Flaky Scallion Pancakes

Green onion cakes (also known as scallion pancakes) have been a staple of festival season in Edmonton for as long as I can remember. Savoury, greasy, and aromatic with green onion, amongst the sweetness of ice creams and mini donuts, the simplicity of fries, ketchup and the typical hot dog, green onion cakes were the standout in flavour and texture. Having grown up with my family working the Fringe, it’s one of those sensory memories intrinsically tied to the summer – inimitable.

At least that was the impression I got when I tried to recreate the magic at home 10 years ago. In the chill of winter and yearning for summer sensations, I tried my darnedest to recreate those token treats. But no matter how onion filled, how deep fried, how desperately encouraged each pancake was as it sizzled in the pan, the centre was always doughy and damp, making the crisp, well browned exterior a waste, dulling the flavours of the inclusions added. Burned by my failures, I retreated from my google searches, and thought not to try again until recently. Today’s search revealed what had previously eluded me, and I found my green onion cake redemption.

J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats endured a similar initial experience to mine. “Fried dough and scallions, right? How hard could it be?” Upon discovering how to really make scallion pancakes, he took to the internet to share the two secrets: hot water dough, and lamination.

Hot Water Dough

By using a hot water dough, you denature the protein. Instead of being elastic and tenacious, the dough becomes more plastic, resulting in a dough with enough gluten to support mild lamination, but a short, chewy bite.

Lamination

The dough is laminated through being brushed with sesame seed oil, (at this point sprinkled with green onions,) rolled, wound like a snail and then flattened, creating flaky layers of evenly distributed flavour. This can even be done more than once, that flattened snail being rolled, wound and flattened again for even flakier pancakes.

Included below is López-Alt’s recipe for Extra Flakey Scallion Pancakes. Go forth and recreate those summer memories, any time of the year.

Extra Flakey Scallion Pancakes

For the Pancakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
1 cup boiling water
Up to 1/4 cup toasted sesame seed oil
2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens

For the Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinkiang or rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely sliced scallion greens
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar

To Cook:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt

1. Place flour in bowl of food processor (see note). With processor running, slowly drizzle in about 3/4 of boiling water. Process for 15 seconds. If dough does not come together and ride around the blade, drizzle in more water a tablespoon at a time until it just comes together. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.

2. Divide dough into four even pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working one ball at a time, roll out into a disk roughly 8-inches in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Using a pastry brush, paint a very thin layer of sesame oil over the top of the disk. Roll disk up like a jelly roll, then twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath. Flatten gently with your hand, then re-roll into an 8-inch disk.

3. Paint with another layer or sesame oil, sprinkle with 1/2 cup scallions, and roll up like a jelly roll again. Twist into a spiral, flatten gently, and re-roll into a 7-inch disk. Repeat steps two and three with remaining pancakes.

4. Combine all the sauce ingredients and set aside at room temperature.

5. Heat oil in an 8-inch nonstick or cast-iron over medium-high heat until shimmering and carefully slip pancake into the hot oil. Cook, shaking the pan gently until first side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula or tongs (be careful not to splash the oil), and continue to cook, shaking pan gently, until second side is even golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with salt, cut into 6 wedges. Serve immediately with sauce for dipping. Repeat with remaining 3 pancakes.

Passport to Baked Good(nes)s

I can’t say that I’m an intrepid adventurer but I have seen different parts of the world. Many of my memories of these places are linked to food.

I spent three weeks touring Peru with my sister and her friends. The highlight of that trip was the Lares to Machu Picchu trek. During the trek, we visited with a couple living in the middle of the Andes. They kept live guinea pigs in cages underneath their beds. Later on, our group stopped at a restaurant where they served us whole roasted guinea pig. Initially, I was grossed out at seeing whole guinea pigs but the staff took them away and chopped them into bite size pieces. I did try a bit. It reminded me of herb roasted chicken, with extra gristle!  Also, while visiting Lake Titicaca I had trout. I don’t remember trying any Peruvian desserts but I do remember having banana splits for supper one night. I was young at the time so it was fun to break the rules, and it was a comforting reminder of home.

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My travels have been valuable experiences. However, people don’t have to leave the comfort of their own homes to have culinary adventures. Take this blog for instance. Through it, people of different backgrounds get to share their baking experiences. We as readers get to live out their adventures through these pages and we have the option to try out the recipes. The Internet, TV, and cookbooks have opened the doors to delicious destinations.

