Welcome to Our Pancake Blog

Welcome to Our Pancake Blog!

So, what does a married couple with no children and free time do? Why think of creative ways to eat of course. So begins the Around the World in Pancake Sundays project.

One day while eating pancakes made from sprouted wheat and chocolate chips, we started talking about how fun it would be to eat a different type of pancake each Sunday. I know, you must be stuck on the whole sprouted wheat pancakes. I'm sure many are thinking eeeeewwww, sounds yucky right now. However, they are actually quite tasty. We were given our first taste of them by a friend last New Year's Eve (well, technically the morning after New Year's Eve). We were so enamored of them that we went searching for our own sprouted wheat to make some for ourselves a couple of months later.

O.K., enough digressing. While eating the above mentioned pancakes, the conversation started about eating a different type of pancake each Sunday. We began to wonder if we could find a different type of pancake for each Sunday for a whole year. So we set ourselves the challenge of finding a unique pancake recipe to try out each Sunday.

We continued to talk about this idea for the next couple of weeks. We started thinking about how most cultures actually have their own versions of pancakes. This led us to try to find a pancake from each country in the world. We finally began our project last Sunday, and decided to chronicle it here in this blog.

So welcome to our pancake blog, we hope you enjoy it as much as we are sure to enjoy making and eating them! Heck, we hope you make some and enjoy them too!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Aboard! Next Stop Albania

Welcome to Sunday #3 on our trip around the world eating pancakes!  I will say it has been very exciting for us not only to discover new pancakes to eat, but also to learn more about each country during the process.  When researching Albania, I learned that the traditional Albanian breakfast food is rice and paca, which is a soup made from animal innards.  I also discovered that sometimes a soup made of lamb is eaten for breakfast as well.  As I continued my research, I began to wonder if Albania would be the first country that did not have some sort of traditional pancake.  Hmmmm . . .

Not to be deterred by the first road block, I continued searching, just to be sure.  It would be awful to skip Albania because on first appearances it might appear they don't have a pancake style food in their cuisine.  As I continued my research, I soon learned that Albanian cuisine is influenced by Turkish, Greek, and Italian cuisine.  Since I know that Italy has a pancake style food in it's cuisine, I was pretty sure Albania would have one too.  After more searching, I finally found a name for the Albanian pancake, it is palachinke.  What exactly is palachinke you ask?  Well, maybe you're not asking, but I sure did.  I soon discovered that palachinke is a type of crepe.  Yuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmm!  A little bit more Internet digging finally revealed to me that palachinke are usually wrapped around cheese, nuts, jam, and honey in Albania.

With this knowledge, I decided to make palachinke filled with feta cheese, roasted almonds, and drizzled with honey.  Let's hope that it tastes as good as it sounds in my brain.  So here we go with the Albanian plachinke recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil (you could use vegetable oil, but I tend to use olive oil for everything)
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups of feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds

Directions 

Making the palachinke

In a blender, mix the flour, eggs, milk, salt, and oil until smooth.  The batter will look like this when it's done.

  

 Cover and let the batter sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roasting the Almonds

While the batter is sitting in the refrigerator, you can roast the almonds.  I elected to use raw almonds and roast them myself because of the type of cheese we were using.  Feta is a very salty cheese, and I didn't want to use almonds that were already roasted and had salt on them.  Since it can sometimes be a challenge finding roasted almonds that are unsalted, I just pulled some raw ones I had out of the freezer.  After letting them defrost for about 20 minutes, they were ready to roast.  Note - Don't try to roast frozen nuts, I did this once, and let's just say the results were more than less than desirable. So you can roast almonds in the oven by preheating the oven to about 400 degrees and putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.  However, I find it quicker and easier to roast them over the stove in a heavy bottomed skillet.  It takes about 5-10 minutes with the flame on medium.  Just make sure you stir occasionally.  Here is what my almonds looked like during the process.



After roasting them:


After roasting, allow the almonds to cool, and then chop them.



Making the palachinke


Take the batter out of the refrigerator.  Heat a crepe pan on the stove over  medium high heat.  It is important to use a crepe pan for making the palachinke as it is a thin pancake, and you will need to do quite a bit of swirling of the batter as you pour it in.  Crepe pans are thin and light weight, which makes this easier to use.  Also, they're usually made of aluminum, which heats quickly.  The one I use has a nonstick surface on it as well.  If you don't have a crepe pan, there is a device called a crepe spreader tool that lets you spread the batter around a regular pan, but I try to stay away from specialized tools that are used for only one purpose.  You can use a crepe pan to cook many other things as well, so I just bought a crepe pan instead.

