You can make decent blueberry pancakes by dropping a few handfuls of fruit into any old batter, griddling the rounds, and dousing the stack liberally with maple syrup. But pair sweet-tart, high-season fruit with a complexly flavored crumb that’s got plenty of cushiony fluff and lightly crisp edges, and your lazy summer breakfast takes on a whole new level of luxury.
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Buttermilk Adds Tang, Encourages Fluffiness
Those were the pancakes I had in mind as I got to work on a batter that would stand out against the vivid berries—not just capture them. The dry ingredients were predictable (all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt), as was the egg for structure and flavor. But the dairy was an obvious place to upgrade: Buttermilk instead of milk not only provided a bit of tang but also made for loftier, fluffier pancakes. The acid it contains interacted with the alkaline baking soda to inflate the batter with extra carbon dioxide, and its viscous body produced a thicker batter that was better at retaining those air bubbles throughout the cooking process. If you’re a pancake person, it’s worth keeping a carton of buttermilk around; it lasts for weeks and freezes well. But in a pinch, 1 part Greek yogurt to 2 parts water will produce similar stature and flavor.
Malted Milk Powder: The Secret to Toasty, Rich Complexity
I also whisked a few tablespoons of malted milk powder into the dry mix. If that sounds strange, consider this: Malt powder and milk powder are added to a lot of the most popular commercial pancake and waffle mixes, probably including those used at your favorite diner. Malted milk powder is a combination of the two (extract of malted grain, usually barley but sometimes wheat, plus nonfat dry milk powder). It supplied the pancakes with a concentrated, lactic sweetness and toasty, rich complexity that batches made without it just didn’t have.
The Dairy Trifecta
Dairy is a key source of flavor in pancake batter, so it pays to use ingredients that add complexity. Here, buttermilk adds tang; malted milk powder, toasty sweetness; and butter, lush richness.
Butter Adds Richness—And Crisps the Edges
The other easy swap was melted butter for oil, both in the batter and in the pan. When the batter was mostly combined, I folded in loads of fresh berries. (Folding additions such as fresh fruit or chocolate chips into the batter rather than dropping them onto the top of the portioned pancakes ensures that they’re embedded in the fluffy crumb rather than simply sitting on the surface, where they’re vulnerable to burning when the pancakes are flipped.) I lightly greased the cooking surface with a tiny bit of oil—just enough to cook a mini “test” pancake, the color of which would help me gauge if the pan was too hot or too cold. Then I melted a small knob of butter and portioned three mounds of batter around the surface, flipping them when the first side was deep golden brown and scooting the pancakes around the griddle to soak up every bit of butter.
These pancakes were fluffy, with a flavor that was sweet but interestingly so, and frying them in plenty of butter had left them with subtly crisp edges. Make them this weekend. And next weekend, and probably the weekend after that. Blueberry season doesn’t last forever.