The Technique That Makes Japanese Souffle Pancakes So Unique

While we love a classic stack of All-American pancakes, they can't hold up to the towering heights of Japanese souffle pancakes. Americans go to all sorts of lengths (including adding seltzer water to the batter) to get the fluffiest pancakes. Still, even the fluffiest American pancakes can't hold a candle to these giants. Souffle pancakes take their name from the famous French dessert because they use a similar technique to rise to these incredible heights and have a custardy, decadent texture.

The secret technique both recipes use is adequately whipped egg whites. You might be familiar with whipping egg whites for cakes or other baked goods that call for them. Just One Cookbook says they can also work magic in these pancakes if prepared correctly. Whipping egg whites can be challenging to master because they can be over-whipped easily and are usually joined by specialized terms like "soft peaks." With a bit of practice, though, this technique can be mastered in no time.

Why whipped egg whites add volume to pancakes

To understand how whipped egg whites can add so much to pancakes, you must understand a little chemistry. Egg whites are primarily water and protein. As you crack the egg whites into a bowl, the proteins are in a chemical state where they are a tangled up chain of amino acids. As you whip the egg whites, these chains begin to detangle, and certain acids and water molecules are drawn together and form a structure. This structure traps air inside in the form of bubbles as it starts to foam and stiffen.

When the egg whites are whipped up properly, folded carefully into the batter, and cooked at a low temperature, they maintain this structure and create the beautiful fluffy texture we want in souffle pancakes.

Any fat can also get in the way of this process. Even a thin grease coating in the bowl you're whipping your egg whites in can inhibit egg whites from foaming correctly. It's essential to ensure that your mixing vessel is spotless and dry before you start to mix, and know that this step is almost always done separately from the rest of the batter.

How to properly whip and fold egg whites

Once you have a clean bowl ready, you'll need to separate your egg whites from the yolks and then start whipping them. If you're using an electric mixer, you'll want to start mixing on low until your whites show signs of foaming. From there, you can increase the speed. However, keep a close eye on your whites because they can easily be overwhipped. It's possible to fix over-whipped egg whites, but it's much easier to catch them before they separate in the first place.

For the fluffiest souffle pancakes, you'll want to whip your egg whites to "stiff peaks." This means that when you take out your beater and invert it, the peak of egg whites coming off the end will still stand tall. This means that your whites have reached their maximum fluffy potential.

Once you've achieved stiff peaks, you must gently fold your egg whites into the batter. That means you'll want to add a small amount of the egg white mixture to the rest of the batter to start things off. Lightening the batter first will prevent it from deflating your egg whites.

To fold the egg whites in, you'll want to slice through them and into the batter with the side of a spatula, and then turn (or fold) the batter over top of the egg whites. Repeat the process while spinning your bowl until the batter is smooth.