Anyway, back to the directions for making palachinke.  Spray the pan with oil.  I usually use olive oil in a Misto sprayer.  If you are using a nonstick crepe pan, you do not want to use spray oils such as Pam because the propellant that is used will alter upon heating and ruin your nonstick surface (something I learned the hard way a few years ago, which required me to go out and buy a new set of frying pans).  If you don't have a misto sprayer, you can just pour some oil in a bowl and use a pastry brush to brush oil on the bottom of the pan.  You don't need a lot of oil to make this.


After oiling the pan, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop up 1/4 cup of the batter onto the crepe pan.  Pour the batter in the middle, as you are pouring the batter, lift the pan off of the burner and swirl the batter around the pan until the entire surface is covered with the batter.  The process looks like this:


Allow the palachinke to cook on one side for 1-2 minutes.  You'll know it's time to flip it when the edges start to brown and the entire top looks dry (the batter will not move around if you tilt the pan).


Now it's ready to flip.  This is the part I tend to have trouble with since it is so thin.  Sometimes I will get a small tear in it.  If this happens, don't worry as it will bind back together enough as you cook the other side.  Once flipped, cook another minute on the opposite side.  This is what it should look like.  If you like your palachinke a little lighter in color, reduce the amount of cook time closer to 1 minute. 


Remove from the pan and place it on a plate.  To keep it warm as you continue cooking, either store the plate in a warm oven, or simply cover with a clean dish towel.  Continue cooking palachinke until the batter is used.  You'll get about 8 palachinke.

Stuffing and Rolling the Palachinke

Lay out a palachinke on a plate.  Sprinkle about 1/8 of a cup of feta cheese down the middle.  On top of that sprinkle about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped almonds.  Finally, drizzle honey over the top.  We used the following feta and honey:


You can use any brand of feta and honey you like. 


After spreading the fillings down the middle, fold one side of the palachinke so that it covers the filling, and then roll.  The final product looks like this:


I wasn't quick enough in filling and rolling the palachinke, so they got a little cold before we sat down to eat them.  This is not a problem, as you can quickly rewarm the whole thing for about 20-30 seconds in the microwave.


These were mmmmm, mmmmm, good!

If you have leftover plachinke, you can freeze them in the freezer.  Simply lay them between waxed paper then place them in a freezer bag.  Then when you want one, take it out of the freezer, let it defrost, fill it with whatever you want and rewarm it in the microwave.  Eat them within 3-4 months.





Monday, March 26, 2012

Afghanistan - We had such high hopes!

Yes, yes, yes, I know this post is late.  We did actually make and eat these pancakes on March 18; however, I'm sure everyone can relate when I say sometimes life just gets in the way of things we truly want to do. 

So this time I did the research to find a pancake for Afghanistan, and I must say that it definitely did take some research.  First I used the search term "Afghanistan pancakes", thinking that Google would definitely pull something up.  Wrong!  Then I used Bing, and I still did not have any success.  So I changed my search term to Afghanistan cuisine.  From this point, I decided to search for images of Afghanistan cuisine since I had no idea what the foods were based on their Afghan name.  See, I can use my brain and think outside the box when necessary. 

I started sifting through images on the Internet, and for awhile the closest thing I found to a pancake was naan.  I consider naan more of a bread than a pancake, so I began to get frustrated at my lack of progress towards finding a pancake from Afghanistan.  Eventually I ran across a wonderful blog from a writer named Humaira called Afghan Culture Revealed, and it was here that I discovered something called a bolani.  I thought it looked close to what I might consider a pancake.  It looked sort of crepe like with filling in it.  However, upon further research, I concluded that a bolani is really more like an empanada.  Darn!  However, I do plan on making bolani for a meal one day soon, as well as several of the other recipes I discovered on Humaira's blog. 


Back to square one, I started perusing images again.  After another 5-10 minutes without success, I decided to search for videos.  I once again reverted back to my original search term of Afghanistan pancakes.  Success at last!  I found this you tube video that at last gave me a name for Afghan pancakes, parata.  Now I had a term to use in a search for a recipe.  Before beginning another search, I decided to watch the video, and as I did, trepidation began to set in.  The trepidation was a result of seeing that Afghan pancakes begin in much the same way as making a tortilla, something at which I haven't had much success at in the last 6 years despite much effort put that way. 

