It is fascinating to me the wonderful things that can come from combining flour and water. Two humble ingredients that can produce real culinary magic.
Every now and then, the need to knead and throw flour around my kitchen takes hold. And believe me, I throw flour around with abandon. I cover my apron in it, the floor, my hair. It’s a chaotic sight, but I love it. I’m on top of the dusty world when I’m playing with dough.
Amidst all my floury merrymaking, there also happens to be a fascinating science in flour and water. Today I’m going to talk about gluten and how it is affected by the addition of cold versus hot water. Asian wheat flour wrappers can be made with hot or cold water and how you plan on cooking them ultimately determines which you use. If you are boiling dumplings, then thicker skins made from cold water dough are usually required to withstand the high cooking temperatures. However, if you plan on pan-frying or steaming, then hot water doughs, which tend to be thinner, are the way to go. The difference in the two doughs is basically how the gluten is developed (or not developed).
Gluten is what gives dough structure, so the more it is kneaded and worked, the more elastic it becomes. So well-kneaded cold water dough, like pizza dough, will spring back even if you pull and stretch it. Hot water doughs, on the other hand, like the ones used to make scallion pancakes, dumpling wrappers and this pancake wrap, tend not to bounce back as much. That is because the boiling water basically cooks the proteins in the flour, preventing the gluten from forming too much (reducing elasticity). This amounts to a dough that is extremely easy to roll out. This hot water dough is incredibly robust – you can even work it straight out of the fridge!
These pancakes are the ones used to make Peking Duck Pancakes. They are super addictive and you can basically fill them with whatever vegetables (or meat if you fancy) you like. Here, I have used pan-fried leftover broccoli stem, along with traditional fillings of cucumber sticks and finely sliced shallots. The sauce, a simple yet smashing combo of hoisin and tahini, is an absolute standout. An impressive starter for your next gathering!
Broccoli Stem Pancakes with hoisin + sesame sauce
I tend to make these in advance, and freeze them after the pan-frying stage. When ready to use, I defrost and steam.
Makes 20 Pancakes
Hot Dough Pastry
- 1 ½ cups plain flour
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¾ cup boiling water
- ½ tsp vegetable oil
Pan-fried Broccoli stem
- 4 broccoli stems, tough outer skin removed
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed
- Sea salt
Hoisin + Sesame sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 2-3 tbsp water, to loosen
- 4 Lebanese cucumbers, seeded and sliced into thin strips
- 6 Chinese shallots, finely sliced lengthways
- 2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
Begin by making the pancakes. Place the flour and salt in a large bowl, stir the boiling water into the flour, and add the vegetable oil. Knead into a firm dough. Place into a floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Once ready, knead again for 5 minutes until smooth.
On a well floured surface, divide the dough into four equal parts and roll each into a long snake. Divide each snake into 5 smaller portions and roll each into a ball. Press into a flat disc, and using a rolling pin, roll into an 11cm/4 ½ inch circle. Continue until you have rolled out all your pieces. Make sure you sprinkle plenty of flour onto the rolled out pastry circles to avoid sticking to the kitchen bench or to each other.
Heat a frypan to medium-high heat. Dry fry each pancake, for about 60 seconds on each side. As they cook, they will puff up and develop brown spots which is exactly the appearance we are going for. Continue until all the pancakes have been dry fried. At this point, you can wrap them in greaseproof paper and keep in the fridge or freezer until ready to use. Or you can move straight onto the next step, which is to steam them.
Just before serving, stack the pancakes on top of each other and place in bamboo steamer or on top of a steaming rack. Cover and steam for 5-10 minutes, until soft. Turn off heat and keep them covered until ready to use.
Brush one disc with sesame oil and place another disc on top. Using a rolling pin, flatten each pair of discs into a 6 inch pancake. Heat an ungreased frying pan over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and place the pairs of pancakes, on at a time, into the pan.
Trim broccoli stem into 7cm long fingers. In a frypan, add some olive oil, along with the broccoli stem and garlic. Move around the pan for 2-3 minutes, just enough to soften the stems. I like them slightly crunchy. Remove from pan.
To make the sauce, combine the hoisin and tahini and gradually whisk in the water until you get a smooth, creamy consistency (like thickened cream).
To serve, take a pancake and place 2-3 broccoli stems in the middle, along with cucumber, Chinese shallots and drizzle over some sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Wrap and chomp!