How to Make Pancakes Without Any Measuring Cups

Sometimes, when I've had a bit too much, ahem, excitement on a Saturday night, I wake up on Sunday with both interminable laziness and a desperate need for pancakes for brunch. The struggle is real, which is why I was thrilled when I stumbled upon the recipe for One-Cup Pancakes in Jessica Elliott Dennison's Lazy Baking. The recipe truly couldn't be simpler at a mere five ingredients and, the best part is, there's no need for measuring cups or spoons, which means that even my most bleary-eyed self can toss these together with minimal effort.

Wait. No measuring tools? That's right. All you need is any juice cup or standard coffee mug (roughly eight to 12 ounces) to measure out a one-to-one ratio of self-raising flour and milk. Self-raising flour has slightly more leavener than self-rising flour, but either will work in this recipe, and if you don't already have some in the pantry, both can be easily made at home with a combo of all-purpose flour and baking powder. Which means this recipe is good for more than just laziness brought on by Saturday night high jinks. Sometimes you're just not able to measure, like when you're camping, or staying in a poorly equipped rental house. Or heck, maybe you've recently moved and that set of measuring cups could be in this box…or was it that box? Did you pack them at all?

I spoke with Dennison about this simple pancake formula, and she tells me it was actually one of the ideas she included in her initial pitch to her publisher for this book. The recipe's origins are rooted in Dennison's childhood. "My mum, Claire Elliott, is very much an instinctive home cook rather than a meticulous baker. She rarely uses scales and this is how she always made pancakes for us," she tells me.

With no need for specific measuring tools, this is a great recipe for beginner bakers. Dennison calls it an entry to the world of baking, which can sometimes seem a little daunting. "I love the confidence you build when creating something delicious without even having to reach for the scales," she says. All you need is a cup each of milk and self-rising flour, an egg, a pinch of sea salt flakes, and butter for greasing your skillet or griddle. Whisk the first four ingredients together in a bowl, heat the butter on your cooking surface over high heat, and start cooking. Add more butter as needed, and you're well on your way to a stack of the simplest pancakes you've ever made.

Dennison's recipe yields a very simple stack of pancakes, which you can jazz up with syrup, jam, whipped cream, or compote made with whatever fruit's in season. "We're knee-deep in plums here in the UK at the moment! So something like a quick plum compote with thick strained yogurt, toasted almonds, and honey would be delicious," she tells me.

You can fiddle with the batter too: Dennison sometimes adds orange zest for a dash of citrusy flavor; a handful of berries or toasted nuts wouldn't be a bad call. "On Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day), I'll splash more milk into the batter for a much thinner mixture. This makes the perfect 'crepe' batter. Ideal for eating with sugar and lemon," she adds.

While the recipe itself is quite simple, learning how to make pancakes like a real expert is really about figuring out the sweet spot for heating the pan so you get a uniform stack of fluffy, golden brown pancakes without burnt spots or doughy centers. "Whenever you're making pancakes," Dennison says, "you'll often find the first 'tester' one is the worst while you figure out the correct heat in the pan. So count this first pancake as a 'chef's treat,' then get on with the rest, which I promise will turn out beautifully."

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