Golden, brown, delicious: the three most important words in breakfast cookery, specifically when you're making pancakes. Fluffiness and flavor are paramount, but nothing beckons pats of butter and streams of syrup like perfectly golden brown pancakes. But how do we achieve that desired exterior when you're making pancakes? Let’s look at what causes browning in the first place. Maillard browning (as opposed to caramelization) happens when a protein plus a reducing sugar is introduced to heat. In pancakes, we have all the elements in play already with milk, eggs, and flour. So how do we take it a step further? With pH!
pH is the scale on which a food’s acidity and alkalinity are measured, and the adjustment of the pH of food is our ticket to golden, brown, and delicious. Raising the pH in food has been known to accelerate the maillard reaction significantly. If you think this is all just sciencey mumbo-jumbo, well, you're wrong. Take pretzels, for example. They have as even a golden brown crust as you could ever hope for, and it’s because of their raised pH. Pretzels are traditionally dipped in a high-pH lye solution that produces their golden hue.
Adding lye to pancakes would help make them golden brown, sure. But they would taste awful. Adding something called diastatic malt powder increases pH while also adding an enzyme called amylase that aids in fluffiness. The malt powder won’t give off a noticeable flavor. Win win.
Golden Brown Pancakes
- Yields: 4 servings
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
Brown your butter: In a small pot over medium heat, cook the butter until it starts to foam and smell toasty. Looks for the visual cues of the milk solids turn a golden brown. Pour into a small bowl off the heat.
Mix dry ingredients together.
Mix buttermilk, eggs, and browned butter together.
Fold the dry into the wet. Don’t over-beat the batter; some lumps are OK.
Heat a nonstick pan over medium/low heat for a few minutes. Add a one tablespoon of butter or neutral oil. Ladle in about 1/4-1/3 cup of the pancake batter. Let cook for a minute or two. Flip when you see air bubbles rise to the surface, it should be golden brown on the bottom. Cook on the other side until brown. Stack cooked pancakes and douse in maple syrup, butter and enjoy!