Here at Food Network, we believe every pancake has the right to a fair trial. With Shrove Tuesday coming up on 12th February, we tested pancake recipes from five top chefs to find out exactly what makes the perfect stack.
The judging criteria? Flavour, fluffiness, moistness and flippability. Taking the most delicious elements of each recipe to create a spongy hybrid, we whipped up the definitive pancake, The Ultimate Berry Pancakes. This is what happened.
Test 1: Ina Garten’s Banana Sour Cream Pancakes
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Flavour: Most of the flavour in this recipe comes from the banana and syrup topping. We couldn’t detect the lemon zest in the batter and most of us agreed that some chocolate chips in the pancake mix wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Fluffiness: These were much more dense compared to other recipes we tried, even though baking powder was used in the batter.
Moistness: Like the ricotta pancakes we tested, we expected the sour cream in this recipe to contribute to the moistness much more. All in all, we couldn’t have imagined these without the bananas and syrup on top.
Flippability: If you’re looking to practice your flipping skills, these are the pancakes to start with. The batter is much runnier than other recipes so you can pour the perfect circle using a jug, rather than having to spoon or ladle it, making it much more kid-friendly. Overall, their uniform texture makes them perfect for flipping.
Test 2: Nigel Slater’s Raspberry and Ricotta Pancakes
Recipe source: Guardian
Flavour: We liked the orange zest in the pancake batter but found the whole raspberries a little tart for our taste buds. Next time, we’d add more sugar so the sharpness of the berries had something to stand up to.
Fluffiness: Possibly the fluffiest, most soufflé-like pancakes we tasted. The whipped egg whites folded into the batter ensured they were light and squidgy which is a big bonus if that’s what you like.
Moistness: The huge amount of ricotta in these made them lovely and moist. The raspberries bust a little bit whilst cooking which helped too.
Flippability: Nigh on impossible. The batter is far too delicate to flip because of the small amount of flour used and the pancakes split easily around the whole raspberries. However, the recipe does warn this will happen. Grab the biggest metal spatula you have and brace yourself.
Test 3: Jamie Oliver’s Pancakes USA Stylie
Recipe source: JamieOliver.com
Flavour: A healthy handful of blueberries ensured these pancakes were busting with fruity flavour, however it’s a shame some of that was overpowered by an eggy taste. We did hear someone say they’d ‘not be good naked’.
Fluffiness: The stiff egg whites folded into this batter gave it a light and airy texture and the liberal amount of flour made sure these were hearty too. One panellist compared their texture to that of an omelette.
Moistness: A happy medium.
Flippability: These were much sturdier than the other pancakes made with whipped egg whites because of the higher flour content. The pancakes didn’t break around the fruit so they were much easier to flip.
Test 4: Giada De Laurentiis’s Ricotta Pancakes
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Flavour: We loved the amount of blueberries and vanilla in the batter but found the ready-made pancake mix gave the pancakes a greasy aftertaste.
Fluffiness: Fluffy is not the word to describe these pancakes. They’re crisp on the outside but the more like a pudding on the inside. We cooked the second round for a bit longer than the first and found the middle to be just as gooey as the previous lot. If you like a hearty pancake, go for these.
Moistness: The blueberries, dense ricotta batter and syrup ensure these pancakes were far from dry. The syrup was a bit too watery and therefore soaked right through the stack making them feel a bit undercooked even after a long time in the pan. Note to selves: be less greedy with the syrup.
Flippability: The batter was very runny which made them easy to pour but difficult to flip until almost entirely cooked.
Test 5: Nigella Lawson’s American Breakfast Pancakes
Recipe source: Nigella.com
Flavour: The recipe didn’t call for any additional toppings for this one so we had them semi-naked (with a big helping of maple syrup). We liked the fact that they were versatile enough to be either sweet or savoury pancakes but would have preferred another dimension, maybe lemon zest. Having said this, the butter flavour came through nicely.
Fluffiness: Dubbed to have had ‘the best texture by far’, these pancakes were fluffy and spongy in the middle and had a delicious, buttery golden crunch on the outside. We’re still dreaming about them now.
Moistness: This stack had a moist, cakey flavour which was helped along with lashings of syrup.
Flippability: A good, strong batter that rises magically before your eyes, allowing you to flip easily once the top sets up (this happens quite quickly). We did find that the recipe states the batter for these pancakes is runny enough to pour from a jug rather than spoon onto the pan, however we found it to be a bit too gloopy to pour a good round shape. In the end we defaulted back to the spoon method.
So what makes for a good pancake?
After all our testing, we came to the conclusion that the ultimate pancake must first and foremost, be packed with flavour. Whether it comes from fruit, chocolate or syrup, the lip-licking factor is crucial. Secondly, it must be moist and hearty but also have a lightness in texture. Last but not least, it must be easy to flip (unless you fancy a messy mountain of crumbs over a neat tower). Our recipe for The Ultimate Berry Pancakes was created to encompass all of the deliciousness we look for in the perfect pancake.
The Ultimate Berry Pancakes
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Flavour: These had a great fruit to pancake ratio which made sure it was juicy in places and spongy in others. The blueberries popped nicely and the crushed raspberries gave the pancakes a raspberry ripple flavour. A generous amount of lemon zest in the batter was a lovely secondary flavour and we liked that the pancakes didn’t have an eggy aftertaste.
Fluffiness: Soft, squishy and light but not overly fluffy. They had a nice cakey feel in the mouth without being dense and stodgy.
Moistness: The addition of 50% fat crème fraiche gave a moist texture without the pancakes becoming greasy. The juicy berries kept the pancakes moist enough to enjoy without syrup, too.
Flippability: Great. The perfect amount of flour and whipped egg whites were added to ensure the batter was stable enough to flip the pancakes without them breaking, despite there being a generous amount of fruit folded in.
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"Taking the most delicious elements of each recipe to create a spongy hybrid, we whipped up the definitive pancake."