Moroccan Baghrir – Thousand holes pancake

Long been a destination on my bucket list – and one that had taken us way too long to fulfill – we finally visited Marrakech in December 2018.  I sort of did and didn’t know what to expect.  A dancing mirage somewhere in between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, the face of Marrakech carried mysterious, exotic and imaginative beauty in my mind, like a place only in story books, almost unreal.

But of course, in reality, Marrakech is anything but unexposed.  We arrived to find an ancient city, like all the others of her kind left only with the pillars of tourism industry, whose beauty, flaws and dignity are laid bare for the world to entertain with.  Her plastered skin glowing in pink and orange, her sometimes unequivocal display of chaos and neurosis, and her remedial serenity and reflective pools inside the earthen walls of her beautiful courtyard houses, all of which was once for herself, now all is but a reluctant theme park for foreign passers.  This could be a difficult dilemma for any city, especially a poor one like Marrakesh, where her livelihood brings out both the best and worst she has to offer.  Within the walls of Medina, it could feel like a pressure cooker of transactions.  A request for directions, a photograph, a helpful hand, all of which seemed to need to become an exchange for euros, or worse, extortions.  And there she stood in the backdrop, her face blushing in that beautiful gradation of earthy red hues, I wondered, if in sadness or apathy.

That sounded negative.  For that I apologize, for who am I to lay judgment in my brief and shallow crossing with a city that is obviously complicated, and made our trip sound unenjoyable which it definitely wasn’t.  

If you wish to enjoy Marrakech, in my experience, you have to choose a great riad to stay in.  Riad is traditional Moroccan courtyard houses, but nowadays, mainly known as a synonym for Bed & Breakfast.  Your riad is where you retreat from the outer disorientation and intensity, where you find conversations beyond bargainings, where it could feel like a temporary family even just for a few days.  And most importantly for us, where the foods were great.  When it comes to street foods, to be utterly honest with you, I wasn’t too impressed, at least inside the walls of Medina.  We tried our best to avoid obvious tourist traps and focused on old establishments favored by mostly locals, but nothing stood up to the promise.  On the third day, out of search-fatigue and the promising aroma lurking out of the kitchen every late afternoon that we could no longer ignore, we decided to stay in our riad for dinner at a more than reasonable pricing of 20 euros per person.  What was served to us that night, had single-handedly reversed our perception of what Moroccan cuisine could and should be.

The dinner started with a few small bites of cold appetizers, each nicely balanced in texture and flavors that eased our skepticism.  Then came a lightly spiced pumpkin soup that held so much more nuances of comfort than its creamed orange appearance suggested.  “Is this typical in Moroccan meals?” I asked the manager.  “Yes.”  He smiled in amusement.  “Pumpkin soup.”  Of course.  At this point we were sufficiently assured to not be surprised by any excellence that was not expected.  But the main course, a bubbling tagine of fork-tender beef stewed in gentle spices and dried fruits with the occasional crunch of heart-shaped almonds, blew us away.  It isn’t easy, I feel the need to point out, to cook foods that are unmistakably motherly and soft-spoken while standing up to all the required sophistication and depths one would expect from a paid dinning experience.  Whoever cooked this meal, has a rare gift, but it wasn’t until the next morning that I decided to find out who she was.

Sitting at breakfast on the rooftop in a sun-lit backdrop of blue and pink, was when I saw this.  A plate of baghrir.

You may not know what it is, you probably don’t.  But I did.  I did because this particular Moroccan yeasted pancake, had hurt me.  Yes, deep, like the boy in school who had maliciously broken your heart and left it to rot in humiliation, whom you would never truly forgive and forget no matter how many therapies and better relationships you’ve been through, the one whom you will always, always imagine to run into on the street in your upmost hottest self just so he could mope in regret.  That boy, that was my baghrir.  I came across its recipe many years ago online, lured by its exotic and mysterious profile, agreed to series of hookups in the kitchen so unsuccessful that left me in distress.  Mushy, textureless, with big scattered holes like the surface of the moon, and worst of all, no apologies whatsoever.

