20080627-mixedbox.jpgWhen it comes to pancakes, I've always scoffed at boxed mixes such as Aunt Jemima and Bisquick. With a basic formula of flour, sugar, baking powder, milk, and eggs, why not just make them from scratch on your own? And don't even get me started on artificially-flavored maple syrup—I'm from New England, where that stuff is practically illegal.

But recently, in my quest to find mixes with a bit of magic—ones that taste like the real thing, cut down on kitchen time, and are inexpensive—I came across Stonewall Kitchen Blueberry Pancake and Waffle Mix ($10). The Stonewall Kitchen company is based Maine, a.k.a. land of blueberries. If ever there was a pancake mix out there with all the flavor of homemade, I figured this would be it.

The label on the side of the canister listed enriched flour, blueberries, and yellow corn flour as the first three ingredients. I found this encouraging, as it seemed healthful and all-natural. To make the pancakes, all I needed to add was an egg, 3/4 cup of milk, and a tablespoon of melted butter.

Getting to Work

Mug of coffee in hand, I set to work on Sunday morning. The first thing I noticed when I dumped the mix into a bowl was how small the blueberries were. They looked like dried up, little blue peppercorns. Hmm. Maybe they would plump up when I poured in the milk? No such luck. Even after letting the mix marinate for a few minutes, the blueberries remained like tiny pebbles, floating in a sea of starchy goo.

No matter. Surely they would be delicious when cooked up inside a fluffy, buttery pancake. I scooped two ladles onto a hot griddle, where they immediately began to spread out, bleeding toward the edges of the pan in awkward, irregular shapes. Where were the perfectly round, pillowy pancakes I had been expecting?

Batch after batch, the same thing happened. My pancakes were flat as tortillas, and refused to hold a circular shape. When I ran out of batter, I sat down with a stack drowned in (pure) maple syrup. They tasted alright, but they were more like crepes than pancakes. I thought they would have been better folded around some jam. As for the blueberries? Their flavor was almost nonexistent. While the dried fruit did offer a little sweetness, I found myself longing for the big, juicy burst only fresh berries—dropped into each homemade pancake individually as it cooks—can provide.

About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.

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