Ever enjoyed a delicious dish of pancakes and wondered why it’s as fluffy as it is?
The fluffiness of pancakes intrigues everyone, even professional chefs and scientists. In fact, the mathematicians and ophthalmologists from the University College London conducted a study about pancakes.
The thing is that there’s a lot of science involved in creating a soft and fluffy pancake. It’s a good thing we’re here to learn all about those reactions.
Let’s see what makes pancakes fluffy and what makes pancakes rise by dissecting the role of each ingredient. Read on to find out how you can make your pancakes fluffier.
What Makes Pancakes Fluffy?
The secret to fluffy pancakes is the creation of bubbles, plus their solidification. For this, we’re looking into two key ingredients: the leavening agent and the flour.
As you know, pancakes have two crucial major types of ingredients — dry and wet ingredients. The basic dry ingredients are the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. The basic wet ingredients are water and/or milk, butter, and eggs.
All these ingredients work together to create fluffy pancakes. The baking powder, a leavening agent, causes the formation of CO2. This gas, in turn, creates bubbles in the batter.
The gluten molecules in flour and elastic, giving baked goods their chewy texture. When these molecules combine, they create a tight network of proteins that trap the bubbles. This allows the pancakes to stay fluffy and in shape even after cooking.
First, though, you need to activate both the ingredients for the leavening agent to release gas and for the gluten molecules to bond. The baking powder activates by coming in contact with liquid and again when heated. The gluten activates also by combining with the wet ingredients and by mixing.
The gluten molecules let loose upon contact with water, making them pliable. They can then bond with other gluten molecules by mixing the batter.
This also explains why you shouldn’t overmix your batter. As you continue to mix, the gluten molecules will continue to bond, making it firmer and firmer. This is also the reason why it’s hard to achieve fluffy pancakes with gluten-free flour.
What are the Other Factors Affecting Fluffiness?
The two above aren’t the only ingredients that contribute to a pancake’s fluffiness, though. As we said above, all the ingredients work together to create the optimal pancake. You only have to know the right proportions.
The fat in the milk products, including butter, affects the development of gluten. It coats the proteins in the flour, which are responsible for gluten development. It also shortens the strands of gluten, which is where the term “shortening” comes from.
If you then use an ingredient with more fat, it will result in less fluffy pancakes. In other words, substituting cream for milk, for example, will get you denser pancakes.
Sugar’s affinity to bind to water is also a factor in delaying the development of gluten. It absorbs and holds onto moisture, leaving the flour with less water to work with in order to develop gluten.
As a result, it plays an important role in keeping the gluten formation to an optimum level as long as you put the correct proportion. Other than being a sweetener, it also contributes to the browning on the edges of the pancakes.
The small amount of salt in the recipe can still affect the end result. It toughens the gluten, delaying its formation when you mix the ingredients.
However, it can also improve the properties of flour when you use weaker flours. It strengthens the gluten, allowing you to handle doughs better. This is essential to doughs most of the time, though; you shouldn’t have to worry about it when cooking pancakes.
The ratio of your dry-to-wet ingredients will determine whether you come out with a thin or thick batter. For pancakes to get fluffy, you want a thick batter since a thin batter will result in thin pancakes. Since thin pancakes aren’t fluffy, you want a formula that won’t spread too much on the griddle.
You may use a thicker liquid instead, like using milk instead of water or yogurt instead of milk. Don’t use less liquid than the recipe calls for; it might result in heavy rather than fluffy pancakes. Don’t use more flour, as well; it might not rise the proper way.
The baking powder activates again upon contact with heat. This means the temperature of the griddle of the pan when you pour the batter in it is crucial, too. The second reaction, causing bubbles to form again, is quick. This is what you want, plus you want these bubbles to solidify in a fast manner, as well.
For this reason, your griddle or pan has to be hot enough so that the baking powder has a quick reaction. This also ensures that the pancake will hold its shape instead of collapsing.
Be careful not to get it too hot, though, as you might burn the outside while leaving the inside uncooked. The optimal temperature is around 375 F, but you might have to lower the heat depending on the thickness of your batter. The thicker the batter, the longer it will take to cook, and so the lower the heat you must use.
6. Flipping Motion
The flip isn’t as integral, but bending over backward for perfecting your recipe, making sure not to overmix it, and cooking it at the optimal temperature only for it all to become useless as you flip the pancake in the griddle doesn’t sound appealing, right?
Although it shouldn’t cause much damage, flipping too hard can still burst the bubbles it formed. For this reason, we recommend being as gentle as you can as you flip the pancakes.
Where to Get Fluffy Pancakes
We hope that analyzing the science of cooking and what makes pancakes fluffy helped you understand how to make the fluffiest pancake ever.
However, why cook when you can buy some instead and be 100% sure it’s going to be good? Check out which of our branches in Illinois and Arizona is near you!