Chinese Scallion Pancakes

I first clicked on a recipe for Chinese scallion pancakes because the name sounded so intriguing.  I had never had scallion pancakes before, and I thought a pancake with scallions in it would be quite bizarre.  As I found out, they’re a typical Chinese dim-sum and not actually a breakfast food.  They’re also really tasty, easy, fast, and make a great lunch topped with some sautéed mushrooms, onions, and spinach.  I’ve changed the original recipe a little, and I don’t know enough about traditional Chinese dishes, but I’m betting they’re no longer true, classic “scallion pancakes”.  Especially since I’ve opted out of using scallions.

NON-TRADITIONAL CHINESE SCALLION PANCAKES

Yields about 3 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp butter (melted)
  • 1/3 (approximately) finely chopped onion
  • 1 dash of vegetable oil
  • 1 pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mix your flour with half (1/8 cup) of your water and the melted butter.  If you wish to use a stand-mixer, then use the hook attachment and mix on low. Stir until the water and butter are absorbed.  Keep adding water a little at a time and mixing thoroughly until your dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Your dough should be firm and barely sticky.  Remember that any additions of flour or liquid take time to work into your dough, so make sure you mix it well before adding more.
  2. Keep kneading the dough, either by hand or in the mixer until smooth and elastic. Roll your dough into a ball and cover with a damp towel (or plastic-wrap) for 15 minutes.
  3. After it’s done resting, cut your dough into 3 even pieces (or more if you want smaller pancakes) and roll the pieces into balls.
  4. Take a ball of dough and roll it out into a thin circle (maybe a few millimeters thick) on a well floured surface (though, I’ve found that mine don’t stick too badly, so I don’t bother flouring).
  5. Spread a bit of olive oil over the surface of the pancake, just enough to coat it, and sprinkle salt liberally.
  6. Place 1/3 of your finely chopped onions (the finer, the better) in a line about half an inch from one side of the pancake.  Then, like a burrito, roll the pancake up from the onion end to form a tight tube.  You may wish to pinch the ends closed so that your onions don’t squeeze out.  Then, curl the roll around in a spiral, like a cinnamon bun, and pinch the end to keep it wrapped.
  7. Roll out the curled pancake to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Oil and onions will come out as you roll, but don’t worry, just press the onions back on, or toss them in the pan later.
  8. Put a bit of oil in your favorite skillet and heat it over a medium flame till hot.  Fry the pancake until the bottom is crispy and golden-brown, then flip and repeat.  Don’t be afraid to add more oil as needed. While your pancake is frying, roll out and curl up your remaining dough balls (the timing usually works out pretty well for me)
  9. I like to top my pancakes with leftover onion bits, mushrooms, and spinach lightly sautéed in a vodka-cream sauce.  They are absolutely delicious plain, as well.
Review:
The first time I made scallion pancakes, I followed a traditional recipe and actually made it with scallions.  I did forget to salt it, however, and since I was absolutely famished, I undercooked them, as well.  Perhaps it was some combination of those two mistakes that led me to alter the recipe, but I also found that the scallions were just too thin and insubstantial; I wanted something a little more, well, more.  So I opted for onion and I threw in some butter because, really, you can’t go wrong with the stuff.  This is now one of my favorite recipes to make (and eat).  It’s fun, easy, and quick.  The dough is incredibly non-fussy and forgiving; it’s definitely an eye-ball kind of recipe.  These pancakes are one of those things that you make once and immediately remember how to make the second and third time.  Plus they’re gorgeous and incredibly tasty!
*I’m including the original recipe because it’s worth trying out and also has wonderful photos showing how to make these step-by-step. The photos on this post are from the first time I made them, following the traditional recipe.
Advertisements

A Pancake’s Pancake

I am not impressed with recipe titles that include words such as “ultimate” or “absolute best”, they never seem to live up to their names.  Having said that, these pancakes almost moved me to name them “The Ultimate Super Absolute Best Pancakes in the Entire Universe of All Time”.  They are that good.

