As a notorious homebody (married to another notorious homebody), I knew that upending our lives by moving from Arkansas to New York was going to be tough.
Five-and-a-half years in our last Arkansas apartment was the longest either of us had lived in one place since we had lived with our parents, and when we finally moved out last December, the firmly ingrained carpet dents throughout the empty space were both literal and figurative.
Without a doubt, we were ready for a change. But were we ready to live in Airbnbs and sublets for three months?
At the outset, I said yes — “It’ll be fun! Like an extended vacation! We’ll get to see so many different neighborhoods of NYC as we haul our suitcases in and out of every subway station!” — and, now that we’re settled, I would probably say the same thing. It was fun, while maybe not so much like a vacation as I would have thought, and it was incredibly interesting to live in so many different neighborhoods throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn for three months. But after countless weeks of sleeping in other people’s beds and using other people’s towels and worrying that I was going to leave water rings on other people’s furniture, I was, without a doubt, homesick, not for Arkansas, but sick to have a home of my own.
The thing that made me the most homesick was not baking anything for months. At first this was no big deal — we were in New York after all, and I was happy to eat my way through the city’s finest bagels, donuts, black and whites, and cheesecakes. But after a while, even in greatest food city in the US, I still wanted to bake myself.
I remember when we finally moved into an Airbnb with a kitchen in late January. I was SO excited to finally get to bake, and Nathan was so excited to finally get to cook. But then I realized that not only did the Airbnb not have any baking pans, sheets, or anything I would remotely feel comfortable sticking in an oven, it also had no measurement tools apart from 12 Ikea juice glasses and two wine glasses. It was a major disappointment, and I was resigned to continue to go out for all my baked goods until I woke up one morning with an insatiable craving for pancakes.
I have never been a pancake person. They were always the last thing I’d order at a restaurant, and, similarly to donuts, were something that I never understood why people went so gaga about. Similarly to donuts, however, something in me changed the moment I moved to the Northeast, and now I too am obsessed. I can’t tell you why I didn’t like them before, and I honestly can’t tell you why I like them now, but I love them both now. Perhaps I’ll never know what happened.
But I digress. I was craving pancakes, and I didn’t want to go out for pancakes, and our Airbnb DID have a frying pan and a mixing bowl, but no whisk and no way to measure ingredients besides said juice and wine glasses. But I was intent on making it work.
I took a look at a number of recipes for pancakes on the internet, and boiled them down into simple ratios. It seemed like the key was equal parts milk and flour, and then for every cup of milk, one egg and about two or three tablespoons of butter. I realized that those juice glasses appeared to be about 8 ounces each, and with a leap of faith, measured out equal parts by volume of milk and flour, mixed everything with a fork, and heated up the frying pan.
And the results? They were fantastic! Even though I put in an arbitrary amount of baking powder and salt, and mixed everything together with a fork, and had only make pancakes a handful of times in my life. I was shocked.
Since then, I’ve made this “recipe” more times than I would care to admit, and every single time it has worked out. When we moved out of that Airbnb and into a sublet with some actual measuring tools and a whisk, I made the recipe again, actually measuring this time, and the pancakes were great. And once we moved into our amazing brownstone apartment, I made the recipe again, measuring out the ingredients by weight this time, and whisking with my trusty balloon whisk, and the pancakes were again great. I definitely recommend you measure your ingredients when following the below recipe, but even if you are in an Airbnb with nothing to measure, as long as you get the 1-1 ratio of milk and flour right, you should be golden.
Makes 6 or so pancakes to feed 2 people
Want to use a cow-free alternative to milk? Go right a head and use the same amount of the milk of choice without any adjustments.
Want to use buttermilk? Use the same amount of buttermilk as milk, and add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to the dry ingredients in addition to the baking powder.
1 cup (4 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) whole milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted
Heat your favorite large frying pan, griddle, or cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt until combined. Set aside.
In a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and melted butter until combined. Slowly pour into the flour mixture and whisk briskly, stopping the moment you no longer see any spots of flour in the mixture. Some lumps are OK; big pockets of unmixed flour are not.
Oil your pan if you’d like (I usually use a ceramic nonstick skillet or cast-iron skillet and don’t find it necessary), and once the pan is hot, ladle in about a ¼ cup of batter. Cook for 2-4 minutes on one side, flipping when the center is bubbling and the bottom is brown. Cook the other side for another 2-4 minutes, and then transfer the pancake to a plate. Continue this process, cooking as many pancakes as you can at one time, until all the batter is used up. If you’re making a ton of pancakes or aren’t serving them immediately, keep them warm by transferring them to a 200-degree F oven once cooked, or by stacking them on a plate and covering them with foil to retain heat.