Whenever I’m home and mum says she’s making pancakes for breakfast, I dedicate the hour or two afterwards to a food coma.
There’s just something about pancakes. Their soft fluffieness and alluring sweet taste. Not to mention the topping choices. Lemon and sugar, bacon, bananna and maple syrup, yoghurt and berries. So much delicious!
Nothing beats a big fat fluffy pancake. But it isn’t always easy to get them so fluffy. It takes a fair amount of skill, and a little science.
Pancakes aren’t too high maintenance, the only ingredient you might not have at home already is buttermilk. This ingredient is essential though and one of the most important when it comes to making a delightfully light pancake.
So how do we get the fluffy?
The lovely lightness of your pancake is all thanks to three ingredients; buttermilk, baking soda and baking powder.
Why buttermilk and not standard cow milk you ask? It’s all down to the acid. You know how buttermilk is sour and tart tasting? That’s because it’s acidic, whereas normal milk is neutral. This is a super important difference when it comes to the baking soda.
Baking soda is super basic (that means it is the opposite of acidic buttermilk). When a base reacts with an acid, it results in a chemical reaction which produces salt, water and carbon dioxide. As you mix your buttermilk and baking soda this reaction causes little carbon dioxide bubbles to form in your batter.
You want to make the most of these bubbles too, because they won’t last forever. So make sure your pan is hot and buttered before you mix your wet ingredients with your dry ones.
So how do pancakes with regular milk rise you ask?
They use baking powder! Baking powder is just baking soda with a powdered acid added. The acid reacts with the basic baking soda when water is added, which releases the same carbon dioxide bubbles. These days baking powders are pretty fancy, and actually release a second round of bubbles when the mixture is heated, but if you want to take advantage of both rounds of bubbles (for maximum fluffy) you need to cook the batter as soon as you’ve combined the wet and dry ingredients too.
So if baking powder does the same thing as baking soda, but with less effort, why bother with the soda?
It’s all about the browning.
Have you ever wondered how pancake chefs achieve that glorious golden brown colour, when your pancakes are always a pasty off white? Their recipes are taking advantage of the Maillard Reaction. This is when your pancake batter starts to cook and the amino acids from the protiens bond with the carbon and oxygen in your sugar. The result is a delicious combination of lots of delightful smelling flavour molecules. The Maillard reaction is the genius behind the deliciously bold and aromatic flavours in coffee, malt whiskey, maple syrup and baked bread.
Sounds fantastic right? And it’s super easy to get it to happen in your pancake too.
This is where the baking soda comes in. The Maillard Reaction happens in basic conditions, and baking soda is a base remember? So once you’ve added enough baking soda to neutralize your buttermilk’s acidity, the rest will make your pancakes lovely and brown. Like a friendly bear.
And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for, the recipe!
This is (in my humble opinion) the most intelligently engineered fluffy pancake recipe. It is delightfully fluffy and oh so brown. Mmm.
So Fluffy I’m Going to Die Pancakes
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 medium eggs
- 50g melted butter
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
Combine all the wet ingredients in one bowl, and all the dry ingredients in another.
Heat up your pan until it makes water sizzle when it touches it.
Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix until just combined. The mixture should be thick and lumpy, don’t overmix it!
Melt a small lump of batter in your pan and start cooking your pancakes. They’re ready to be flipped when you can see lots of bubbles have risen to the surface.
Top with whatever you like and enjoy!
Yoghurt and berries is one of my favourite pancake toppings.
Although some prefer a manlier option!