American Style Banana Pancakes + why does my “dry” Prosecco taste sweet?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 2
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Mixing pancake batter

I suffered a bout of first world confusion recently when I heard that a new restaurant had opened in London called ‘Where The Pancakes Are’, and apparently people are queuing. When I polled a few friends about their breakfast preferences it turned out all but one of them would order above all else these pale, uninteresting, often rubbery things that leave me with food envy for the Full English at the next table. There comes a time in life, when everyone else is having a maple syrup covered blast, that it’s time to rethink your values. This often requires going back to basics, and in this case, dissecting the American style pancake. My angst in questions looked something like “how the flour do you make pancakes really light and fluffy?”, “can I add flavour inside the pancake and not just on top?” and “can I make these in advance or do I have to be a stove slave while my brunch guests sip Prosecco?”.

This all came to a head one quiet Saturday night in May when I became hooked on the idea of making pancakes for lunch the next day.  A rummage around the kitchen confirmed I had no buttermilk, usually required for American style pancakes, and no yoghurt either which would have been a good substitute. I did have some of Vita Coco’s new coconut milk alternative which I’d been keen to use in a recipe for some time. My current pet flour, spelt, which has a lovely nutty taste would be a worthy swap for half the all-purpose flour. There were plenty bananas around, which I knew would caramelize to gooey deliciousness when they hit the buttery pan.

As for the method,  5 recipes and 7 batches later, I’ve discovered several tips for making super fluffy American style pancakes.
1. Whip the egg whites separately then fold them into the batter. This is the top tip for achieving fluffiness. It’s an extra step but worth it.
2. You actually want a lumpy batter. Smooth batter = dense pancakes. Lumpy = lightness, so don’t over mix the batter.
3. Make your pancakes immediately after mixing the wet ingredients into the dry. Any sitting around will deflate the batter and make dense, stodgy pancakes.
4. Heat the pan on medium-LOW for 5 minutes before adding any fat. I melt 3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter into a ramekin and brush a thin coating across the pan before each batch.
5. Make an effort to maintain that medium-LOW temperature, otherwise the pancakes will brown on the outside before they’re cooked inside. The whole pancake making process will take longer this way so to speed things up I put two large non-stick pans on at the same time so you can cook 6 pancakes at once.
6. If you’re adding bananas to the actual pancake, wait until you’re almost ready to flip or the fruit will spread the batter and make the pancake too thin. Same applies for other fruit like blueberries – don’t add them to the batter, add them to the pancake.
7. Know when to flip. You’ll immediately see some small bubbles coming to the surface but wait until you have lots – see picture. It takes about 3-4 minutes, then fry the second side for 2  minutes.
8. Pancakes can definitely be made in advance. Just heat your oven to 70C/160F, and preferably put a rack or cookie sheets on a baking tray. Otherwise line a baking tray with foil, just don’t stack them one on top of the other or they’ll lose their crispness. They’ll survive this low heat for 45 minutes without any compromise on fluffiness.
A side note on ingredients – For some of my test batches I used buttermilk, but in the pancakes in these pictures I used Vita Coco’s new milk alternative, which turns this recipe dairy free. It’s actually the best milk alternative I’ve tasted, and I’ve been down the almond/cashew/oat/rice roads before too. What I like about it, other than its great, naturally sweet taste is that it doesn’t separate in the bottle and blends well into tea and coffee without separating. It’s fantastic in smoothies and who doesn’t like a brand with a sense of humour? Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative #tasteslikenoudder
You don’t have to go out and buy spelt flour for this, it’s just what I always have around because I love the flavour, wholemeal flour works too. You can add any fruit you like either inside or to top the pancakes. Bananas are great because they caramelize and go sticky when fried and if you’re topping these pancakes with bacon the combination is unbeatable. I didn’t use any sugar in the batter in anticipation of covering them in maple syrup later, but adding a tablespoon of sugar to American pancake batter in usual.

Gently fold whipped egg whites into the batter


Don't flip yet!


Stick the fruit in!


Ok flip!

Flip pancakes when there are lots of big bubbles

What’s for Sippies?

With sweet pancakes for breakfast or brunch it’s got to be coffee for me. A strong black Americano is my preference but if you feel like alcohol with these sweet pancakes I suggest a dry Prosecco. The labeling on Prosecco bottles is slightly different to how we understand the labeling on still dry wines, so it might come as a surprise to find your bottle of “extra dry” actually tastes a little sweet. The level of sweetness relative to how wines are labeled is technically specified by international wine body OIV in terms of grams of residual sugar per liter in the final wine. If you just want to know what the wine in the bottle is going to taste like remember this as a general rule:
Prosecco is labelled as Brut, Extra Dry and Dry, in order of driest to sweetest.
Brut – tastes completely dry
Extra Dry – a little sweetness is perceptible
Dry – will taste semi-sweet, but nowhere near as sweet as a dessert wine.
A “dry” Prosecco would be delicious to drink with these pancakes and it’s always a crowd pleaser. Prosecco is made in Italy’s largest officially recognised wine growing region (Prosseco DOC), from the Glera grape variety. The nicest Prosecco’s should be pleasantly perfumed on the nose, fresh and fruity tasting of ripe golden delicious apples and pears. Due to Prosecco’s meteoric rise in popularity over the past 10 years you’ll be able to find a bottle almost anywhere that sells alcohol. Unfortunately there are many bland, even bitter tasting bottles on the market so buy at least Prosecco Superiore DOCG quality to avoid the really horrible tasting stuff. 
Banana spelt coconut pancakes



2 cups coconut milk, buttermilk or plain yoghurt
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
4 large bananas, sliced.
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)


1. Turn the oven to 70C/160F
2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, (and sugar if using) in a large bowl. You can do this the night before to save time.
3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, 3-4 minutes with an electric mixer.
4. Pour the coconut milk/buttermilk/yoghurt into the dry ingredients. Plop in the egg yolks and, gently whisk everything together until all ingredients are incorporated but before it’s smooth, you need those lumps. Then fold in the egg whites.
5. Heat a large non-stick pan (or two) over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Brush the pans with about 2 teaspoons of the melted coconut oil (or butter). Using a measuring cup, ladle 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and repeat 2 or 3 times taking care not to overcrowd the pan. I get three pancakes per pan.
6. Once lots of bubbles have risen to the surface, about 3 minutes, add the bananas and flip the pancakes. Cook the other side for 2-3 minutes.
Remove the cooked pancakes to the rack you’ve set inside a baking sheet and keep in the oven until all the batter is cooked. For a maximum of 45 minutes.

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