But this baghrir… this was a different baghrir.  Chewy, filled with delicate holes that trapped as much salted butter and honey as my conscience would allow, it was everything that I once thought was falsely promised to be.  I was never one to ask to intrude in a private kitchen, but this is about settling old debts.  I asked the manager to introduce me to their cook and a few hours later before our second dinner in the riad, Majda greeted me by her stove.

The kitchen was already intoxicated by the aroma of couscous that she was preparing for dinner, a dish that I once so foolishly thought to take minutes, was an ordeal that stretched for hours and through various procedures by her standard.  She could barely speak a word in English, and I spoke none in French and Arabic.  Nonetheless she walked me through the process of making baghrir, patiently, explaining not by precise measurements but details in intuitions and adjustments, uncompromising even in the slightest margin of inconsistency.  I already knew she was good.  And now I knew why.  Ten minutes of preparing the batter and an hour of fermentation later, I stood by the stove and watched the batter I just poured into the skillet fizzing enthusiastically in densely populated air bubbles, which then popped as the batter cooked and solidified.  It was one of the most satisfying cooking experiences I’ve had, and the baghrir was just as chewy and delightful as the ones I had in the morning.

Six months had passed since my Marrakech trip, and I’m glad to tell you that after a dozen batches of re-enactment from memory and obsessive fiddling, I now could finally bring Majda into your kitchen, too.


Moroccan Baghrir – Thousand holes pancake

Yield: 13 six-inches pancakes

* Some baghrir recipes involve baking powder, but I find it unnecessary, counter-productive even, resulting in large, moon surface-like bubbles. The yeast itself will do the bubbling job perfectly.

* The extra protein in bread flour gives the pancakes more body and chewiness, which I think is paramount in a successful baghrir. But if you only have all-purpose, it will work, too, but just slightly less exciting.

* The bubbles of baghrir should be small, densely populated and delicate. If you find your bubbles too large and scattered, it is usually a sign that the batter has over-proofed. You need to either reduce the rising time or the amount of yeast.


  • 1 cup (168 grams) fine semolina flour
  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp (4 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2 grams) instant dry yeast, or scant 1/4 tsp for overnight
  • 1 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (385 grams) hot water at 105 F/40 C
  • Salted butter, room temperature
  • Good floral honey


  1. Water at 105 F/40 C would be 2 cups of water microwaved on high for 50 seconds, or as Majda used, the hottest tap water. In the blender, blend fine semolina flour, bread flour, fine sea salt, instant dry yeast and hot water on high for about 2 minutes, until the batter is extremely smooth. The batter should be very watery and runny.
  2. Transfer the batter into a container, cover, and let rise at room-temperature for about 1~1:30 hour (use 1/2 tsp of yeast for this). The batter should look quite foamy at the surface. Or you could prepare the batter before bed, and let rise in the fridge for 7~8 hours overnight (use scant 1/4 tsp of yeast for this). The next morning, the batter will appear to have separated with a watery layer in the middle. Don't panic, simply stir it back together. If you are leaving the batter in the fridge for more than 8 hours, reduce the yeast to 1/8 tsp.
  3. Once ready, give the batter a gentle stir and let rest for another 5 minutes. Heat a small non-stick flat skillet over medium-high heat until hot, then turn the heat down to medium-low. The temperature of the skillet should be that there is a faint sizzling sound when the batter hits. Pour about a scant 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the skillet, then swirl it in an wide angle to spread it out into a thin, 6" pancake. Bubbles, tons of it, should immediately form on the surface of the pancake. Once the top surface of the batter is completely cooked, and the bottom is lightly browned, about 1-plus minute each, transfer the pancake onto a cooling rack. Repeat with the rest.
  4. The optimal state of the pancake is not when it's warm! It will taste mushy instead of chewy. The pancakes should be allowed to cool down completely before serving, about 30 minutes to 1 hour, which makes them perfect for breakfast parties. But if you're in a hurry, place them in front of a fan to cool down fast. Serve the pancakes with softened salted butter, salted I say, and drizzle with good floral honey (not that bear stuff please). It is a perfect pairing by design, the best really, hard to be outdone. But occasionally dipping the leftover pancakes into dinner curries isn't without its merits.
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Super rich coconut, orange and mango panettone

see you next year, my friend

In a few days, we are going to pack our bags and head to Paris then Marrakech for our holiday vacation.  I probably won’t see you much on this blog during that time, which is why I’m throwing you a fat-bomb now to sustain your optimal winter-time figure all the way untill a new year comes. What a new year if one can’t make a diet resolution to fail utterly at?

