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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ja-PANcakes - Japanese Cotton Pancakes

I'm all about Instagram. You've probably seen these adorable little Japanese Pancakes all over Instagram, in fact, and I frankly couldn't resist the siren song of Keeping Up with the Joneses. Everything about these are just so satisfying to look at! Perfect uniformity, height...anyway. 

See, B and I are pancake fiends. I've got my stand-by recipe that I do if I want them quickly and they haven't failed me, yet. I have my recipe from Martha Stewart, adapted for our dairy-free lifestyle. I'm not horribly lactose-intolerant, but having a partner that is severely so, you learn to work around it, and it's actually been quite a bit of fun to learn under constraints. Coconut milk has been a spectacular dairy alternative, and I'm a big fan of lard as a butter alternative for cooking and baking, as well as coconut oil. Coconut oil is also really good for your scalp, so if I'm at home, alone, not baking for anyone other than me, and I get some coconut oil on my hands, I'll rub them on my scalp or my ashy knees or lips or something. (Don't judge me or pretend like you don't also have secretly sorta gross habits. You do.)

The thing about these pancakes is that you actually do need some special equipment to do them exactly like these. You'll need:

  1. A blender(pitcher or immersion)
  2. A few metal ring molds of same size
  3. A nice nonstick skillet
  4. A disher*
You CAN get passed the blender bit, but it'll require several extra steps. Either way, here we go!

Japanese Cotton Pancakes
adapted from Popsugar's recipe
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 fl oz coconut milk + 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 6 oz AP flour
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Pan-spray A/N
Heat your skillet on a medium-low flame and prepare your ring molds. I used pan spray for the molds, but you can use some vegetable oil with a pastry brush, if you prefer, just to make sure that both the pan and the molds are well lubricated. Have your disher or large spoon set up, as well, just to make sure you're ready to cook at your pancake station. Pop your ring molds on there, too, and 

In the pitcher of your blender, combine the eggs, coconut milk, vinegar, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Blend together, starting at the lowest setting, to combine, then turning it all the way up to high just for 3 seconds, to really whip those eggs up. (It's the fluffy eggs that make this pancake rise!)  Add in all the rest of your ingredients and blend on a low setting for a few seconds, until it's a smooth batter with no lumps. You may have to stop and scrape your blender down, and that's fine, so long as you end up with a lump-free product in the end.

By now, your pan should be plenty warm, so go ahead and turn it down to the lowest possible flame you can. If your pan also has a lid that fits on it, go ahead and grab that, too; it's not necessary for success, but it will help you in the end, especially when it comes time to flip your cakes.

Using a disher, drop some batter into the center of your prepared ring molds until they're half-full. If you have a lid, use it now, and put it on. Set your timer for 4 minutes, and walk away. Don't mess with them, don't poke at them...just let them do their thing. 

I only had two ring molds of the same size, so I did two at a time!
Your leaveners are creating bubbles, along with the ones created by your eggs, and as the heat transfers from the pan to the cake, the cake around the bubbles is getting firmer and firmer. You don't want to jostle your cakes at the wrong moment, or your bubbles will collapse and fall flat...which is the absolute opposite of what you want. 

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I also made a couple using an egg-shaped cookie cutter, just because I was curious...

While we're waiting, let me tell you a quick way to get past the "no blender" thing, if you're dealing with it...

Before you begin, separate your egg yolk from the whites. In a medium bowl, using a whisk, whip my hand the egg yolks, salt, vanilla, and sugar, until they're light-colored and thick. Add in your coconut milk and vinegar, slowly, to create a thick sort of custard. In a separate bowl, take your egg whites and beat them with an extra teaspoon for sugar using a hand mixer (or in the bowl of a standing mixer) until stiff and glossy peaks form. Fold in your whites to your yolks, one third at a time, until combined. Simply sift in your dry ingredients, a little at a time, folding in gently until everything is incorporated. You've just created, basically, a sponge cake that's ready to be fried. Awesome!

Once your 4 minutes are up, remove the cover(if you're using it) and carefully flip over your cake-in-mold and let it cook for another 3 minutes. Once it's done, you can simply remove your cake from the mold and pop them in a warm oven on a plate while you make the rest, repeating the process until you have no batter left. If you have made too many pancakes(somehow) then simply wrap the remaining cakes in plastic and pop them in the freezer. Pancakes and waffles freeze perfectly, and are easily brought back to life with a quick blast in the microwave or on the stove. (Side note: waffles will reheat fine in a toaster.)

These may not turn out perfectly your first time, but that's okay. The fear of doing something wrong should not stop you from trying anything new. It's exceedingly rare to get something perfectly right on the first try, so don't beat yourself up if they haven't perfectly risen. After all, at the end of the day, you'll still have pancakes. 

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Plus, if you have a few that have risen uneavenly, you can have fun stacking them in different ways...

Enjoy with maple syrup if you want to go the American way, but in Japanese restaurants they use fresh fruit and custard sauces to eat them! They're still pancakes, though, so they're 100000% up to you on how you eat them. I personally love this date syrup I found from a company called The Date Lady. Date syrup has a really exotic and deep flavor to it, and it's a great alternative to honey! These pancakes are quite sweet already, so I don't think they need a lot of syrup, but you be the judge on what you like. They're like little cakes, but with a crispy exterior...super fun and expertly delicious!

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Another great thing about date syrup is that it goes great with maple syrup, because you CAN have it all.

I hope you've enjoyed this simple recipe! If you try it for yourself, please comment below, and let me know how it went. I love hearing from all of you, and I love answering the questions you all send in. Seriously, it makes my day to know that at least one or two people are somehow benefitting from these silly little recipes. As always..

Happy cooking and happy eating!
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If you wanted to eat these by hand, I wouldn't judge you.

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