It’s difficult to find a time and a place to cook as a boarding student; not all dorms have kitchens, and squeezing an hour or two into of your busy schedule to even bake a batch of muffins can be trying. That said, however, if you’re anything like me, cooking can be a great way to relieve stress and feel like you’ve completed something all while taking a step back from your busy routine. Sometime a pot of noodles doesn’t suffice, so it’s time to head to the Student Kitchen where we explore our first topic: cooking pancakes. What’s the best recipe? How much time will you need? Where will you find the ingredients? We’ll investigate below.
First, the best recipe by far can be found in the Blueberry Hill Cookbook by Ellie Masterton; the pancakes are fluffy, sweet, and the perfect texture. The recipe is simple and reliable and easy enough for even the most inexperienced cook to complete in under half an hour.
You will need:
3 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of milk (you’ll need more to thin the batter, too)
1/4 cup melted butter
Yogurt (somewhere between half and a full cup– do NOT get flavored yogurt).
As boarding student, you don’t have your own kitchen, so the first step before even trying to collect all your ingredients is to find a place to cook. Your advisor might be open to serving an advisor-advisee breakfast, or another teacher may be happy to open their kitchen to you in return for a stack of freshly cooked pancakes. Whichever path you choose, it will be important to compensate your host with some of the final product.
Now that you’ve found a kitchen, you’ll have to collect all of your ingredients. Flour can likely be obtained from your host, as can salt and baking powder. For dairy products, however, you should head to the store. It will be easy enough to get a half carton of eggs, a small carton of milk, and some butter at the store; as a bonus the yogurt will make a really good late night snack. It won’t be too expensive — $15 max, and you should come in way under that — and it would be polite of you to give the excess butter and milk to your host. After all, they are doing you a huge favor.
You’ve got all that squared away, so it’s time to make some pancakes. First, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl (large enough to hold the remaining ingredients, too). Next, melt 1/4 cup of butter in a small pan while beating together the eggs and milk in a separate bowl. Add the melted butter to the eggs and mix until blended thoroughly. You’ve successfully mixed your wet and dry ingredients, so it’s time to combine them. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix from the bottom up. With your mixing spoon, lift ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and turn them over on top of the mixture. This method is called folding the ingredients together, and it is common when making fluffy batters.
The batter you’ve made is likely very thick and not at all the consistency necessary for pancakes; to remedy this, you’ll need to thin the batter. Add a small amount (1/8 – 1/4) cup milk to the batter and mix it in. It should be easier to stir now, but still not thin enough. Measure out approximately 1/3 of a cup of yogurt (if you bought the whole milk version, then make sure you’re not just adding cream). At this point you will need to continue adding milk and yogurt to the batter until it gains a consistency a little thicker than that of heavy cream. When you’ve accomplished this, your batter is ready.
It’s best to cook your pancakes on a griddle because you’ll have more room to work with and griddles tend to be less porous than a cast iron pan, but since you’re a student, you’ll need to work with what you have. You will not need to butter your pan because the pancakes have enough fat in them as it is and will not stick. Heat the pan on high heat and then reduce it to medium.
Before spooning the batter onto the cooking surface, make sure to test the heat. You can do this by tossing a few drops of water onto the griddle or pan; if they dance in an immediate boil, the surface is hot enough.
Ladle your batter onto the griddle in disks as large as you want, though the larger they are the harder it is to flip them. At this point you’ll have to wait while your pancakes cook. Bubbles will begin to form; as soon as the bubbles begin to pop and stay on the top of the pancakes, they are ready to flip. Loosen the edges with a spatula, and then flip each cake quickly. Do not press down on the pancakes: this will smush them and ruin the fluffiness you’ve worked so hard on.
After a few minutes, check the undersides of the pancakes. When they are golden brown in patches, they are done. You can also check the insides to make sure they are no longer gooey by poking them with a knife. The undersides will not look as good as the top; this is a function of the bubbles, so no, you’re not doing it wrong.
Once you’ve cooked up all your batter make sure to wrap several stacks of pancakes in foil. These will be gifts for any teachers who have helped you with supplies or lent you their kitchen. The remaining pancakes are yours; enjoy.
A link to Blueberry Hill Cookbook on Amazon is provided here. Thanks for reading this installment of The Student Kitchen; see you next week!
(Copyright 2016 Tys Sweeney)