Testing the true way to make fluffy pancakes from Japan’s Agricultural Cooperatives Group
It’s a pancake showdown in the SoraKitchen!
Making pancakes is about the simplest thing you can do in the kitchen that still qualifies as actual cooking. Just pour some pancake mix in a bowl, add eggs and milk, stir them up, and cook them in the frying pan.
Pretty easy process, right? Sure, but it’s also wrong. At least that’s what the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives Group’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, which also goes by the mercifully abbreviated name Zen-Noh, says.
Since our goal is to make pancakes, the natural assumption is to put the pancake mix in the bowl first, then mix in the eggs and milk to turn the powder into a liquid batter. According to Zen-Noh, though, the eggs and milk should go into the bowl first, and only once they’re thoroughly mixed should you start pouring in the pancake powder. Do this, Zen-Noh promises, and your pancakes will cook up softer and fluffier than if you put the powder in the mixing bowl first.
ミックスを入れると、ふわふわになります（生地を混ぜ過ぎると膨らみにくくなる）。なんだかミックスを先にボウルに入れたくなりますが、ぐっとこらえて、卵と牛乳が先です！前もつぶやいたのですけど今日が #ホットケーキの日 だったので🥞 pic.twitter.com/cBtLKpiZCc
— 全農広報部【公式】日本の食を味わう (@zennoh_food) January 25, 2022
Zen-Noh shared this wisdom in a tweet a while back, and while their advice caught our attention right away, we hadn’t yet had a chance to test it four ourselves, since our schedule gets pretty jam-packed with taste tests for things like McDonald’s Japan curry sauce and a mysterious bottle of half-drunk tea that we left outside for almost a full year. But on a recent morning when our to-eat-for-work calendar was clear, and a morning when we were craving pancakes, the time had come to try Zen-Noh’s technique.
With our ingredients assembled, we started by making a short stack of pancakes the customary powder-first way.
▼ Powdered pancake mix
▼ Add the eggs and milk, then stir and cook
Using this method, our pancakes came out looking fine and normal. We mean, they’re pancakes, so they’re pretty hard to screw up.
Next, we tried Zen-Noh’s method.
▼ Eggs and milk in the bowl first, then mix them together thoroughly
▼ Then stir in the pancake powder
The Zen-Noh-style pancakes came out looking like this.
But while both methods produced tasty looking pancakes, there was a noticeable difference when we placed our stacks side by side.
▼ Left: pancake powder first
Right: Eggs and milk first
While there wasn’t a huge difference either way in terms of thickness, the powder-first pancakes had cracks and rough edges that the eggs-and-milk first pancakes didn’t.
Slicing off a piece to check the cross section revealed that the eggs-and-milk first pancakes had more internal air pockets, and when we took a bite of each, the eggs-and-milk first batch had a smoother texture, whereas the powder-first pancakes were comparatively drier and more crumbly.
Zen-Noh doesn’t get into the nitty gritty science of why this happens, but their quick-and-simple explanation is that excessive stirring of the powder will reduce the eventual fluffiness of the pancakes. Since it takes more stirring to combine the eggs and milk than it does to combine the powder and egg/milk mixture, you want to get the majority of the stirring done before you put the powder into the bowl.
Having spent our whole lives starting our pancake process with the powder, it’s probably going to take a while to break our existing habit. Still, if the result is better pancakes, we’re willing to learn to change.
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[ Read in Japanese ]