I have always been a savory-breakfast person (leftover soup, sure! spicy sausage with salted yogurt and herbs,yes!), but my wife, Grace, has made me a total pancake convert. She not only loves them, she also makes the most incredible ones, often studded with so many banana slice sand chunks of dark chocolate that you’re already halfway into your nap before you finish your plate. One weekend morning, Grace slept in late (very unusual for her) and I got to make them for us. I was almost finished with the batter when I went to reach for milk and realized we had none.There was, however, a container of sour cream. Then I went to get the baking powder and realized we were out of that too. I added the sour cream and a shake of baking soda and made a wish. The pancakes didn’t just work out, we loved them.
I did a bit of research to understand exactly why they worked and once I’d demystified leavening, the whole world of raised pancakes and baked goods became a lot more comprehensible—a small victory of the nerdiest kind.Baking powder and baking soda are both leavening agents that, when combined with liquid, form carbon dioxide, the gas that helps baked goods rise. Baking soda needs something acidic (sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, or yogurt, for example) to kick it into gear, but once it is in effect it works really well and doesn’t leave an off-taste the way baking powder sometimes can. It expires quickly,though, so it’s important to make sure it’s within its sell-by date (or test it by making sure it fizzes when a small amount is mixed with a little vinegar). Baking powder is essentially baking soda with an acid mixed into it, so it’s guaranteed to work, but using too much can leave a bit of a metallic taste.
That’s why, in my opinion, for flatter things like pancakes,you should use just a little baking soda and an acidic ingredient; for anything where you desire more height, such as biscuits, use a bit of both soda and powder—a double hit of leavening to guarantee a good rise.
SERVES 2 TO 4, DEPENDING ON HOW HUNGRY YOU ARE(I.E., 4 IS THE RECOMMEND SERVING SIZE, 2 IS THEREALISTIC ONE)
11/4 cups [160 g] blueberries, rinsed and drained Packed 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
3/4 cup [90 g] all-purpose flour1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs1 cup [240 ml] sour cream
Unsalted butter for cooking and serving
Preheat your oven to 400°F [200°C].
In a baking dish, combine the blueberries with 2 Tbsp of the brown sugar and stir to mix. Roast, pulling the baking dish out of the oven a few times to stir the berries, until their skins burst and they have released lots of juice, about 20minutes. Using a fork or a potato masher, crush the berries a bit so that they become jammy. Set aside
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda,and salt and whisk to combine. Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, add the sour cream and remaining 1 Tbsp brown sugar, and whisk until the mixture is uniform. Pour the sour cream mixture into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to mix everything together. It’s okay if the batter isn’t perfectly smooth—it’s better to under mix than overmix.
Set a large cast-iron skillet, a griddle, or your largest nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp butter.Once the butter melts, swirl the pan or brush the griddle to evenly coat the surface. Pour the batter into the pan in 1/4-cup [60-ml] increments to form pancakes that are roughly 4in [10 cm] in diameter; cook only as many pancakes at a time as can fit comfortably in your pan. The minute that pancakes become too precise is the minute they become no fun, so don’t stress over this—it’s okay if they’re not all the same size. Cook the pancakes until small bubbles appear on the surface and the undersides are nicely browned, 1 to 2minutes. Flip the pancakes over and cook until the second sides are nicely browned, another minute or so. Transfer the pancakes to warm plates and continue making pancakes,adding more butter as you go, until you’ve used up all the batter.
Serve the pancakes immediately, with more butter on top and the warm roasted blueberries.
FOR BUTTERMILK, YOGURT, OR CRÈME FRAÎCHEPANCAKES, substitute 1 cup [230 g] of one of these for the sour cream.
SHAKE UP THE TOPPING ROUTINE by roasting just about any fruit in place of the blueberries, or use a mix of berries (berries will be the most jammy, but all fruit benefits from the concentrated caramelization that happens in the oven). Roasted blackberries, sliced bananas, sliced peaches, and thinly sliced apples or pears are all really delicious. Or rhubarb! Just keep an eye on the fruit while it’s roasting, as some types (e.g., apples)take a little longer than others and some (e.g., sliced bananas) take not much time at all.
THE ROASTED FRUIT TOPPING IS VERY VERSATILE;serve it over ice cream for dessert, on toast spread with ricotta for breakfast, or on waffles for any time. Stir it into yogurt. Or serve alongside a roasted or grilled rich meat like pork shoulder or pork chops. Or lamb! Lamb loves fruit.