This is what I call, the Crazy Rich Asian Panettone, lubed up with 12 egg yolks, coconut milk, and an ungodly amount unsalted butter and unrefined coconut oil.  This indecent level of fat not only keeps the crumbs sinfully moist, but also provides a backdrop of coconuty aroma where it pairs beautifully with speckles of dried mango and persimmons tinged with orange zests.  It could serve as an awesome “self-enrichment” during the holiday seasons but also, as we all secretly desire, as an ill-intended gift for our frenemies whom we would like to see de-shaped on that first depressing day back to the office.  Either way, we win.

So see you next year, my friend.  You’ve been lovely.


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As previously confessed on my Instagram (read for context), these days, I’ve been physically and mentally occupied with being a responsible dog mom.  This recipe was developed to be brought to Sesame and SRB’s playgroup – as one is required to do when one’s children are the least well-behaved amongst their peers – to maintain an illusion of their waning popularity and postpone the likely inevitable timing when they get officially kicked out.  When the stake is this high, mom goes to town.

So I’m proposing these fluffy yet chewy donuts stuffed with dark brown sugar that is formerly massaged with honey, vanilla extract, sea salt and spices until all parties clumped into a lustful wet sand, which then fatefully collapses and melts together into a viscous deep brown goo when it surrenders to the willful steam inside an expanding, frying bun.  It’s needless to describe to you how the molasses-y sweetness that’s brought into focus by a hint of cardamon, cinnamon and sea salt, oozes slowly out of a warm pillow, and how narrow of a window they will remain in their best possible state shortly after they came warm out of the fryer.  And so as my respect for these donuts demands, I seized and honored the moment and as a result, none of them had made it to fulfill their original intended purpose.  I’m not explaining anything but just saying.

Well, empty handed but still gotta go.  I’ll see you around.


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I’ve been to Amsterdam.  For a total of 18 hours.  I don’t know what people do during an overnight layover in a city they know nothing about, and I knew nearly nothing about Amsterdam.

However, pancake, seems to be a thing.

What did I know about “Amsterdam pancake”, or as I later found out, pannenkoeken?  Not much, really, aside from that it’s starkly different from the verticality of common stacked pancakes, in fact, it’s one of the flattest stand-alone foods I’ve came across.  And in my long years of hunting for culinary clues, when something spreads so unseemly, so 2D, so unornamented to a point of bleakness, yet is still adored as “a thing”, further investigation is warranted.  And rest assured, I was not disappointed.  To clarify upfront, during the only few hours of daytime we had, we only tried Amsterdam pancake once, from an unresearched, random cafe close to our Airbnb apartment, and had only a single pancake with cheese which we shared.  All in all, what I’m trying to say is, I am no expert.  But from the moment since the waitress placed something that looked exactly like this in front of us, as unflatteringly as it came, and I tore a small corner from the edge and put it faithfully in my mouth,  I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Chewy.  Chewy was the first word that came to mind.  But soft though, really soft.  A combination of textures that, from the start, was already far more interesting than any of the spiritless associations of common pancakes, say, pfff, fluffy.  Flavor-wise, it wasn’t exceedingly eggy like Dutch baby or french crepe, nesting comfortably in the natural and mild sweetness of wheat flours and milk.  I also couldn’t stop thinking about how daringly minimal it presented itself on the table, a bare blanket of confidence with nothing else but a few slices of melted Dutch gouda on top, almost making a statement, declaring its independence from BS, secure with assurance.  It felt playful to eat, interacting, but comfortable, like having a conversation with a soft-spoken but funny stranger who underdressed with ease, while the whole time I wondered if it was too weird to ask if we could be friends for life.

