How can I supercharge my pancakes?

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1. Are pancakes as simple as they seem?

A basic pancake is one of the simplest recipes to make. Three store cupboard ingredients come together to form a batter that is cooked in a shallow pan to create thin, lacy pancakes.

But look beneath the surface, and you will find each ingredient has an important role to play.

A basic pancake's nutritional values can be changed by mixing and matching ingredients. Are you ready to supercharge your pancakes?

2. Cooking by numbers

Get your pancakes right every time using our simple formula.

Pancake recipes do vary. This basic ratio is a good starting point, but don't be afraid to alter it. For guidance, one medium egg weighs around 55g. Resting the batter allows any gluten that has formed to relax and air bubbles to escape, resulting in a delicate, hole-free pancake. Your pan should be hot enough to cook them in one minute – 30 seconds per side. A basic pancake contains about 88 calories, 5g of fat, 7.5g of carbohydrates, 0.2g of salt and 0.4g of fibre.

3. Can you remove gluten from the equation?

Click on the labels below to find out what happens to pancakes when you use different gluten-free flours.

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The gluten proteins in wheat flour form a loose network in a pancake batter, which provides elasticity and stops pancakes from crumbling. You can use gluten-free flours such as tapioca, gram, rice and buckwheat instead, but you may need to add other ingredients to get the desired result.

4. Can you make pancakes without eggs?

The proteins in eggs help pancakes to set as they coagulate over heat, but there are plenty of natural alternatives, including:

Ground chia or flax seeds

Both chia and flax seeds are particularly mucilaginous, thanks to a gum in their coating. As a rough guide, mix one tablespoon of seed powder with three tablespoons of water, and leave for five minutes to thicken up into a gel that will mimic the binding effect of one egg.

Pureed fruit and vegetables

Pureed fruit and vegetables can also be used to bind a pancake batter together. Try adding half an overripe banana mashed, two tablespoons of apple sauce or the same of mashed butternut squash for each egg in the recipe. Be careful to choose a fruit or vegetable that suits the pancakes you're making.

Baking powder

If leavening is what you are after, which would be the case with American-style pancakes, you can use baking powder in place of an egg. For fluffy pancakes, add one teaspoon of baking powder for each egg in the recipe. You could also try adding a little cider vinegar to the mix for an even lighter result. If you are avoiding gluten do make sure that you use a gluten-free baking powder.

Cornflour or tapioca starch

Both cornflour and tapioca starch are traditionally used to thicken sauces and gravies. Try mixing one tablespoon of starch with three tablespoons of water and add to your pancake batter to help it bind together.

5. Do you need to follow the herd?

Dairy milk isn’t going to make or break your pancakes, but it does add flavour and the sugars it contains can encourage those lovely brown spots you’re looking for. Other liquids you could try are:

Water

Many pancake recipes call for a combination of milk and water. This is because milk adds flavour while water encourages a light, lacy pancake. Savoury pancakes tend to just use water, usually because the flour used, such as gram or buckwheat, has a strong flavour itself. If using water in a sweet pancake you could add another flavour, such as cinnamon or vanilla.

Beer

Pancakes can be made with beer, which adds both flavour and lightness to a batter. However, beer can result in a slightly yeasty flavour and is probably best saved for savoury pancakes. Beer and buckwheat flour is a common combination often seen in France.

Soy or nut milk

Dairy-free milks such as soy and almond milk can be used easily. Some recipes add a bit of sugar when using soy milk, while almond milk has a distinctive almond flavour. Other dairy-free milks to try include coconut milk and rice milk.

Buttermilk or yoghurt

You can swap milk for soured buttermilk or yoghurt for an extra soft pancake. This is because its thick consistency means that you can add less flour, which reduces the amount of gluten and starch, allowing for a more delicate result.

6. Supercharge your pancakes

So, how can you supercharge your pancakes? A few simple swaps and toppings can take your annual treat to the next level. Go to step eight to get these BBC Food recipes.

Make deliciously nutty gluten-free buckwheat pancakes, with the added boost of omega-3 in smoked salmon and toasted seeds.

Swap gluten for protein-rich gram flour, and top with avocado for extra antioxidants.

Sweeten your pancakes with mashed banana for added fibre, and make them dairy-free with the addition of almond milk. Top with berries for an extra vitamin boost.

7. Why does the first pancake always fail?

Burnt, thick and dense or full of holes? We all know that sinking feeling when the first pancake fails, but is failure inevitable or can it be prevented?

Batter

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Batter

Too much batter will result in a thick, dense pancake, not the thin lacy texture you’re after. Try to make your batter at least an hour before you need it too.

Heat

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Heat

Too low and the pancake will take too long to cook and become tough. It should be hot enough to cook a basic pancake in one minute – 30 seconds on each side.

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Fat

A pan swimming in fat will result in a greasy pancake. To avoid this, brush the pan with oil or melted butter before cooking each one.