One of the easiest ( and tastiest ) ways to introduce science at home is in the kitchen. If you’re a regular reader you’ve probably already seen our huge kitchen science round up post. Pancakes are a great way to learn about how changing the ingredients slightly can impact the final product in a big way.
To get the perfect pancake for your tastes you need to get the ingredients right. If you like big fluffy pancakes, you’ll need baking powder to add bubbles to the mixture. If you’re more of a a crepe person, skip the baking powder.
What you need
Pancake batter, we used the recipe below but you can use any mixture you want.
- 2 eggs
- 300ml milk
- 100g plain flour
- Baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil or butter
- Egg whites whisked
Sift the flour and whisk the egg into it with a splash of milk. Add the oil or melted butter. Whisk in the rest of the milk.
Keep the whisked egg whites to one side.
We are testing 4 different mixtures
- Basic pancake mixture.
- Basic pancake mixture with a teaspoon of baking powder.
- Basic pancake mixture with some whisked egg white.
- Basic pancake mixture with baking powder and whisked egg white.
How do you think the baking soda and whisked egg will affect the pancake?
The baking powder and egg white should add air to the mixture giving it more volume than the basic mixture.
How would you expect the pancakes made using different mixtures to differ?
We would expect the pancakes to vary in size. The smallest should be the basic mixture and largest the mixture with baking soda and whisked egg white.
Pancake Science – the perfect pancake
Baking powder acts as a leavening agent. This means it adds bubbles of gas ( Carbon dioxide ) to the dough. This is a chemical reaction which happens when the baking powder mixes with the moist dough mix.
The starch in the flour mixes with the water in the dough mixture to form a gluten matrix which then sets leaving the holes left by the gas bubbles inside. If you don’t use baking powder in a pancake it will be much flatter.
Baking powder is an example of a chemical leavener. An example of a biological leavener is yeast.
The egg whites are just another way to add air to the pancake mixture, when whisked the egg whites trap air, increasing the volume of the egg whites. When carefuly mixed into the pancake mixture air is added to the pancake mix too.
Did you know that citric acid (found in lemon juice) stimulates your taste buds? Try adding some to your pancake.
These photos were taken with a microscope. You can clearly see the air bubbles in the mixture with baking powder.