Besides media and technology, a big part of the adventure comes through living our lives. When I went through NAIT’s Culinary arts program, I made and filled cannoli shells as a part of a test in the international food and culture course. Here’s the recipe that I used:

Homemade Cannoli Recipe with Mascarpone Cream

Becky. Homemade Cannoli Recipe with Mascarpone Cream. Accessed March 18, 2015. From http://www.thevintagemixer.com/2012/03/homemade-cannoli-recipe-with-mascarpone-cream/

Yield: 16 cannoli

Make cream filling and refrigerate. Make dough, roll out and cut into circles. Fry dough using cannoli forms. Let cool for 15 minutes. Fill cannoli with cream and then dip ends into chocolate

Ingredients

Cannoli Shells

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/8 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Mascarpone Creme

  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (drained overnight w/ cheesecloth & squeezed dry)
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

Cannoli Shells

  1. Combine flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add Marsala and oil, and beat on medium speed until dough comes together. Using your hands, knead dough on a lightly floured work surface until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Wrap in plastic, and let rest 30 minutes.
  2. Divide dough into 2 pieces. Pass 1 piece of dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine (keep remaining pieces covered) OR roll out into a thin sheet of dough. Continue passing through narrower settings until it is the thickness of a dime. Lay on a floured work surface. Cut out rounds with a 3 1/4-inch cutter. Gather scraps and reroll.
  3. Pour enough oil into a large, heavy saucepan to come about 4 inches up sides. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 380 degrees.
  4. Wrap each round of dough around a 3 3/4-inch-long cannoli form, sealing with a dab of egg white. Working in batches of 3 or 4, fry until golden, about 1 minute. Using a wire skimmer or tongs, transfer to paper towels, and let cool 5 minutes. Carefully slide out forms, and let shells cool. Continue rolling, cutting, and frying the remaining dough.
  5. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Dip ends of cannoli shells in melted chocolate. Let set 15 minutes on parchment paper.

Mascarpone Cream

  1. Mix filling ingredients together.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (at least a couple of hours).
  3. When ready to serve, use a ziploc bag (cut the corner) or pastry bag with 1/2 inch star tip. Pipe filling into one end of a shell to the center, then into other end. Repeat with remaining shells and filling. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve immediately.
  4. Let the filling smoosh out of each end of the shells, just a tad.
  5. Some people sprinkle powdered sugar on top right before serving or dip the ends into chocolate shavings.

Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to make the shells.

While going to school, I have worked part time at Popular Bakery. It’s owned by a Portuguese family. One of their specialties are a Portuguese custard tart or Pasteis de Nata, as they call them. For a recipe follow this link:

http://leitesculinaria.com/7759/recipes-portuguese-custard-tarts-pasteis-de-nata.html

Pasteis de Nata | Portuguese Custard Tarts Recipe

Without even leaving Canada, I got to experience Italian and Portuguese desserts. Canada is a melting pot of cultures. Within Edmonton, there are many local and ethnic baked goods just waiting for you to discover.  So get out there and explore. I hope you find baked goodness and make delicious memories.

 

Best Bakeries in Edmonton

I recently got my hands on the newest issue of Avenue Magazine. Every year, Avenue brings together a group of culinary experts to rank the top restaurants in the city in a wide range of categories. The category that I always flip to first is the “Best Dessert” category.

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Shockingly, it was none other than Duchess that took top honors. Their commitment to making the freshest desserts and using the finest ingredients has always put them at the top. In fact every year since 2012 (when the Best Restaurants list started) Duchess has taken the top spot.

In second place was Dauphine, which is sort of a hidden treasure, tucked in the basement on 104 St. They are easy to miss, but if you spot the basket of baguettes you know you are in the right place. They are a fine French pastry shop known for their perfect tarts and also offer up soups and sandwiches.

In third place was the Art of Cake. The basement of City Center Mall is not the first place you would go looking for a bakery, but their friendly service and bright displays of cupcakes will draw you in, and you will instantly fall in love.

So to ensure this “Best of” Edmonton bakeries list was accurate, I took it upon myself to visit each one and report back. I know it is a hard job but somebody had to do. Your welcome. So read on about my adventures!

Best Restaurants Full List

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The first stop on my bakery tour was the Art of Cake! I was with a few of my classmates when I entered the shop and the staff behind the counter, with big smiles, greeted us instantly.

The bakery is owned by the talented team of Gloria Bednarz and Guenter Hess. Gloria is a former NAIT Culinary graduate and Guenter was a former instructor. The business is a family affair, with their son working behind the counter selling the delicious creations. He was very excited to hear that we were NAIT Baking students and offered us a sample of their mini cupcakes!

They had a wide selection of different flavors to choose from. I and few others had the Elvis cupcake. It is a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter buttercream, topped with chocolate drizzle and peanuts. It was AMAZING. The buttercream was so smooth and the chocolate cake was nice and moist. The other girls had mint chocolate and oreo cupcakes.

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Other flavours available were:

Strawberry
Vanilla
Lemon
Chocolate
Carrot
Cookies ‘n Cream
Red Velvet
Cheesecake
Vanilla Coconut
Chocolate Coconut
The Elvis (Chocolate Cupcake, Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing & Bacon

Pricing was fair I though,as the products are of great quality and are absolutely delicious!

