By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
Last week I had breakfast at DuPar’s, a landmark restaurant at LA’s Farmers Market that’s been operating since 1937. It’s a beloved institution for tourists as well as the locals. Esquire magazine votes their pancakes as #1 in the US. (Personally, I think Wendy’s Hoot Owl pancakes could stack right up against them). It’s only fitting that such a beloved breakfast staple would have more than one holiday in its honor, so take your pick: you can celebrate Pancake Day, international pancake Day and more specifically, you can even celebrate Blueberry (insert “Huckleberry” here) Pancake Day.
Pancakes, hotcakes, flapjacks, or griddle cakes: Call them what you like, they rank right up there as one of America’s favorite breakfast staples, and they’ve basically been around forever. The ancient Romans ate theirs drizzled with honey, and the first American colonists sweetened theirs with molasses. Many countries claim a version. The Swedish pancake is a silver dollar-sized round cake that’s cooked in a special pan (Plett) and served with lingonberries. We can thank the French for the iconic crêpe, cooked paper thin, then filled with either a sweet or savory filling and rolled or folded to a triangle (my favorite is a Swiss cheese filled triangle). Thomas Jefferson loved crêpes so much that he sent a recipe home to Monticello while presiding at the White House. The Danish, on the other hand, like theirs thick, and it requires a special pan (the Aebleskiver), to make perfect little golden-brown balls (filled with fruit or Nutella).
At our house, besides our annual Christmas Olympics (a.k.a. a feats of strength contests where alcohol might be included), our other favorite activity is Kitchen Sports, a.k.a. pancake tossing. We’ve played ever since I can remember. It probably started as a last resort bribe to encourage a whiny toddler to “please, take just one bite,” and the game now lives in infamy in our household. There are few rules: the cook tosses the pancake from the griddle, across the room to the fearless, plate-holding victim. The youngest have a handicap—a small puddle of syrup on the plate that keeps the pancake (most of the time) from sliding off. Back at the ranch, when I had open-beamed ceilings, I was at the peak of my tossing career. I could achieve two to three rotations, with heights of 15 feet, and never failed to land the pancake smack in the middle of the plate. Those days are over, friends. In one of my last attempts, I misjudged the height and distance, and much to the delight of my grandsons, the pancake hit the edge of the overhead light fixture, and it was sheared in half before landing in the center of the table. Soon my clan will all gather for our annual retreat in Montana, and the first request from the youngest set will be a round of Kitchen Sports (though I have passed on the proverbial spatula to their nimbler fathers).
Apparently, my family is not the only one to be entertained with pancake competitions. There’s a myriad of pancake-related world records that have been achieved, including the fastest flipper (Australian celebrity chef Brad Jolly), who holds the record for most tosses of a pancake in one minute: 140 flips in 60 seconds. Another Aussie, chef, Andy Wrobel, broke the Guinness world record for the tallest stack of pancakes (60 of them reaching 2 1/2 feet). Of course, my hero is American Dominic Cuzzacrea, who holds the world record for tossing a pancake an astounding 31 feet in the air.
When we aren’t tossing pancakes, we’re eating them, and it seems everyone has a favorite topping. Maple syrup, fruit, peanut butter and Nutella are staples on our breakfast table. Personally, I prefer mine on the savory side, and top it with a couple of basted eggs and a bit of salt and pepper.
Everyone seems to have a favorite recipe, too – sourdough, buttermilk and yeast leavened are amongst the favorites. In a pinch, I am not above using a pancake mix, and north of us (three miles south of the Canadian border), there’s a local mix worth trying. Farm to Market is a four-generation wheat farm who mill their own grains to produce a pancake mix of soft white and barley flours.
If you don’t already have your own favorite recipe, try mine, and make sure the club soda is fresh and bubbly so it will produce a light and fluffy pancake—one worthy of launching.
Two batches will feed eight people. If I plan to add huckleberries, I fold them into the batter just before the pancakes go on the griddle.
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 Tbs sugar
• 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
• 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
• 1 1/4 tsp salt
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
• 1/2 cup cold club soda (new bottle)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ cup melted butter, cooled
• Pure maple syrup
• Lots of extra butter for the table
Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, seltzer, vanilla, and 1/4 cup melted butter until smooth.
Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and whisk to combine (batter will be slightly lumpy).
Heat a large griddle to medium high; brush with shortening or spray with pan coating. Scoop 1/2-cupfuls of batter onto the hot griddle; cook until bubbles form on the entire surface of pancake, then flip and continue to cook until both sides are golden brown. Transfer pancakes to plates or a platter and brush tops lightly with butter. Serve with maple syrup or topping of our choice.
*If batter is too thick, add a little more liquid (either buttermilk or soda water