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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chinese Pancakes

I decided earlier this week to try something new. I had a recipe from a magazine for Moo Shu pork, which is one of my favorite dishes. Unfortunately, as I got started chopping and shredding the vegetables, it suddenly dawned on me that you just can't have Moo Shu pork without Chinese pancakes! So, I went online and got a general recipe and gave it a try. What a neat process. I think it is very similar to how tortillas are made, but these pancakes are much thinner and require an additional step. Today I'll post how to make the pancakes and then I will post the recipe for the filling tomorrow.

The term pancakes is really a misnomer here; they are really more like a flat bread. Yeast is not involved, but the initial dough preparation is just like making bread. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together and then add the boiling water. Either stir by hand or use a stand mixer with a dough hook. Use plenty of flour to knead until the dough comes together and loses most of its stickiness. Add flour gradually while kneading until you can reach this stage. Spritz one side of a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and wrap the dough up. Let it rest on the counter for about half an hour.

After letting the dough rest, cut it into two equal halves. Keep the spare half in the plastic or under a damp tea towel. Using plenty of flour on the counter, roll the dough out to about half a centimeter thick. Use a good sized biscuit cutter (I think mine was about 3-4 inches in diameter) to cut out rounds. Remove the excess dough and set aside to consolidate a roll again. Brush the tops of the rounds with sesame oil (regular, not toasted - you can use vegetable oil, too). Place two rounds together, oil sides touching. Set the rounds onto a parchment lined sheet.


Start a skillet heating on the stove over medium-high heat. Do not add any oil or grease to the pan. Meanwhile, flour the counter again and, one by one, roll the dough "sandwiches" out until they are paper thin. Place the paper-thin dough into the preheated pan and cook on each side until they are gently browned, a minute or two per side, depending on the heat of your pan.

Remove the cooked pancakes to a towel to cool slightly. Once they are cool enough to handle, carefully pull the two sides apart. Once you find the dough edges, they should come apart easily. Store the pancakes under a slightly damp towel to keep them from drying out too much before serving. They can be stacked at this point without worrying about them sticking together.

These keep well once cooled for up to four days in a plastic bag. Simply place in the microwave for a few seconds to soften them back up. Up tomorrow, how I made the filling!

Chinese Pancakes
Yield: about 16 pancakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
1 TBS sugar
dash salt

Mix flour, sugar, and salt together. Knead, adding small amounts of flour, until the dough comes together and loses its stickiness. Wrap dough up in cooking spray lined plastic wrap. Let the dough rest on the counter for thirty minutes.

Preheat a skillet on medium to medium-high heat. Do not oil or grease the pan. Meanwhile, roll half the dough at a time out onto a floured board. Roll until the dough is about half a centimeter thick. Use a 3-4 inch in diameter biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough. Brush the top of each round with sesame oil (untoasted) or regular vegetable oil. Place two rounds, oil sides together, onto a parchment lined sheet pan.

Roll each stacked round on a generously floured board until they are paper thin. Try not to get any folds in the dough as you go, as these can make it hard to pull the pancakes apart at the end. One by one, cook the pancakes in the hot skillet. Cook each side until it starts to brown lightly, about 1-2 minutes per side, depending on the heat of your pan. Remove from the pan and let cool slightly on a paper towel. As soon as the pancakes are cool enough to handle, gently peel the two sides apart. Stack separated pancakes under a slightly dampened towel until ready to serve.

Pancakes keep in an air-tight container for up to four days. Simply give them 10 seconds or so in the microwave before serving to soften them back up.

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