Lesson one: Breakfast – Pancakes

This is the Scouting Cooking merit badge. Given to scouts starting at the age of 11 years old who can master cooking for a small group their own age. Surly, if a young man or woman at the age of 11 can conquer this task in the adverse conditions in the great doors using only charcoal and a camp stove, you can do it in the comfort of your own house in a nice warm kitchen with pots pans with hot and cold running water.

            This book will explain the basics and is the companion book to “The Recipe Book” as well as future videos from “Teaching a human to cook” series. Explaining anything to a man is never easy. We have the attention span of a GNAT and if I can do it while drinking you can do it easy. Cooking doesn’t take much thinking; you just have to be paying a little bit of attention so things don’t burn. Here you will be shown the skills need to cook. Then it is up to you to take your time, practice, drink and enjoy cooking. I usually drink while I cook and cook to relax or is it drink to relax and cook to eat. Either way this should be fun. The exception of course would be if ANY scouts were involved. Then drinking anything but water or coffee is strictly prohibited. So lets begin.

            Lesson one: Pancakes. This is as simple as it gets. Start by preheating your largest non-stick pan or grill. I own a Coleman heavy duty cast aluminum nonstick camping gill. It covers two burners on my stovetop and is made to last.  I can make up to eight pancakes at once on this baby. Next comes preparing the batter. TODAY – you can buy pancake mix that is already “complete”. Just add water and there it’s done. Well I lied, there is a little cooking involved. So you will need a pan or grill, a spatula, and a spoon or ladle. You want to start off easy don’t you and work your way up. Then BOOM….here you go. Yeah, I know, its “bam!” but that belongs to someone else. Just follow the directions on the box. Step one: Add a cup of water. “Crap now we need a coffee cup”? NO! You don’t use a coffee cup to measure liquids in the twenty first century. You use a measuring cup. “Didn’t you watch the video”? Anyhow, measure the liquid (in this case water) carefully and add it to dry mix in a LARGE bowl or extra large measuring cup and stir it in. Yes, with a fork.

            During and up the early 1800’s cooking was an art that took a lifetime to learn and all day to prepare. One of the things that made cooking so hard was there were NO measuring cups or measuring spoons! Could you imagine getting a recipe and have to guess the size of the cup or that everyone’s teaspoons were a different sizes as well as their cups! It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century when the Cooking School of Boston and Fanny Farmer wrote out recipes the included even measurements. This was the first time in American cooking that graduated measuring cups and spoons were used to make using a recipe the same for anyone who could get the equipment. Remember too she was cooking with wood and coal. 

            Ok, back to our recipe and cooking in the twenty first century. Can you tell me what’s happening? “Yes, yes (eye roll) your cooking very funny”. What’s happening in the bowl? The water is being absorbed by the flour and there is also a leavening agent in there to make the pancakes light and fluffy called baking powder. That’s why those little bubbles are forming. It is actually double acting baking powder. That means it bubbles once because of the chemical reaction with the acid of buttermilk or cream of tartar and the base of baking soda. Then the second reaction occurs when you add heat or pour the batter onto the pan. “POOF” – it forms even more bubbles and rises on the grill.

            {Trivia note} Cream of tartar has been around for centuries as it is formed naturally on wine casks and wine corks.   Cream of tartar also known as Potassium bitartrate, also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, with formula KC4H5O6, is a byproduct of winemaking.  

            WAIT. Let the batter sit on the grill and as much as you want to touch it…..watch it, now as the edges just begin to harden and see bubbles in the center- Flip it. “YES! with a Spatula or as we called it in my house growing up a Pan Cake Turner! It should be anywhere from golden brown to deep a rich brown. See, remember this is where the paying attention part comes in. I hope you have not had too many Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s yet. 

            So, how do they look? Too fat you say? You can add a few tablespoon more water and thin out the batter or are they too thin? Add more mix…..SLOWLY! Cooking is half science and half well a crap shoot!!

You just cooked you first meal! BREAKFAST IS SERVED!!! Don’t forget the butter, the maple syrup and your mimosa (Or my wife’s preferred Bellini).

            Next we can get fancy and add eggs, sausage, bacon and fresh squeezed OJ. Nah I’ll just stick with the Mimosa. You can also try the pancakes from scratch recipe or many variations and practice your new cooking skills.

            How about waffles next! It is basically the same concept but now you need a specialized piece of equipment called a waffle iron. NO, it won’t work on your clothes.  It’s not likely you cant make these on your next camping trip either.  This process is just a little bit more messier and harder to clean up so of course I don’t make them often, mainly I keep waffles for snow days or really lazy Sundays.   For this you need to buy the ORIGNAL pancake mix and mix up the waffle version is on the back or try using my favorite, Bisquick.

2 cups Bisquick

1 1/3 c milk

1 tablespoon oil

1 egg

Now your cooking! Why is there no baking soda or baking powder? Because its in the Bisquick already!

            Preheat the waffle Iron. Mix together the batter. Grease the waffle iron with vegetable oil or shorting. I use the spray stuff.

This is just the beginning, The more you learn about leavening agents, flour and water, sugar and fat and hot they interact. What happens when you apply heat. What effects yeast have on dough you become more and more a BAKER! Whoa slow down we are not ready yet for homemade bread but it’s coming along with pizza dough, cakes, pies, rolls pastries and COOKIES!

We have to learn to walk before we can run…..right now at least where moving….crawling but on our way. Pancakes, file it under your first real recipe.

Keep cooking pancakes until our next lesson… Will it be breakfast, then dessert or lunch? Maybe Mimosas… hmmm.

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