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The pancake topic to end all pancake topics


bentherebfor
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My mom was a really poor cook but she always made fairly good pancakes. All we ever had for breakfast was cold cereal or pancakes (as I recall).

A few years ago I was having breakfast with Mom and Dad and was amazed by her pancakes: flour, baking powder, salt, egg, and milk. No fat at all and they weren't bad, not as good as my buttermilk pancakes but not bad at all.

PamR's recipe looks to be a good one, too.

K8 Memphis, I recommend you get either an electric teflon coated griddle or a cast iron griddle and season it well. I have both. You won't need to butter or grease the pan and the cakes will be much easier to flip accurately.

Edited by BarbaraY (log)
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I find it very difficult to flip the pancake. Well no not really the flipping it's the accurate landing of it that's so hard.

I have this problem when I've been too enthusiastic about greasing the pan or griddle. The pancakes get slippery, and fall off the turner before I want them to. Whatever they lose from the crash damage gets made up for by the extra butter flavor.

A griddle is a beautiful thing. I used to use a big pan; now I use a griddle inherited from my grandmother. It's a commercial thing, bare aluminum, about 1/8" thick (pretty heavy). It fits over 2 burners and handles 6 pancakes at a time, without a lot of crowding. You don't have to be a genius with accurate flips to avoid collisions.

Notes from the underbelly

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Has anyone tried anyone else's pancakes in this thread? I love/hate threads like this, because I copy out all of the recipes to try. And I think I did it with the last pancake thread, too, so I've got a lot of pancake recipes to work my way through.

Momma was a Bisquick person, and she used that very Tupperware pitcher to mix hers in. Always served with bacon, always served for supper, and I loved them.

I might like a Bisquick pancake now, but I think the Joy of Cooking buttermilk pancake recipe is the closest to that particultar taste as I remember it, so why buy Bisquick? Momma herself now swears by something in a yellow square plastic container that pours right out.

I'm also surprised at the dogged loyalty amongst pancake eaters. I myself regularly rotate at least three different pancakes:

The one I had on New Year's that was found in the New York Times about twenty years ago and contains a stick of butter. Yes, an entire stick. These are good.

Another one found in the Times about that long ago, corn cakes made with corn meal and containing kernels of corn. Especially good when there is fresh corn to make them with.

One that starts with oatmeal soaked overnight and is more rugged, but has such a sweet nutty taste that people go wild for them.

I've made buckwheat pancakes while camping that I remember fondly, and I think it's a mix from one of those Bob's Red Mill type packages. Easy enough to make at a campsite.

For our British friend, might I inform you that pancakes are an American invention primarily designed to assist the consumption of maple syrup. For some of us, the more maple syrup, the lower the grade (grade B), the better.

If one clicks around on that pancake in a can site, one finds a shocking recipe for a cream cheese sauce to be put on the pancakes. I might try this. Little has been said about sauces. I like maple syrup too much to play around.

I find that buttermilk is an absolute necessity for pancakes. I collect buttermilk recipes and love the taste of buttermilk but there's no recipe quite as good as a pancake. That being said, share with me your buttermilk recipes.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Like Jim Dixon, the base recipe in our house is one from Joy of Cooking, which we vary a bit. I've taken to doing the dry ingredients on the scale, hence the weights, and I double the recipe because I've almost always got an extra kid or two around when I'm making them. Finally, like Jim, these include cornmeal; if it were up to me, we'd just have johnnycakes, but this is as close as I can get without family mutiny. Just made them, in fact, for a post-sleepover breakfast.

Blend the dry:

2 c (250 g) AP flour

1 c (75 g) cornmeal (Kenyon's or Bob's Red Mill -- fine if the latter)

3 T (55 g) sugar

1 T (10 g) baking powder

2 t kosher salt, crushed between your fingers

Blend the wet:

4 lg egg yolks

3 c buttermilk

1 t vanilla

6 T melted butter

Whip:

4 lg egg whites to soft peaks

Blend the dry and wet, leaving lumps. Fold in the egg whites, leaving pea-sized white spots. Let it sit while you get the bacon in the oven and heat the pans (see below). 1/2 T butter melted in each skillet, then 1/8 c for each pancake.

A few other observations on method.

Separating the eggs isn't worth it for most folks who don't have a KitchenAid stand mixer out on the counter all the time, but I find that the minute it takes to separate the eggs and a couple of extra items in the dishwasher is definitely worth it. That's particularly true with the cornmeal, which retards fluffy pancake growth.

