Not only is February Hot Chocolate Month, it’s also Pancake Month. Well, at least at the Clinton Street Baking Company. For the fourth year in a row, the Lower East Side eatery is dishing up old favorites and new riffs on its beloved flapjacks. “We thought February was a dull month, so we wanted to do something cool,” explains chef/owner Neil Kleinberg. This month’s flavors include everything from Japanese pumpkin pancakes topped with pumpkin-seed streusel and warm maple butter (available February 10 to 13) to banana pancakes with Bavarian cream, toasted coconut, and warm maple butter (February 15 to 17). But if you can’t make it out to the restaurant, Kleinberg offers his tips for making the perfect pancakes at home.
1. Make sure the griddle is hot but not too hot. Temperature is key to getting light, fluffy pancakes. “If the griddle is too hot or cold, they’ll either scorch or won’t rise,” says Kleinberg. He recommends always preheating the griddle before adding your butter.
2. Don’t mess with the pancakes too much. “Let the pancake sit on the griddle and grow and rise by itself. Don’t shake the pan or move it, as that will prevent it from rising. Let the batter do the work sitting on the grill and flip the pancake just when it starts to bubble on top.
3. If you want a nice ring with a crispy edge, you need to add enough butter. Butter gives the pancake a three-dimensional texture, explains Kleinberg — a crisp exterior with soft cakey interior and a nice buttery flavor. He recommends one teaspoon of butter per batch. Enough to “see it, feel it, and taste it.”
4. Only flip the pancake once. “You can cheat a little, and check underneath and see if you have the ring and if it’s golden brown. But don’t flip it too early and flip it back,” he says, explaining that over-flipping causes the pancake to deflate.
5. Don’t overfill them. Kleinberg explains that overfilling the batter weighs down the pancake and prevents it from cooking properly. He suggests around three spoonfuls of blueberries or a few banana slices per pancake. But feel free to be wild with flavor. He notes that one new addition this year is coconut pancakes with brûléed bananas and kumquat syrup. “Shredded coconut goes inside the pancake to give it texture,” he says. “It’s tropical and fun.”