Brown Butter Pancakes

Last Morning - Sierra Backpacking

Image by Scrubhiker via Flickr

Revisiting Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums is bound to make the reader crave a hot, hearty breakfast of pancakes. Imagine the crisp morning air, the scent of trees and the damp earth, a sizzling pan over a campfire– and tell me your stomach isn’t rumbling at least a bit.

I gotta tell you about the romance of Northwest logging…those cold winter mornings with snow and your belly fulla pancakes and syrup and black coffee, boy, and you raise your doublebitted ax to your morning’s first log and there’s nothing like it.

This is a variation of my favorite basic pancake recipe, but with a few subtle changes to make perfectly fluffy and slightly complex pancakes. Brown butter and whole wheat flour add nuttiness and some tooth that makes these an incredibly satisfying, filling breakfast. Someday I will figure out a way to adapt it to be well-suited for campsite breakfast feasts, but for now it remains on the kitchen table (at least for me).

pancakes with butter

Brown Butter Pancakes Recipe

  • 1 1/4 cups AP flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (preferably 1-2%)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • More butter for frying (I usually use 2-3 tablespoons total)
  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan or saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it’s fully melted keep cooking for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has started to turn a nice golden brown. Once it’s browned remove to a small mixing bowl to cool slightly. Don’t leave the butter in the pan, as it might keep cooking and burn (Blackened butter won’t impart the same pleasant nuttiness as brown butter. Combine the milk and yogurt in a separate (small) bowl and whisk together until smooth.
  2. While the butter is cooling, whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. When the butter has cooled, whisk in the milk and yogurt mixture until incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla. The liquid mixture probably won’t be entirely homogeneous — bits of browned butter fat will probably float around, but don’t worry about it.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and beat with a whisk for 30 seconds…and then stop. You want everything to just come together with no patches of flour or clumps of anything, but be careful not to overmix. Let the batter rest for up to 30 minutes.
  5. Prepare the pan by heating it over medium heat with a small pat of butter (maybe a teaspoon or so?). When the butter has melted, swirl it around the pan and then use a paper towel to gently wipe up most of it. You want a very thin layer of melted butter over the entire surface of the pan, but not too much.
  6. Using a 1/3 or 1/2 measuring cup (depending on how big you want your pancakes), scoop the batter into the pan. Now, you can eyeball them if you have some pancake-frying experience, but here’s a pretty foolproof method that I use: Set a timer for 2 minutes after you pour the batter, then flip the pancakes at the 1:30 mark. Continue cooking for another 30 seconds, then check the bottom to see if you’ve reached appropriate browning. My pancakes usually go for a full minute on the second side, but depending on your stove and preferences you might want to go more or less. The key is to not let the pan get too hot or too cold, and to watch the pancakes carefully.
  7. Serve immediately out of the pan, or stick the pancakes on a plate in a 200°F oven while you’re cooking the rest, and serve them in one big heaping pile to whomever is lucky enough to be breakfasting with you that morning. For the full Kerouac experience, serve brown butter pancakes with fresh black coffee and a view.

pancakes and coffee

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