What Kids Learn:
- Which ingredient makes pancakes fluffy
- Which ingredients make them even fluffier
- How long ago the word pancake was first used
I created this recipe as a way to get calcium into my three-year-old. She wasn’t a fan of buttermilk, milk, or even sour cream—ingredients I used to make pancakes. So I went with yogurt instead, and made some pancakes in the shape of her initials. Before I knew it, I was flipping ABC yogurt flapjacks for my older kids, and my nieces and nephews. Eventually, pancakes became the must-have breakfast dish at my parents’ house on the weekends for the multiple grandchildren who visited.
Soon, Grandpa Black started to make these pancakes, too, and pretty quickly they were renamed Grandpa’s Pancakes. He’d warm up maple syrup in the microwave, and fry some bacon* while he stood over his stovetop griddle, making batch after batch of pancakes until I’d finally take over so he could sit down and have his coffee.
To this day, yogurt pancakes remain one of our family’s most requested recipes. The batter is fun for kids to make, and they can customize their flapjacks with chocolate chips, banana slices, blueberries, sliced strawberries, chopped apple, or anything else they like. Toppings can include jam, whipped cream, syrup, honey, or a fruit sauce.
But what kids love most are pancakes made in the shape of letters. You don’t need any special equipment; just use a pitcher that has a spout, and pour batter into letter shapes, as large or small as you like.
Recently, my niece (who had just started college) asked me for this recipe. I texted it to her. Before long, she sent back a picture of the finished pancakes and said they reminded her of Grandpa. Maybe our memories of feasting on these pancakes at his house is why we all hold this dish so close to our hearts.
What You’ll Need
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
- 3 tablespoons milk
- Butter for the griddle
- Add-ins: chocolate chips, blueberries, sliced banana, or whatever you feel like adding
What to Do
- Let your little flapjack pro help measure and pour into a large bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir it with a large spoon until blended.Teachable Moment: The Science Behind Fluffy, Golden-Brown Pancakes
- Most breads get their fluffy texture from the air bubbles produced by yeast, an ingredient used in baking. But pancakes don’t use yeast. A different ingredient, baking soda, makes pancakes fluffy.
- Baking soda in pancake dough undergoes a chemical reaction when mixed with an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice, buttermilk, or yogurt. This produces little air bubbles throughout the batter.
- Some recipes require the use of baking powder, which produces air when mixed with water. Other recipes, like this one, use baking soda and baking powder—for extra fluff!
- Pancakes turn a satisfying golden brown due to a process called a Maillard reaction. It’s the same chemical reaction that sears meat and makes roasting coffee smell so good.
- Show him how to break the egg into a medium bowl and beat with a fork or a whisk for one minute.
- Next, let him measure and add the oil, yogurt, and milk to the medium bowl and whisk or beat this with a fork until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Help your child pour the liquid ingredients into the large mixing bowl that contains the dry ingredients, and whisk until all ingredients are nicely blended. (The batter should be pourable; if it’s not, add a couple of tablespoons of water and stir well.)Teachable Moment: Pancakes Around the World and Through the Ages
- Everyone loves pancakes—even the Ancient Greeks. They used to make pancakes called teganites (from the Greek word for “frying pan”) out of flour, milk, olive oil, and honey.
- The first written mention of pancake-like foods comes from the 5th century B.C. The first use of the word pancake, however, didn’t come about until nearly 2,000 years later, in the Middle Ages.
- Pancakes can be made from all kinds of flour. In addition to the wheat-flour pancakes you made today, they can be made from spelt, teff, buckwheat, or even chickpea flour!
- Not all pancakes are sweet. While some countries put fruit, syrup, or chocolate on pancakes, others might top them with meat or vegetables, or break off pieces to eat with stew!
- Preheat a stovetop griddle or a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease it with butter. Pour the batter into a large pitcher or a 4-cup glass measuring cup with a spout. Form pancakes by pouring the batter to form letters.** Sprinkle with add-ons. Flip, and continue to cook until golden brown and cooked throughout. Use a spatula to move the pancakes to a platter or large dinner plate. Add topping.
*You certainly don’t need a griddle to make bacon, by the way. You can do so in a skillet, a microwave, or an oven. Lately, I have been using the oven. I place the bacon in a single layer in a pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.
**Junior chefs may have more luck making traditional round pancakes, leaving the ABC shapes to Mom’s or Dad’s steadier hands.