Happy New Year!
Are the kids clamoring for a special breakfast? In that case, this is the one day when you shouldn’t have to settle for plain old round pancakes. You can make these special “number” cakes (or letter cakes if you prefer) without fancy equipment or special skills.
To get started, you might want to try a gizmo called a pancake pen that lets you squeeze the batter in a precise line (the one that’s pictured here is sold at Amazon, but in a pinch you can pick one up at your favorite cooking supply shop or a department store with a well-stocked kitchen section.) If you don’t have a pancake pen, don’t despair – You can improvise with a ketchup or mustard dispenser or even a squeeze bottle with an opening that is at least 1 centimeter wide.
When you’re making letter or number pancakes, the first rule is to keep the griddle well-oiled or greased. A too-sticky surface is a recipe for pancake disaster. Next, you want to have a batter that is just fluid enough to be squirted in a clean line, not too lumpy or drippy. And last, as you create the figures, move swiftly and evenly across the griddle. Backtracking or staying too long on one spot will ruin your creation.
How do you make your batter? You don’t necessarily have to use a mix. This simple pancake recipe is incredibly quick to mix together and it’s is just the right consistency for numbers and letters. We took a classic recipe from Good Housekeeping and punched it up with more flavor and fiber by adding a little whole wheat flour. If you don’t have whole wheat flour, you can just use a single cup of regular unbleached flour.
Basic Pancakes (adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookbook)
- 3/4 cup regular unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 T. sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cup milk
- 3 T. butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 large egg
- Oil for griddle
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk. In a separate small bowl or glass measuring cup, measure out the milk, then whisk in the butter and the egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently whisk until flour is moistened (batter may be a little bit lumpy). Carefully pour the batter into a pancake pen or squirt bottle.
Heat a well-oiled griddle until it is hot enough so that a drop of water sizzles immediately. Squirt the design on the griddle. Flip when the pancake is bubbly and golden brown, about two minutes. Cook for an additional minute, then transfer to a warmed plate. Makes 12 to 16 letter or number pancakes, to serve 4.
Happy New Year!
Jeanne Ponessa Fratello writes about kids’ nutrition at the Jolly Tomato. A former reporter and longtime freelance writer with expertise in food and parenting issues, she lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and sons. You can also follow her on Twitter (@jollytomato) and on Facebook.