Hi Everyone, There is something magical and special about fried dough, whether it is in the form of bakes, beignets or doughnuts. However, due to their higher caloric value, many of us are always in search of alternate ways to enjoy our fried favourites. One of my favourite things to eat – Chinese Scallion (green onion) Pancakes – is fried. Even though they are only pan-fried, there is a certain hesitancy in consuming as many pieces as one would like. Therefore, when my blog-friend Angie Tee wrote about baking the pancakes rather than frying them, I knew I had to give it a try.
Scallion pancakes are a street food in China. They are savoury, unleavened bread folded with sesame oil and thinly sliced scallions (green onions). When I first made scallion pancakes (about 7 years ago), the process immediately reminded me of our Guyanese-style paratha (oil) roti and the Trini-style buss-up-shut. The dough when kneaded and rested is cut into smaller pieces, rolled thinly, brushed with oil and then rolled up very much the same way as we do with paratha before cooking. Just like the paratha also, when cooked, there are flaky layers, the difference being that the scallion pancakes are filled with green onions.
When many of us think of pancakes, batter comes to mind but the Chinese Scallion Pancakes are made with a soft, pliable dough. Very hot water and flour come together to form a sticky dough before it is then dusted with dry flour and kneaded by hand. The initial dough (which would be way too hot to handle at first) is made using a fork, wooden spoon or with that useful kitchen appliance known as the food processor.
I was drawn to scallion pancakes because of my love – make that obsession – with green onions with their long green blades and bulbous heads, be they purple or white. The first time I made the pancakes, I pan-fried them, as is the norm, and they were very yummy but I wanted another way to cook the pancakes that would not require more oil. Consequently, I started cooking the pancakes the same way we cook paratha, added dry to the tawah then lightly brushed with oil, flipped, cooked on the other side and then brushed with oil. While this application was pleasing, I found it made the pancakes a little chewier. Over the years, I’ve only made them now and then.
Last June my blog-friend Angie Tee wrote on her blog suggesting another way to make the scallion pancakes – bake them! I did not have to be convinced to try the recipe, my one reservation was whether or not the pancakes would be too doughy when baked. I noted with interest that the baked version would depart from tradition with the addition of a leavening agent in the form of yeast. The other thing was that the texture was bound to be different for 2 reasons – it would be baked and the temperature of the water used to make the dough would be significantly cooler than the almost boiling water that is needed when making the fried pancakes.
The baked scallion pancakes were crusty on the outside and tender and soft on the inside. When you cut or bit into the pancake it flaked. The baked pancake is light and unlike the traditional version, which is often served with a dipping sauce, this version is good on its own. But I like the dipping sauce so I always make some to have with my scallion pancakes. I use it the same way that the Italians dip their bread into olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
When they are in the oven baking, the air is filled with a savoury aroma, and if people are around, they are constantly saying, “What are you making? It smells great in here!”
While the fried scallion pancakes are served as an appetizer or snack, I serve the baked version as the bread in place of a dinner roll. You can serve whole or cut into wedges. If served whole, simply pull it apart or tear off a piece. Serve warm. The pancakes store well in the refrigerator or freezer, and to heat them, first bring them up to room temperature and put them in a toaster oven for a few minutes or in a low heated oven or even on a griddle or tawah. The pancakes can also be heated up in a microwave; you won’t get any of the crispness but it will be soft and just as tasty.
Give the recipe a try and let me know what you think.
Baked Green Onion
(Adapted from Angie Tee)
- Pastry brush
- 2 (13 x 18-inch) sheet pans lined with parchment paper
- Wire (cooling) racks
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted,
plus extra for work surface
- 2 tablespoons white or brown sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
- 1 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees F)
- Toasted sesame oil
- Fine table salt or sea salt
- 1 ½ cups thinly sliced scallions/ green onions
- Add the flour, sugar, and yeast to a large bowl and mix well.
- Pour the oil and water into the flour and mix to form a soft dough. When the dough comes together, knead for 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Put in some place warm and let proof/rise for 50 minutes or until more than doubled in size.
- dust a work surface with flour. Transfer the dough to the surface, deflate the dough by pressing out the gassy air and divide into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into a ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out as thinly as you can. Brush the dough with sesame oil, sprinkle with salt and then green onions. Working from one end, roll the dough as you would a carpet or cigar. Now roll the cigar into a spiral (like a snail) and tuck in the end beneath the spiral; press the top lightly with your palm and set aside. Repeat until all of the dough is rolled, oiled and seasoned. Let rest for 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Flatten the dough with your hands into a 5 – 6-inch circle and transfer to the lined baking sheets. Lightly brush the top with sesame oil. You will only be able to put 2 pancakes on each pan.
- Bake for 16 – 20 minutes or until the top is brown and firm to the touch. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
- Serve warm, whole or cut into wedges.
- Depending on the flour and temperature where you are, you may need a little more water.
- Do not be shy in seasoning (salting the pancake), it should be tasty on its own when cooked.
- You can choose to roll the dough using a rolling pin but I find that pressing it with your hands leaves the dough soft and springy.
- Depending on your oven, you may need to switch the pans half way through cooking so that the pancakes can cook and brown evenly. You can opt to only bake 1 pan at a time; that way the pan that comes out of the oven can cool down enough for the next 2 pancakes.