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.

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Boterkoek

Baking is a true science and for me baking is my passion, I put love into the things that I make. This makes a difference in the product, both in appearance and the way it tastes. My friends tend to say to me, ‘boy this is so good and tastes better than when I make it, what is your trick?” and my answer to them every time is one word…. Love. If you love what you do it will shine through your product and people can literally taste the difference.

My all time favourite Dutch dessert is Boterkoek (Dutch Butter Cake). This traditional Dutch dessert is somewhere between a tart and a shortbread. It has lots of butter, an almond flavour, a reminiscent of frangipane and makes a great afternoon treat at coffee/tea time. Oh my goodness my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

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As for my Oma’s recipe, now that is a secret but I will share another recipe with you all that I found to produce a delicious product.

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To make boterkoek:

  • 150g butter
    • 200g caster sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 200g  flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 20g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line a 23cm (9 inch) cake tin with greaseproof paper.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter, sugar and almond extract until light and fluffy.

Remove one teaspoon of the beaten egg and set aside. Pour the rest of the egg into the mixture, and stir well. Add the flour and baking powder, and mix until you have a smooth dough.

Transfer the mixture to a baking tin, and pat down with the back of a spoon until smooth (you might find it easier to use clean hands to smooth the mixture). Mix the teaspoon of egg with a teaspoon of water, and brush on top of the boterkoek. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds, and bake for 25-30 minutes until just golden and firm to the touch.

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Genieten! 

Dutch Baking

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To implement the love that I have for baking, I try to stay true to my roots. I am proud of my heritage and one part of that is Dutch. My Opa and Oma immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands, settled and started a grain and hog farm in Northern Alberta. One thing to know about Dutch people is that they hate to see anything go to waste. When judgment day came at my grandparents farm, it was time to butcher a pig. My grandparents use every part of the pig possible, as times were tough and this includes the hock, so why not turn it into something delicious!

Growing up, one of my absolute favourite dishes that my Oma would make is called balkenbrij (pronounced balken brie). The best way to describe this is to call it a Dutch pancake. Traditionally balkenbrij was prepared on farms at the end of the pig-slaughtering process. It is generally made from the stock left over from boiling the hock, and the meat rendered off of the bone. Boil the stock, add the meat, flour and a special spice mix of cinnamon, clove, ginger and some other spices that I cannot spill the beans on! Finally it is poured into a pan or mold and cooled off to achieve the form of a loaf. Once cool, slice the loaf very thin (1cm), dust each slice with flour and fry in lard. Once cooked sprinkle sugar on top to add the finishing touch. If sugar doesn’t hit the spot for a topping, you could add anything that you wish.

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One of my favourite traditional Dutch desserts is oliebol (pronounced oliebollen). Oliebol means, “Oil ball”. In English these tasty treats are most commonly known as Dutch doughnuts. The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas, currants, raisins and occasionally candied fruit or apple. Once the dough is made you then drop an ice cream scoop full of dough into the deep fryer to make a nice sphere shape. Fry until golden brown on both sides, then remove them from the oil and place on a rack to let the oliebol cool. Once cool dust the oliebol in powdered sugar and add some cinnamon if that tickles your fancy. Yummy in my tummy!

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These sinfully delicious doughnuts are traditionally served around Christmas time. In my family we made it a tradition to make oliebol on New Years Eve, as there is always so much good food at Christmas and this was a real treat to have.

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Tot de volgende keer

Mennonite Delights: Pappanate

Pappanate. Said Pay-pa-nate.
The direct translation from Low German, or Plautdietsch, is Pepper Nut.

