MULTI-LAYERED SCALLION FLAT BREADS

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Do you have things that you tried and tried and tried making, and it.  Just.  Doesn’t.  Work?  In the kitchen, I call them my culinary nemesis, and they can be summed up by two words, “chewy” and “layers”.  You whisper these words to my ears in the middle of the night…

I pee my pants.

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To be absolutely fair to “chewy” which has decided to warm up to me in the past year (truce?  yes.), it did kindly gave blessings to my roux bread, Bonci’s pizza bianca, coco dropped nuts and… (thinking long and hard… my snickerdoodle?  Nope.), yup that’s about it.  We’re still working on our differences.  But “layers”?  Arghhh, “layers” that bitch, stood me up at just about every single invitations I sent and then some.  My previous and probably last attempted croissant had structures so tightly bound in an unison mass, I thought I went to Challah-lah Land, plus I probably shouldn’t say much during my on-going lawsuits with a recipe that cost me a truck-load of butter for its allegedly “easy” puff pastry…  Pfff… yeah, my anticipation for multi-layers did “easily” melt into a butter-puddle of hell in my hot oven… just melted away…

But the day before I left Beijing for the periodic Getaway to Restore Sanity, I did it.  I slayed that bitch down and you are looking at its corpse.

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You wouldn’t think flat breads should have layers I mean they are already so… flat.  But that’s the exact texture you would try to achieve in one of my favorite Chinese street snack, a thinly rolled out soft dough, multi-laminated with finely diced scallions and fried golden browned and crispy, the secret of which has tormented me for years through countless failed attempts and heartbreaks.  Let’s see.  The water was too hot which killed the dough… the at-home diced scallion without MSG and non-lard-associated frying oil was proven to be not enough (yes, MSG, and lard!  we’re talking street snacks here.  don’t be silly)… and layers?  What layers?

But, like I said, I think this time I nailed it.

The best mix of warm and hot water to nurture a supple and soft dough that’s layer-friendly, and a blended scallion oil with punches from ground white pepper to make up for the… well, you know, plus a little rolling-dough tricks and secret baking powder for puffs… hey, don’t say I’m not nice.  I timed it perfectly at a season when over-hanging bellies are tolerated and properly covered.

Because that’s exactly what these addictive carbs are gonna give you for Christmas.

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Makes:  4 large pancakes

One of the tricks, I believe, is not to roll the dough to deadly thinness that you lose the layers.  The first roll-out at which you apply the scallion oil, should be about slightly thinner than 1/8″.  And the final roll-out should be a bit thicker than 1/16″.  Any thinner than that, you’ll flatten out all the work you’ve done.  I’m not gonna lie… you may fail the first time.  But it will eventually take you to yummy town.

There’s no reason why the awesomeness of this flat bread can’t be expanded to other herbs besides scallion.  Think basil, a little rosemary, thyme, or garlic and parsley.  Whatever you have on hand really, is going to turn these flat breads into great snacks or show-stealing addition to a bread-basket (don’t you looove bread baskets!?)

Ingredients: 

  • Dough:
    • 1 cup (130 grams) of all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup (140 grams) of bread flour (somehow measured heavier than all-purpose…)
    • 2 tsp of sugar
    • 1/4 tsp of salt
    • 1/2 cup (120 grams) of warm/hot water (150ºF/65ºC)
    • 1/4 cup (60 grams) of cold/room-temperature water
    • 1/4 cup (50 grams) of vegetable oil
  • Scallion oil and filling:
    • 2 cups (105 grams) of diced scallions, divided into 1 cup each
    • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp of salt
    • 1 tsp of ground white pepper, divided into 1/2 tsp each
    • 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp of baking soda
    • Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Flour for dusting
  • Vegetable oil for pan-frying

