Sometimes I forget that my kids don’t always know where things come from (“Is the corn in cans different from corn-on-the-cob?”) or where things go (“What happens to the water after we flush it?”).
So I like to show them the extra steps for things when I can. Of course, I don’t have wheat growing in my backyard so we won’t be grinding that into flour to make pancakes completely from scratch any time soon. But what I CAN do is grab some colorful books to demonstrate the process.
I wanted to make a “Custom Pancake Bar” with my girls to show them how versatile pancakes could be. But even without the grinding of flour, I still wanted to do more than just stir up a box mix. Pancakes are easy anyway.
We’ve drawn with pancake batter and celebration pancakes are always fun, but I realized that I had yet to post an actual pancake recipe on this blog. I’m calling this recipe the “Overnight or Now Pancakes” because I like to make the batter the night before, but it could also be used right away.
I am not, by any means, a morning person. So I like to get things ready the night before: breakfast, school lunches, my coffee maker … whatever CAN be done WILL be done.
Like this batter. All made up and left to sit in the fridge until needed. I also set up the griddle and toppings and even our plates the night before.
Because having kids means I’m often required to do things before I’m caffeinated.
Which can be … interesting.
We had a lot of fun with this, though, because we personalized all of the pancakes. Some had just mini chocolate chips or raisins, others sprinkles, and some a combination of everything. A few had walnuts and cinnamon sugar, which is quite possibly my new favorite.
My daughter even made a face for one with walnut eyes, a chocolate chip mouth, and sprinkle hair.
There are other toppings you could incorporate, like blueberries or pieces of apples or bananas. Coconut is also good (kinda like I used on my Tropical French Toast). Just remember to use extra butter when flipping to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Before I share the recipe, I want to talk a little about the books we read. I picked them all up at the library, but I’ve included (affiliate) links to Amazon in case you’d rather have your own copies.
Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle
This one is great because it shows the ENTIRE process for making pancakes from scratch – including harvesting wheat and churning butter. The colorful illustrations demonstrate that there is an awful lot that goes into making our meals, but the story is told in a way that is playful.
There is also a board book version of Pancakes, Pancakes that is abridged.
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
This wordless picture book is a delightful story about a woman who wakes up and decides to make pancakes. But she’s out of eggs and milk and needs to get some more from her chickens and cow. She even gets maple syrup from a nearby farmer. But when she gets back with the syrup, her pets have turned her kitchen upside down and she can no longer make her pancakes … but luckily her neighbors had the same idea!
The pictures are pretty straightforward but drawn in a charming way. And because the wordless pictures are easy for kids to “read,” it works well for either story time or reading-to-self for even the youngest of readers.
Mama Panya’s Pancakes
This story is a little different. It also includes some steps in making pancakes, like buying flour and spices, but it focuses more on the people doing the cooking. It tells us about a boy named Adika who is headed to the market with his mother, who also happens to invite everyone he sees back to their place to eat their pancakes with them. It’s a wonderful tale of joy and generosity with a positive message about sharing.
There is a recipe, but my kids were more interested in the background information. They were eager to hear all about village life in Kenya, and as soon as I started to read off the glossary of Kiswahili words, my 7-year-old jumped up to grab a paper and pencil so she could take notes. I loved the way this book helped me to show my kids that things as basic as shopping with mom or sharing exciting news with friends (or making pancakes) are universal concepts practiced all over the world.
The Runaway Pancake
This is a fun story which is based off of a fable from Norway and Germany about a pancake who really doesn’t want to be eaten. He rolls through the forest trying to escape everyone who is trying to eat him, but makes the wrong decision to trust a seemingly kind but very hungry pig. It briefly mentions how pancakes are made, but the real draw here is the silly story and cute illustrations. It’s also one a beginning reader can read on their own.
And now … back to the recipe!
I’ve made these to have a noticeable taste of vanilla, and strongly suggest that you invest in some Madagascar pure vanilla extract because it has simply done AMAZING things with everything I use it in, from cookies to cheesecake to, well … pancakes!
But the vanilla in the recipe could easily be halved if (for some strange reason) you’re not a big vanilla fan. And you could stir in your add-ons ahead of time (like chocolate chips or walnuts or sprinkles) instead of doing it the pancake-by-pancake way.
The individual way was an awful lot of fun for my kids, but just make sure to keep safety in mind! Remember that flipping pancakes can cause splatter — and nobody wants to be pelted with splashes of hot butter!
When it comes to making the batter, we did it the night before and stuck it in the fridge. It’s easy for kids to put together, which makes it nice for them because they are so involved in the whole process.
One of the things I wanted to mention, was that we decided to add some extra milk to the batter the next morning.
I don’t know why I did that. I blame it on the caffeine deficiency.
Anyway, my point is that the pancakes still tasted great, but were much thinner than I had intended them to be. It’s not necessary to add the extra milk like I did. If you follow the recipe and don’t add any extra milk, your pancakes will be thicker than the ones photographed here. Just stir the batter when you pull it out of the fridge in the morning and start frying!
I used an ice cream scoop to measure out the batter. My oldest daughter measured out one or two, but I mostly did that part.
And (again) make sure there are plenty of reminders of how hot the griddle gets and how much we realllly don’t want to touch it.
Cooking is fun, but safety is important too.
Some of the add-ons made things a little sticky, so make sure to add more butter, or non-stick spray, when flipping the pancakes.
You can see where we made some with only one topping, like mini chocolate chips, and others which were combinations of toppings, like the one with chocolate chips, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar.
Don’t those look delicious??
You can see where the cake sprinkles seeped color into the rest of the pancake, but the flower sprinkles held their shape and color nicely. Both tasted nice, and the thicker sprinkles gave a little sugary crunch to the pancake.
I put them on the platter with the topping side up and spread them out so you could see which was which.
Leftovers refrigerate and freeze nicely.
Let’s get cooking…
Overnight or Now Vanilla Pancakes
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional: Toppings like mini chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, chopped fruit, etc.
Combine the milk and vinegar and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes to “sour” into buttermilk.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk eggs, melted butter, and vanilla into the milk. Then whisk the milk mixture into the flour until the large lumps are gone. Make sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated, but don’t over mix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or use right away.
Before cooking, stir in any extras you’d like. For example, you can mix in about 1/2 cup of miniature chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberry pieces, or something similar. Or you can do the Custom Pancake Bar (see below). For the Custom Pancake Bar, do not mix anything extra into the batter.
To make pancakes, preheat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Coat surface with butter or nonstick cooking spray, and spoon about 1/4 cup of batter onto cooking surface for each pancake. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip and cook 2 minutes or until browned on the other side.
Serve with syrup. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen. Makes 15 to 20 pancakes.
For Custom Pancake Bar: Do not mix extras into batter. Leave batter plain. After scooping batter onto griddle, sprinkle your toppings over the pancake. When it bubbles, flip the pancake and cook for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned on the other side.
Click here for the free printable PDF copy of the recipe:
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