Will fresh cranberries play well with pancake batter? Preliminary findings.

Jan 26 2013 Published by under Blogospheric science, Food

As I was trying to get motivated to crawl out of bed and make breakfast for my family, I tweeted:

Of course, I got a variety of opinions in response:

As you might expect, I set some limits on how far I was prepared to go with this:

But, in the interests of science, I committed to sharing what I learned:

So, as promised, here's the report.

I started with my standard pancake batter.

Beat together:

2 cups buttermilk (or you can use 4 teaspoons of lemon juice and/or vinegar to sour 2 cups of milk, or 2 cups of plain soymilk)
4 eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Sift together:

2 cups flour (I use "white whole wheat" flour)
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
0.75 teaspoon salt

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well incorporated, but don't over-beat. (It's OK if the batter is a little lumpy.) Add a bit of milk or water to thin it if it's thicker than you like to spread the way a pancake batter should on the griddle.

While the griddle is heating up, melt 4 tablespoons of butter (half a stick). Cool it slightly, then pour into the batter and stir to incorporate it.

Now, the usual procedure for pancakes at Casa Free-Ride is that half of the batter is made into plain pancakes and the other half gets blueberries added to the pancakes when they're on the griddle.

We've been using Trader Joe's frozen organic wild blueberries. They are teeny tiny little things. I pour a bunch into a custard cup, thaw them with tap water, then pour the water off.

The very best tool for getting them from the custard cup to the proto-pancake without too much residual water/juice being slopped along is a bar-spoon.


The little holes at the end of the bar-spoon get the draining done.

I decided to try three distinct approaches to the fresh cranberries.

Option 1: Halved

Obviously, this was the easiest preparation. I just rinsed some cranberries, cut them in half, and then added them to the proto-pancakes on the griddle before they were flipped in the same way I typically add blueberries.


The predictions here were that maybe the cooking time would be insufficient, leaving the cranberries too raw and tart, or that they would make the pancakes too soggy on account of juice coming out of the cranberries as they cooked.


However, it's worth noting that the raw cranberries are notably not juicy. They're actually pretty dry. And, on the griddle, the halved cranberries didn't have any observable effect on the texture of the cooking pancakes.

Option 2: Chopped and sugared

Here, I rinsed some fresh cranberries, chopped them coarsely, and stirred in a bit of granulated sugar. Then I used a wee little spoon to distribute the cranberry fragments to the proto-pancakes on the griddle before they were flipped.


There was some suggestion that chopped and sugared cranberries might lead to better results because the smaller fragments would have a better chance of cooking sufficiently by the time the pancakes were done cooking, and the extra sugar would balance any residual tartness from the cranberries not having all that long to cook.

However, I observed that the pancakes with the chopped and sugared cranberries did become a bit soggier on the griddle. That extra sugar was drawing the juice out of the cranberries!


Raising the flame under the griddle seemed to take care of this problem, though.

Option 3: Sauced

Finally, I rinsed a bunch of fresh cranberries, halved them, and put them in a tea cup. I squeezed in the juice of a small navel orange, added a few tablespoons of granulated sugar, and popped it in the microwave.

I had planned to microwave it for a couple minutes, but it just about boiled over before a full minute of cooking. It looked and tasted like a cranberry sauce.


It was thick. If you want a pourable sauce, probably adding some water or additional orange juice would thin it nicely.

So, how did they taste?


I liked option 1 the best, and not just because it was the easiest. The pancakes had a nice tart kick to them and the same pleasing pancake texture that our plain and blueberry pancakes have.


My better half preferred option 2. The ones cooked on high enough heat had a good pancake texture (although the ones cooked at lower griddle temperature were just a little soggier than optimal). The cranberry flavor was very prominent in these pancakes, but the tartness of the cranberries was toned down by the sweetness of the sugar.


The sprogs were big fans of option 3. For very little labor, it's a good fruity sauce that plays well with plain pancakes (as well as with pancakes that have blueberries or cranberries cooked into them). For my own tastes, it was just a little too sweet; I might back off on the granulated sugar. The sprigs, on the other hand, might have included just a bit more sugar in the preparation. This is the kind of thing you have to fight out with your fellow breakfast eaters, I guess.


5 responses so far

  • DJMH says:

    I have cranberries and tomorrow is Sunday, aka pancake day! I heart you, Dr F-R.

    And I am pretty sure that as the sour lover in my family, I will also prefer option 1.

  • Lost academic says:

    I've been adding fresh fruit to pancakes all my life. Whoever thought they would be soggy was talking out his ass. Fresh bananas, blueberries, anything.

    • Janet D. Stemwedel says:

      To be fair, I suspect that stirring cranberries into the batter before pouring the pancakes onto the griddle (rather than adding the fruit to the proto-pancakes as one side of them was already cooking) might have resulted in sogginess. I'd investigate that hypothesis, but we're out of buttermilk after this morning's experiment!

  • FUy says:

    Science: it works.