Steven's right about letting the dough rest.

I used to have the "first batch always sucks" problem until I realized that letting the skillets (I always have two) heat over low heat for a while eliminates the problem. Lacking an infrared thermometer, I use the dancing water method, but the key is to drip water all over the surface. Chances are pretty good that the skillet isn't evenly heated on sucky first batches.

Speaking of evenly heated skillets, I always use an old model Calphalon 12" nonstick round griddle (sort of like this) for the kids and a similarly sized Sitram Catering fry pan for the adults. As a result, I regularly test the exact same batter on two different surfaces, and the copper-disk stainless wins hands down in every way. Most notably, I cannot get rid of cool spots on that Calphalon no matter how hard I try, so I must turn many of the pancakes 180 degrees for even cooking before I flip.

I find that a well-browned exterior is critical, which means a pretty hot stainless pan, sugar in the batter, and butter, not oil in the pan. As you can tell from the recipe, I like a somewhat custardy interior, which benefits from the crispy exterior and speedier cooking time higher heat provides.

Moreso than nearly anything else I prepare regularly for family eating, pancakes have to be eaten immediately to be decent -- though I freeze leftovers for the toaster bc the kids don't seem to feel the same way. Thus, no holding oven for me: I carry out the skillet and serve 'em onto plates as they're done, and enjoy mine at stove-side.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm glad you brought up the holding issue, Chris. I have a different view. For the longest time, I was fanatical about getting pancakes to the table and forcing people to eat them at their moment of readiness. They were my breakfast equivalent of risotto in that regard. But over time I've come to prefer pancakes that have rested in a 200-degree oven for about 15 minutes -- in a single layer, that's important -- before being served. Yesterday I made a ton of pancakes -- like 50 of them -- and tried to define for myself why I now have this preference, which I know runs contrary to orthodox pancake theory. And I think the issue is that it's a little bit like bread cooling: the pancake has time to set somewhat, it gives up a little moisture and the texture evens out. There are lots of things that intuition says will be best if eaten right away but that turn out to taste better after some resting: fried chicken, most baked goods, etc. I don't know. If nothing else, the preference has been liberating, because I can now sit at the table and eat with everybody else.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Pre-heating: this is another issue I gave considerable thought and observation to yesterday. I also lack an infrared thermometer, though I plan to remedy that situation at some point. But I agree with Chris. Here's the thing: there's nothing about the nature of the universe that says the first pancake has to suck. But there's something about the way people have been trained to cook that prevents them from preheating the skillet sufficiently. You need to preheat your skillet for like three times as long as most people are willing to. It's scary. It's agonizing. It's unsettling. But you just have to leave it there on the heat for a really, really, really long time. Not to where water just dances a little. It has to dance like you're in a saloon in the Wild West and some outlaw is shooting two revolvers into the floor near your feet and yelling "Dance!" Eventually, it gets there.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've experimented with many recipes, but this one, from Cook's Illustrated, never fails me.

1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

2 cups milk

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tbsp sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 large egg

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1-2 tsp vegetable oil

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, preferably wild, rinsed and dried

1. whisk lemon juice and milk and set aside to thicken

2. whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to combine (I also sifted the flour with baking soda and powder twice before mixing with the rest of the ingredients)

3. whisk egg and melted butter into milk until combined. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in milk mixture. Whisk very gently until just cocmbined. Do NOT overmix

4. heat nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 1 tsp oil and brush to coat skillet bottom evenly. Pour ¼ cup batter on skillet, sprinkle 1 tbsp blueberries over batter. Cook until large bubbles begin to appear, flip and cook until golden brown on second side.

5. Serve immediately with maple syrup.

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There is a restaurant a few hours southeast of where I live (in the closest fairly big city to here) that serves pancakes that I really like. It's a Finnish restaurant and the pancakes look like thin (but not as thin as crepes) standard pancakes but the texture is entirely different than a standard pancake and different than a crepe as well. They're not the least bit cakey or fluffy but they're still tender and not rubbery or eggy. The folks at the restaurant won't budge at all on the recipe, not even hints or general ideas. I've searched Finnish Pancakes and found quite a few recipes but they don't seem to measure up to what the restaurant makes. Anybody know anything about these pancakes they'd be willing to share?

