I understand the gossamer sad something that comes with Sundays now, as evidenced by the fact that this is posting on a Monday morning, when I am wading heavily through molasses thoughts and my body still needs rousing from halcyon weekend hours. Last week I started a temporary, full-time position at a little software company–nothing remarkable, but something to keep me from idling and tide me over until I can stop chasing that elusive something in the Somewhere I want to be–and my eyes are already protesting from taking on extra baggage (mostly my fault: I’m still trying to squeeze myself into a proper sleep schedule that doesn’t involve contemplating Earthshattering Existential Questions at 3 AM). Sundays are for heavy hearts. It’s not always a melancholy–sometimes it’s the chevron of birds winging through the gloaming, a nameless stirring and softly sinking. Regardless of what your week is like, there’s still a finality to it: sigh, Sunday.
Sunday mornings, though, old school Maroon 5 was not wrong about those. Somewhere between a satisfying ending to your favourite book/show/film and “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope” (Persuasion, Jane Austen) is the Sunday morning: those first few waking hours are a fine romance.
My family isn’t much for dining traditions; we eat dinner together every night, but the rest of our time is largely our own. I don’t remember when I took it upon myself to start whipping up spontaneous Sunday brunches, but there I was yesterday morning, the sleeves of my robe bunched around my elbows and glasses slipping down the bridge of my nose as I foggily sliced away at a bunch of scallions (look away, kitchen safety monitors, look away!). “Muskrat Ramble” crackled from my phone, which was drowned out shortly after by the whir of the soy milk maker pulverizing dried beans, a handful of white rice (for smoother texture), and water into steaming glasses of fresh soy milk (manufactured by Joyoung–the one we own, linked prior, is sold out on Amazon, but they have other models available).
My father used to bring back a to-go box of Chinese supermarket prepared foods counter scallion pancakes after his Sunday soccer games. They were huge, dense things–folded over themselves in order to fit into the box–and perfectly hot, blistered exteriors gave way to thin, chewy layers. Each wedge left a sheen of oil on your fingers and became gummy as they cooled, but I was fond of them all the same. Enter my foray into frying up my own savory flatbreads and I never saw a carton around the house again.
Extra-flaky Scallion Pancakes
Adapted with a few tweaks and the tiniest omission from Serious Eats
The original recipe includes a dipping sauce (which sounds delicious and you should definitely make it if you’re so inclined), but I opted to include enough salt in the pancakes themselves so they would be flavorful enough to hold their own, sans accoutrements. There’s also the option to make the dough in a food processor, but I’ve only ever made my pancakes by hand and it works just fine if you don’t mind a few extra minutes of scrubbing.
These pancakes are very forgiving and once you get used to the laminating process with the dough, you’ll be making stacks of them–bleary-eyed and swaddled in a robe–without breaking a sweat. That said, the “extra-flakiness” implied in the title takes some trial-and-error. You don’t want to deep fry your pancakes, but you’ll need enough oil in your pan so that the layers crisp up enough to separate. You might end up with a flaky exterior with a heavy layer of pancake in between your first few tries, but don’t fret! Practice will make your perfect pancake and hey, when all’s said and done, it’s hard to go wrong with pan fried dough.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
1 cup boiling water
Up to 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil (or whatever neutral tasting oil you have on hand)
2 cups thinly sliced scallion greens (I included the whites as well, but if you don’t want that extra onion-y kick, you can set them aside for a stir fry later in the week)
Kosher salt (I only had fine sea salt–Morton’s–on hand)
Up to 1/4 cup vegetable oil for cooking
- In a large bowl, combine the flour with the boiling water, adding the water in a slow drizzle as you stir to combine with a wooden spoon/spatula. After the dough comes together (it will be a little sticky, but not so much that it leaves gobs behind in your mixing bowl), turn it out on a floured work surface and knead for roughly five minutes until satiny and smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.
- Divide dough into four pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working with one ball at a time, roll out into a disk roughly 8-inches across on a lightly floured surface. Drizzle sesame oil over the disk (Serious Eats calls for a pastry brush, but I just used my fingers, deep tissue massage style) and spread it evenly in a thin layer. Sprinkle on a light layer of salt (I tend to underestimate the amount of salt I need and everyone’s mileage may vary, so my advice to you is to make the first pancake a tester with the amount of salt you think appropriate, and adjust the others from there). Roll disk up like a jelly roll (or rug), then twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the outermost end underneath. Flatten gently with your palm and then re-roll into an 8-inch disk.
- Paint or rub on another thin layer of sesame oil. Sprinkle with scallions. Add another dusting of salt if you’d like. Roll up like a jelly roll again, twist into spiral, flatten gently, and re-roll into a 7-inch disk. This step can be a little messy if you’re heavy-handed with your oil and scallions–oil may spurt and your dough may tear in places as you roll it out, but it’s easily fixed.
- Repeat steps two and three with remaining pancakes.
- Heat cooking oil in a non-stick or cast iron pan over medium-high heat until shimmering and carefully slip a pancake into the hot oil. Cook, shaking gently until the first side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula or tongs (be mindful of splashing oil), and continue to cook, shaking pan gently, until second side is an even golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. When cool enough to handle, cut your pancakes into wedges. Enjoy immediately. Hot soy milk with a spoonful of sugar optional, but highly recommended.
Yield: 4 pancakes. (I doubled the recipe for brunch for four because we’re voracious Scallion Pancake Scarfers.)
I ran out of scallions when it came round to my last two pancakes, so I did a riff on the theme with kimchi. A sound call on my part.
Cheers to a wonderful week ahead!