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Pancakes: A User's Guide, For National Pancake Day (RECIPES, TIPS)

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If you have pancake fever roused by all this National Pancake Day talk, but trekking out to your area IHOP for Free Pancake Day isn't your thing, especially because it's the week of eating in, which recommends you not do that anyway (or you did and you still can't shake the craving), read on.

To make perfect pancakes from scratch at home, you hardly need a recipe. Chef, author, and all-around food authority Michael Ruhlman explains the basics of pancake batter -- and other related batters too (emphasis ours):

The quickbread ratio is 2 parts flour and liquid, 1 part egg and butter. That will give you a perfect muffin or, baked in a loaf pan, a quickbread. Now, you also need to have a little technique and common sense. A teaspoon of baking powder for every 5 ounces (cup) of flour is needed for leavening, a pinch of salt for flavor, but that's it. If you want a lemon-lime cake, add lemon and lime juice and zest; vanilla is always good, or add lemon and poppyseeds, add cranberry and orange, blueberries, bananas. Make a savory quick bread with cumin coriander and ginger to accompany a dal. (Secret: If you season the batter with a little sugar and vanilla and pour it on a griddle, you have perfect pancakes. That savory quickbread suggestion? Pour it over corn or peas, just enough to bind them, spoon the mixture into hot oil for amazing fritters).

Ruhlman recently published Ratio, an handy manual on cooking using just formulas exactly like the one above (and a great iPhone app, conveniently also called Ratio).

Food expert Alton Brown has some valuable tips for cooking pancakes at home, including recommendations to weight out the dry ingredients (especially flour, which ideally would be a combination of both all-purpose and cake flours), adding something acidic like buttermilk to batters using baking soda, and a reminder that pancake batter should be lumpy and not overbeaten. The recipe for his "Instant Pancake Mix" is here.

Want a cool pancake dispenser like the cooks use at your neighborhood greasy spoon? Go with something much cooler, and greener too: a cleaned-out Heinz ketchup squeeze bottle.

Some pancake recipes to try on for size:

To really tie one on in honor of National Pancake Day, you might want to recreate the "Pancake Ice Cream with Bacon Candy" creation, published at Thursday Night Smackdown, explained thusly:

You know how when you eat breakfast and at the end everything on the plate is kind of mixed together, so you have syrup on your bacon? That's how I got the idea for this ice cream. Admittedly I rarely make it because it's a little bit of a pain in the ass, but every time I do, it's totally worth it. You have your pancakes, your syrup, and your bacon, but instead of a pesky plate, fork, table, etc. you can just eat it all together in a bowl as ice cream. It's much more efficient that way.

Read the entire, ingenious recipe here.

If you need further inspiration, carve out some time in your National Pancake Day to peruse the pancake page from the 12-page menu for Kenny Shopsin's legendary restaurant:

Watch Kenny cook one of the favorites from the menu, his peculiar but successful macaroni & cheese pancakes:

What are your favorite pancake recipes? Submit them in the comments section below.

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