Call 'em hotcakes, griddlecakes or flapjacks, you are still talking about an American breakfast favorite, pancakes.

In most every family, someone is known for his or her way with pancakes. My Grandma Etta Sue Smith's sourdough pancakes were legendary for their light texture and sweet tart taste. My father-in-law Ted Baker's Bisquick and buttermilk pancakes are noted for their thickness. My dad, Bud Smith, kept us guessing by including surprises in his pancake creations. Some mornings, the surprise ingredient would be something you might expect, like crumbled bacon. One of the more unexpected additions was beer. Dad's beer pancakes were family favorites, rivaling Grandma Etta's sourdoughs in both taste and texture.

Pancakes are made of some sort of rising agent, usually baking powder (beer worked fine!) and contain differing portions of eggs, flour and milk to create a thick batter. Some recipes call for the addition of cinnamon or sugar, a second grain like oatmeal or buckwheat flour, cheese, fruits, vegetables or nuts to give additional flavor.

To successfully cook pancakes, you must cook them on a hot griddle. How hot? Grandma Etta knew the griddle was the perfect temperature when a drop of water would dance and sizzle on the heated surface. If your griddle has a temperature control, set it to 375º F.

Do you have a favorite pancake size? You have options: Serve 'half-acre' (10-inches in diameter), regular (5-inch) or 'silver dollar' (two to three inches in diameter) pancakes.

Serve your family diner-style by taking orders for half-acre, tall or short stacks of regular-sized pancakes or tiny silver dollar pancakes. Or get creative and write initials with batter on the griddle, so your 'customers' know the pancakes were made especially for them. You can also shape your pancakes with forms that hold the batter in place on the griddle. Sizes and shapes are limitless.

Mastering the pancake flip just takes practice. Slide a long, wide spatula all the way under the pancake, lift the pancake out of the pan and then quickly flip it. Add a little wrist action and a bit of determination - you can do it!

Here are some other tips for successful pancake making:

n Measure your ingredients carefully.

n Don't overbeat the batter; it will still be a bit lumpy. If you have time, refrigerate the batter for as long as 30 minutes before you begin baking the pancakes.

n Lightly grease the griddle; you may need to do this between batches.

n Use a ¼ cup measure to pour the batter onto the hot griddle. Pour quickly, keeping about two inches of space between pancakes.

n Cook pancakes until the edges start to look dry and bubbles form on the uncooked surface. Don't try to flip them until they reach this point.

n Cook pancakes on the second side just a minute or two; they may not brown as evenly on the second side.

n For best food quality, serve the pancakes immediately. If you do have to hold the pancakes for later use, keep them in a 200º F oven.

n Serve your pancakes with warmed syrup and softened butter.

Try this simple, from-scratch recipe for pancakes. The ingredients are items I bet you already have in your pantry. The hardest part of the preparation is the flipping, so don't be intimidated by the process. Best of all, you know exactly what went into the pancakes - there is no need to read labels on the box.

Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!

Rivendell House Bed and Breakfast Blueberry Pancakes

Makes 8 4-inch pancakes - easily doubled!

1 ¼ cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 beaten egg

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons oil

1 cup drained blueberries (or other fruit sliced thin)

Sift together dry ingredients. Combine egg, milk and oil; add to dry ingredients, stirring just till moistened.

Prepare at least 10 minutes ahead and let the batter sit until you are ready to cook. Allow to cook on one side until you see bubbles forming on surface; flip to cook other side; sprinkle with blueberries.

Serve with softened butter and warmed maple syrup.

Adapted from Rivendell House Bed and Breakfast, Bethel, Maine.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 503-635-8811 ext. 101.

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