The Unexpected Ingredient To Instantly Upgrade Your Pancakes

If you count yourself as a fan of milkshakes — those thick, cold, creamy blends of frothed ice cream, milk, and other sweet additions — then you've most likely sampled, and might even prefer, a malted milkshake. Per Food Network, malted milkshakes, commonly called malts, came into fashion in the soda fountain era of the 1920s, and are just regular milkshakes with malted milk powder added to them. This simple addition deepens the milkshake's flavor, lending an irresistibly toasty taste and a thicker texture.

But even if you've downed a malt or two, you may not have stopped to think about what malted milk powder actually is. Per Serious Eats, whose former pastry editor Stella Parks described the mix as "the umami bomb of dessert," malted milk powder is a combination of wheat flour, malted barley extracts, milk, salt, and sodium bicarbonate.

Well known for its use in milkshakes and, of course, malted milk balls, malted milk powder is actually a favorite ingredient of many pastry chefs — including Parks — who love incorporating the nutty-tasting powder into everything from cookies to brownies to sheet cakes. One other fluffy, starchy item that's improved by the addition of malted milk powder? A tall, hot stack of pancakes.

Many commercial pancake and waffles mixes contain malted milk powder

When the craving for homemade pancakes strikes on a lazy Sunday morning, most of us reach for ingredients such as all-purpose and other flours, baking powder, milk, eggs, and maybe a little salt or sugar. But if your pancake-making arsenal doesn't include a canister of malted milk powder, you're going to want to grab one at the supermarket, stat.

According to Cook's Illustrated, a few tablespoons of the powder whisked into the dry ingredients bring a rich, complex, toasted flavor to pancakes — a fact of which many commercial makers of waffle and pancake mixes are well aware. The outlet states that most pre-made mixes contain the ingredient, and, as a result, your diner pancakes probably do as well. After all, most greasy spoons employ commercial mixes. King Arthur Baking makes the same point, sharing that the "diner taste" of pancakes comes from malted milk powder.

So if you love diner-style pancakes, be sure to have some of the powder on hand the next time you bust out your griddle and your maple syrup. King Arthur recommends using 2 tablespoons per every cup and a half of all-purpose flour.