In a previous article, I looked at an interesting application of a wafflemaker to cook halloumi cheese. Again, I was interested in applying the wafflemaker to foods that could benefit from a increased crispy surface area to soft interior ratio. I decided to go with one of my favorite snack/appetizers, the scallion pancake.
|Scallion pancake waffle with Korean fried chicken and gochujang mayo|
Scallion pancakes are a savory Chinese flatbread, fried to have a crispy exterior and soft dough layers inside. It is traditionally made by brushing a circle of dough with sesame oil, rolling into a tube and flattening, creating roughly 5n laminated dough layers for each iteration. Finely chopped green onions are added prior to the last rolling step.
I had recently read an article on scallion pancakes on Seriouseats, which gave some helpful tips on how to make scallion pancakes. However, I noticed several problems. By following the procedure without any changes, the resulting pancakes were very tough in the interior, not soft and chewy as with a good scallion pancake. Also, Kenji claimed that ~25 layers (two iterations of rolling and flattening) is the most you can get with a scallion pancake. I wondered how and why this is the case, since with other laminated pastries (croissants, puff pastry, cronuts, etc.), many more layers are possible. One obvious difference is that other pastries use butter, which is solid, whereas scallion pancakes use sesame oil, more fluid, which may not be able to perfectly separate layers of dough under pressure.
In order to make the two necessary improvements (softer interior, more layers), I decided to alter the traditional scallion pancake recipe. Rather than using just sesame oil to laminate the dough layers, I made the pancakes using a blend of butter and sesame oil (2 tbsp butter:1 tbsp sesame oil). This accomplishes two things: 1) the water content of the butter, and possibly the steam created, allows for a moister, less tough dough, 2) by using a fat with higher saturated fat content (more solid), the layers of dough have more complete separation.
|Improved scallion pancake 4 ways. From left: Cooking pancake in waffleiron, fried in pan, and deep fried. On the right: two views of the 4 ways of cooking scallion pancakes (pan-fried, deep-fried, wafflized, and baked)|
The resulting scallion pancakes had a superior texture when fried in a pan, deep fryer, or waffleiron (2-3 minutes frying for each, for waffleiron cooking, it was necessary to brush the outside of the pancake with oil first). Additionally, it was especially apparent when baked that the pancakes had many more thin layers of dough than those made using traditional methods. Similar to other laminated pastries, the texture is further improved by giving the folded dough at least a day of rest for gluten relaxation. Ultimately, the scallion pancakes produced with the above proposed changes resulted in superior texture and a more versatile pastry.
|A closer look at scallion pancakes cooked 4-ways. Top: pan-fried and deep-fried. Bottom: wafflized and baked. Right: a closer look at the baked scallion pancake, with many clearly distinct layers visible.|
I used this scallion pancake waffle in my most recent Masterchef audition, served with Korean fried chicken wings and a gochujang mayo. Unfortunately the audition didn’t go so well this year, since I made the amateur mistake of forgetting to add salt to the pancake dough, and oversalted the exterior of the waffle to compensate. Ah well, maybe next time!
|Top left: layered dough with a last sprinkling of scallions and sesame oil. Bottom left: finished scallion pancake waffle with gochujang mayo. Right: Scallion pancake waffle with Korean fried chicken and gochujang mayo|