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You're Using Last Year's Ingredients
We're not saying you need to turn your kitchen into a science lab, especially before 9 a.m., but it pays to remember that there is some chemistry going on when you combine one of pancakes' dry ingredients (baking powder) with the wet ingredients. Baking powder contains baking soda, (code name: sodium bicarbonate) and a dry acid (cream of tartar or sodium aluminum sulfate). When you add milk and egg to it, the ingredients react and form bubbles of carbon dioxide, and those bubbles are what give pancakes their height. To get the most bang from your baking powder's buck, says Joy Wilson, whose new book is Joy the Baker Over Easy, make sure your baking powder is new. Not-so-fresh powder isn't as effective and won't give your cakes as nice a boost. She replenishes her supply every two months, or so (and uses the old stuff to brighten her laundry).