Friday, February 29, 2008

Nothing Could Be Finer - Diner Pancakes

Scott, my husband, is a very good short-order cook. I have been talking up his terrific diner pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and raspberry sorbet ever since he first impressed me with these specialties back in the day. Scott also happens to be a very good writer, so who better to present one of his recipes than himself? Though it will be the rare occasion that Scott will guest blog on The Well-Seasoned Cook, I am delighted to defer to and enjoy his skills on both fronts.

I’m very fond of those old 1950s-era science fiction movies, where they used to blame runaway scientific curiosity, of all things, for the world’s problems. After the giant ants or man-eating plants or invaders from Venus were defeated, someone would always shake his head wearily and say “there are some doors man was not meant to open.” I’m sure some people would say the same thing about the quest for a healthier pancake. They’re supposed to be easy. They’re supposed to be kid-friendly. But they’re not supposed to be healthy.

But I’m the sort of person who experiments with food. I get interested in a dish and keep refining it and refining it, making it in different ways until I think I’ve got something special. I’ve embarked on the “Winter of the Omelet,” followed by the “Spring of Chicken” and the "Fiscal Year of Pasta.” Obviously, I didn’t eat these dishes exclusively, but they were a recurring theme on my weekends or slow nights during the week at the height of my bachelor days. And a few years ago I got interested in pancakes. The ingredients are usually very simple, but remarkably elastic – the trick is more in your technique than the recipe. Many of my early attempts tasted all right, but were shaped like the maps of certain southern continents or island nations. That changed with practice. But along the way I stumbled upon a recipe that’s not only light and tasty, as pancakes should be, but actually has some nutritional value. This also happened to coincide with my courting of Susan, The Well-Seasoned Cook. And while I think Susan had lots of good reasons to marry me, the pancakes were certainly an argument in my favor.

And that just goes to show that if we go around letting science fiction movies scare us, we’d never get anywhere in life.

Healthy Diner-Style Pancakes - Adapted from the Mark Bittman recipe


¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup oat bran
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 ½ cups milk


Preheat your skillet or griddle over low heat (non-stick works best) while you’re mixing the dry ingredients. Use vegetable cooking spray to avoid heavily greasing the cooking surface.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then beat the egg in the milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and beat with a wire whisk until the mixture is completely wet but also distinctly lumpy. Lumps are good – if you mix until it’s smooth, the pancakes will end up tough (akin to the muffin philosophy.) Pour batter into the heated skillet and flip when bubbles cover the raw upper surface and the edges look dry. They cook fast – don’t turn your back. Brown the underside approximately 1-2 minutes, then remove to plate. Best, of course, served immediately. Serves 2 generously. --

Fresh Blueberry Syrup - Susan's Recipe


3 cups fresh blueberries, washed and sorted to remove any wrinkled fruit
2 cups water
1/4 - 1/2 cup brown or white sugar (optional)


In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer the berries until they break open and are completely soft (about 10 minutes). The berries will turn a dark reddish violet. Pour the berries into a large metal strainer positioned above a large bowl. With a large, sturdy spoon, rub the berry solids through the strainer. There will be very little waste. The skins thicken the syrup and provide the maximum amount of antioxidant benefits blueberries are known for. Serve warm or chilled. Makes 2 cups. --

This post is being submitted to Suganya of Tasty Palettes, hosting Weekend Breakfast Blogging - Healthy Eats, for Nandita of Saffron Trail, the creator of Weekend Breakfast Blogging.


Ricki said...

That was a great post, both of you! I've tried Bittman's pancakes and have to admit I wasn't overly impressed--your version sounds much better! And I love the blueberry syrup--the combo is a definite must-try.

Simona said...

Nice to meet you, Scott. I make pancakes for my husband occasionally and I will make sure I try your recipe: the use of oat bran is quite interesting. Susan's blueberry syrup sounds like a great complement and the photos, as always, make me want to reach out and grad the things in them.

Lucy said...


Susan, beautiful, beautiful images. That blueberry colour is intense and the light is very soft and pretty in these. Hat's off, darls.

Scott, welcome to the world of food blogging. I really, really love the idea of a muffin philosophy.

Will report back in the morning.

katiez said...

I'm guessing frying them in bacon fat (like my mother always did) would, um, reduce the healthy aspect a bit?
Lovely stack!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

Well done on a beautiful post - lovely colors, lovely pics and delicious recipes.

Asha said...

Slurp!! Oat bran and wheat flour sounds so yum, great looking pancakes! I spray no-stick oil on the griddle for everything!!
Dang!! You made the syrup at home too! Beautiful! Lucky girl! Enjoy hubby's exploits!;D

Mishmash ! said...

Scott, it was a refreshing piece of writing and loved the blueberry syrup...can be used as a topping for dessert too !

Mona said...

Yummy!!, love pancakes anytime! Thanks for sharing!

KayKat said...

Yum! I'm a huge fan of oat bran in pancakes and muffins - fabulous idea!

Mmm ... blueberries ... send some my way, please? :)

Nanditha Prabhu said...

sorry i am late here..
but it was nice meeting you scott...
hope to read more of your guest posts:)
susun,.. you are sure lucky to have scott:)

Ricki said...

Scott...memories, memories...You would make Dad so proud with these. The only issue is they are not as big as your head! hahahaha!!!

Suganya said...

Scott, Welcome to the blogging world. The recipe is wonderful. Thanks for sharing this with us. Congratulations on your new book.

Susan, Blueberry syrup - a purple lover's favourite :). The photos are excellent. I want to crash straight into that stack.

Thank you guys, for sending this my way. Looking forward to raspberry sorbet, mac and cheese and other chef specialties :)

vegeyum said...

