge. Soon we’d be eating the softest pancakes imaginable, shaped into turtles, Mickey Mouse heads, hearts, or simply perfect circles (which he’d sometimes make miniature). He always heated the maple syrup up in the microwave (giving my mom a heart attack every time, because to her the microwave equals death), whipped up a little cream, and, season permitting, sliced up a bunch of fresh strawberries. It was a feast! He often made Special Breakfast when we had friends or cousins sleep over, in which case he’d make a double batch to ensure everyone got their fill.

Now, I’m not a pancake snob—I like them crispy-edged, soft and fluffy, plain or augmented with ricotta, lemon, chocolate, or fruit. But my dad’s pancakes will always hold a special place in my heart and palette—the way he makes them, they’re like little down comforters, so warm and soft and fluffy that you want to curl up under one. It’s a true comfort to eat them, and will make any morning a little extra special. As an added bonus, the batter is so slack that it’s easy to have fun making different shapes and characters for little kids.

Dad never made a compote to go with his pancakes, and you certainly don’t need to—fresh strawberries or raspberries are delicious alongside them on their own (or with no fruit at all!). But turning blackberries or blueberries into a softer, slightly sweeter spoonable concoction is not only super easy but serves the dual purpose of making your pancake breakfast feel just a little bit fancy.

Dad’s Fluffy Pancakes

Serves 4–6

2 1/4 cups (300g) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (20g) sugar
2 tsp (5g) baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups (500ml) milk
1 egg

Berry compote (optional):
1/2 cup blueberries or blackberries*, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp sugar
juice from half a lemon

*You can use raspberries, but cook them for only a couple of minutes since they are so soft; stop cooking when they’re only partially broken down.

In a large bowl, whisk together 300g flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Pour in 500ml milk and 1 egg and whisk until no lumps remain (this is a wet batter).

To make the (optional) berry compote, put 1/2 cup berries, 1 tbsp sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling. Turn down to medium low and cook on a high simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until the berries are mostly broken down and swimming in their juices. The liquid will thicken slightly during cooling.

Set one or two cast-iron skillets over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, spray with cooking oil spray or melt a little butter in it. I use a ladle to measure out pancake batter, but feel free to use a measuring cup or other scoop. Pour a measure of batter into the hot pan and cook for about a minute, until large bubbles have appeared on the surface. Flip and cook another 30 seconds to a minute, until the other side is nice and brown. Continue in this fashion until all the batter is used up. (Cooking time will change depending on the size and shape of your pancakes—learn as you go.)

If you like, you can put the finished pancakes in a baking dish in a 200°F oven until ready to eat so none get too cold.

Serve with butter and maple syrup at minimum, but feel free to also serve with whipped cream, fresh berries or a berry compote, or anything else you like to eat pancakes with. Enjoy!

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