There’s nothing wrong with classic buttermilk pancakes—they’re the stuff of childhood comfort, after all. But sometimes, your occasion may call for pancakes that are a bit more sophisticated. Say you’d like to impress at a housewarming brunch, or have vowed not to make anything from a box ever again as a sign of handle on adulthood. Or you may just feel like going buck(wheat) wild. Alexis Handelman, owner of Napa, CA’s Alexis Baking Company (ABC, as they’re called), can help.
Boring pancakes aren’t in ABC’s DNA. When Extra Crispy stopped by, there were no fewer than three distinctly different pancakes on the menu, meaning you could have pancakes for every meal of the day without tiring your taste buds. Handleman shared these easy ingredient upgrades that will put you solidly on the path to pancake sophistication. (It’s a decidedly specific path, yes, but one we support wholeheartedly.)
Use real maple syrup
It’s a simple adjustment that will make all the difference. The real syrup is unmistakable in its rich, maple-y sweetness. We’re not knocking the artificial stuff, but if you’re looking to elevate your pancakes, upgrading this most essential topping is a must.
Opt for in-season fruit
Adding fruit to pancakes really makes a meal out of them. Pancakes with fruit feel healthy… almost. A true Californian, Handelman tops her lemon-ricotta pancakes with fruit according to the season. On our visit, the lemon-ricotta pancakes came with pluots. If you’re craving blueberry pancakes in November, know that you’ll have better results sautéing some pears instead, or ditching fruit altogether in favor of nuts. Note that it’s best to avoid incorporating whole pieces of fruit into the batter itself—you’ll compromise the batter’s integrity. Instead, add fruit to the pancake on the griddle at the last minute, or simply top pancakes with fruit as a final step before serving.
Get creative with flour
Traditional pancake recipes call for all-purpose or cake flour, but the best pancakes we ate at ABC contained neither. Handelman makes both a gluten-free cornmeal pancake and, in the ultimate wine country innovation, a grapeseed-flour pancake. The cornmeal cakes boast a delightful, grainy texture (helped by especially crisp edges) and a non-cloying corn flavor that stands up to sweet or savory additions. The grapeseed-flour pancakes, made with a blend of grapeseed flour from Merlot grapes and gluten-free flour, are nutty, substantial, and also legitimately healthy (like wine, grapeseed flour contains super antioxidants). Try swapping cornmeal, grapeseed, or almond flours in for all-purpose in your favorite pancake recipe.
Consider a wine pairing
There’s nothing like a fine wine to truly elevate a meal, when in Napa or in the comfort of your own home. Handelman recommends you choose a sparkling wine with fruity, low acid notes. And if adding fruit to your pancakes, go for wines that will pick up on those specific fruit flavors.