And that’s exactly what I did.  All eight times of trials and errors.  It felt funny going after something, with this much effort, when I wasn’t even sure if it’s a classic representation in its category.  Is this the pannenkoeken?  I have no idea.  But I don’t really care.  I just want to find my way to back to that particular one that I really liked.  It was expectedly tricky to replicate that softly chewy texture which I hold as a key to its charm, leading to a combined conclusion of both wheat flour and potato starch in the batter.

I know it doesn’t look like much.  And I probably would’ve bypassed it if I wasn’t stuck in a city full of it.  But I’m glad I was.  And I know you will, too.


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What is obsession?  When is it helpful and when does it get silly?

Ever since that episode of Chef’s Table on Nancy Silverton, I’ve been dwelling, not upon, but inside this subject.

The episode, of course, celebrates a chef’s willingness to spend an inexhaustible amount of effort to close that last short climb between what is already a great dish to a conceivably perfect one.  A distance too short and steep no doubt, for most to commit.  But to Silverton, especially when it comes to breads, being obsessed is not a question of should or shouldn’t, but do you have what it takes?  I am, however, at least not today, talking about the theoretical aspect of obsessions.  Instead, I’d like to bring forth the physical one that I was sent into after watching her episode.

During that show, there was about a 30-seconds scene showcasing a flatbread-looking pie, a glowing golden-brown mirage.  Captivated by that glimpse, nothing but a glimpse, without even knowing what “it” actually was, I plunged into a months-long pursuit from grasping what I saw to realizing it in my own kitchen.   First, it took me a considerable amount of Googling to find out what I initially thought was a “thin double-sided pizza stuffed with mozzarella?”, to be something actually called focaccia di recco from her restaurant Chi Spacca, an extremely crispy-edged, flatbread-like creature that has nothing to do with either pizza nor mozzarella, or the typical focaccia for that matter.  The dish is essentially dollops of fresh cow’s milk cheese cocooning in between two stretched, unyeasted, paper-thin films of dough, and baked into a ballooned and blistered pie with cheese-filled underground chambers.  Mostly cracker-like crispy, partially soft and stretchy, all in all and bona fide gastronomic wonder unlike anything I have ever seen.

It, allegedly, took her two whole years to perfect.

Since then, I bled over bringing it into my reality.  I don’t have anything else to elaborate other than the every words already written in the instructions, each summarizing hours and hours of theorizing, testings, failings, staring, and re-testings, presented to you, as shortly and concisely as I think what a normal human being has patience for.  The result rewarded and justified every last drop of sweat and tears spent, and whatever difference there may be from the real deal, I confide in my belief to be a result of hardware issues (commercial oven VS. home electric oven).  Except, maybe, whatever experience I cannot transcribe through words.  And if so, then that my friend, is where only your obsession can take you.  But it’s worth it, let me tell you.  It’s all worth it.


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What’s a bialy, if you don’t already know?

I’d like to think of bialy as the ugly sister of bagel, who comes without the shiny crust nor a robust PR campaign, but, in my opinion, ultimately wins hearts and minds through slow and quiet diplomacy.  Or at least it should, if only in your kitchen.  Think about it.  Bialy and bagel practically shares the same dough, which isn’t a difficult one if I might add, but that’s about as much sameness as bagel’s gonna tolerate from her sibling.  Not a fault of her own, but bagel, being held to her finicky New Yorker status and all, is somewhat of a… hm what’s that word… right, bitch.

You didn’t “retard” the dough in the fridge for 2 days, not a bagel.  You didn’t boil it, not a bagel.  Didn’t boil it long enough, not a bagel.  Boiled in the wrong water, not a bagel.  Can’t use her crust as a mirror, not a bagel.  Too soft, not a bagel.  Too hard, not a bagel.  Lives in Montreal, definitely not a bagel.

