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All We Can Eat
Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 06/22/2011

Chat Leftovers: Flat as a ...

I can’t stop them: Every spring, birds steal the ripening blueberries from my backyard bushes, barely leaving me enough to sprinkle on a bowl of cereal. So I’m thankful for folks like Arthur James and Ewald August, who grow exceptional blueberries I can buy at local farmers markets. David Hagedorn tells their story today in his Sourced column and provides terrific recipes for this superfood fruit.

Also in today’s Food section, staff writer Tim Carman brings us a little closer to local chef Mike Isabella, who inspired controversy as a two-time competitor in Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” franchise. Now he’s about to open a restaurant of his own. So is he the woman-dissing recipe thief he’s been made out to be? You read, you decide.

And finally, those of us who care about healthful eating have been happy to see MyPlate, the successor to the federal government’s Food Pyramid. For this week, we asked four local nutritionists to prepare a day’s worth of meals for four specific types of people, based on MyPlate’s nutritional recommendations. We give you their meal plans and the recipes that go with them.

So that’s it. What else? Oh, right: the Free Range chat. Do drop in at noon today to commune with all the usual suspects, and maybe a guest or two. Got culinary questions? That’s the place to ask them. And if there are leftovers, I’ll pick one to answer in this space next week. Here’s a question we couldn’t get to in a previous chat:

I have a recipe for pancakes, but I find that when I add banana, the pancakes go flat — even sometimes without adding banana. I like to blend the banana into the mix; is that what’s killing the pancakes? I have replaced all of my ingredients, so they are fresh; that’s not the problem. I use: 1 1 / 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3 1 / 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1 / 4 cups milk, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons melted butter. Maybe there’s a better basic recipe you can suggest?

I do have a suspect in this crime. I’m focusing on the amount of baking powder, a leavening agent that’s used to make batters and doughs rise. While you might think that the more baking powder, the higher the rise, that’s not always the case. Use too much, and you’ve got a flop on your hands. It generates bubbles that are too large, float quickly to the top and dissipate, leaving you with a flat result.

For questions like this I always turn to Shirley O. Corriher, food scientist and cookbook writer. In her book “CookWise” she stipulates a limit of 1 teaspoon — or no more than 1 1 / 4 teaspoons — of baking powder for every cup of flour in a recipe. Your recipe has 1 1 / 2 cups of flour, so according to the Corriher theory, it should contain between 1 1 / 2 and (loosely) 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Yet you’re using 3 1/2, so you’re over the top right there.

I would also add 1 more egg to the mix, and be sure to beat the eggs very well, along with the milk and butter, before adding the dry ingredients. For the bananas, you might be better off cutting them into small dice and adding rather than mashing them and trying to incorporate the mash into the batter, but in either case, I don’t think the banana addition is causing the problem.

Have ingredients at room temperature. And when you cook the pancakes, make sure the pan/griddle is hot but not super-hot.

So to sum up: Keep your recipe, but cut back to 2 teaspoons of baking powder and add 1 more egg, and see how that works. I think you’ll be happy with the result. I just made them, and they were high and light.

There’s one more thing you can do to gain extra pancake height, but it involves a little extra effort. Separate the egg yolks from the whites, and mix the yolks into the milk and butter as usual, then add the rest of the ingredients, including the bananas. Use a hand mixer to beat the whites until they are nearly stiff, and then GENTLY fold them into the batter. Try to deflate the whites as little as possible, and you’ll be rewarded with high, puffy pancakes.

If none of this works for you, just remember: There’s really nothing wrong with flat pancakes. They’ve made a great and lasting contribution to the gallery of English idioms. Embrace their flatness, and eat up.

By Jane Touzalin  |  10:00 AM ET, 06/22/2011

Categories:  Chat Leftovers

 
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