WHEN DID THE ALL-STAR WORD “CRUST” LEAVE THE PANCAKE CONVERSATION?
I know, there are a lot of you out there, who loves pancakes. And I just want to say, really, I tried.
I’ve never understood pancakes… I’ve never understood the appeal of it. I’ve never understood the logistics of it. The oftentimes blandness and monotoned textures of it. The never-ending flipping just so at the end, having only one that’s fresh and hot of it. All of it. I don’t get it. All these years, I told myself that all I need is a moment. A wow-moment. A moment where a pancake so good, it comes barging into my oblivious life and smacks my foolishness awake, and poof just like that, I’d be a happy pancake folk. Because aren’t you all?
But instead I found myself a pre-middle-aged women, i-hop-ing for the stack that never came.
But this Monday, unexpectedly, out of the blue, just like that, it did. And not from anyone’s grandmama or any trending brunch joints, but I found my printed wows in a heavily-tattooed-arm’s length on a gorgeous book. When I saw the picture of those two “cracklin’ cornbread”, with their ruthlessly caramelized crusts so graphic, I could hear the sound of my fingernails scraping through its surface… I realized (insert gospel playlist here)… that, that was my pancake-moment.
I mean of course! Crust! The missing link, the better half, the forsaken part of a pancake’s soul that it never knew was missing! And I want to know just why and when the hell, did the all-star vocab crust, so cruelly leave the pancake conversation to die and dry in a desert of flappy-ness?
I mean really, the word crust is practically the second most-liked words in food-talks next to melt-in-your-mouth. We talk about it in pizzas. We talk about it in steaks. We talk about it in grilled cheeses. And now, we even talk about in fried eggs. Crust this. Crust that. Shit I can even see it being brought up in a meditation session over Alcide’s abs. But not on pancakes, my friends. Neeeuuuu. Pancakes should be fluffy… puffy… flappy… and let’s not forget, theatrically stacked sky-high so we won’t notice just how plainly – boring they are.
And this time, it’s pancake’s turn to wake up.
I warn you, nothing will ever be the same for you afterward. It would be like… kissing your best friends good-bye on their funeral. A sad revelation it may be, but inconvenient it is not. This is one of the rare occurrences, where the universe thought that it’s finally time to cut us some fucking slack, and make the awesomeness as well as the convenience of a recipe, simultaneously so. The entire batter will be cooked inside one single skillet laden with bacon-dripping or butter, lidded and cooked over medium-low heat so while the bottom forms a hard-core crust, the batter steams and expand. Then when the time comes, you give it a one single flip. The second formation takes place, and in about 15 minutes total, you will be looking at the ultimate pancake that’s going to blow you away.
I guarantee that it will embody all your favourite vocabs for pancakes… airy, light, and I know I know, fluffy. Don’t worry they’re all here. But now let’s talk about that jacket it’s wearing! A shimmering and porous crust that is so beautiful, it almost transcends the limits of our sensual barriers. It looks, borderline audible. Yes. Just of it looking at you, you can hear the scrapes of your knife upon impact, the sound it makes when it firmly cracks, the streaming honey running over the edge, the shizzling of salty bacon bits as they fall. And most importantly, the unbelievable crunching song it sings when it makes a symphony of crispiness, softness, sweetness and savouriness in your mouth.
I’m sorry. I know. It’s heart-wrenching. How about those sliced banana? They’re stackable? It’ll make you feel better while you make a new BFF.
- 3 oz (85 grams/about 2~3 strips) bacon, or salted pork without garlic flavouring
- 1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup (168 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp (10 grams) light brown sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 cup (297 grams) whole milk
- 2 tbsp (27 grams) canola oil
- 1 tbsp (15 grams) water
- 2 tbsp (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- Honey, or maple syrup to serve
- Ripen bananas or your choice of fresh fruits
- Mince the bacons (I used salted pork without garlic flavouring) until they resemble ground meat. In a small 8" (21 cm) non-stick skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, cook the minced bacons over medium heat for 4~5 min, until the fat is rendered and bacons are crispy. Drain through a fine sieve, then return the bacon-dripping back to the skillet. Mix the crispy bacons with sea salt (see note), set aside.
- Mix together all-purpose flour, light brown sugar, baking powder, whole milk, canola oil and water just until relatively smooth (small lumps are fine). Add enough melted butter to the skillet so you have about 2 tbsp of fat in total (plus the bacon dripping), and set over medium heat. Once the butter starts to bubble, pour in the pancake-batter, then gently tuck in the sides with a spatula to make the edges smooth. PUT A LID ON then turn the heat down to medium~medium-low, and cook for about 8~11 min. Try your best NOT TO PEEK in the first 8 min, or you'll lose steam and the pancake may not cook properly. After 8 min, check and see if a deeply caramelized and crispy bottom-crust has formed (it's ok if the center of the batter still looks a bit runny). If not, put the lid back on and cook for another couple min.
- When it's ready to be flipped, I find it easier to gently lift the pancake with a fork, then insert a wide spatula underneath. Gently lift the pancake, then tilt the skillet slightly towards it and flip the pancake over. Pour another 1 tbsp of melted butter along the edges, and cook for another 4~5 min over medium-low heat until the other side is browned and crispy as well.
- Serve the pancake immediately, with fresh fruits, honey or maple syrup, and sprinkle the sea-salted bacon bits on top.
This pancake batter is eggless because of my egg allergy. But I don't see why you can't switch it to your favourite pancake batter with eggs.
It's important to use a smaller skillet instead of large ones, so you'll get a nice thickness for the pancake.
I felt the bacon bits alone weren't sharp enough in saltiness, so I mixed in a nice pinch of flakey sea salt and it was just right. But if you find your bacon already very salty, then you can omit the sea salt.