February 9, 2011

he bakes -- no wait -- he fries

Has anyone else noticed that this blog is 99.99% "she cooks" and 0.01% "he bakes"? It has been awhile since I've posted anything, and I think it's about time I start pulling my weight on this blog. That said, I haven't baked anything new lately. So what to blog about? Well, my latest obsession is flat bread, the kind that you heat on the stove rather than the oven. Eventually we'll talk flour tortillas, but today I'm starting with one of my favorites in honor of the newly begun year of the rabbit.

Scallion pancakes are quite possibly China's greatest gift to humanity. I know what you're thinking... what about gunpowder, the compass, paper, the fork, negative numbers, kites, and Mahjong? Well, fry up a few of these and then tell me what you think.


Scallion pancakes
adapted from Appetite for China

Scallion pancakes are chewy, tender, flaky and so insanely delicious that you don't mind burning your fingertips to eat them while they're hot. I like to dip them in a mixture of soy sauce and garlic/chile oil (heat some peanut oil in a wok, add some roughly chopped garlic, cook on low until garlic is fragrant and translucent, add crushed red chile flakes, done). These are a good late-night snack or as a first course for a Chinese dinner.

2 cups / 290g all purpose flour, divided into two bowls
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lard or vegetable oil
1/2 cup / 118g warm water
1/2 cup / 118g boiling water
1 cup finely chopped scallions or garlic chives
additional oil for coating pancakes and frying

Divide the flour evenly into two medium sized bowls. In one bowl, mix in the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water. Whisk for a minute or two until smooth. In the other bowl, add the salt and then pour in the boiling water. (The heat from the boiling water helps to release the starch and make the pancakes less floury.) Whisk for a couple of minutes. Once the bowl cools to the touch a bit, add the mixture from the other bowl. Mix on medium with a paddle attachment until the dough begins to ball up, then add the lard or vegetable oil. Continue mixing, switching to a dough hook if necessary, until the dough pulls back from the sides of the mixing bowl. It will still be a little sticky and will probably not clear the bottom of the bowl. (If you don't have a standmixer, fear not -- you'll just have to give your arms a workout, starting with a wooden spoon and then eventually switching to knead it by hand until smooth.)

Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover. Let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes. Then turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll into a log. Divide the dough into approximately 20 ping-pong ball sized pieces. One at a time, using a well-floured rolling pin, roll each ball into a thin disk. Brush the surface with a scant amount oil (peanut works great; some people like sesame but I think the flavor is too strong) and sprinkle on a small handful of chopped scallions or garlic chives -- just enough to lightly cover the surface.

making scallion pancakes for the year of the rabbit

Roll up the disc into a tight cylinder, and then coil up the cylinder.

making scallion pancakes for the year of the rabbit

making scallion pancakes for the year of the rabbit

Repeat this for each piece of dough. Next, using your floured rolling pin, flatten each coil into a pancake. Ours end up approximately 5 inches in diameter.

making scallion pancakes for the year of the rabbit

To cook the pancakes, heat up a wide nonstick frying pan over medium high heat. Add an ample amount of oil (at least 1 tablespoon); once heated, add as many pancakes as will fit in the pan. Cook until golden brown and flip to cook the other side. Generally, it takes ours between 2-3 minutes per side, but the timing will depend on how hot your pan is. Continue cooking as many as you like, replenishing the oil as necessary.

making scallion pancakes for the year of the rabbit

Any remaining uncooked pancakes can be set on a cookie sheet and individually frozen, though I have to warn you that they don't get as quite puffy/flaky after being frozen. Defrost a few minutes and fry. They make an excellent late-night snack.

raw scallion pancakes after a night in the freezer


Josh said...

Um... so you're telling me garlicky chili oil is really just garlic, chilis and oil? I feel dumb... I always thought it was a secret sauce only dim sum houses could make properly. Anyway, the pancakes look excellent. I prefer mine to be thicker, though -- assuming I could just roll them out thicker and that would work, right?

Anonymous said...

What kind of oil do you fry them in? You mention brushing them with peanut or sesame oil at some point, can you fry them in either?

Mark said...

Josh - I personally prefer a thinner pancake, and we also use a rather small frying pan, so I keep them pretty small. You could definitely just roll them out to be thicker (and you could also make them larger), just divide them into a smaller number at the beginning.

Anonymous - Sorry I wasn't clear on that. For the frying you would definitely want to use something like peanut oil (really any neutral oil would be ok). I've never fried with sesame oil, but I would be worried it would start smoking and taste bad if you heated it up to too high of a temperature.

Lauren said...

Looks very yummy, Mark.

LJ said...

actually I've never made chili oil either. good to know!
also the eating is shared, importantly, though the blog posts are not. Right?

Lan said...

Hello Mark,
I enjoy reading your blog very much. Anyhow, thanks for a very detailed recipe. It definitely will try to make them tomorrow.

Laura J. said...

I love scallion pancakes!! I've bought the frozen ones at 99 Ranch once or twice, but now I'm inspired to try them myself. Hungry now...