But you see, bialy on the other hand, ah, sweet girl bialy… whether by virtue or as a necessary strategy for unpopularity, is very low maintenance.  Without exuding much judgements, she doesn’t mind being taken on a speed date, from kneading to baking, all under as short as 4 hours of your time (well, a bit longer if you live somewhere dry and cold, I mean, a lady’s gotta keep warm).  And surprising to whom care to look beyond the lack of a glamorous shine, her lightly browned exterior is thin but not without character, in fact, delicately crusty if you cherish it warm out of the oven as one should.  Then you’ll notice that her soft but chewy crumbs remind you so much of a bagel that you wonder if it’s really worth pursuing the other.  But perhaps the most heart-winning gesture from bialy is that she does, actually, carry something within her heart, a filled crater in the center whereas in a bagel, it’s an utterly hollow hole.  —- OK.. usually some sort of onions with poppy seeds kind of stuff and let’s admit that none of it is very chic and if anybody needs a before/after it’s this poor girl —-  In this case, I say why not, honey and butter coated sweet dates bedded within softly whipped cream cheese.  Right, you may think that’s rather odd against that whiff of onion powder being mixed into the dough which gives the bread a hint of savoriness, but no, it’s not.  That’s what’s surprising about this bialy, sweet and creamy but not without her savory core, soft to the touch but playfully chewy throughout, a bit of confliction but just the right amount.

Ultimately, the one you’ve been looking for.


Yield: 5 bialy

Dough recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen and King Author Flour combined


  • 2 cups (275 grams) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (165 grams) water
  • 1 1/2 tsp (8 grams) sea salt
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • cornmeal o semolina flour for shaping
  • 7~8 large dates
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 tbsp cream cheese, lightly whipped
  • white sesame seeds to sprinkle


  1. PREPARE THE DOUGH: In a stand-mixer with dough-hook, knead bread flour, water, sea salt, light brown sugar, instant dry yeast and onion powder on low speed until the dough comes together. Turn to high speed and knead for another 8 minutes until the dough is very elastic and smooth. The dough should feel soft, moist and slightly tacky, light a baby's bottom, but pulls away cleanly from the bowl when the machine is running. If the dough feels tough and rubbery, add a tbsp more water and knead until smooth.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until fully doubled, about 2 ~ 4 hours (this largely depends on how warm and humid the environment is). Scrape the dough onto a lightly dusted working surface and divide into 5 equal portions, then keep tucking each dough under and into itself until the surface is smooth and round. Coat each dough with cornmeals or semolina flour, then place onto a baking-sheet with at least 4" of space in between each. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Try dipping your finger gently into the dough, and if the indentation stays without springing back, the dough is ready.
  3. When the dough is almost ready, preheat the oven on 450 F/230 C, then place a cake pan filled halfway with hot water DIRECTLY on the bottom of the oven (this creates a moist environment that helps form a crust).
  4. SHAPE AND BAKE: Halve the dates and remove the pits, then mix the dates evenly with honey and melted butter, set aside. Dust the surface of each dough with more cornmeal or semolina. Slightly flatten each dough, then use the knuckles of your fingers to gently press and create a wide and deep crater in the center of each dough (kind of like making a fat mini pizza). To make sure that the crater doesn't spring back during baking, I highly recommend poking a few holes inside the crater with your fingers (as pictured).
  5. Now, smear 1 tbsp of cream cheese into each craters, then press about 1.5 dates into the cream cheese (avoid tips sticking out in the air to prevent burning), and sprinkle a little white sesame seeds over the top. If you have a spray bottle that forms fine mists, thoroughly mist the enter surface of the bialy until wet. This helps create a crust as well.
  6. Transfer the baking sheet into the oven, closing it as fast as you can to avoid losing steam, and bake for 10~15 min until the surface is lightly browned. Let them cool slightly on a cooling-rack but they are best when warm and crusty right out of the oven.
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You know, I try not to make pizzas nowadays.

Off carbs?  I wish.  Gluten-free?  Is there any other diet more torturous by design?  How about an oven that shuts down in the middle of nowhere for no reasons whatsoever?  OK, yeah I have that.  But, no.  No, not for any of those things.  In fact, the reason is a simple and straightforward one, in fact, one that deals with our most basic instinctual fear which drives, I believe, most human behaviors… the fear of dying alone.

Wait, pizza can do that?  Yes, pizza can do that.  How?  By making me fat.



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