Miss Those Light, Fluffy Pancakes You Used to Eat?
Here's the Secret for Terrific Gluten-Free Pancakes!
Before going gluten free, Sunday morning always meant light, fluffy pancakes, bacon or sausage, and a couple of over-easy fried eggs. Those pancakes sometimes came from a mix, the complete kind where you only had to add enough water to thin the batter. Most of the time, I used my own homemade pancake mix. Mixes always make getting breakfast on the table quicker and easier.
Unfortunately, going gluten free changed all of that. Gluten-free pancake mixes on the market today are less than adequate, unless you enjoy heavy, griddle-type cakes or thin pancakes that resemble crepes. We don't, so I started playing around with various pancake recipes, searching for the secret of making fluffy gluten-free pancakes from scratch.
It wasn't easy, that's for sure. The principles of gluten-free cooking and baking are very different from traditional cooking and baking. And in the case of pancakes, doubling the baking powder and sneaking in a little applesauce for extra moistness just wasn't enough to produce a pancake that was similar to the ones I used to make before going gluten free. They were edible, and we got by for a few years, but it just wasn't the same.
So What's the Secret of Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes?
A few weeks ago, I ran into a comment that talked about making a buttermilk substitute by adding vinegar to a cup of milk and allowing it to sit for a few minutes to sour. That idea wasn't new. Sour milk has been used by a lot of bakers over the decades when buttermilk wasn't available. What was new was the amount of vinegar the person said they were using. It was six times more vinegar than what a traditional buttermilk substitute usually called for. SIX TIMES MORE!
Granted, that was for a traditional homemade wheat pancake recipe, but one of the major problems with gluten-free recipes is getting the gluten-free flours and starches to rise and then maintain that risen structure. Something one would think would be easier to accomplish with a pancake than it would be with gluten-free bread or a gluten-free chocolate cake, but it hasn't been. The bread and cakes I've learned to make over the years have been quite simple compared to pancakes.
Then there was the problem of taste. The woman was using 2 tablespoons of vinegar to sour less than a cup of milk. Certainly, that much vinegar had to affect the taste of the pancakes. How could it not? So I put off trying it for several weeks because I just couldn't imagine using that much vinegar. When I finally got brave enough to put it to the test, I talked myself into it by deciding to only use 1 tablespoon of vinegar and then see how it went.
But when it came time to sour the milk, I realized it wouldn't be a fair test if I didn't do it exactly the way the woman said to do it. So I went ahead and added 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar to the milk called for in my recipe, and then set it aside to sour. That much vinegar caused the milk to lump and curdle, but I kept going with it. I would only be losing about a cup of gluten-free flour mix if the recipe failed.
Surprisingly, the recipe came out quite well. Not perfect, because I still had to give it a few tweaks here and there, but they were the best gluten-free pancakes I had ever made. There was no vinegar taste at all. Since then, I've been working with the recipe to fine-tune it a bit. Finding just the right amount of xanthan gum can be quite tricky, as well as the milk-to-flour-mix ratio, and the proper ratio between the baking powder and baking soda to get a better rise. So discovering the secret to making fluffy gluten-free pancakes was only the beginning of the game.
My Favorite Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Over the years, I've tried a lot of all-purpose gluten-free flour mixes. Some of them have been partial to whole grains, and some have not. Some have had cornstarch, and some have been completely corn free. I've even tried quite a few pre-made flour mixes on the market today, but didn't like any of them. Most pre-made mixes have too much xanthan gum, and since there's no way to know how much is in the flour mix, it was impossible to compensate for it.
The following mixture was the very first gluten-free mix I ever used. And except for the bread mix that I use for gluten-free hamburger buns, this is the best all-purpose flour mix I have ever tried. Note that it is xanthan gum free, so you'll have to add that in yourself. It is the one I always turn to and use in almost all of my recipes.
- 2-1/2 cups white rice flour
- 1/4 cup brown rice flour
- 1 cup potato starch
- 1 cup tapioca starch
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
Just mix together all of the ingredients and stir well. If you're making a double batch, however, you'll want to use a stand mixer to stir it. If you don't have a stand mixer, make the mixture up twice, stirring each batch separately before combining them together in a large container. The ingredients in gluten-free flour mixes have to be thoroughly combined, but the way you measure the flour in a recipe also matters.
How to Properly Measure Gluten-Free Flours
Consistency in gluten-free cooking and baking is essential, so the following video shows you how to properly measure gluten-free flours and starches. Unlike traditional wheat flour, if you don't properly measure out your gluten-free flour, you'll end up with more or less flour than the recipe calls for. That can set you up for failure.
How to Measure Gluten-Free Flour Properly
Consistency is the Key to Successful Gluten-Free Cooking
Although the humidity level can certainly affect the flour-to-liquid ratio in a recipe, measuring out your flours and starches correctly will always give you better, more consistent results. And when it comes to light and fluffy pancakes, consistency is what you're aiming for.
Light and Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes
Makes about 6 to 8 pancakes
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup gluten-free flour mix
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Measure out the milk into a one-cup measure. Add the vinegar, and then set the milk aside to sour. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour mix, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Stir the mixture very well. The more evenly you can get the xanthan gum distributed throughout the flour, the better. Set the dry ingredients aside. In a large bowl, combine the egg, oil, and vanilla with a wire whisk. Then add the soured milk and whip until well incorporated. Add the gluten-free flour mixture and stir until there are no lumps. The mixture will bubble and foam due to the amount of vinegar.
Let the pancake batter rest for several minutes before cooking the pancakes as this will help the pancakes rise even more. Lightly grease your skillet or griddle if you're not using a non-stick frying pan. Heat your skillet on medium heat until it is nice and hot. Use about 1/4 of a cup of batter per pancake and cook until well browned on each side.
Gluten-free pancakes take longer to cook than traditional pancakes, so don't rush the cooking. They won't be cooked all the way through if you don't cook them long enough.
Gluten-free flours are not as tasty as wheat flour is, so it's important to play around with the flavors of grain-based foods. Ordinarily, I add 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries to the batter, just before letting the pancake batter rest, and sometimes a little cinnamon. Alternatively, you could also add raisins and spice the batter with some pumpkin pie spice. Or you could toss in some chocolate chips. Raisins with orange extract is also nice, but I found that when you mix blueberries with chocolate chips, the chocolate overpowers the blueberries. Hubby likes chocolate chip pancakes spread with chocolate hazelnut spread, but that type of breakfast is for the serious chocolate lover.
Gluten-Free Pancake Mix
One of the problems of making gluten-free pancakes from scratch is the length of time it takes to measure everything out. For that reason, we don't eat pancakes on the weekends as often as we used to. A lot of times, I'll simply heat up some rice and toss it with a little Thai sweet chili sauce to go along with our eggs. However, you can solve the problem by making your own homemade gluten-free pancake mix. That will cut down on the time it takes, since the dry ingredients will already be combined ahead of time.
- 4 cups of gluten-free flour mix
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Combine all ingredients and store in a tightly-sealed container. When ready to use, measure out 1-1/4 cups of gluten-free pancake mix and use in place of the dry ingredients in the recipe above.
Storing Gluten-Free Pancakes
If you have a small or medium-sized family, you'll probably use all of the pancakes and won't need to store any. But if you're cooking for just yourself or maybe two people, you can place the extra pancakes on a paper plate and then tuck the paper plate inside a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and store them in the refrigerator. Gluten-free pancakes heat up very well in the microwave. Just heat them on the defrost or beverage setting for a minute or two, and you'll have a quick before-work or on-the-go meal. They would also make a great snack.