For years, I refused to make pancakes at home. For me, perfect pancakes are light and airy. There is this incredible diner in Bloomington, Indiana, where I went to graduate school, called Wee Willie’s. They make, hands down, the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted. Wee Willie’s is so good, they don’t even have a sign outside of the restaurant. The locals know about it, and the line to wait there on Saturday and Sunday mornings is so long that you understand why they don’t need a sign. It is one of those places that looks like a total dive, serves shamelessly bad coffee, but the food is all so incredible that it becomes a spiritual experience.
One of my best friends in the world, Ashley, my husband, and I would go there on Saturday mornings in the Spring of 2012 religiously. We’d down the watery coffee and stuff ourselves with the cloudy pancakes and talk about spirituality, our hopes, and our dreams, the kind of conversation that only good food and drink can foster.
Before Wee Willie’s, I was afraid to make pancakes at home. After, it felt not only hopeless, but like I’d be destroying some sacred ideal of what pancakes were supposed to be (I guess I can be somewhat dramatic, ha!). But moving to a new city meant new experiences and having lots of houseguests, and I tried out a few pancake recipes to try and perfect one for those mornings of reuniting around food with those you love most.
I made some blueberry lemon pancakes one morning and was shocked that they were edible (I had several pancake failures early in my cooking journey, and I was determined that my pancakes were cursed). So I kept trying new recipes, always searching for one that was just right.
Finally, I tried a buttermilk pancake recipe from an old issue of Bon Appetit (via the Epicurious app). It was a revelation.
It was mainly the act of separating the egg whites from the yolks and beating them to stiff peaks that gave these pancakes the perfect texture. Many blissful Saturday mornings and several pounds later, I can confidently say that this pancake recipe is going to be an heirloom recipe in my family.
I’ve recently been eating clean and have lost a lot of weight, so this recipe has not been in my regular rotation. However, it seemed like the perfect recipe to ring in 2015, so we had them at our New Year’s brunch as our first meal of 2015. It was a great choice!
I like to top these pancakes with fruit and a little powdered sugar, but the sky’s the limit! Top with nuts, chocolate, or anything your heart desires. These pancakes have a great vanilla flavor that pairs well with anything. Especially bacon! Another note: I often eat the leftovers cold, out of the fridge, just as they are. They taste amazing on their own!
Bon Appetit, July 2000
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pure maple syrup
Whisk flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Add buttermilk, egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until smooth (batter will be very thick). Using electric mixer, beat whites in medium bowl to soft peaks. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff but not dry; fold into batter.
Melt butter on griddle or in heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook until pancakes are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to plates. Serve with syrup.
Enjoy, brave friends!!