Ah pancakes, who doesn’t love them? But do you know the science behind them? Do your students? Here is an amazing activity that could be done cross-curricular with your school’s Hospitality department or not (I’ve done both) and involves your students really getting into their assignment. I’ve also used it as a reading activity with my high achieving class where they read the article and we discus in class. However you use it, this activity is excellent for showing how chemistry relates to real life.
This posting was originally posted by scientificamerican.com and can be found HERE:
Have you ever wondered what makes pancakes so fluffy? Why do pancake recipes always tell you not to overmix the batter? The answers to these questions lie in a protein called gluten. In this activity you’ll learn about the chemical processes that make pancakes fluffy—and also why overmixing your pancake batter will result in tough, rubbery and flat pancakes.
Pancake batter is composed of two crucial parts: dry ingredients (usually flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt) and wet ingredients (usually milk, eggs and butter). Flour contains starch and protein. A starch is like a long chain of simple sugars. An example of a simple sugar is glucose, which is what plants produce to feed themselves in a chemical process called photosynthesis. A protein is a long, chainlike molecule made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. Flour contains a protein called glutenin (or gluten), which is crucial for the formation and structure of pancakes and baked goods. Gluten also provides the “chewy” texture in pancakes and breads.
When the flour is dry, the gluten molecules are nearly immobile, which means that they do not move much. They also do not bond (or “link”) to one another. When the flour is moistened with water (or with milk and eggs, which are composed mainly of water), the gluten molecules become active. Wet gluten molecules are elastic and springlike (which means that they can change shape under pressure) and plastic (meaning they can maintain their shapes after being stretched and moved around). When flour is mixed with water, gluten proteins loosen from one another, stretch out and begin to rearrange. Further mixing allows the end of a gluten protein to bond with the end of another gluten protein. As the gluten proteins come in contact with one another, they continue to bond. With additional mixing, the proteins create a tighter and tighter weblike network of proteins that are able to trap air bubbles. When chemical leaveners, such as baking powder, create bubbles in a cooked pancake, the gluten network traps these bubbles and allows a pancake to rise and stay fluffy yet still keep its shape.
Pancake Recipe from CooksIllustrated.com
Recipe makes about 12 small pancakes, enough for four to six people.