Try as I might, I could never get my pancakes to puff up the way diner pancakes do. The pancakes I cook on the weekends were still tasty, of course, but they lacked the poof, the panache. What’s the secret? What does IHOP know that I don’t?
Turns out, there are two secret ingredients to fluffier pancakes: active dry yeast and time. I’d read recipe blogs extolling the virtues of overnight pancakes, in which you let the pancake batter rest in your refrigerator overnight before cooking in the morning. I know resting batter can improve the texture of certain cookies and cakes, so I figured there must be a similar process at work. But just chilling my standard pancake batter—the Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes—overnight didn’t result in noticeably fluffier flapjacks.
For that, I needed to add a spoon of active dry yeast to the batter, a tip I picked up via The Kitchn. Yeast—whether in beer or bread—releases carbon dioxide, which takes the form of bubbles or air pockets, puffing up your brewed or baked goods. I added a teaspoon of active dry yeast sprinkled into the milk and sugar before mixing those into the rest of the batter, then let the batter sit in my fridge overnight. The next morning, the batter had increased notably in volume and was ready for the frying pan.
This time, the pancakes developed large air pockets in the middle that didn’t deflate once I took them off the griddle. As a bonus, the pancakes had a savory, just-shy-of-tangy yeast quality that I thought added a welcome wrinkle to a breakfast that can sometimes be too sugary-sweet. The yeast-overnight method obviously only works if you have the forethought to plan your pancakes the day before. Desperate, hungover mornings? That’s what Bisquick is for.