I was first attracted to this recipe because it called for the egg whites to be whipped, which was novel and seemed like a promising way to ensure very fluffy pancakes.  I finally made these pancakes for my father last weekend, who declared them to be the best pancakes he’d ever had; when I tasted one, myself, I had to agree.  These are pancakes the way pancakes were meant to be.

PERFECT PANCAKES:

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s “Neil’s Pancakes” recipe

Yields about 8 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or rum)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, sift your flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together your milk, melted butter, vanilla/rum, and yolks until well combined.
  3. Then, whisk your yolk mixture into your dry ingredients until just combined (it’ll be a little lumpy)
  4. In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to beat your egg whites into stiff peaks. Carefully fold your egg whites into the batter until fully incorporated (some small clumps of egg whites are fine)
  5. Butter your frying pan and heat it over a medium flame.  Use a ladle to drop batter onto it, and check it occasionally by using a spatula to carefully lift part of the pancake to check if the bottom is golden-brown.  Once done, flip the pancake and fry the other side to match.
  6. Top with fresh berries, syrup, bananas, sugar, or anything else.  These will go great with anything (they’re unbelievably good plain, too)

Review:

These pancakes are scrumptious, fluffy, heavenly, delicious, delectable, and absolutely perfect.  They’re gorgeous, puffy little golden cakes.  They’re amazingly airy and tender with a rich, full taste.  They come off the skillet looking like professional, magazine-cover pancakes and they taste even better.  So many recipes guarantee delicious, fluffy pancakes, but these are in a different league altogether.  If you like truly fluffy, full-flavored, classic pancakes, then these cannot, will not disappoint.  As my father said, “these are the pancakes other pancakes dream of becoming”.

Sweet Lemon Pancakes

I was home this past weekend and had a request for more pancakes, so I decided to try something new.  This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe, but I added a little twist to it.  Instead of plain pancakes, I decided to go with lemon and I added in some cognac for a little extra something.

These pancakes are light and springlike, perfect for a summer breakfast outside on a sunny day.  They’re even better garnished with a little lemon zest and a light touch of maple syrup.

SWEET LEMON PANCAKES:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (or vegetable oil, but that makes for a drier pancake)
  • zest of one large lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of brandy
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:  

  1. In a medium bowl, beat your eggs and milk until they become light and foamy (about 3 minutes at high speed of an electric mixer, though I did this step by hand with a whisk)
  2. Stir in the melted butter (or vegetable oil), then the brandy and lemon zest
  3. In a separate, small bowl, whisk the salt, baking powder, flour, and sugar together
  4. Mix your dry mixture into your wet batter, stirring until just incorporated (some small lumps are ok). Now let your batter stand and thicken for about 15 minutes (it’s ok to skip this step, I did and they turned out fine)
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat and brush a light coating of vegetable oil or butter over it. You’ll know it’s hot enough when a drop of water sizzles and evaporates immediately.
  6. Using a small ladle (or measure 1/4 cupfuls of batter) drop batter into the center of your pan.  I usually spread mine out a bit so that they’re a little thinner.  Bubbles will form and break, but the best way to check is to simply lift the pancake a bit with a spatula and when the bottom is golden-brown, flip it.
  7. For an extra lemony taste, grate some more zest on top of each pancake.  Serve with your favorite topping (I recommend just a touch of maple syrup)
Tips:

Only flip the pancake once

Using a feather pastry brush or paper, brush your skillet with a light coat of vegetable oil/butter to ensure crispy (rather than soggy) pancakes

To keep your pancakes warm, preheat the oven to 200°F and place each pancake on a baking sheet inside when you take it off the skillet.  Open the oven door every now and then to keep the oven cooler and prevent your pancakes from drying out.

