Unexpected Ingredient: Snow Pancakes

Making the most fluffy pancakes starts with snow, or at least it did in the 18th century. This is one of those “if you know, you know” foods that has roots in the 1700s. Back in the day, before leavening ingredients like baking soda were easy to find and purchase, snow was the single ingredient you needed for ultimate fluffy pancakes. It worked because powdery snow contains a small amount of ammonia. If you are unfamiliar with its role in baking, ammonia, also called baker’s ammonia, can give baked goods a fast rise, resulting in a texture that is feathery light.

Snow’s use in baking continued well into the 20th century and is still used today in parts of the United States where snow makes an annual appearance. According to a publication based in Hancock County Maine, if you are able to get your hands on a copy of “Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book: A Guide to Marketing and Cooking,” which was published in the 1880s, you will find a recipe for pancakes that uses this chilly ingredient. And while the recipe doesn’t tell you how much snow to use, it is somewhere between 3/8 to 1/2 cup. However, since snow has a tendency to melt, you may want to collect a bit more.

Bubbly water works too

Handful of snow

Using snow wasn’t just limited to pancakes. Using it to replace eggs when making a cake was a wartime hack born out of necessity. One level cup of snow could be substituted for one egg and would be added to the batter right before the cake pan went into the oven. So, the next time it snows, get your ingredients ready so you can make your cinnamon bun Christmas pancakes or fluffy blueberry cornmeal pancakes. Just avoid any snow that is yellow or dirty. 

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If you don’t want to wait for the weather, there is another ingredient you can use that will give you similar results. Try swapping out the snow for sparkling water. Add just a half cup of your seltzer water of choice to your pancake mix, and its bubbles will transform your griddlecake into pillowy soft bites. The key here is to keep the water cold and not add it until the last minute. This is because bubbly water has more bubbles when it is cold and will add more air to your pancake mix.

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