Would these be like Swedish Pancakes? Love those. Often served with Lingonberries.

I have a recipe for Sourdough Pancakes that I used to love - sadly, my Starter is now kaput. I got it from the La Brea bread cookbook (or something like that).

2 cups Sourdough Starter

1 T maple syrup

3 T oil

2 large eggs

1/2 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

The only directions I bothered to write down are "mix ingrediants together; make pancakes". Anyway, makes fabulous, fluffy pancakes (approx fourteen 4-5 inch pancakes).

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I have had very good feedback on these lemon ricotta pancakes.  I forget where I got the recipe:

1 cup high quality ricotta (or drained overnight if Polly-O is the best you can do)

1 cup sour cream

3 eggs, separated

0.5 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup AP flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Pinch salt

Butter

Beat together ricotta, sour cream and egg yolks.  Beat egg whites medium-stiff. Stir dry ingredients into cheese mixture well (do not beat). Stir in lemon juice and zest, then fold in beaten egg whites very gently.  3-5 minutes per side in butter.  Makes a very light, moist and tender pancake.

I serve with a warm fruit compote.

That would be a Bittman recipe from the NY Times, last December. I made it last Christmas to memorable effect.

Christopher

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there's nothing about the nature of the universe that says the first pancake has to suck. But there's something about the way people have been trained to cook that prevents them from preheating the skillet sufficiently. You need to preheat your skillet for like three times as long as most people are willing to. It's scary. It's agonizing. It's unsettling...

Agreed. Except for the agonizing part, because I find that the batter needs time to rest too ... maybe because the baking powder needs time to activate; I don't know. So it's simple to kill both chunks of time concurrently. Finish mixing the batter, turn up the fire, and wait five minutes. There are plenty of things I can clean up in that time.

I might also be waiting for the oven to warm up (with a couple of plates inside) for those same minutes.

Notes from the underbelly

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there's nothing about the nature of the universe that says the first pancake has to suck. But there's something about the way people have been trained to cook that prevents them from preheating the skillet sufficiently. You need to preheat your skillet for like three times as long as most people are willing to. It's scary. It's agonizing. It's unsettling...

Agreed. Except for the agonizing part, because I find that the batter needs time to rest too ... maybe because the baking powder needs time to activate; I don't know. So it's simple to kill both chunks of time concurrently. Finish mixing the batter, turn up the fire, and wait five minutes. There are plenty of things I can clean up in that time.

I might also be waiting for the oven to warm up (with a couple of plates inside) for those same minutes.

Well I can get my first one to look ok on one side but you can still pick it out of the bunch. Besides if I get the surface that hot, it's out of control too hot & I screw the second load. I mean it's like you gotta ante up to the pancake gods sooner or later.

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it seems to me the long preheat isn't about getting the pan screamingly hot (in fact it's easy to get it too hot if the fire's too high) but about getting the temperature thoroughly even. Even a heavy copper or aluminum pan or griddle will take a several minutes for the edges to get as hot as they'll get relative to the middle. Less of an issue if you're using a small pan, but that would make me crazier than just waiting a few extra minutes in the beginning.

Notes from the underbelly

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it seems to me the long preheat isn't about getting the pan screamingly hot (in fact it's easy to get it too hot if the fire's too high) but about getting the temperature thoroughly even. Even a heavy copper or aluminum pan or griddle will take a several minutes for the edges to get as hot as they'll get relative to the middle. Less of an issue if you're using a small pan, but that would make me crazier than just waiting a few extra minutes in the beginning.

My first one goes dead center for that very reason. On my old griddle it was one dead center over each eye. Second batch was eight at a time. Even still they just don't look the same as the second & following ones, proper temp or not. Mine don't anyway. I mean I can hide it in the stack, my husband's stack of course. But a beginning pancake maker probably needs to feed the dog the first one.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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I think uneven heating is best thought of as a species of underheating. I think an unevenly heated pan is symptomatic of the pan not spending enough time on the heat. (Unless it a really crummy pan, in which case it's hopeless anyway.)

We're not talking about steak cookery here, where you turn the burner up to maximum and let the temperature of the pan climb and climb and climb. Rather, we're talking about long preheating over moderate heat. At some point your pan is going to reach equilibrium -- it's not going to get any hotter. If you've got your pan and burner figured out, that equilibrium will happen in the mid 300s.

