Custom Pancake Bar & Reading List

Custom Pancake Bar 1

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.

Custom Pancake Bar 6

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.

Pancake Picture Books

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!

Custom Pancake Bar 7

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.

Custom Pancake Bar 8

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.

Custom Pancake Bar 9

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

Ingredients:

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
2 eggs
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.

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Click here for the free printable PDF copy of the recipe:

Overnight Or Now Pancake Recipe

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Happy Cooking!

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Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

I am a BIG fan of fudge.

But I stopped making fudge for a long time.  I got tired of trying out recipe after recipe and never having an end result that resembled what you’d find in candy stores or ice cream shops.

This was mostly because every recipe that I tried called for condensed milk.  And each and every one of those recipes left me with a fudge that was mushy and half-melted at room temperature.  Which – to me – isn’t really fudge.

Recently I decided to tackle this particular dessert again.  I tried some different combinations of ingredients and some different methods of cooking.  There were successes.  And there were failures.  What I’m posting today was not only a success but a hit.

And I’ll be sharing more fudge recipes soon, but today, let’s just start with this Vanilla Fairy Fudge.

Why “fairy?”

Well, when I was doing Letter F Day with my girls, I wanted to make a snack that started with the letter F.  I was enchanted by the pictures of Fairy Bread that I found on the internet (it’s an Australian treat – not something we see over here in the U.S.), but I decided to go one step further and add another “F” to make it better fit my alphabet theme.  Thus, Fairy Fudge.

The fudge I made that day, however, was a bit of a failure.  Not completely – I mean, we did eat it…..

But it was yet another condensed milk recipe.

Turns out you can use regular milk (and some cream, too) and come up with something even better.  Which is what we have here.  And it’s surprisingly easy, too, once you know the steps to take.

Originally this was just Vanilla Fudge, which was – don’t get me wrong – great, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about my Letter F recipe.  So I added some sprinkles to the next batch.  Great became awesome.

Because sprinkles just make life better.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

The ingredients are pretty basic:  butter, milk, sugar, etc.

Heavy whipping cream is pretty much the only think here that I’d have to remember to actually pick up at the store ahead of time.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Everything except the vanilla and sprinkles gets mixed together and brought to a boil.

Once you reach a boil, you turn it down and simmer it for 15 minutes or so.

There is NO stirring.  You just watch to make sure it’s still bubbling, but that it never boils over.  Especially on stoves like mine.  My stove seems to change its temperature when it feels like it.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

The important thing is that your fudge reach a temperature of 235 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even if it takes more that 15 minutes.  This step is important.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Then you mix in the vanilla and stir it over a bowl of ice to cool it down quickly.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

When stirring it over the ice, it’ll thicken noticeably.

Then it’s ready to go into your prepared pan.  I like to coat the pan with foil first, to make it easier to remove the fudge once it’s set, but you also need something to grease it with.

Butter works well as long as you don’t overdo it.  I sometimes use nonstick cooking spray.  My favorite is coconut oil spray.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Cover the top with sprinkles (all the way to the edges) right away.

It’s better to put too much than too little.  After it’s set, just tilt it to allow the extras to fall away.

The fudge should set quickly.  I might let it sit for an hour just to be extra certain, but it usually sets in just a few minutes.

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Then you take it out of the pan and turn it over VERY gently onto a large plate (retro plate optional).

But even if you’re like me and you sometimes stop paying attention to what you’re doing and you manage to break the fudge into two or three chunks, that’s okay.  You can always cut the pieces diagonally.

And this recipe is meant to produce small pieces.  Not gigantic thick hunks of candy.  If you want it thicker, though, it’s easy enough to double the recipe or just put it in a smaller pan to set.  Your choice.

I then leave those little pieces out overnight, or for a few hours, to make extra, extra certain that they’re fully set all the way around.  I don’t like mushy edges.

Because the best part is biting into the crisp edges of the fudge piece and discovering the smooth, soft melt-in-your mouth center.

Mmmmmmm…… I think I need to go make some more fudge…….

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Above is a photo of what the fudge looks like without the sprinkles.

Still delicious.  Just not as colorful.

And, honestly, I love the texture that the sprinkles add to it.  But it’s a choice that’s up to you.  I promise I won’t judge your fudge.  (As long as you don’t judge my rhymes.)

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ½ cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Nonpareil sprinkles

Prepare an 8×8-inch baking dish with foil and a light coating of butter or cooking spray.

Whisk together the milk, cream, butter, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer it without stirring. This is important: do NOT stir the mixture! After 15 minutes, test the temperature with a thermometer. Once it reaches 235°F or soft ball stage, remove from heat. Do NOT stop simmering until it reaches this temperature, or it will not set. It will be noticeably thicker at this point, but still slightly runny.

Let it sit for a minute and then stir in the vanilla extract.

Fill a large bowl with ice and place the saucepan into the bowl on top of the ice. Stir the fudge for a few minutes until it is very thick. Then (making sure not to let any of the melted ice get into your fudge) pour it into the prepared baking dish, spreading it smooth. Immediately cover the top with nonpareil sprinkles. This is an optional step, but it adds a nice texture.

Place baking dish on a wire rack and allow to completely set. This may take a half hour or a little longer, depending on the temperature and humidity of your home. Then carefully remove the fudge from the dish by pulling out the foil. Carefully invert it on a flat plate or platter and allow the bottom to dry. Again, this may only take a few minutes.

Cut into squares or rectangles with a sharp knife and allow the pieces to sit for a while without touching. I usually leave them out overnight to make sure each piece is fully set and has a nice solidity all the way around the smooth interior. Makes about 4 dozen very small pieces, depending on how you cut it.

[Note: the recipe can be doubled or put in a smaller pan if you like thicker pieces.]

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Click for the free printable PDF of the recipe:

Vanilla Fairy Fudge

And if you love fudge, then you absolutely HAVE to check out my Chocolate Fudge recipe:

Chocolate Fudge Recipe

Happy Baking!

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Honey and Cinnamon Vanilla Ice Cream

Honey and Cinnamon Vanilla Ice Cream

Just wanted to share a quick dessert I’m quite fond of.

This is a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered in honey and cinnamon sugar.

It’s about the easiest thing to make, since you just scoop some ice cream in a bowl, drizzle honey on it, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over it, and eat!

I adore the combination of flavors.  And the coldness of the ice cream creates these little chunks of cold honey that resemble a taffy or caramel-like candy.

It’s a pretty fun dish, especially when you’re in the mood for something sweet.

If you don’t already have what I consider to be the necessary staple of this spicy goodness in your pantry, check out my recipe for cinnamon sugar.

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