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Better Buttermilk Pancakes With One Genius Ingredient Swap

Food52 logo Food52 2/20/2019 Kristen Miglore

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

These pancakes will taste richer, fuller, and more buttermilk-y in any side-by-side taste test—all thanks to one little ingredient switcheroo. And that might not even be my favorite part. My favorite part is how wrong I was.

When I saw the name “Buttermilk Mochi Pancakes” (1) in Cynthia Chen McTernan’s stunning new cookbook A Common Table, my brain jumped straight to mochi, and to chew (2): the pastel cushioning on the ice cream balls at my favorite Japanese restaurant, the sweet gummy bits on top of my frozen yogurt. And, while I love that classic mochi chew, I wasn’t sure how it would mesh with my bubbly-tender-fluffy buttermilk pancake ideal (3).

It turns out, it doesn’t. As Cynthia points out in the recipe’s headnote, even though her recipe swaps out half of the all-purpose flour for sweet rice flour, the point (and the effect) is not to mochi-fy the texture. “Interestingly, a bit of sweet rice flour mixed with all-purpose flour results in pancakes that aren’t dense and chewy like pure mochi is,” she writes. “Instead, they’re just the slightest bit softer and more tender, with a faint milkiness I like.

I’ve done a side-by-side taste test here: The rice flour version does read subtly but definitively better (and disappears faster). By comparison, straight all-purpose just tastes a bit flat, so switching to rice flour is a little like leaving black and white Kansas and landing in Oz. Like listening to Queen perform at Live Aid, then remembering to take out your earplugs. Like learning how to salt your food to taste for the first time.

I was delighted to learn how wrong my assumptions had been, and what sweet rice flour could sneak in and do for my pancakes (and who knows what else!). And because the effect is working in the background and not entirely texture-redefining, it’s also quite flexible. When I haven’t been able to find sweet rice flour, I’ve grabbed other types of rice flour and seen very similar improvements.

This felt like discovering a secret superpower. My mom’s pancakes are the best, I could hear my daughter say, about five years from now. Except I won’t keep it a secret—I’ll tell her exactly where it comes from.

a plate of food on a table © Provided by Food52

Cynthia Chen McTernan’s Buttermilk Mochi Pancakes

By Genius Recipes

  • 1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (70g) sweet rice flour, like Mochiko Blue Star
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan and for serving
  • Maple syrup, for serving

View Full Recipe

(1) You might notice that the ingredient list doesn’t even actually have buttermilk in it. That’s because Cynthia is working a brilliant hack—equal parts yogurt and milk behave just like buttermilk, for all those times when you don’t have a quart sitting in the fridge. (Of course you could just use buttermilk, if you’re better at planning ahead.)

(2) As Cynthia herself described mochi on Food52 in 2015: “A gentler incarnation of a marshmallow, it is subtly sweet and powdery pastel, with a hint of coconut and a pillowy-soft chew.“

(3) When I reached out to Cynthia, I was extra excited to hear that she’d learned this recipe’s trick for pancake-fluffing (separating, but not whipping the egg white) in this 2016 Genius Recipe for The Kitchn’s Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes.

Related video: Pumpkin pancakes

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