After watching the video and with fear in my heart, I began searching out parata recipes because we were in the mood for a savory pancake as well as the sweet pancake recipe from the video.  It was at this point I ran across a savory parata recipe from one of my favorite Indian chefs, Sanjay Thumma.  He posts videos showing how to make Indian cuisine on his website, which for me at least, makes it much easier to understand how to cook food from cultures I'm unfamiliar with.  You must be thinking at this point that Indian food is not Afghanistan food, so if I use this recipe it doesn't count for Afghanistan.  However, the two countries do have a lot of overlap in culture and foods, so I elected to use the recipe from Thumma as our savory pancake, and then I would use the one from Haley in the you tube video to make a sweet Afghan pancake. 

So, here it goes.  We'll start with the sweet pancake.  First for the recipe:

Ingredients

FILLING
·         1/4 Cup sugar
·         3 Tbsp cardamom
·         2 Tbsp sesame oil

PARATA
·         2 Cups Flour (All-Purpose works best)
·         1 Cup Water
·         1 Tbsp sesame oil
·         **for cooking:
·         2 Tbsp sesame oil

TOPPING
Powdered Sugar

Directions

FILLING
Mix sugar and cardamom together and set aside.  I actually used a chai blend seasoning that I had in the cabinet because I couldn't find my ground cardamom.

PARATA
1.      Mix flour, water, and oil together and knead to form a dough ball
2.      Set dough aside for 10 minutes
3.      After 10 minutes have passed, separate the dough into two balls
4.      Roll one ball in your hands until if forms a snake like shape 12 in. long
5.      Flatten with fingers or a rolling pin until it is 3 in. wide by 12 in. long
6.      Repeat with other ball and lay one above the other on the table.
7.      Using 1 tbsp cooking oil for each piece of dough, apply and rub the oil on both pieces of dough down the center leaving a 1/4 in. gap around the edges
8.      Sprinkle a generous amount of the sugar/cardamom mixture over the oil.
9.      Starting from the end, roll the strip of dough over the filling until it forms a tube
10.  Cut the tube of dough in half (makes 2 paratas)
11.  Place the cut edge on the cutting board and press it down flat into the table
12.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 5 in. by 5 in. circle
13.  REPEAT all steps on the rest of the dough to form 4 paratas

COOKING PARATAS
1.      Add 2 Tbsp of Cooking oil to a large pre-heated pan or griddle
2.      Lay two paratas onto the pan
3.      Cook both sides until golden brown
4.      Once browned, move the paratas to a serving plate
5.      Sprinkle with Powdered Sugar 

 Here are some pictures we took along the way:








I know, I know, this does not look like a 5 inch circle.  Did I mention I sort of suck at rolling things out into circles?





So I must say I didn't have much hope for the taste of this, especially since it doesn't look at all like the parata in the you tube video.  We tried it anyway, hoping for the best.  It didn't taste the way it looked in the video, it was mostly very bland.  I'm sure it was because of some error I made in the process.  If you want to try this recipe, I recommend taking a look at the you tube video, and hopefully you'll have more success than I did.  The images of this in the you tube video look fantastic!




Now on to the savory paratas.  For the recipe, go to Sanjay Thumma's website directly.  The recipe is there, along with the video for making them (http://www.vahrehvah.com/popvideo.php?recipe_id=1705).  I pretty much followed his recipe exactly, with a couple of minor tweaks to make them vegetarian (for me) and less spicy (for Sam).  Anyway, I substituted frozen vegetable ground soy for the beef, and I ommited the green chilies to take some of the heat out.  Here are the results for the savory paratas:


 It looks a lot like real meat!





 So far, so good.  It still looks like what I saw in the video.


 Still looking good!






 Hmmmm . . . not quite like the video, but it could just be that I have difficulty rolling things out evenly.




 A piece of the end result.


So the savory version was much more flavorful than the sweet version, but the texture was still off on this.  My end result barely resembled that in Thumma's video; and while mine was edible, it wasn't something I desired to continue eating.  I'm POSITIVE that these two recipes didn't turn out because of something I did.  I think I let my fear of making tortilla like foods get the best of me.  Since I was now filled with so much despair from my continued lack of success with this type of food, what was I to do with all of the leftover filling from this recipe?  We were still hungry, and we didn't want to attempt to make any more of these.  Well, Sam went over to the freezer to have a look at what was in there.  He discovered some frozen pasty sheets.  After 20 minutes of defrosting, we finally ended up with this:





An empanada like food filled with the filling from Thumma's recipe.  Yummy!  Success (at least success for something edible) at last!  One of these days, I will be successful at the recipe in the way it is supposed to be, Afghan Sunday just wasn't to be that day.