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I have this really tasty recipe for pancakes that use almond flour and whey protein (along with Ricotta cheese and lemon). However, the problem is, these pancakes don't "flip". Does anyone have any advice on what could be done to improve this tasty breakfast treat? Oh, and I have also tried to make it in a waffle maker, and that doesn't work right either. We lovingly call this recipe "Scrambled Pancakes". :)

Here is the list of ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 4 packets Splenda, stevia, or erythritol
  • Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup natural or vanilla whey protein powder
  • Pinch of salt
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Could you list the ingredients and their quantities here? –  KatieK Jun 22 '11 at 0:11
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Here is the list of ingredients: 3 large eggs 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese 1/2 cups sour cream 4 packets Splenda, stevia, or erythritol Juice and zest of 1 large lemon 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup almond flour 1/4 cup natural or vanilla whey protein powder Pinch of salt "Scrambled Pancakes" are very tasty, but we would like to be able to have them as actual pancakes too. –  AtlasRN Jun 22 '11 at 0:28
    
It's better to edit your question when adding important information, as opposed to replying with a comment, since some people won't notice or even be able to see the comments. I've made the edit for you this time. –  Aaronut Jun 22 '11 at 20:53
    
Just how fragile are the pancakes after you have fried them on one side? Do they fall apart if you just touch them, or do they have some integrity? I was thinking that if they can withstand some amount of touching you could perhaps just fold them to a half moon with a large spatula rather than flipping them over. That way the uncooked top side would still cook a little, with the heat being transferred from the cooked side. Finally you could just slide them out onto a plate. Not quite the same as normal pancakes, but maybe it is better than scrambled pancakes. –  Henrik Söderlund Jun 23 '11 at 11:26
    
@Henrik, They don't just fall totally apart, you can actually kind of flip them, but I end up losing a lot of the filling and it makes a mess so we just end up scrambling them so that every part gets cooked. I like your idea. –  AtlasRN Jun 23 '11 at 11:40

3 Answers 3

It is no wonder you can't keep them whole. There isn't anything in the recipe to give them integrity.

A normal pancake has lots of egg and lots of flour. When you are frying them, the proteins of the egg uncurl and connect to their neighbours to set in a loose, weak mesh. You know how the egg white sets when you fry an egg without whisking it? That happens in a pancake batter too, but much weaker, because there is a load of other stuff swimming around, so the protein molecules have less neighbours to build their connections to.

Then there is the flour. As usual, when you heat a batter, the gluten proteins in flour do the same thing as the egg white proteins, building their own mesh which permeates the whole pancake. While there is less gluten building than in a well-kneaded dough, it is enough to make the pancake hold together.

In your recipe, this just doesn't happen. You have no gluten content at all. So the stronger holding-together-part falls away. Unlike wheat flour, almond flour has no gluten. So it isn't contributing to holding the pancake together.

So what about the whole other protein you have in there? Well, the point is, it is already set. Ricotta, whey protein are both cooked proteins. They can't uncurl and connect a second time. So instead of helping the binding, they are inhibiting it. Every egg protein molecule which could have connected to a neighbouring egg protein molecule in a more fluid batter now keeps bumping into almond, ricotta and whey particles, to which it can't bind at all. So what you have here is a mixture of wetted powders without a binding agent. No wonder it can't hold together.

The best way I can see here is adding wheat flour back. You don't have to sacrifice all of your almond flour. Make a partial substitution, and also substitute part of the whey protein. This will keep the proper viscosity of the batter, while preserving the almond flour taste.

The way the recipe is constructed, however, it looks like somebody decided to exterminate all the carbs in it just because. If you are determined to keep your pancakes zero carbs, you can try throwing out all the whey powder and adding egg white instead. I can't guarantee this will be enough to do the binding, but if you insist on "real pancakes", this is worth a try.

I don't think there are any other traditional techniques you can use to improve your "batter" bonding. Of course, nowadays you can experiment with additives. Transglutaminase looks like your best bet. You'll probably need lots of tries until you get the recipe right, but it should bind the cooked ricotta proteins well enough. You don't want a superstrong binding for this application.

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Thanks for the comment, but I am on a Paleo & Gluten free diet, so we can't have the extra flour or gluten. I am needing to keep the recipe as close to it as possible without having to add flour into the recipe since there is a chance that I could become gluten intolerant. I have thickening agents such as Xanthan gum, but wouldn't exactly know how much to use. The recipe came from a good Paleo cookbook that has given us tons of other amazing meals, I just can't get this one. –  AtlasRN Jun 22 '11 at 11:34
    
If you can't have gluten, use my second or third proposal. I don't see how a thickener can help you. Your problem isn't viscosity - if anything, your mixture is already way too thick. You could try gelling the daylights out of it with a gum, but 1) gums are thermosensitive - you'll have to bake one side, put it away to cool down & set (still in the pan, a removal attempt at this point will scramble it), then flip and bake the other side. 2) if you use enough gum to achieve that, it will taste of rubber. For flipping you need stickiness, not viscosity, and you have none here except eggwhite. –  rumtscho Jun 22 '11 at 12:16
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The mixture is actually not as thick as you are thinking it is. It isn't as thin as scrambled eggs, but not thick like regular pancake mixture, which is why I thought of the xanthan gum. In my mind the recipe has to work somehow without totally altering it or else it wouldn't have made it into the book, or they would have called them scrambled pancakes not Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. –  AtlasRN Jun 22 '11 at 12:44
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If you try gum, please write how it turned out, I am very curious. I would try it myself, but I don't use whey powder. And don't trust the recipe just because it got published in a book. Maybe it doesn't work despite the publication (and there are strong signs that it doesn't). –  rumtscho Jun 22 '11 at 15:29
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Xanthan gum did the trick the next time I tried it.

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I think the issue is that there isn't enough almond flour in your recipe, the ricotta and sour cream are making your batter thick, but when cooked it isn't going to bind properly. Doing a quick search of other recipes with results posted, most of them use more flour and more liquidy ingredients.

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