This is a Mennonite bread/bun like dessert often served at Christmas, and oh what a treat it is! These, along with jam jams, I only ever get to eat at Christmas gatherings, and needless to say, ack frate me zelse domlicht (translation: I eat myself silly). In the Mennonite culture, a lot of importance is placed on family. Every year we gather with all of our aunts (tantes), uncles, cousins and grandparents (grausmam and grauspap, gotta roll those r’s!) to celebrate holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Each holiday has its traditional food, pappanate being one at Christmas. Other Christmas foods include meike rece (milk rice) and plume mouse (a cold plum soup type bowl of joy). Below are links to recipes for both:

http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2010/01/cooked-rice-with-milk.html
http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2012/04/plumi-moos.html

There are two varieties of pappanate; one is a loaf with swirls, while the other is bun like with sprinkles or sugar topping. My favorite, as you may or may not have guessed, is the bun pappanate. I have also heard of there being tiny peppernut cookies, but have yet to try or see those.

Pappanate is smaller than a bun, and just as soft. But the thought of adding pepper to a sweet dough topped in colored sprinkles does not sound appealing in any sense, yet it is one of the most enjoyable Christmas desserts.

Below, the pictures will take you through the long, step by step process of making pappanate.

 

Like many Mennonite recipes, pappanate is another typical case of ‘flour until good’, something I find quite annoying. But each to their own! Nevertheless, pappanate is still one of the most delightful Christmas desserts around!

For recipes on all types of pappanate, see the links below. I’m keeping my recipe to myself, sorry all!
Happy baking!

http://www.mennonitegirlscancook.ca/2009/03/peppernut-bunsspiced-buns.html
http://www.mommymoment.ca/2013/11/peppernuts-recipe-pfeffernusse.html
https://books.google.ca/books?id=SvUjtHzLlywC&pg=PA21&lpg=PA21&dq=mennonite+peppernut+loaf&source=bl&ots=8lJhtvtW2O&sig=Tp0v20sIHdPU2iJ8xWrSOGpHYIQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjc_4-Yu7rLAhUY4WMKHXwsDGMQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&q=mennonite%20peppernut%20loaf&f=false
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/peppernut-tea-bread

 

Mennonite Delights: Schmondt Kuchen

Schmondt Kuchen. Said Sh-moe-nt Q-ken.
So many consonants in a row, I know.

The English translation for this dessert is cream cookie. It’s a classic Mennonite cookie with a smooth white icing, possibly topped with coconut or sprinkles (just like butterhorns).

The name is spoken in Plautdietsch, or more commonly known as Low German. This language is primarily spoken by Mennonites and has German, Dutch and Russian influences. Interesting facts about Plautdietsch include that it is only a spoken language, not written, and is an important factor in preserving the culture and bringing people together. If you’re looking to learn more about Plautdietsch, you can visit:

http://www.plautdietsch.ca/
http://www.mennolink.org/doc/lg/

Another big factor in preserving the culture is the food! Lets face it, Mennonites love to eat. Where two or three are gathered, there food will be also. Especially delicious treats such as Schmondt Kuchen.

There are two varieties: cut out and scooped. Now, I have made the cut out variety before, so I thought I would give the scooped type a whirl, partly because there is less waste and they are much simpler. But mostly because Mennonites have a strange habit of including ‘flour until good’ in the recipe. Not a fan. (see also Mennonite Delights: Butterhorns)

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Above is the recipe, pretty simple and straight forward. I used a small cookie scoop and baked them for 8 minutes, any longer and they burn.

Looking back, I should have spaced the cookies further apart. Being my first go at it, I hadn’t expected them to flow nearly as much.

In my experience, I did find some differences between the two varieties. For example, the scooped ones are more cake like and spongy, where as the cut out are denser but still soft. The taste was relatively the same with the rich, creamy flavor; hence the name. Although, I do prefer the texture of the cut outs, and they are the more traditional of the two.

Schmondt Kuchen may not be nearly as beautiful as other cookies, but let me tell you, they are delightful!

Below I have included some links with more information and recipes for Schmondt Kuchen. Enjoy!

https://grandmasoldwoodenrecipebox.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/very-nice-cake-drops/
http://www.food.com/recipe/mennonite-soft-white-cookies-411399
http://www.kehler.ca/schmaunt-kuchen/#more-2311