Really, it’s OK to play with your food: pancake art

pancake-art

Sunrise in Vermont. Time to get up and get going with the Saturday chores of laundry, the dump run, returning those overdue library books… you know the drill. Best to start the day with a good breakfast.

I must confess, my husband is the pancake and waffle maker in our house. David is in his element when making big breakfasts with all the trimmings. He’ll whip the egg whites for the lightest waffles, and heat the maple syrup so your pancakes don’t cool too quickly. Not to mention the bacon and sausage.

I’m much more at home with muffins, quickbreads, and my super-famous cinnamon buns. So when the craving for pancakes hits, I usually cruise down Easy Street and get mine served to me.

But not this time—after seeing what can only be described as “pancake art” in a few different places lately, I just had to try my hand at it.

What might pancake art be? Using pancake batter, and a variety of squeeze bottles and imagination, ordinary pancakes become faces, fish, or even toys.  This activity is a great way to break out of the ho-hum pancake routine, introduce young bakers to the joys of baking, and bring the family together.

For the recipe, we used the Simply Perfect Pancake. This is one of our Guarantee Recipes and worked wonderfully. For step-by-step details on making the batter, see the recipe online. We enjoyed this so much, we also used a King Arthur Flour pancake/waffle mix; and I’ve included those step-by-step photos here.

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For squeeze bottles, I did have a couple of open-tipped bottles in my stash, bought at a local restaurant supply store. If you look in the local dollar store, you should be able to find condiment bottles fairly easily; you know, the yellow and red kind for picnics. Aand nowadays, many things come in squeeze bottles, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a few bottles which, when washed out, will work wonderfully for this project. Let the creating begin!

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The one set of bowls that never gets put in the cabinet is my set of Wisconsin mixing bowls. They stay out next to the toaster, and are used every single day.

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For my liquid measures, I knew I needed cups and tablespoons. Out comes the Perfect Beaker. It has several different units of measure on it, so you only dirty one cup. In goes the milk.

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Now for the butter. I always have little bits and pieces of butter in the fridge, so by looking at the beaker’s tablespoon scale, I can add small pieces until the measure increases by the 2 tablespoons I need. Remember science class, and displacement theory?

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Into the microwave, for the milk to heat and the butter to melt.

batter1.jpgAdd the egg. I did check the temperature of the milk, to make sure the egg didn’t cook; it was just barely warm. Whisk just a little, then everyone into the pool! My dough whisk brings everything together with  just a few strokes.

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The batter has thickened a bit after its 5-minute rest.

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Add a little milk to thin, and we’re set to go.

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Here I had a choice when filling the bottles. Quick and dirty…

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…or slow and neat.

Shannon much preferred quick and dirty. I think next time I’d make a collar of paper towel BEFORE beginning to pour.

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Let’s start off with a classic: Silver Dollar Pancakes. Pancakes are ready to turn when the bubbles around the edges pop, and don’t fill back in with batter.

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Flip ’em over.

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David wanted to try his hand with an updated inspiration of the Silver Dollar. Introducing the “pancake pop,” complete with edible handle.

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No more sticky fingers for those who love to dip.

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Shannon and I decided to test putting down a squirt of batter every 20-30 seconds, to see the differences in color.

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Next inspiration, one swirl, left for 20 seconds; followed by a second swirl and features. Voilà, snails the whole family will eat.

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By this time we were really on a roll, and decided to go whole-hog. Shannon kicked it off with a lobster. Lucky for my wallet she doesn’t eat the real thing!

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The fancier the design, the harder they became to flip, but most could be recovered. This lobster claw bent over, but was easy to fix with quick fingers.

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A comment from David about “playing with your food” led to our edible tic-tac-toe board. Even young members of your baking family can make the Xs and Os.

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Man, we’re cookin’ now (pun definitely intended!) With such a large grill, we decided to use the whole space for an underwater scene. I was delighted to find out that the very thin seaweed and “wave” pieces cooked through without flipping, and were very crunchy. The malt in the recipe made them very similar in taste to malted milk balls. Delish!

With a final few sputters, we were out of batter, and there was nothing left to say but…

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MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. floribunda

    great stuff! the big treat when I was a kid was that my dad would make pancakes (always buckwheat!) in the shape of our initials. it would have been a lot easier if he’d used a squeeze bottle instead of a spoon…

    Hi Floribunda,
    My Dad was the pancake maker in my house too. His specialty was the Silver Dollar pancakes. Must be something about pancakes that appeals to them.
    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane

    Reply
  2. Diane

    What a great way to start the weekend! I just found out I will be a Grandma in a few months…I am calculating in my mind how long it will be before we can have a pancake art breakfast. I used to do simple things like bunnies and initial pancakes with my little ones but now we can really get elaborate!

    Congratulations Grammy!! I hope you enjoy years of pancakes with your new grandbabies. I’m sure it will become a great memory for them too.
    MaryJane

    Reply
  3. Halley

    MaryJane – these are amazing! I wonder, did you try adding food coloring to any of the bottles of batter? I’m curious of the colors would come out even after cooking.

    Hi Halley,
    I thought about the food coloring, but wasn’t sure if the colors would look ‘muddy’ after they browned. Come on girl, give it a try and let me know how they turn out. ;)

    MaryJane

    Reply
  4. Kathy

    Fifty years ago my mom made us initial pancakes and used food coloring, all different colors. Nothing like a blue pancake. Great memories. I did it for my grands last summer.

    Reply
  5. Sue

    That is too much fun with food! :-) Which mountain is that in your sunrise photo? We lived in Burlington and Colchester for three years. Wish we could have stayed there, but home is in the Midwest and we didn’t want to raise our kids so far away from Grandma and Grandpa. I sure do miss the Green Mountains, the spectacular sunrises, and the great hiking.

    Hi Sue,
    The sunrise photo is of Smart’s Mountain in NH. The photo was taken just before 7 a.m. from our front deck. Whenever I get to feeling disgruntled towards the ice, snow, mud etc that living in New England can bring, I make it a point to get up for the sunrise, or stay up for the moonrise. It helps make it all seem bearable again. Bearable… bears… now that’s another photo entirely!
    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane

    Reply
  6. Mike Lib

    When the grandkids have a sleep-in with grandma & grandpa, grandpa makes Mickey Mouse & Goofy pancakes free hand. Now that I see you can use squeeze bottles, I can take pancake design to a whole new level.
    Thanks for the hint.

    Reply
  7. Lorrainesfav

    Pancakes were my Dad’s profession for breakfast and sometimes dinnertime. He made beautiful pancakes in artistic shapes too. He was a graphic designer but also loved to paint. He passed away this March at the age of 80 and was still making pancakes for breakfast. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    Reply

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