The problem is that most people don't have a good idea of what a 350-degree pan is like. They start their pancakes in the 200s. But I'm guessing there's nothing about cooking that pancake that contributes to the next pancake being better. In other words, assuming it took 5 minutes to spoon, cook and remove the first bad pancake and add the second pancake, and then the second pancake comes out well, all you had to do was wait that extra 5 minutes and let the pan keep heating (less, maybe, because the first pancake removed some energy from the system) and your first pancake would have been as good as the second pancake. That's my hypothesis at least.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Over the years I've never been able to prove that seemingly reasonable hypothesis. For me it seems I need to offer up one sacrificial cake to properly season the surface. A small price to pay for great cakes to follow.

Because when you overheat enough to maintain temperature when the first cold cake batter hits, you've nuked your fat. No? Or the teflon starts smoking. <choke> It is a mini-pas de deux of the pan cooling and heating and cooling and heating pour moi. The batter cools, the pancakes bake, get flipped, are removed from the pan and if your heat is right the pan quickly overheats here if you don't douse it with the next batch of cool batter.

I mean once you hit the sweet spot you can't be diddling around. You gotta keep the batter flowing or the heat goes off kilter and you've overheated the pan and interupted the whole cosmic flow. Besides that's where the magic happens, where you can brown the devil out of each side and ramp up that crispy sweetness but still cook it through retaining all the fragrant steamy moisture inside. This is not a simple thing at all.

Ok, like if you make all silver dollar size pancakes, that might work, but not regular size. And silver dollar size are not user friendly. Far too much flipping.

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Steve, your hypothesis fits my experience exactly.

Which I hope doesn't mean I'll start itching for an infra red thermometer anytime soon.

There is one other complication: the ideal temperature depends on the nature of the batter. If you're always playing with different recipes, you'll end up with batters that loft to different heights, and sometimes only trial and error will find that perfect temperature.

Even when I'm not changing recipes, I find the batter changes from one batch to another. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I'm not weighing ingredients, or maybe it's humidity, or the gods expressing displeasure. But I find on the occasions when the first ones bomb, it has to do with funky batter and not any kind of karma with the pan.

Notes from the underbelly

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Steve, your hypothesis fits my experience exactly.

... At some point your pan is going to reach equilibrium -- it's not going to get any hotter. If you've got your pan and burner figured out, that equilibrium will happen in the mid 300s...

There's no equilibrium without pancake batter. The only way to get equilibrium is to put something in the pan. The pan will continue to climb in temperature if nothing is put in the pan unless you turn the fire down. That's why kitchens burn down when pans are left on the stove. The temperature climbs, does not level out without something to cook.

Y'know how you've seen water boil in a paper cup in science class.

A lit candle is burning wax not the wick. Without the wax the wick would go poof in a second.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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There's no equilibrium without pancake batter. The only way to get equilibrium is to put something in the pan.

Depending on the pans and stove you use, the batter can have a pretty negligible effect. (except on butter ... butter will burn without pancakes on the surface to cool it. I can imagine that with lighter pans or an amemic stove this would be an issue.

A pan won't just keep getting hotter ad infinitum. It always reaches a point of equilibrium, which is the temperature at which it's radiating heat (into the air, the room, the food) at the same rate that it's taking it on from the stove.

What's at issue is the difference in rate that batter absorbs heat from the pan vs. the air alone. It sounds like in your experience there's a big difference. In mine not so much. I can walk away from the pan (either a 5 lb copper pan or a 6 lb aluminum slab griddle) for five minutes and throw some more batter on it and not have any issues (except maybe some burned butter). For whatever reasons, the pan/stove combinations that I've used don't see that much difference between batter and no batter.

Notes from the underbelly

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Non clarified butter burns at about 250 which is too low to cook pancakes. Clarified butter burns at about 400 degrees which is pretty hot for pancakes. I mean if your butter is burning, the temp was too low to begin with or it's obviously too high at over 400 degrees. With a steady flame the surface heat increases on any empty pan. It will eventually warp it. If the temperature of the pan remained constant it would be cycling off and on like an electric skillet for example.

I could not walk away from my empty pre-heated cast iron griddle for five minutes and not have ill-cooked or burnt pancakes when I returned.

I don't use butter to cook pancakes.

The batter makes all the difference in controlling the heat and mastering the art of making pancakes over a non-cycling heat source.

