Tender, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth pancakes and light-as-air muffins just about always sound like the perfect weekend breakfast.
Boxed mixes always lead to buyer’s remorse since they turn out flat, spongy, bland pancakes and dry, artificial-tasting muffins. It’s really just as easy, and far more delicious, to make from-scratch pancakes and quick breads using one simple technique: leaving the batter lumpy.
It works for a different reason than you might think. You may have read that overmixing quick-bread batters causes gluten to develop, resulting in dense, rubbery pancakes and quick breads. However, we’ve found over years of testing that such batters are thin enough that thorough mixing doesn’t actually contribute to toughness.
Rather, creating light, fluffy pancakes and muffins has to do with batter texture and hydration. A batter is more viscous when it’s lumpy than when it’s smooth, since the lumps prevent water from flowing and the mixture from spreading. Lumpy batter is also better able to hold onto air pockets during cooking, further contributing to height. So, gently stir batter so that lumpy pockets of flour remain, ensuring height in your baked goods. For pancakes, let the batter rest briefly after mixing to allow the unmixed flour pockets to hydrate slightly (a step that is not necessary with, for example, blueberry muffins, which have additional hydration from fruit).
Leavener plays an important role as well. Quick breads may call for baking powder only. But baking soda is another fast-acting leavener that is a key to success in baked goods: Pancakes, for example, rely on its saline tang and can be noticeably flat-tasting without it. It also helps food brown more deeply and quickly (baking soda increases the
pH of the batter, which speeds browning reactions). Our pancakes take advantage of both leaveners.
As for the choice of fat, butter lends richness and flavor, but also moisture because of its water content. Oil, on the other hand, contains no water and is able to completely coat flour proteins and restrict them from absorbing unwanted liquid. For muffins and quick breads, we might use a combination, but for our pancakes, we save the butter for topping our sky-high, golden breakfast treats.
1 Whisk dry ingredients together inbowl.
2 Whisk eggs and fat together in anotherbowl.
3 Whisk liquid components into eggmixture.
4 Gently stir or fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients so that lumpypockets of flour remain.
5 For pancakes, let batter rest before cooking so that unmixed pocketshydrate slightly; batter will fall from spoon in clumps rather than streaming off in thin ribbons.
6 Cook up pancakes to sky-high perfection.