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Rise of the pancake

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Every definition of the word “pancake” points to flatness:
a. (cookery) a thin flat cake
b. (aeronautics) an aircraft landing made by levelling out a few feet from the ground and then dropping onto it (also called a pancake landing)
c. (grooming) a stick or flat cake of compressed make-up
d. (verb) to flatten; e.g. The car had been pancaked by the bus.
e. (photography) pancake lens – colloquial term for a flat, thin lens (short barrel)
f. (idiom) flat as a pancake – extremely level
Flat. Right. We get it.
And then there's the word “flat” itself, which is defined one way as lacking in interest or flavour.
Pancakes can be flat in terms of taste and very often are simply the vehicle for the accompanying fruit and cream and fillings, but not when it comes to sourdough pancakes. With that additional layer of flavour that comes from the leaven, there's nothing dull or insipid about sourdough pancakes.
Make the batter
Although some recipes simply include the discarded leaven in the batter, which is for the tangy taste, these pancakes use refreshed sourdough starter, which provides rise as well. After refreshing and leaving aside overnight (although a couple of hours is fine), it was bubbly as in the photo grid above, top left, and fragrant – it smelled like vanilla actually. Or maybe it was just that sweet alcohol aroma.
After the refreshed sourdough starter is combined with more flour and water to make the pancake starter (top right), I refrigerated the mixture for another overnight rest. It won't produce so many surface bubbles but it will have doubled in size (bottom left) the next day. When deflated, it will be a very soft dough, but once the other batter ingredients are added, it will be a thick liquid (bottom right) and bubbles will start to form as the acid in the sourdough starter reacts with the baking soda.
These pancakes, obviously, are not something that can be whipped up when the craving hits. The way I make it, between refreshing the starter and finally eating a pancake, it takes roughly two days. It works around my schedule so I'm fine with it. If it were as easy as making non-sourdough pancakes, I would be eating them every day and despite how good they taste, that's not a good thing.
Cook the pancakes
The recipe I referred to is from cmomcook with very slight changes. The original recipe uses one egg, and although I halved the recipe, I still used a whole medium egg.
Of course, the first pancake got burnt. I was watching the bubbling batter with excitement and was focused on taking pictures, that more than a few minutes had passed before I turned the pancake over to cook the other side. The finished pancake in the photo grid above, bottom right, is the third one I cooked and by that time I was more attentive. It has a few streaks of melted chocolate on it from the one made before.
Burnt or not, I had that first pancake straight off the griddle with a dusting of icing sugar and a few squirts of blue agave nectar. 
Flat? Only in shape.
Mop the plate clean
Sourdough Pancakes
Based on a recipe at cmomcookMakes about eight 10cm pancakes

Pancake Starter
½ cup refreshed sourdough starter
¾ cup water
¾ cup plain flour
½ cup whole wheat flour

Pancake Batter
1 medium egg
cup whole milk
½ tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter, melted + extra for frying
Rested pancake starter

First prepare the pancake starter: Combine all the ingredients well in a large bowl. Place the bowl inside a large food-grade plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. If making pancakes on the same day, leave on the kitchen counter for at least 4 hours.
Remove pancake starter from the refrigerator an hour before preparing the pancake batter. The starter would have risen quite a bit. Whisk together all the batter ingredients, except the starter, until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the pancake starter and fold everything together until well mixed.
Heat a griddle or heavy frying pan. Melt some butter in the pan and pour in cup of batter. Wait a few seconds for the batter to settle, then sprinkle on toppings (chocolate chips, berries, etc) if using. When the edges begin to dry and lots of bubbles appear on the surface, flip the pancake. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
More ways to use sourdough leaven
Sourdough Bagels
Sourdough Banana Bread with Walnuts
Dan Lepard's Sunflower Bread (includes a recipe for leaven)


  1. Oh my! How lovely to have these pancakes for breakfast! Look so fluffy! yum!

  2. my first time stumbling onto your lovely blog and boy am i glad! your trove of sourdough recipes will help me use up my sourdough, and this pancake recipe will be the first i'm going to try :)


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