Last year I wrote a story for this magazine about adding ranch dressing to pizza (my verdict: adding ranch to your pizza is like walking around barefoot in the mall) and, ever since then, every time I get in my car and turn the ignition, I expect a bomb to go off. People, I learned, have strong opinions about food — and they aren’t afraid to tell you about them. So when my editor assigned me to write “waffles vs. pancakes,” I immediately ordered a new home security system. Some of you — I’m looking at you, waffle aficionados — are about to get your feelings hurt.
Waffle batter and pancake batter are basically the same thing. In a bowl, mix a cup of flour, two teaspoons baking powder, two tablespoons sugar and one teaspoon of salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together an egg, two tablespoons of butter and a cup of milk, and then add that blend to the flour mixture. Mix until smooth. There are slight variations, of course: You could add vanilla extract to the mix, or you could use vegetable oil instead of butter but, ultimately, I’m willing to bet even your grandma’s secret family pancake and/or waffle recipe that she gave you on her deathbed uses those ingredients. (You might consider adding a little more sugar and butter to the waffle batter to give the waffles an extra kick of crispiness.)
When waffles were invented, I get the feeling that someone said, “How can we let the people make pancakes, but also make them buy something extra?” (Alternate joke: When waffles were invented, I get the feeling that someone said, “How can we make a pancake, but with the pan on top?”)
Waffles, I will grant, are completely acceptable in four specific cases: 1. When they are small and in the shape of Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World. This is the platonic ideal of the waffle, and don’t forget to waterboard that mouse with syrup. 2. When they are in the shape of the state of Texas. Personally, I have no particular affinity for Texas as such — I mean, it’s fine, and I remember the Alamo — but I love that every hotel in the entire state seems to have a Texas-shaped waffle iron. Is there some sort of local ordinance? 3. When they are in any shape (but generally round) at Waffle House. I mean, I’m not a complete monster. And 4. When they are small, thick, square-shaped and part of some sort of confectionary dessert at a nice restaurant and I am tipsy on good wine. Said waffles usually involve whipped cream and strawberries, but I leave the details to the chef.
I will also concede that waffles are the superior toaster breakfast, and Rouses Markets carries…all of them, I think. If somebody won’t L’eggo your Eggo, just buy another flavor of Eggo waffles. Homestyle? Check. Buttermilk? Check. Chocolate chip? Check. Blueberry, strawberry, thick and fluffy, mini cinnamon toast, cinnamon brown sugar? Check, check, check, check, check. And that’s just Eggo. Best Choice, Van’s, Kashi, Kodiak Cakes — you could go the rest of your life never eating the same two types of toaster waffles, so collect them all!
But back to the superior, round and golden-brown breakfast staple that allows — nay, requires — you to experience the sublime high of flipping it halfway through. You now know what it takes to make a basic stack of pancakes that will satisfy even the pickiest eater. There are some things you don’t know, though. Like, for example, you, too, can make pancakes at home that taste identical to those from IHOP, by adding a single extra ingredient to your batter. That ingredient? A cup of Sprite. (Yes, that Sprite.) Add it carefully to ensure the general thickness of the batter remains the same. I don’t know the mechanisms at work — pancake recipes are their own mysteries of faith — but the jolt of sugar can’t hurt. The result is a lighter, fluffier IHOP pancake doppelgänger, and if you have vanilla vodka, you can add it to the Sprite for a breakfast drink that tastes exactly like wedding cake. (You’re welcome.)
Want another insane one? (And I would never lie to you, dear reader.) Add three tablespoons of mayonnaise to your batter to make a lighter, fluffier pancake. If you really want to go wild, add mayonnaise and some Sprite (eyeball it for batter consistency). This will give you a taller pancake with a more sponge-like consistency — perfect for soaking up the Mrs. Butterworth’s, or even better: Rouses Markets Original Syrup. (If you see a Rouses label on a shelf item, grab it and don’t look back. Rouses sources only the best items on the market, from olive oil to coconut water, in order to provide you a better product at a lower price.)
The question I now pose is: Are you ready to take your pancake-making to the pro league? Wait…no. No, this is probably too much for you. It’s the sort of recipe from which there is no going back: Never again will your partner or children, or both, allow you to make pancakes any other way. So what I offer is not so much a recipe as a commitment; a new way of life. Are you in? Are you sure? OK, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. This recipe is like staring into the Ark of the Covenant.
I present: Funfetti pancakes.
Take the standard recipe I offered at the start of this story, and use three eggs instead of one; two cups of milk instead of one; one-third cup of canola oil instead of butter; and a half-teaspoon of salt instead of a full one. The secret ingredient: one box of Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix. (Pick one up the next time you’re at Rouses.) When you are mixing the dry ingredients, include the entire box of Funfetti mix. From there, follow the pancake recipe above as written. This will create a really thick batter, but don’t worry. You’ll get about two dozen good-sized pancakes from this mix. Top with syrup and enjoy your new life. Healthier? No. But way, way better.
If you’ve made it this far, you might be like me: Sure, reading about cooking is fun, but actually doing it? It’s a lot, and then there’s cleanup and, David, you ask: Is there an easier way? You bet there is, and it’s called Bisquick Shake ’n Pour. Step one: Buy Bisquick Shake ’n Pour. Step two: Add one-and-a-half cups of water to the bottle. Step three: Shake. Step four: Pour onto a hot pan. Step five: Drizzle with syrup and eat it. When the bottle is empty, throw it out. Total prep dishes to clean? Two: the pan and the spatula. It’s even pretty good on calories, coming in at about 80 calories per pancake. As you might have guessed, you can find this product at Rouses.
Under protest, I will add that yes, you can use any and all of these recipes with your waffle iron. But really, do you feel like fishing it out from the bottom of the cabinet? And afterward, is it worth the time and trouble of cleaning it? We’re only on this Earth for a short time, after all. Pancakes, though, are forever.