Q. This is the first time I have ever e-mailed or written in with a question, and I apologize if it sounds silly. My question is: How do you make fluffy pancakes? It may sound ridiculous, but my mother-in-law makes pancakes that are light and fluffy. When I make them, they come out like rubber plates. Can you help?

- Jennie R.

A. There aren't any silly or ridiculous cooking questions, just ridiculously silly chefs trying to answer them. I wasn't sure, but I'm guessing that you are talking about breakfast pancakes and not potato pancakes. If I'm wrong, you can write me back and tell me how ridiculous I really am.

Believe it or not, the common pancake has a very interesting past. Pancakes in some form are thought to have been eaten by ancient people in different parts of the world. But the pancake we think of today was supposedly invented in medieval Europe.

Pancakes earned their own day (Shrove Tuesday) in the Lenten tradition. Christians traditionally feasted the day before the start of Lent - Ash Wednesday - and so Tuesday was the last opportunity to use up eggs and fat before the start of Lenten fasting. Many customs were inspired by this day, and one of the most famous is the Olney Pancake Race, first held in 1445. Participants toss pancakes at the start of the race, then sprint 415 yards, frying pan in hand, and toss them again at the finish.

Now let's get to making sure your pancakes are winners whether or not they are part of any race. Although there are plenty of pancake recipes without a leavening agent (maybe that is the type you are currently using), you really need to use something that will cause rising in order to get a light and airy product. The most common leavening ingredients for pancakes are baking powder and/or baking soda.

The other way you can achieve fluffiness is to whip the eggs or egg whites to get a kind of soufflé effect. If you want even lighter pancakes than those produced by the recipes I'm sharing, whip the eggs before adding them to the batter. It's more work, but it can't hurt. I hope you enjoy the pancakes and that you become the reigning pancake queen in your family. You could even challenge your mother-in-law to a race.

Chef Jim Coleman, corporate chef at Normandy Farm and Blue Bell Country Club, is the author of three cookbooks and is the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows – "A Chef's Table" on WHYY (91-FM) at noon Saturdays and "Flavors of America," on Channel 12 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and CN8 Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m.

SILLY FLUFFY PANCAKES

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup pastry or cake flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of kosher salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

3 tablespoons light olive oil

In a large bowl stir together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl mix together the eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; it's OK if the batter is slightly lumpy.

Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or non-stick heavy skillet, spreading batter if necessary. Cook over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden brown, turning to the other side when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and edges are slightly dry. Serve warm. If desired, top with syrup. Makes 12 standard-size pancakes.

BEST EVER MOTHER-IN-LAW PANCAKES

1/2 cup pastry or cake flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup of plain yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup of water

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons light olive oil

Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a food processor. Process briefly to mix. Add the yogurt and water, eggs and oil. Pulse the machine on and off 3 or 4 times to make a smooth batter. If making by hand: Put the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Stir to mix well. Measure the yogurt and water in a 4-cup glass measure. Add the eggs and oil to the measuring cup. Beat with a wire whisk to blend. Add to the flour mixture and stir to form a smooth batter.

For pancakes: Heat the griddle or non-stick pan over medium high heat until it feels hot when you hold your hand directly above it. Lightly grease with oil or non-stick spray. For each pancake, pour 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle. Cook 2-4 minutes, until bubbles appear on the surface and the undersides are golden brown. Adjust the heat if the pancakes are browning too fast. Turn the pancakes over and cook 1-2 minutes longer to brown the second side.

Makes 8 4-inch pancakes.