SINCE IT WAS the new year I thought I would try a fresh way to make one of my old favorites, buttermilk pancakes.
Both the old and new recipes came from various editions of "Joy of Cooking." I'd like to think that the original buttermilk pancake recipe was chiseled on a wall by a cave man and somehow found its way into the original "Joy of Cooking," where it has been reprinted for eons.
The new buttermilk pancake recipe showed up just before Christmas in the new "Joy of Cooking," (Scribner, 1997, $30). This "all new" cookbook is filled with revised recipes and cooking theories, and in the few weeks it has been in the bookstores it hascreated a sensation, selling like you-know what.
I would like to think that I am willing to try new things. But this is probably a lie, especially when it comes to pancakes. Early in the morning, I hunger for routine, not innovation.
Yet after reading the usual newspaper stories about people making New Year's resolutions and people promising to try bold new approaches in the coming year, I got all revved up. I was in the mood to try something daring, such as making a new version of buttermilk pancakes. I didn't want to attempt too much change too fast. So in addition to making a batch of new pancakes, I made a batch using the old recipe.
Right away I noticed some differences between the old and new ways of making buttermilk pancakes.
In my old "Joy" -- a 20th printing of the 1975 version -- buttermilk pancakes got better billing. The entire recipe for buttermilk pancakes appeared. In the new version, however, buttermilk pancakes are treated as a variation of the recipe for basic pancakes. Just substitute buttermilk for milk and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the basic recipe, the new "Joy" instructed, and you will end up with buttermilk pancakes. Maybe so, but it seemed to me that after all those years of delivering such delight, the venerable old recipe deserved more space and more attention.
The ingredients in the two recipes were the same, but the proportions differed. The biggest difference was that the new version used more egg. There were two eggs mixed with 1 1/2 cups of flour in new version, and one egg mixed with 1 cup of flour in the old. This produced a batter that was much yellower and puffier than the one I was used to. It was as if the new batter had moved to Florida, put on weight and become very tan. Sitting next to the glowing new stuff, the old batter looked slight and pale.
(The new version also called for much more sugar, 3 tablespoons in the new recipe compared with 1 teaspoon in the old. But this didn't matter to me because, being a sour sort, I refuse to put any sugar in my morning pancakes.)
I cooked up both versions and fed them to family members and to a handful of their teen-age and preteen buddies, who happened to be having breakfast at our house on New Year's Day. The guys seemed willing to tell me which kind of pancake they preferred as long as I didn't ask too many questions, demand too much elaboration or stop them from eating. I believe one response to my food-for-opinion deal was "Sure, whatever."
In brief, the guys preferred the old-recipe buttermilk pancakes to the ones made with the new recipe. However, the main reason for their preference seemed to be that I had burned a few of the new ones.
When I sat down and ate two, perfectly-cooked pancakes, one from each recipe, I couldn't taste much difference. Both were very good.
So, on the first day of the New Year, I was faced with a philosophical decision. Do I abandon the old and embrace the new? Or do I cling to the old and ignore the new? It was my first decision of the new year, and it was a quick one.
I decided to stick with the old. Why change a good thing, especially when you have the old recipe memorized?
Old "Joy" sugarless buttermilk pancakes
Makes about 10 (4-inch) pancakes
1 cup cake flour, sifted (or 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten until light
1 cup buttermilk
, 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Put flour into sifter, but before sifting add baking powder, salt and baking soda on top. Sift all ingredients into mixing bowl. Stir in beaten egg, buttermilk and melted butter. Mix until ingredients are wetted. Cook on hot skillet or griddle. Serve immediately.
New "Joy" sugarless buttermilk pancakes
Yield: about 12 (5-inch) pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
Whisk dry ingredients together in one bowl. Whisk wet ingredients together in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. Cook on hot griddle or skillet.
Pub Date: 1/07/98