Review:

These pancakes were to die for.  The recipe yields light, sweet, summery pancakes.  The lemon zest gives them a fresh and irresistible taste, while the brandy plays in rich undertones.  The batter is simple, non-fussy, and delicious all by itself.  The pancakes fry up a nice gentle crisp on the edges, with a sweet, fluffy, and tender middle.  They’re fantastic with a little maple syrup, but absolutely divine just by themselves as well.  These pancakes are the perfect spring breakfast, served outside on a weathered wood table with white linen napkins, all lit up by morning sunshine.  I know what I’ll be eating all summer long.

Buttermilk Pancakes vs. Martha Stewart

Making a 6am morning well worth it

I had never made pancakes before and, while breakfast foods aren’t usually at the top of my recipe box, I figured if they have “cake” in the name, I might as well have a go at it.  I settled on one old-fashioned buttermilk recipe and one for classic pancakes (courtesy of Ms. Stewart).  Making the two different batches at the same time was a little challenging, especially at 6am (not my finest hour), but they both turned out wonderfully and my family thoroughly enjoyed their stint as my guinea pigs.

First, the buttermilk:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 dab of butter for the pan

Directions:

  1. “Sour” the milk with the vinegar in a medium cooking bowl (big enough for all the ingredients)
  2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar in a separate bowl
  3. Whisk egg and oil into the “soured” milk
  4. Pour in the mixed dry ingredients and whisk the batter until the lumps are gone (some small ones may remain, but the batter should be pretty smooth)
  5. Heat your favorite skillet over a medium flame and spread your dab of butter around in there (obviously you don’t want your pancake swimming in butter, but it’s ok if you use a couple extra dabs, especially in between pancakes to make sure the skillet keeps well greased)
  6. Scoop about 1/3 cup (or more/less depending on how big you want your pancakes) of batter and pour it into the center of the skillet (I used a ladle and eye-balled).  After the first one, I used the back of my ladle to gently pat down and spread the dough a little because the pancakes fluff and thicken as they cook, and they were making me nervous with how thick they got
  7. Once the bottom is a medium-golden brown, flip the pancake and cook the other side.  If one side is not quite done, go ahead and flip it back (pancakes, unlike hamburger patties, are no worse for wear after a couple extra flips, though I would try to reduce extra handling anyways)
Review:

These really had a fantastic taste to them, very deeply layered and rich.  They were a little denser, though still fluffy, and almost imperceptibly drier (which in no way detracted from their soft, golden, goodness).  The batter was easy and kind, pleasantly thick (and rather tasty).  While my family preferred Ms. Stewart’s pancakes to these, it’s still a great recipe for buttermilk pancakes.

Second (though, actually, simultaneously), the Martha Stewart pancakes:
Review:

This is THE classic pancake; the recipe really undersells with the title “Basic Pancakes”.  These pancakes were lightly flavored and incredibly fluffy with just a hint of sweetness.  The batter was a little thinner than the buttermilk, but cooked up just fine with no problems.  The pancakes had a wonderful little crisp to the outside and a gentle airiness inside. I used oil instead of butter, and maybe next time I’ll try them out with butter, just for fun.  There will definitely be a next time for these pancakes. I didn’t do the oven-warming, but since it takes a while to get all the pancakes done, I’ll definitely use that little trick next time.

Tips:
To make pancakes fluffier, sift your flour, whip your eggs, and you can even substitute in seltzer water (though I was more than happy with the fluffiness of these recipes).

The secret to perfectly cooked pancakes is patience.  It’s better to cook them a little slower and more evenly, than try to rush them (they’ll end up burnt outside and undercooked inside)

As far as toppings, etc.  I made a few plain from each batch as well as almond, pecan brown sugar, chocolate chip (I used semi-sweet and white chocolate), and one with chopped crystallized ginger (which was very yummy and exotic).  Basically anything I could grab out of the front of my pantry. For all of those, I simply pressed the nuts, chocolate, etc. into the uncooked top of the pancake after I scooped the batter into the skillet.

They were absolutely delicious, especially with some salted butter and fresh berries.  Made 6am worth it.