Taking pancakes out of the frying pan and into the oven

HAPPY EATER

April 21, 1993|By ROB KASPER

In an effort to get the creative juices and the maple syrup flowing, I made a new kind of pancake for the family's Sunday morning breakfast. I baked the pancake in the oven.

It turned out to be a flavorful, oversize pancake, more like a crepe than a flapjack.

But there were howls of protest over its appearance at the breakfast table. The dominant pancake consumers of the clan, the 12-year-old and 8-year-old, did not welcome the newcomer. They wanted the "old pancakes, the ones Dad used to make." These were conventional pancakes made with buttermilk, flour and salt, cooked on top of the stove in a frying pan. A few weeks earlier, their mother had made these traditional pancakes, but had not put salt in the batter. The kids claimed they had missed the salt taste and named me pancake cook.

For a while, the thrill of being the household's big pancake person kept me happy in my work. I would mix, but not dwell on, the batter. I would wait until the drops of water "danced" on the heated skillet before putting in the initial pancake. Then, with a few artful turns of the spatula I would transform formless white mixture into symmetrical golden cakes. It was a pleasing ritual.

But I got tired of standing at the stove. No matter how fast I whipped those pancakes out, there seemed to be a constant call for more. I couldn't sit down. I tried my mother's tactic of storing a few cooked pancakes in a warm oven. It didn't work for me. Not only were my pancake eaters voracious, they were also picky. They wanted "medium rare pancakes," that is, cakes with a little uncooked dough in the middle. If I stuck the medium rare cakes in the oven they would become "well done."

My new cooking duties were interfering with my old Sunday morning habits of collapsing in a chair, drinking lots of coffee and staring at newspapers.

I was ready for a change. So when I found a recipe for a pancake baked in the oven, while the cook was sitting down, I got excited. It was in "Pancakes and Waffles," ($12.50, HarperCollins) by Elizabeth Alston, food editor of Woman's Day magazine.

It looked easy. All you had to do was make the batter, pour it into an oven-proof frying pan, and wait for about 20 minutes, with no peeking, while it cooked. Then you cut the big pancake into wedges and served it.

I made the oven-baked pancake twice. The first time I made it, I added more flour than the 1/2 cup the recipe called for. Somehow 1/2 cup didn't seem like enough. The resulting pancake was OK, but dense. "It looks like corn bread," said the 8-year-old who, after tasting the new pancake dropped some of his initial opposition to it.

The second time I followed the recipe, and the pancake was bigger and lighter. The way it puffed up and filled the pan reminded me of a souffle.

The adults thought it had delicate, egg flavor. The 8-year-old thought it was pretty good. But the 12-year-old who came down to breakfast late and grumpy was in no mood for innovation. He took one bite of the "impostor," announced that it had no flavor and demanded the return of his old familiar cakes.

And so, after making two bake-in-the-oven pancakes, I made a batch of the old, cook-on-the-stove pancakes. It was 25 minutes before I escaped from the stove and got to sit down and read the comics.

So if you are a tired of the same old pancakes-for-breakfast routine, you might want to try these new ones from "Pancakes and Waffles." But I'll warn you, pancake eaters, specially the young ones, can be sticklers for tradition.

Super-simple baked pancake

Serves four.

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

a few grains of ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon mild olive or vegetable oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put eggs and milk in medium-size bowl. Beat with wire whisk or electric mixer. Beat in flour, salt, and nutmeg. Tiny lumps of flour are no problem.

Heat oil in oven-proof 9- to 10-inch skillet (or 9-inch glass or metal pie pan) for five minutes. When hot, pour in batter.

Bake uncovered for 18 to 20 minutes without opening the oven door, until pancake is puffed up and crisp around the edges and golden brown in the middle. Cut in wedges to serve.

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