What a wonderful pair you are - something I can only dream of is a partner who is handy in the kitchen! And the photographs! So sensual and so gentle. Love them.

The Passionate Palate said...

Oh how I love pancakes...and your incredible photos make them look mouthwateringly perfect! I'll be right over with the bottle of maple syrup!

The Passionate Palate said...

P.S. Don't get me wrong, I love blueberry syrup too, but I wanted to bring another offering...maybe I'll bring capuccinos too.

Susan said...

Dear All - Just waiting to pin down Scott so that he can reply personally to your comments. Be back soon w/ responses to everyone. Thanks!

Scott said...

Hi, everyone:

Thanks so much for the warm welcome to food blogging. I'll only be an occasional contributor, but I've visited all your blogs thanks to Susan. It's wonderful company to be in and I'm looking forward to seeing more great posts from everyone.


Nandita said...

Hi Susan / Scott,
Lovely blog and your pancakes look so delicious and spongy! Am a big fan of Bittman, got hold of his How to cook everything vegetarian' book recently...cant wait to try these out, wondering if flaxseed powder can be substituted for the egg with good results.

Susan said...

Thank you, Ricki. It was a lot of fun to collaborate with my husband. I’m on the fence w/ Bittman’s recipes, although Scott swears by them as essential learning tools. It could be that I am too much an advanced cook to appreciate them.
Dear Simona – Thanks. I really enjoyed the syrup, a nice change from pure maple, another breakfast staple I am very fond of.
Thank you, dear Lucy. I am much more attuned to the blissful vagaries of light now that I have the new camera. Hope you do try the pancakes if you haven’t already. I can’t talk them up enough.
Thanks, Katie. Pancakes and waffles were very popular cooked in bacon grease back in the day. Not healthy, but they do have their rustic allure.
Welcome, Nina! Thank you so much for your kind words. Good to see you.
Thanks, Asha. The syrup was very easy, just boiling and straining the berries. I do recommend it over the bottled kind, which often is “enhanced” w/ preservatives and additional colors and flavors.
Shn – Thank you. I was thinking of swirling the syrup into homemade vanilla ice cream, something Scott will be churning out this summer.
Thanks, Mona! Nice to see you.
KayKat – Thanks. I’m really amazed that oat bran, not much more than sawdust, really, can create such texture and flavor. The blueberries, though not local, were very, very good quality and flavor. I look forward to the “Jersey Blues” in July.
Nanditha – Never worry about “being late.” We all have busy lives and obligations. Come visit whenever you can. You are always welcome. (Yeah, I am lucky. My Scott is a good man with many talents ; ) )
Hey, Ricki. Scott told me how your father made his pancakes as big as dinner plates. Even I have a problem flipping them at that size!
Thank you, dear Suganya. Wait ‘til you see the color of the sorbet. I am itching to click it! ; )
Hi, VegeYum! Thank you so much. Very good to see you!
Thank you, Jeni. No worries. I won’t be giving up maple syrup no matter how I love the blueberry.
Welcome, Nandita! Thank you very much. I’m so glad these pancakes fit in w/ the healthy WBB theme. We had fun w/ this post, a rare treat for me to work w/ my husband. Scott is a big fan of Bittman, so I’m sure his vegetarian cookbook will find a home here. I’m intrigued by the idea of flaxseed powder. I have never cooked w/ it before, but do know of the seed’s health benefits.

Mansi Desai said...

wow Susan! you get a guest blogger who wtites for free, and writes really well too!:) hehehe

can't take my eyes off those pancakes!

Shaun said...

Susan, lovie, and Scott ~ Is it the inclusion of bran that grounds the other ingredients sufficiently to produce pancakes of uniform thickness? A stack of pancakes should be the international sign for "welcome." A beauty to behold and beautifully paired with richly coloured and flavoured blueberry syrup.

Susan said...

Hi, Mansi. Well, Scott writes for free here, but not elsewhere. I call it conjugal rights. ; ) Glad you enjoy the photos.
Hi, dear Shaun. The pancakes are uniformly thick b/c yours truly stood over the griddle and literally ladled out exact measures on the furiously hot surface. How comfortingly observant of you that pancakes are the international welcome. I do think, as simplistic as it seems, that world hunger would be abated with pancakes. Bread and water are nothing to sneer about.

Bellini Valli said...

Pancakes are the perfect breakfast food. Great job Scott, I hope to hear more from you on TWSC :D

Susan said...

Hi, Valli. Scott will respond directly to you very soon. Good to see you.

Scott said...

Hi, Valli:
Thanks, and I hope to have the chance to guest-blog soon. Everyone's very welcoming in the food-blog universe.

Hi, Shaun:
Thanks for the kind words. I do think getting the shape of pancakes right is more a matter of technique than ingredients. A small ladle works really well for this (a trick I picked up from Alton Brown, who has a cooking show on Food Network in the U.S.)


Mevrouw Cupcake said...

I am such a sucker for pancakes, they were dish I mastered before I could cook or bake anything else. These look just like pancakes should, and I can't wait to give them a bash!

GirlCanBake said...

That blueberry sauce could stop me in my tracks! Gorgeous!

My Sweet & Saucy said...

That blueberry syrup looks like a perfect alternative to overly sweet syrup! Perfect!

Becca said...

Wow, a year later, and I have to tell you THANK YOU!

I was doing a Google search to find a way to make a simple blueberry syrup that wouldn't affect my blood sugar as much as regular syrup does. I found your blog.

My husband and I just finished making this syrup. We tweaked the brown sugar down and did half Splenda. This is cooling on my counter now before we put it in the refrigerator!

Could not be simpler, thank you again!