The Secret Ingredient Revealed!

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The contest is over! We got a total of 7 official guesses on this contest, and unfortunately the actual guesses were incorrect. However, 2 people did mention the Secret Ingredient in the discussion!

More than one person mentioned beer. Some deep frying batters also use beer to introduce gas into the batter to make it light. I have also heard club soda, or soda water being used. However those ingredients don’t seem to be as effective as what I am about to tell you.

Beer and soda water don’t really react with the batter. Some may argue the point, but the reaction of these 2 ingredients is minimal, and I’m not sure that adding them and stirring them into batter actually adds all that much gas. What you want to create is a chemical reaction. The only ingredient you can use that will cause a chemical reaction with the result of creating gas is: vinegar.

That’s right! Adding vinegar to pancake batter (and other batters too) causes carbon dioxide to be released into the batter in the form of bubbles. The bubbles will be uniformly distributed throughout the batter causing it to lightly foam. The surprising part is that you can add a considerable amount of vinegar to the batter before the flavor is even discernible. Normally I use a capful or even 2, but I have also done experiments to see just how much could be added before I can taste it. Seems like if you use a capful or two, the vinegar is “burned up” so to speak and leaves no residual taste. But even if you accidentally use more, you might not even notice. I suggest that you experiment to find that “sweet spot.”

Now, let’s take a look at our guesses! I’ll comment on them at the bottom.

Responses to “ Guess The Secret Ingredient! ”

  1. # 1 Peter Ho Says:
    Hello NJBushman,Recent reader, first time posting…My guess is, “buttermilk”…as adding that will affect the amount of baking soda and baking powder used (which in the older posts, people who mentioned one of those ingredients you said were on the right path or close…)You can also make your own buttermilk by adding in lemon juice or vinegar as well.
  2. # 2 DC Says:
    Just for fun, I think it’s buttermilk, a.k.a. sour cream.
  3. # 6 naruwan Says:
    A dash of lager beer?naruwan’s last blog post..OMEN street art
  4. # 7 mike Says:
    baking powder!
  5. # 9 Brunty Says:
    MJ my guess is oatmeal.Brunty’s last blog post..Thailand. Redecorating a village house.
  6. # 10 TurkMeister Says:
    Absolutely LOVE your site!!! Wonderful reporting, great photography and a most interesting insight on the world!You remind me of home… Cabela’s is just down the street and you seem to be a walking ad for them!! Serengeti Safari™ Shirt, Hat and dutch ovens… the only thing I haven’t found in their store that you might need, is guitar strings (but fishing line could be an adequate substitute)!!Those fluffy looking pancakes of yours can only get that way with the secret ingredient loved and cherished by MAN-kind….BEER… Breakfast of Champions!!!

    Keep up the good work!!

    Turk… in Omaha

  7. # 12 Kieny Says:
    Ok we have only one guess? Wel,l it’s not baking powder or baking soda with vinegar or yeast. I say the secret ingredient is BEER!Kieny’s last blog post..Quilt-a-long week 6

Peter Ho said:

“My guess is, “buttermilk”…as adding that will affect the amount of baking soda and baking powder used (which in the older posts, people who mentioned one of those ingredients you said were on the right path or close…)

You can also make your own buttermilk by adding in lemon juice or vinegar as well.”

His guess was “buttermilk” but he actually mentioned vinegar as a way of making buttermilk. It’s my opinion that the chemical reaction aspect wasn’t part of the guess because he mentions the reason for buttermilk is because “adding that will affect the amount of baking soda and baking powder used.” So it would seem that the buttermilk would be a substance to “cut” the batter with to control the proportion of baking soda or powder. Peter also said “which in the older posts, people who mentioned one of those ingredients you said were on the right path or close…” Yes I did say that because of the well known connection between baking soda and vinegar. When I was a kid, I must have made a dozen CO2 fire extinguishers!

Lastly Kieny said:

“Ok we have only one guess? Wel,l it’s not baking powder or baking soda with vinegar or yeast. I say the secret ingredient is BEER!”

Now I feel really bad! Kieny was reasoning things out and rejected vinegar as the Secret Ingredient! I don’t know how Kieny arrived at that conclusion but I never said that!

So, we don’t have a clear winner! But even so, we must have a winner! The prize is a bottle of Pineapple vinegar, great for drinking, and one of the wonderful vinegar concoctions we have here in Taiwan. So I’m going to ask the readers to select the winner from the above 2 answers that mentioned vinegar! Please feel free to vote on the best answer below:

[poll=3]

Voting ends at midnight on Monday!

I would like to thank everyone who participated in this contest. We’ll have another one again soon!

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10 comments

  1. Oh dear, I just figured that vinegar would be too obvious. I sometimes bake Irish soda bread and two of the ingredients are buttermilk and baking soda. Since I can’t find buttermilk in Taiwan I use yoghurt and if I can’t even find that then I use vinegar. Can I vote for myself? Politicians do it all the time 😉

    Kieny’s last blog post..This ‘n’ that.

  2. Kieny » baking is a formula, where cooking is a recipe. a lot more depends upon chemical reactions in baking than in cooking. so to someone with baking experience it might seem too obvious. and yes, you may vote for yourself! you may also leave several messages to try to buy votes!

  3. Hi MJ,

    My reasoning was based on you hinting that people were close or on right track when they mention baking soda or baking powder. I figure that there must be a direct relationship between those ingredients and the secret ingredient. I found out (with a bit of searching on the internet) that since buttermilk is acidic, it will react with baking soda (base) which you need to increase the baking soda and decrease baking powder used compared to pancake recipes without buttermilk. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and the acid in Buttermilk will react to form bubbles of carbon dioxide which will help the pancake rise. I mentioned lemon and vinegar as substitutes as I don’t know if you can find buttermilk in Taiwan. Anyway, it was fun trying to figure this all out but probably more fun to eat pancakes made by MJ!

  4. Peter Ho » yes, there is a direct relationship between those ingredients and the Secret Ingredient 🙂 this is interesting because i know nothing about buttermilk, except that i think it tastes like crap, lol. so i never use it. but another commenter said buttermilk (aka sour cream) and i like sour cream. so now i’m confused! but anyway, you certainly had the correct concept Peter! btw, it’s fun eating pancakes made by Hui-chen, not me! thanks Peter!

  5. I know about buttermilk in baking and mixing vinegar with milk to make sour milk/cream, but I never would have guessed vinegar.

    I’ll have to try a bit of vinegar in the batter next time I make pancakes. Does it work well with blueberry or chocolate chip pancakes too?

    owshawng’s last blog post..My Crazy Mother-In-Law Part 1

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