Well, folks are hunkering down and the kids are home driving most of their parents bonkers right now. School’s out, and in a strange way I feel like today’s kids are getting an excellent crash course in Home Ec. Spring is coming, and I suspect the Victory Gardens of the ’40s will be making a comeback, too.
Making pancake art is a great introduction to cooking on the stovetop — teaching kids basic safety and useful real life skills in a fun and engaging way. How to measure the heat on the stove. Using a spatula. Mixing dough. Eyeballing your target textures and temperatures. All the good stuff.
I got into pancake art working in breakfast diners. Mickey mouse pancakes. One thing leads to another, and next thing you know you’re drawing shamrocks and leaping dolphins.
The old school method is to drizzle the layers on with a spoon, and let them cook for a bit. Keep adding layers slowly. The earliest layers cook more, get more brown color on them, than the later layers. Throw a little food coloring into the mix and now you have a full blown arts and crafts project. Put your batter in a squirt bottle or an empty ketchup bottle, and you can start painting.
Best part is, you get to eat it when you’re done. Don’t forget to snap some pictures so kids can share them with their friends! Oh wait, the best part is really that you got the kids to make you breakfast.
Chef Tibbs, also known as Joshua “Tibbs” Tibbetts, is a Cedar Rapids native who has been cooking as a professional chef for 28 years. He now is in the banquet kitchen at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
A couple drops food coloring
Squirt bottles (optional) or empty ketchup bottles
Melt the butter in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave, allow it to cool and set aside.
Put the flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir it up with a whisk. Beat the eggs and add them along with 1 1/2 cups of the milk. Whisk it together gently. Tiny lumps are nice in a pancake batter.
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You want it to be fairly thick but still a little runny. Lift the whisk out of the batter and let it drip back in. Look at the spot where the batter coming off the whisk lands. It should pile up a little bit on the surface for a moment before sinking in. If it piles up too much, add a little more milk to your batter. If it sinks right away, add a little more flour.
Once it looks like the right thickness, add the melted butter.
Warm up a griddle or a skillet to a medium heat. 350 degrees is ideal. If you’re going old school, you can find your temperature by dripping water on the pan. It will bounce around and dance when it’s at the right temperature. If the water sits and bubbles, it’s not hot enough. If it immediately evaporates, you are too hot.
Pour a little of your batter into the squirt bottle. Add a couple drops of food coloring and a splash of extra milk to help it flow. Shake it up!
Pancake drawings are a little funny, you have to draw your picture backward, and the top layers go in the pan first.
You want to let each layer cook for a minute before adding the next layer, so they don’t blend together.
A happy face is a good place to start. Dip a paper towel in a little oil or melted butter and grease up your pan a little bit (it doesn’t take much!) Using the squirt bottle, draw the happy face in the pan. Let it cook for a minute.
Take your regular batter, and ladle it on top and around the happy face in a circle shape. Let it cook until bubbles come out and the surface starts to dry out a little.
When you flip it, your happy face comes out on top.
It’s best to start simple. A flower, a star or a crescent moon are going to be much easier for a kid to make than a rocket ship. Once you get the hang of it, then go for more complex designs. I got carried away and tried to make a butterfly. It looked like Picasso had a bad day, and took it out on my breakfast. Keep it simple, silly!
Source: Adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman
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• Did your kids try making their own pancake art? Send us a picture along with your child’s name and age to email@example.com.