The Flavored Water Hack To Take Your Boxed Pancakes To The Next Level

It's easy enough to make classic pancakes from scratch, but when an immediate craving for a short-stack calls, no one will dock you for using the boxed stuff. If you go that route, you'll have some extra time on your hands that would otherwise be spent measuring out your dry ingredients. For such a low-effort affair, it's worth it to make a few easy adjustments to the package instructions to make your boxed pancakes taste not-so-boxed. One of them is swapping plain water or milk for flavored water.

It's an easy way to add a subtle hint of flavor that's not as strong as vanilla extract. You can also get creative by pairing flavored water with garnishes. In turn, you might trick your dining guests into thinking you labored over breakfast. 

For instance, lemon-flavored water would pair nicely with a little powdered sugar and lemon zest, while apple-flavored water begs for thinly sliced apples fanned out in an Instagram-worthy arrangement. If your water tastes like blackberries, toss in a handful of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for some mixed-berry flapjacks. The world is your oyster pancake.

Bonus: bubbles

When choosing flavored water for your next batch of pancakes, don't be discouraged if you can only find the fizzy variety. In fact, you should seek it out. The air bubbles in seltzer water are a shortcut to super-fluffy pancakes that every breakfast connoisseur should have in their back pocket. 

If you've made Japanese-style tempura before, you might already be aware of the benefits of cooking with seltzer water. Though it's not traditional, some tempura recipes call for seltzer in the batter to bring lightness. The same effect applies to pancakes (not to mention matzo balls, waffles, and other foods that typically use plain water in their batter). 

According to the carbonated water experts of Reddit, the key to getting the most out of seltzer-spiked pancake batter is to stir it gently and get it on the griddle before the bubbles die out. "It should result in a fluffier product because of the added gas, as well as a more tender product because of the acid," explained one user. Sure enough, the carbon dioxide decreases the batter's pH.

A multipurpose batter

If you went a little overboard on your pancake batter and don't know what to do with the leftovers, you have several delicious options in front of you. One clever and resourceful recipe with a big payoff is a quick (and, yes, nontraditional) clafoutis. The flan-like French dessert is essentially a big pancake with a custardy texture in the center. It's often made with cherries, but Julia Child's recipe calls for blackberries or blueberries, and it also happens to be fantastic with apples. In other words, use whatever fruit you have on hand. 

To achieve the right consistency, you'll want to add eggs and milk to your original pancake batter, plus a dash of cognac if you have it. Mastering the right ratio might take some experimenting, but it's a great low-stakes project for budding and seasoned bakers alike. Plus, the seltzer in the batter (flavored or not) should give the clafoutis a little extra fluff.