If you still haven’t got a present all wrapped up on the morning of Mother’s Day, don’t panic – she’d never know that you … (insert your good reason here) if you make her a grand stack of lovely pancakes from store cupboard essentials.

She has to give you at least a B for effort even if you botch it up, and it’s a definite A if you don’t botch it up. Guaranteed.

These little discs of deliciousness have more names than Satan: flapjacks, hotcakes, griddle cakes … I could go on. Whatever the moniker, though, what they have in common are four ingredients: wheat flour, eggs, dairy and a leavener. That’s all it takes and best of all, making it is as easy as … stirring. And cooking on a hot pan after.

As you probably know, it’s the gluten in wheat flour that allows the pancakes to rise and become fluffy and light. All-purpose (AP) flour is dandy, though some cooks with palates more refined than mine prefer softer flours.

Seriously, though, AP is fine. It’s a pancake, for cry-eye. (If you’re gluten-intolerant, I suggest you leave this article. Leave it now. It will only bring you despair, cramps and bloating. Come back another day, when we explore other, more exotic and non-gluten-containing grains.)

Here’s how you do the two-part process, mixing and cooking:

1. Mixing: Don’t overmix your batter. Use the “muffin method” of mixing: Put all your dry ingredients in one bowl and your wet ingredients in another, then pour the wet into the dry. Mix only enough to incorporate. Overmixing develops gluten too much, giving you pancakes that are as tough and leathery as George Hamilton’s forehead. Leave some lumps, and your pancakes will be as soft and tender as a Michael Buble ballad.

2. Cooking: Pour your batter onto your griddle. If you don’t have a griddle, use a cast iron pan. If you don’t have a cast iron pan, use whatever wide, flat pan you have. If you don’t have a wide, flat pan, carefully scrape your batter into the garbage and go out to breakfast. I never grease the pan, but, if you want, you could add just a bit of oil or butter, spread it around evenly, then pour the batter. After about a minute, when the pancake bottom is golden brown and bubbles form and begin to pop on the top, flip and brown the other side to cook through. Yum.

Mix banana slices and chocolate chips straight into the batter, but save some for a pretty topping.

Mix banana slices and chocolate chips straight into the batter, but save some for a pretty topping.

Variations

Even if your constitution can handle gluten, you still might like a little change of pace. In that case, you can add grains to the mix, dress up your batter with a more novel dairy element than milk or impress your chimp butler with some banana pancakes. Just take my basic pancake recipe here and make the following tweaks:

Oats. Grains such as oats have been shown to be good for your heart. Eat lots of oats and, while you may not live forever, like some crazy vampire horse, you just may notice that your arteries feel a bit less cloggy. Generally, you can’t go wrong with a 50/50 mix of wheat flour to grain in your batter; the flour, with its aforementioned gluten, still gives your pancakes that nice fluffiness, while the oats add texture and nutritional value.

The more fat the dairy in the batter has, the richer and more luxurious the pancake - try it with mascarpone.

The more fat the dairy in the batter has, the richer and more luxurious the pancake – try it with mascarpone.

Mascarpone. Milk is the most common dairy used in a pancake, but the more fat your dairy has, the richer and more luxurious your final product. Try 1 cup mascarpone with 1 cup milk and 115g butter, plus the dry ingredients from my basic recipe. Once cooked, stack up your pancakes and spread mascarpone between layers.

Bananas, blueberries or chocolate chips. Here’s the thing: Add pretty much whatever sweet treats you like to your batter, and cook it up the same way you would otherwise. It’s all good. Now, grab the syrup and dig in.

Dress up a simple pancake recipe with apples sauteed in brandy.

Dress up a simple pancake recipe with apples sauteed in brandy.

EXCELLENT PANCAKES WITH APPLES

Use less liquid for thicker batter and pancake, more liquid for thinner. You’re the boss.

12 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1½ cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
120g (1 stick or ½ cup) butter, melted

To serve
butter, unmelted, as needed
maple syrup, to taste
sauteed apples, see recipe below

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs and melted butter.

Pour liquid into flour mixture, and combine with a rubber spatula or whisk until just blended. Do not overmix.

Pour desired amount of batter onto a greased hot griddle or cast iron skillet and cook until bubbles form on top and just begin to pop.

Flip pancakes and cook on the other side until done, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serve immediately with butter, maple syrup and sauteed apples.

SAUTEED APPLES

About 12 servings

60g (½ stick or ¼ cup) butter
4 apples, peeled, cored, cut into medium dice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) brandy, optional
cinnamon powder, to taste
salt, to taste

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. When foam subsides, add apples and sugar; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, add brandy, then return pan to heat and tilt to flame. When flames subside, season with cinnamon and salt to taste. Serve immediately. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service