Originally Posted by uoficowboy
I'm an engineer - I over analyze everything - it's what I'm paid to do! I haven't made these - but I have a bit of a pancake obsession (I make a different kind every week) so I'm pretty comfortable looking at a recipe and spotting oddities.
I've read about people beating the whites - but I've yet to have a chance to try it. Do you still mix in the yellows with the wet ingredients or do you leave those out entirely? Is the difference that noticeable?
Ok, from another engineer. Let's look at the componants of pancakes (mind you that I am the creator of the much loved and respected Goodweed's World Famous Pancake recipe, not to brag but to give authority to my ideas). First, we use app-=purpose flour, either white or whole wheat. It doesn't matter because the improtant componants of the flour are the gluten and starch ratio. The bran imparts a different texture and the all important soluable fiber. It also changes the flavor, but does not affect the overall cooking quality. The abking powder, as you know, when combines with liquid, releases CO2 into the batter where the gluten membranes act as a barier to the gas release into the atmosphere. The goes on until a ballance is achieved, or the gas is all used up. The key to perfect pancakes is to capture as much of the CO2 as possible and hold it until heat causes the starches and proties to solidify into the final product. If the batter is too runny (too much liquid), then the pancakes are thin, though tender. If the batter is too thick, then the pancake swells insomuch that it acts as an insulator to itself, causing the outside to scorch before the inside is sufficeintly cooked.
Buttermilk is an acidic liquid and will unballance the measured reaction of comercial baking powder. Baking soda is of course an alkali and will negate the acidity of the buttermilk. In the process, it will in fact, as you suggested, create even more of the CO2 gas. But, the gluten walls are not strong enough to hold all of that gas and so excess is released in the form of bubbles. This occurs rapidly enough to keep the batter from turning into an aerogel type structure. The neutralization of the buttermilk acids also removes some of the sour flavor (acids taste sour) from the end product. When buttermilk and baking soda alone are used, you have to ballance the correct amount of each to ensure proper leavening. But the baking powder is asready doing that for you in the recipe you gave, and so the baking soda is there to improve the flavor and maintain a proper acid to alkalye ratio in the batter.
As anecdotal evidence, double-acting baking powder releases CO2 at two distinct times, first, when liquid is added, and second, when heat is applied. Either, on there own provides sufficeint leavening power to create fluffy pancakes. Together, they still don't ruin the end product. Rather, the second rising is there as a backup, in case you leave the batter sitting too long and the chemical reation is all used up, which would leave you with very flat pancakes. The heat activates a second reaction which still gives you fluffy pancakes. Even if you use the batter imediately after mixing, you get the same end product as if the batter sat for three hours.
As for the beaten egg-whites, in pancakes, I have found that they make little difference whether they are beaten or not. I have made my batter both ways. If you know anything about marangues, or any egg-white based foams, you know that moisture and fat are enemies to them. I have a yeast-risen waffle recipe that is superb, and it does use beaten egg white in the recipe. But the yolk is not used. Try making a egg white foam, and then adding a bit of yolk, or other fat to it. You will see it deteriorate to nothing in a hurry. And since the yolks are included in pancakes so as to improve texture and add a rich flavor, the beaten egg white doesn't really change anything. But in cakes, quickbreads, and waffle recipes where the yolk is not used, the foam adds bubble of air which enhances the loft of the end product. But the foam must be gently folded into the batter.
Hope that helps you out with your question.
Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North