To make the dough:  Mix all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar and salt together in a stand-mixer bowl with dough-hook.  Bring a small pot of water to 150ºF/65ºC (it should be almost too hot to touch but NOT close to a simmer), then with the machine running on low, add 1/2 cup of the hot water into the flour-mixture.  Mix for 1 minute or so.  The mixture will still look like loose flours with large lumps.  Then add 1/4 cup of cold water and mix for 1 minute, and then add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.  Turn the machine on medium-high speed and knead the dough for 5 minutes until shiny and elastic.  The dough will be very wet and sticking to the side of the bowl in the beginning (if it seems tacky already, add 1 tsp of water), but it should slowly pull away cleanly at the end of kneading.  When you lift the dough-hook, the wet dough should droop down from the hook slowly.

If you need to do this with hands, you can.  But keep in mind that this is quite a wet dough and it will stick to your hands while kneading.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for at least 1 hour.

To make the scallions oil and filling:  Add 1 cup of diced scallions, vegetable oil, salt, 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.  Transfer into a bowl.  Take 3 tbsp of the mixture out into another bowl and add 1/8 tsp of baking soda, mix until combined and keep both in the fridge (update 2014/02/04: a reader suggested 4~5 tbsp to be closer to being enough).  Mix the rest of the 1 cup of diced scallion with 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper, set aside.

UPDATE 2014/02/04:  To clarify the recipe a little bit, the 3~4 tbsp of blended scallion oil that you take out and add the baking soda to, is the oil that you apply to the layers.  The remaining scallion oil WITHOUT BAKING SODA, is what you brush on top of the flat breads when they’re done.

To make the flat breads:  Divide the dough into 4 portions and set on a well floured surface.  Take 1 portion, dust with more flour and roll into about 1/8″ sheet.  Apply a generous layer of scallion oil (mixed with baking soda) and sprinkle 2 tbsp of diced scallions over the sheet, then fold it in the same direction 3 times (like folding a letter) into a log, then fold the log length-wise 2 times into a round-shaped dough (try to eliminate as much air as possible while you fold).  Set aside (to let it rest) and repeat the same with the other 3 portions.

Now go back to the 1st dough you worked on (which had a few minutes to rest) and press it down gently into a thick, flat disk.  There will be air pockets in between the layers which will make it hard to roll out, so pierce the dough a few times with a fork and dust with only enough flour to prevent sticking, then roll into a large circle slightly thicker than 1/16″ (careful not to over-roll it because you’ll risk flattening all the layers)(if the dough springs back stubbornly, rest it for another 2 min).  If you want to keep the flat breads in the freezer, laminate the rolled-out doughs in between two sheets of parchment paper and tuck inside a zip-lock bag.  Keep frozen until needed.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-heat.  Carefully lift the dough up and transfer to the skillet.  Cook over medium-low heat, add more oil if needed, until golden browned on both sides (it’s important to add enough oil)(the baking soda will create bubbles in between layers during cookings).  Right off the skillet while it’s still hot, brush the top with more scallion oil (without baking soda).  Serve immediately.

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28 Comments

  • You have no idea how much I hate layers too. I have made my one and only successful batch of puff pastry and Honestly I hated every single moment of it. Forget the water oil type pastry used by the chinese bakeries. I suck at it!

    I die hard fan of these pancakes. While you may not think you are good at layers; I think these pancake prove otherwise

  • thank u so much for sharing this! I’ve been trying to perfect my scallion pancake too but obviously I do not have your dedication nor talent.

  • I lived in China and loved these at the Moslem noodle cafes. And now, shut UP! you give me a recipe?? Whooohoooooo! If I wasn’t frying latkes right now I’d be making them. Duo xie!

  • What a pleasure to read your wonderful writing. I will bookmark this recipe for when I’m not baking Christmas Cookies.
    Thanks and Happy Holidays!