Mini Cupcakes –
Single, $1.75
12 pack, $18.00

Regular Cupcakes –
Single, $3.50
4 pack, $12.00
6 pack, $18.00
12 pack, $33.00

The packaging was simple and functional in clear plastic containers but it didn’t really match their whimsical character.

The Art of Cake specializes in made to order cakes, so each one is unique and different and absolutely gorgeous! Cakes can be made to suit any occasion but Weddings seem to be very popular.

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Apart from the Cakes and cupcakes, there is a well-lit display offering delicious treats that can’t be resisted. There is a large assortment of cookies, small cakes, scones, pastries, tarts and cake pops. The main focus of the display is to draw the busy, business person in and give them something they can eat on the go, or bring to an office function.

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I loved almost everything about the Art of Cake, my only negative is there was no place to sit down. I know they are close to the food court which has ample seating but the atmosphere is so wonderful in the little shop that it would be great to sit there and enjoy it! Apart from that, I think Art of Cake has definitely earned their spot in the top 3!!!

The Art of Cake

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The Second stop on my whirlwind tour was Dauphine, located on 104 street. This is a great location for a bakery because it is right in the center of downtown Edmonton. In the summertime, there is a very busy farmers market that operates on 104 street. Dauphine participates in this market every Saturday, offering up their fresh baked bread and pastries.

The bakery was a bit hard to find but the basket of baguets out front definitely helped. My first impression of the bakery was great, it is beautifully decorated and really feels like a  french pastry shop. The decor of the bakery is very beautiful, however, it was lacking in seating. In the main area, there were two tables but only one of the tables had chairs, and it was occupied. There were a few more tables in the back corner of the bakery but they also were lacking chairs.

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When we ventured in, it was about 10 minutes before we were greeted and received service. There was only one person working, and he was busy making coffees. A line quickly formed, about 5 people long including us. Once we received service it was polite and quick.

There was a large variety of treats available at Dauphine but one of the things they are known for are their tarts. I have had their lemon tart in the past so this time, I decide to try the white chocolate pistachio tart. I also thought I would try their carrot cake cupcake. As there was not a lot of available seating we decided to take our food to go.

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The packaging at Dauphine was pretty standard, it was a clear plastic clam shell container. My only complaint with that was, instead of putting my two separate items in separate containers, they squished them into one. I felt that this didn’t maintain the integrity of the product. The icing on my carrot cake got squished in the seam of the clamshell. It didn’t ruin the flavour or taste of my cake but it definitely didn’t look as beautiful as it did in the display case.

Overall my experience at Dauphine was alright. I enjoyed the items that I ordered but the service was lacking. It would have been nice to have been greeted when we entered the bakery and had the option to have a place to sit down and eat. I do think that Dauphine is a great bakery and we may have just caught them at a busy time.

Dauphine

P3040466.jpgThe third and final stop on my list was the infamous Duchess. Duchess offers a blend of classical French pastries as well as a light lunch menu. Right next door to the cafe is their shop Provisions. The store sells hard to find ingredients, cookbooks, bakeware, and kitchen tools. This is really convenient because I got their cookbook for Christmas, and every ingredient you need in the book, can be found at Provisions.  I love it!

We had a hard time finding parking out front and ended up parking about a block and a half away. I was expecting that, as parking is not readily available in that area of town. Once we got into the bakery it was packed. There were no available tables to sit and the line to order was quite long. P3040458.jpg

The line did move quickly once we in it, however, my only complaint was that I could not see the display case as I waited. Lanaya and I took turns holding our place in line while the other went and checked out the display.

I do have to say that the displays are flawless, you can tell the product has been prepared with the finest attention to detail.

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When it came time to order the staff was very polite but our interaction felt very mechanical. It is as if the employees are just working an assembly line. They greet you, take your order, take your payment, and send you off on your way. I understand they are busy and this is the only way they can keep the line moving quickly but, it still felt very impersonal.

Duchess is known for their Macarons, I ended up ordering two, a blueberry lavender one and a vanilla one. I also had to try their blackberry and rhubarb crumble. Of course, everything was delicious! I was hesitant at first of the Blueberry lavender macaron (lavender is usually to perfumey for me) but this was the perfect combination, you must try it!

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As we could not find a place to sit we got our stuff to go and the packaging was beautiful. It had all of the bakery information on the box in an elegant gold type.Yes, it was beautiful but it was not very functional. Lanaya got a tart and they put it inside this great big box and by the time she got home it had moved all over the place. If they took the time to secure the little tart board to the bottom of the box, it would have made a world of difference!

Overall I think Duchess is a beautiful bakery and they truly are providing us with the finest French pastries in Edmonton. I think they are amazing at what they do and are deserving of the “Best Dessert” title here in Edmonton.

Duchess is also being recognized by many others for their outstanding pastries. I came across a list of “23 Bakeries Around The World You Need To Eat At Before You Die” and Duchess was number four on the list!

If you have not been to Duchess before, make sure you check them out!

Duchess Bake Shop

23 Bakeries Around The World You Need To Eat At Before You Die