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For me non-clarified butter works brilliantly for pancakes. It's all I ever use (except for the recipe I listed earlier that uses olive oil.

If used properly, the butter will brown (giving you nice beurre noisette flavors) but won't burn.

The trick is to use just a little butter, spread it quickly as it's melting, and add the batter immediately. At most I have to rebutter the pan or griddle once when making a single batch.

What seems to happen is this (based on pure speculation): the water evaporates off of the butter and the milk solids brown. They don't burn because the cold batter spontaneously cools the surface of the pan enough. The butterfat clings to the pan, leaving it greasy, while the browned milk solids get mostly carried away with the first pancakes. But just like with ghee, the browned butter flavor lingers in the fat in the pan.

I love it. Never crosses my mind to use flavorless oil.

By the way, when I mentioned walking away from the pan for five minutes, I was talking about preheating it. Not suggesting that anyone incinerate their breakfast.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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... I can walk away from the pan (either a 5 lb copper pan or a 6 lb aluminum slab griddle) for five minutes and throw some more batter on it and not have any issues (except maybe some burned butter)...

...If used properly, the butter will brown (giving you nice beurre noisette flavors) but won't burn.

The trick is to use just a little butter, spread it quickly as it's melting, and add the batter immediately. At most I have to rebutter the pan or griddle once when making a single batch.

What seems to happen is this (based on pure speculation): the water evaporates off of the butter and the milk solids brown. They don't burn because the cold batter spontaneously cools the surface of the pan enough. The butterfat clings to the pan, leaving it greasy, while the browned milk solids get mostly carried away with the first pancakes. But just like with ghee, the browned butter flavor lingers in the fat in the pan.

I love it. Never crosses my mind to use flavorless oil.

By the way, when I mentioned walking away from the pan for five minutes, I was talking about preheating it. Not suggesting that anyone incinerate their breakfast.

Well good. I'm glad the confusion was cleared up. You had mentioned adding more batter as in a second or third batch and I think I see what you mean and I agree with the explanation. So then are your first pancakes runts? It would seem so if your heat is under 300 degrees?

I was reading up on pancaking and though I haven't tried it, someone mentioned using beer as a substitute for the liquid. Which sounds like a very very good idea.

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So then are your first pancakes runts? It would seem so if your heat is under 300 degrees?

Nope. Just made a batch this morning, and was actually a little scared that I'd have all the problems mentioned in this thread, just by virtue of having read about them! But there was no appreciable difference between the first and last batch.

It might help that I'm using a commercial aluminum griddle that weighs six or seven lbs. (I get similar results with a big copper saute pan, or commercial weight aluminum fry pans. But the griddle's bigger. Also, I preheated for a solid 5 minutes. By the time I started pouring the batter, it was evenly heated edge to edge, but the butter, which had just gone in, had barely started browning.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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"One Bowl" Pancake Batter.

3    T butter

3    T Sugar

3/4 tsp salt

1    Egg

1 1/4 C Flour

2 1/2 tsp Baking powder

3/4 C Milk

1    tsp Vanilla extract.

Using the following sequence, the batter can be made in the same bowl.

In a glass bowl, microwave the butter until it just melts.

Add sugar and salt and stir. (This will cool the butter for the next step).

Add the egg and whisk vigorously.

Add all the flour.

Sprinkle the baking powder.

Add most of the milk and mix gently. Add more milk to correct the consistency.

Add vanilla and stir.

I prefer an electric skillet for making the cakes. I'm able to maintain constant temperature better.

Set the skillet temperature to 325*.

Wipe the skillet with a film of corn oil using paper towels.

Check skillet temperature with an Infra Red thermometer (only after you've applied the oil, IR thermometers do not read surface temperature of stainless correctly).

In my skillet I can cook three 5" cakes at a time. The first batch is never pretty. Consequent batches are perfect.

Your recipe went over really well with my daughter and her friends this morning. My husband even liked them and he always complains about pancakes. Still haven't mastered cooking them - I tend to overcook some and undercook some. I hate having anymore bulky kitchen gadgets than I possibly need and have resisted an electric skillet for years. Think I may have to finally break down and get one. :wacko:

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File under: Mothers of Invention

Out of milk today and in a hurry. Add sour cream thinned with water to Bisquick plus egg. Not bad, but I was winging it and have no useful proportions. I'll need to play with this and report back.

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