They’re all the rage in Osaka. There’s a cafe that serves fluffy pancakes in almost every block. We tried them then cooked our home version. Well, my daughter, Alex, did. I just took photos before eating.
But what are fluffy pancakes, to begin with, and why are they different from ordinary pancakes?
With ordinary pancakes, you simply mix the flour with egg and milk to make the batter.
With fluffy pancakes, you need to separate the yolks from the egg whites, make the batter with flour and egg yolks, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold it into the egg yolk mixture little by little. Think sponge cake.
When I say “little by little” you start with about two tablespoons of egg whites. You stir it into the egg yolk mixture to lighten it up a bit.
By “lighten”, I don’t mean just making the egg yolk mixture acquire a paler hue. “Lighten” means changing its texture. The beaten egg whites contain a lot of fine air bubbles that, when mixed with the dense egg yolk mixture, gives it a more airy texture.
You need to be patient with the process of incorporating the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Dumping all of the beaten egg whites at once will make folding difficult. This can result in the uneven distribution of air bubbles which will be disastrous to the pancakes.
So, little by little is the trick. As more egg ehite are added, it gets easier and easier to fold in the rest.
Once all the egg whites have been incorporated, you start cooking the pancakes in a heaten and lightly oiled pan. Note that some cooks use ring molds to allow to batter to rise evenly. Our problem with ring molds is that releasing the pancake from the sides of a metal mold might do more harm than good. Unless you have a silicone mold that it about two inches high, well, ditching the mold altogether is really a better idea.
Alex used the “freestyle” option. Here’s how.
Start with a heaping tablespoon, let the batter cook for a minute then drop another heaping tablespoon of batter on top of the partially set first layer.
You let the pancake cook for another minute and drop in a third heaping tablespoonful of batter on top. It is this gradual addition of batter that gives the pancake a good height.
After the three heaping tablespoonfuls of batter have been dropped, you add a tablespoon of water on the side of the pancake and cover the pan. The water creates steam to make the pancake moist.
After three minutes of cooking, the pancake is ready to be flipped. It won’t take long for the pancake to finish cooking after flipping. Two minutes or so are usually enough.
Japanese Fluffy Pancakes
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons full fat milk
- ¼ cup cake flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- cooking oil for greasing the pan
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
- Stir the milk into the egg yolks and whisk to combine.
- Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt directly into the egg yolks. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (see guide on beating egg whites). Add a tablespoonful of sugar and continue beating. Add the second tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Take two heaping tablespoonfuls of egg whites and whisk gently into the egg yolk mixture. Repeat until half of the egg whites have been incorprated. Scrape the rest of the wgg whites into the yolk mixture and, using a spatula, fold in until completely incorporated.
- Heat a wide heavy-bottomed frying pan and brush with half of the oil. Keep the heat on medium-low setting.
- Drop one heaping tablespoon of pancake batter on one side and another on the opposite side. Cook for a minute.
- Drop another tablespoon of batter on top of each pancake and cook for another minute.
- Drop a third tablespoon of batter on top of each pancake.
- Pour in a tablespoon of water on each of the two empty spots of the pan.
- Cover the pan and cook the pancakes for another minute.
- Carefully flip the pancakes. Cover the pan and cook for another two minutes or until the batter is cooked completely.
- Repeat to make two more fluffy pancakes.
- Serve the fluffy pancakes while hot. You may top them simply with powdered sugar or you may add fresh fruits and syrup.