Monday, April 30, 2012

Korean Sweet Pancakes (Hoddeok)


I discovered this one a few months back via the grocery store. I live in Japan, and more and more Korean products have been showing up in the grocery store. The latest one was for these sweet pancakes.

It turns out they're called Hoddeok, sweet sugar-filled pancakes that are served as street snacks in Korea. The first time I made them, using the kit (reading directions in Japanese!) it was a mess -- but a DELICIOUS MESS. They taste like cinnamon rolls. After buying a few of the mixes on sale, I decided to hunt down a recipe and make them from scratch.

It's taken a lot of practice -- but my husband and my older son love them. (The younger one isn't old enough for most solids yet.) So I've gotten a lot of practice. Comparing to info on the 'net, mine are smaller and less filled, so they're probably a tad healthier.

The default recipe I found makes the outside with wheat flour, but the mix I'd bought used a bit of what Japanese call "mochi ko", or super-soft rice flour. So I decided to substitute a bit of rice flour, using flour from a bekomochi kit. ("Bekomochi" is Hokkaido-ben, so I don't know what you'd call it elsewhere.) The bekomochi kit's flour is a mix of uruchiko, or normal rice flour, with mochiko. For baked/fried products such as the hoddeok, I think the uruchiko would be fine. In the U.S., just look for rice flour.

The important thing with the rice flour substitution is that it makes the hoddeok a little more soft and chewy, which my husband likes.

Typically, the filling for hoddeok is brown sugar, cinnamon, and crushed nuts of some sort. Korean sweets frequently have nuts. The latter is a problem if I want to give any of this stuff to my older son's friends or some of my husband's English school students -- nut allergies are alarmingly common. (I am glad to say me and my kids only have problems with a few less common foods, like crab and akajiso.) Plus, nuts can be expensive. So often I just chuck them out of the recipe. You can also substitute kinako, or roasted soybean powder, for the nuts, to get a similar flavor -- but some people are allergic to soybeans.

Also, other recipes call for milk in the dough. I dropped this a few times because one of my son's friends is lactose intolerant. I discovered it doesn't seem to change the flavor significantly, and it lowers the calories a bit. (Plus, the idea of sitting a dough out with milk in it kind of gets my goat and makes me think I'm going to accidentally food poison myself or something. Probably just my paranoia talking.) Yeah, you miss a little calcium, but I recommend drinking milk with these anyway. They're like cinnamon rolls.

Anyway, I heavily tweaked this recipe, but it's one I found on another blog. When I get a chance, I'll repost a link to that one.

This is a leavened bread. It requires yeast. If you're not used to dry yeast, it will probably smell bad to you. Don't worry.  After a while, you'll probably be like me and think "ooh, fresh bread!" and get hungry.

Seaweed Teacher's* Hoddeok

Time Required: Minimum 45 minutes, preferably several hours if you can spare it, to let the dough rise.

(*My first name is Kim, one of my favorite foods is nori, or toasted seaweed. Koreans call this "Kim", and when I lived in China, I helped teach Korean kids, and they called me Seaweed Teacher.)


1 cup Wheat flour
1/4 cup super-soft rice flour (Mochiko)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons hot water (100 F/40 C)
6 tablespoons warm (room temp) water OR milk (see my note above)

Filling (give or take, I never measure)
6 tablespoons Brown sugar
2 tablespoons crushed nuts (of any sort, but most people recommend walnut)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Part 1: Bread starter

Mix the hot water with the white sugar and the dry yeast in a big bowl. Put them in a warm place. This is to get the yeast started. Give it about ten minutes, and if you see a little puffy brown foam in the bowl, you're good to go. Also, make sure the water isn't much hotter than 40C/100F. You want to encourage the yeast to go, not kill it.

Part 2: Dough

Sift the flours and salt together and add to the starter. If you're in a hurry, you don't have to sift, but it makes the texture a little better and more even. Mix together. This stuff will be SUPER STICKY. I recommend one of those plastic or silicone scrapers or at least a metal spatula. Leave it in the bowl if it's got lots of sticky dough on it, that's what I do. Cover the bowl and put in a warm place -- not a super-hot place!

I have a microwave/oven/toaster that I put the bowl in after running the toaster for about 30 seconds to warm it up. The heat traps inside and it makes a perfect "dough rising" location -- if you don't need the oven for anything else. Sometimes I cover the bowl with a towel and sit it on top of a warm rice cooker.

Let rise for at least 30 minutes. I have made them straight away after mixing the dough, but they don't come out as good. The longer you can let the dough rise, the better. I have heard some people let the dough rise overnight. I figure past a couple of hours you're getting diminishing returns, though, so two hours is probably plenty. That's how long I let my other bread doughs rise.

Part 3: Making this stuff

Remember I said the dough is STICKY? It's epic sticky. It'll be a mess. So let me carefully explain this with the caveat that the first few times you make this stuff, you will make a mess, they'll be a mess, and so forth -- but it'll still be tasty.

Mix the filling stuff in a separate bowl and put a normal table spoon in it.

Get a frying pan. Pour a little bit -- a tablespoon or less -- oil into the pan. Turn the heat on to VERY LOW.

Take the bowl of dough, uncover it, and pour oil over the top of it, covering the dough completely with a fair amount of excess sitting on the top. Now, the fun part -- make sure your hands are thoroughly washed, then reach in the bowl, cover your hands in the oil in the bowl, get some dough, and put it in the palm of your hand. Smooth the dough out into an oval shape in your hand, as thin as possible, and get a spoon full (or less) of the filling, and put it into the middle of the dough. (If you've made gyouza or pierogies, this is very similar.) Close the dough up around the filling, then GENTLY flatten the dough ball in your hand until you've got a nice round pancake-thing with the filling inside. This takes PRACTICE! If you're lucky and you can get one of those big round flatteners they use for stuff like this, go for it. If you have one, just put the ball in the pan and use a flattener to flatten it.

I make, with my little frying pan, three or four little pancakes at a time and put them in the pan, then shoo off the threeyear old, who will instantly start hovering asking for "cake".

Watch them carefully -- I frequently burn my first few -- and whenever the edges of them look solid and not doughy, flip them. You want them golden with a few brown swirls on either side.

One batch makes about eight little cakes, or 4-6 medium sized ones. I prefer them smaller, especially as my son likes them and shouldn't eat too many. The filling is SUGAR-rific and you shouldn't eat more than a few at a time -- although my family, if left to, will eagerly eat a double batch in one sitting.

These make good "treat" breakfasts with a cup of milk, or a nice desert. They travel pretty well (I was surprised) and I have taken them as treats for various things, especially since with tweaking they have no eggs or milk or nuts -- thereby avoiding the worst of my son's friends' allergies.

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