"No eggs, no buttermilk, no baking powder. How simple is that?"
If you missed Sarah Karnasiewicz's excellent piece in Salon last month on preserving, it's worth going back to read. Like Sarah, I was also bitten by the jamming bug this season. But while Sarah made a transcendent batch of Kentucky bourbon strawberry jam, I was less successful.
My strawberry-port jam was more like strawberry-port soup. It tasted intensely fruity and compellingly sweet, but there was no way it would ever adhere to a piece of toast—not even one that had already been slicked with sticky peanut butter.
There was only one thing to do: when life gives you six jars of runny jam, you make lots of pancakes.
Since I had already spent two long, sweaty hours in the kitchen laboring over my failed jam, I wanted something quick, straightforward, and uncomplicated. The easiest pancake mix on the market right now is Bisquick's Shake 'n Pour ($1.99). All you need to do is add 2/3 cup of water to the carton, shake vigorously, and then pour the batter into a hot skillet. No eggs, no buttermilk, no baking powder. How simple is that?
I preheated my trusty nonstick pan and added the water to the Bisquick mix. After 30 seconds of vigorous shaking, the instructions suggested whacking the bottle on a tabletop to loosen the stubborn bits of dry mix at the bottom. I tried this method, but through the bright yellow plastic I could still see pockets of unincorporated mix. I banged it around a few more times, then gave up and mixed the batter with a fork until it was smooth.
I poured three puddles into the skillet. The batter was quite thin and it began to bubble at the center almost immediately. (As I child, I remember my mother reminding me to be patient and wait—it seemed like forever—before flipping the cooking pancakes.) These Bisquick pancakes cooked in less than one minute per side.
I made six large pancakes, piling them high on a plate as I went. Then I topped them with a big pat of butter and poured about half a jar of my jam-syrup on top. Yum. It looked like a pretty good breakfast. The pancakes weren't quite as fluffy and thick as homemade versions, but they were pleasingly golden and smelled sweetly of warm dough.
The tasted pretty good, too. I was worried the flavor would be overwhelmingly artificial, but they were surprisingly light and fresh. If I hadn't made them myself, I never would have known they were prepared with water in place of milk.
Texture-wise, the pancakes were consistent and springy. I was, however, a little disappointed by how thin they were. I like my pancakes thick as couch cushions, the better to absorb all that butter and syrup. In the end, I would say the Bisquick Shake 'n Pour Mix is good enough to eat in a pinch, or alongside scrambled eggs and bacon, but I wouldn't prepare them for a leisurely Sunday brunch or as a stand-alone breakfast dish.