  • Dying to make these. You had me laughing so hard at the beginning of your post — “I pee my pants.” Hahahaha. Oh, those pesky kitchen nemeses. I have so many. Good scallion pancakes are so hard to come by, crispy on the outside but still with chew, and those crucial layers that you struggle with. I am 100% certain I’ll fail the first time I try these, but I’m definitely going to give them a go at some point regardless. Thank you for this hilarious post and for this recipe!

  • Bah! We’ve been dreaming of scallion pancakes lately, but unfortunately few recipes actually turn out the way we think they should. Namely: crisp and layered. Most are gummy and bland. I’m on board with these, though. They look legit.

  • I am going to have a go at making these. I am a bit confused about the baking soda scallion oil. Does it all get mixed back in together or do you keep it separate?
    Thanks

    • Louise, you should take 3 tbsp (or more to be safe, maybe 4 tbsp as a reader suggested) out of the scallion oil that you blend in a blender. Then ADD THE BAKING SODA into the 3~4 tbsp that you take out. This is the scallion oil that’s going into the LAYERS. The remaining scallion oil WITHOUT baking soda, is what you brush on top at the end. I hope this clarifies things.

  • Did you know that if you use the print button at the bottom of your post it is a 28 page document? I want a print copy to take the recipe into the kitchen. Wonder if there is a plug in that will allow your reader to just print the recipe without all the photos and comments?

    Deborah

  • I have to tell you that that recipe is sooo good. I have not tried anything so good in a long time. Very good explained and the pics have helped allot. Thanks once more for grate recipe.

  • Ahh am constantly on the hunt for a better green onion pancake recipe. I like the use of scallion oil, that’s a new one! Will use this for my Korean BBQ tacos because green onion pancakes instead of tortillas is the bomb.

  • This recipe is so easy to make even though anything bread sounds hard. The baking soda does make wonderful little bubbles and the blending the scallions with oil as a paste is a terrific idea. My two year old daughter ate 2 whole scallion pancakes.

  • Made these and they were really delicious! The whole process was much easier than I thought- the dough spread easily- I didn’t really roll it, just spread it out gently. Sooooo yummy. A little sesame oil tasted good with it. Wonder why the use of hot water and cold water when making the dough. Whats’s the science behind that? Thanks for a great new recipe!

  • Munching on these right now as I type. Sooo good, even though I didn’t get those beautiful layers. I used 4 1/2 tbsp of oil to brush on the dough before folding, and I think that’s where I went wrong. It was too much oil, and when I rolled the dough, I couldn’t roll them thin at all. Because it was bursting oil all over the place (and I did poke the bubbles with a fork, which only meant more oil gushing out).

    I had so much trouble kneading the dough in my stand mixer. Maybe the problem’s with the mixer, because there wasn’t enough dough for the hook to reach properly, and instead it was just smoothing it against the bottom of the bowl. In the end, through much struggle, I had the dough nice and elasticy, but it didn’t pull cleanly away from the bowl.

    But the taste ;)

    • I had the same exact problem as Angela with oil bursting out all over even poking holes. It got so messy and wet that I decided not to freeze the dough for later and just cook it all. I think I’ll do what Judy did next time and just spread out the dough instead of rolling. Great flavor! I think there’s plenty of flavor even without spreading the extra oil on top after cooking. Thank you Mandy

        • Hi Mandy, actually, I didn’t use oil to dust the dough. The oils bursting was from the scallion oil, but I think you’re right… I probably didn’t dust with enough flour before rolling so will try again now that I know that may help. Thanks!

    • This happened to me too, which I think is the fault of my very old mixer. I just kneaded it by hand, and popped it back in the mixer to finish it off. Hopefully it works!

      Yep, it worked! Delish and flaky and layered. How exciting! Next time I’ll try to force more spring onion flavour if I can. Thanks =^.^=

  • I know I’m late to the game, but wow–this recipe is not only easy, but it’s delicious. I got layers on my first try! I have a question though, for my second go at it, I’m wondering what you think would happen if they were baked in a 500 degree oven on a pizza stone instead of fried?

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