Sam’s Weekend Brunch 101 – Perfect Pancakes and Bacon

When people find out that I cook professionally and am attending culinary school they almost all inevitably ask me, “what’s your favorite thing to cook?” Well, that’s a hard question to answer, but I pretty much always come back to the same answer: Breakfast!

For many people, especially city dwellers, it is tempting to enjoy a weekend brunch with friends at one of the many trendy breakfast spots in town. However, the wait for a table and the lofty bill can put a damper on things (anyone who has seen the lines on a Saturday morning outside of the Clinton St. Baking Co. in the Lower East Side of Manhattan knows what I’m talking about!).

So what I ask is, “Why not have brunch at home?” It may sound daunting (an egg yolk is a fragile thing), but making a classic, delicious breakfast can be easy and satisfying. Just make sure you have plenty of coffee (Mimosas and Bloody Marys optional!) and your weekend is off to a great start.

Today’s lesson is how to make perfect pancakes and bacon for a crowd. Next week we’ll make perfect eggs.

Perfect Pancakes
A recipe that we use at the Culinary Institute of America. I have included the weight measurements (we use weight rather than volume when it comes to baking, as it is much more consistent and accurate), as well as conversions to cups, tablespoons, etc.  The key to great pancakes is DON’T OVER MIX or you’ll never get that fluffy internal texture that is most desirable. Cook pancakes on a well-oiled surface (griddle and cast iron pans are best) over medium heat. Make sure you let the entire pan heat up slowly so that it is evenly warm, which minimize hot spots in the center. This recipe is enough for a large group (10-20 people). For less, cut the recipe in half.

2 qt Buttermilk (if necessary, substitute 2 gt milk with 1/2 cup lemon juice or vinegar. Let mixture stand 10 minutes before using).
16 ea Eggs
½ # melted butter @ 110F (1 cup)
43 oz All-Purpose Flour (9.5 cups)
½ oz salt (2.5 tsp)
2 oz baking Powder (4 Tbsp)
½ oz Baking Soda (1 Tbsp)
½ # Granulated Sugar (1 cup)

For topping:
Real maple syrup
Fresh berries

METHOD:

1) Whisk buttermilk and eggs in a bowl.
2) Sift dry ingredients and put in a separate bowl
3) Add buttermilk and eggs to the dry ingredients
4) Fold gently with a whisk
5) After around 5 folds add butter
6) Fold just until large lumps are broken up,
7) DO NOT OVER MIX- it should be lumpy almost like cottage cheese
8) Use about 1/2 cup per pancake. Check to see when one side is golden brown before flipping. The inside of the pancakes should be fluffy but not wet.

Tip: Set your oven to the lowest temperature (usually around 200F) and put the pancakes in the oven after they are done to keep them warm while you cook the rest in batches. Dot the warming pancakes with butter so it melts in the oven!)

Perfect Bacon
The best and easiest way to cook bacon is in the oven. The temperature should never exceed 350F. I would recommend 325F. Simply lay the bacon flat on a baking sheet (make sure the sheet has a rim since a lot of fat will render out of the bacon while it is roasting) without overlapping and place in the preheated oven until the meat is lightly browned and the fat loses its “raw” look. Carefully tilt the baking sheet to drain the rendered fat into a metal, glass, or ceramic container and let the tray of bacon sit out to cool slightly.

Precaution: Bacon fat is hot! Also, take the bacon out of the oven a little before it is done because there will be considerable “carry over cooking”. Perfectly cooked, crisp bacon will become burned in minutes while sitting on the counter.

Tip 1: For those who don’t fear a little over indulgence, save the bacon fat in the refrigerator for later us in place of butter or oil when sauteing.  Bacon fried eggs, anyone?

 Tip 2: Top your pancakes with a berry compote (put berries in a pot with a generous dusting of sugar. Simmer the berries in their natural juices for 10-15 minutes). Or stud your pancakes with banana slices.  Or use  any garnish you desire!

Author My First Apartment
Sam

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Sam is originally from Boston, MA. He studied ecology and Spanish language during his undergraduate degree at Hampshire College (Amherst, MA). He then went on to train as a chef at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY) and earn an introductory certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in San Francisco in 2013. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain and works as a culinary tour operator, wine educator, and food/travel writer for several outlets including My First Apartment. You can check out his blog at Zucker and Spice Travel.

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