pancakes

If this mom can make a pancake giraffe, anybody can

Nov. 29, 2011 at 10:02 AM ET

Photo courtesy of Laura T. Coffey /
Handy tip from the book "OMG Pancakes": Kids love to help stir food coloring into pancake batter.

I don’t cook. It scares me. I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I think it’s a hazard of being married to a man who seriously likes to cook. The guy is always in the kitchen “deglazing” things and “reducing” things and finding uses for baffling ingredients like pomegranates and crème fraîche.

Me? I know how to boil water. I also can make coffee and chill beer. Beyond that basic skill set, though, I’m lost. As a consequence, our 3-year-old Tyler eats LOTS of raw fruits and vegetables. He also eats plenty of grainy bread (plain), cheese (not in a grilled-cheese sandwich or anything, just ... cheese), and oatmeal. (Oh yeah! I also can nuke oatmeal!) He eats plenty of actual meals, too – prepared by Dad.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when an idea hatched to have me, of all people, attempt to make a magical pancake animal from the new cookbook “OMG Pancakes! 75 Cool Creations Your Kids Will Love to Eat.” Specifically, I was charged with making a 3D pancake giraffe.

TODAY Bites: Bored with breakfast? Play with your pancakes

I pointed out that I had never, ever made a pancake before. Not even the regular, two-dimensional, blob-shaped kind.

But this “OMG Pancakes” book filled me with that familiar, primal urge: I really want to cook for my kid! Not just feed him – cook for him. When he’s all grown up, I don’t want him to say, “Ahhhh, just like Mom used to buy.” I want him to say, “Ahhhh, just like Mom used to make!”

I could tell right away that I liked cookbook author Jim Belosic, a bona-fide Leonardo da Vinci of hotcakes. He opens by reminiscing about his Dad, who managed to mess up pancakes the two times he made breakfast during the author’s childhood. Still, Belosic thought his Dad was the “coolest guy ever” for trying. (This detail gave me courage.)

Belosic started out making pancake animals for the amusement of his 3-year-old daughter, Allie. Allie loved them – and she didn’t care how the animals turned out.

“The first time I tried a 3D pancake, it fell over and made a big mess,” Belosic told TODAY.com. “We laughed and ate it, then tried to make another one. ...

Photo courtesy of Laura T. Coffey /
Ooops. Writer Laura T. Coffey loses a giraffe tail in the heat of battle.

“The great part is to have your kid present when trying, and when you fail they get a good kick out of it. ... When kids are involved, you’re working on solving a problem together.”

It’s difficult to describe how nervous I was when the time came to attempt my pancake giraffe. I carefully followed the instructions in the book – which are quite easy to follow, even for a novice. The instructions point out ideal moments for getting young children involved, such as when it’s time to add food coloring to the batter. At one point Tyler said, “We make a great team, Mommy.” (Awesome!!)

Oh yes, I had a few disasters. My first attempt at the giraffe’s head burned to such a crisp that I worried it would go up in flames. I also destroyed my first two attempts at the giraffe’s body, largely because of sloppy flipping techniques. One of the giraffe bodies came SO CLOSE to making the grade – but then I accidentally amputated the tail.

Photo courtesy of Laura T. Coffey /
Laura's improvised two-dimensional giraffe pancake is pictured alongside the glorious 3D version on the cover of Jim Belosic's "OMG Pancakes" book.

Finally, I had all the sections of the giraffe’s body built: head; torso with tail, and two sets of legs. Now for the moment of truth: Would this giraffe stand tall and proud when I fit the sections together like puzzle pieces?

Ummmm, no. Each giraffe section was too floppy to stand, despite my best efforts (and Tyler’s excited anticipation).

Not the end of the world, though! Fortunately for me, the book contained instructions for a two-dimensional giraffe for just this contingency. So, I improvised: Tyler got a pancake that resembled a giraffe resting on a plate because the giraffe was tired.

Photo by Laura T. Coffey /
Satisfied customer: Tyler gobbles up his giraffe pancake with gusto.

It not only worked – it was a hit. Tyler gobbled up the pancake, and I felt a surge of relief combined with the realization that if I could kind of/sort of make a pancake giraffe, anybody out there could kind of/sort of make a pancake giraffe. If you’re reading this and you think it might entertain your kid, it’s worth a shot – and it didn’t even take too much time.

I’m now so motivated that I’m already plotting my next breakfast masterpiece: A GREEN AND BROWN PANCAKE DINOSAUR. Even if it doesn’t look perfect, I’m fairly certain that it will blow Tyler’s mind.

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