12/06/2023

Traditional Korean Sweet Pancakes with Yeasted Dough and Sweet Nut Filling, Perfect for Winter Delights

If you’re a regular reader, you might already be aware of our love for pancakes as a weekend breakfast. Our go-to options usually include individual Dutch baby pancakes with berries and small pancakes with carrot and apple. Although I haven’t had a chance to share the latter recipe, it’s quite similar to my beet pear pancakes.

Both of these pancake variations differ from the traditional British pancakes I grew up with, and I’m always eager to explore new pancake recipes. These Korean filled pancakes, known as hotteok, are definitely an excellent addition to my pancake repertoire.

Hotteok is traditionally considered more of a snack rather than a breakfast item, but I won’t pass judgment on when you decide to indulge in them. Preparing hotteok requires a bit more effort as the dough needs to rise, and there is some time involved in filling them. However, the actual hands-on time is still relatively short.

What is the origin of Hotteok?

Although Hotteok is commonly associated with Korean cuisine, its origins can be traced back to Chinese immigrants. Unlike the savory fillings found in traditional Chinese filled pancakes, such as scallion pancakes, the fillings of Hotteok were modified to cater to Korean preferences.

Originally, hotteok was traditionally filled with peanuts, but nowadays you have the freedom to use a variety of nuts and seeds. Walnut has become a popular choice for filling, as seen in this recipe, but you can also try using pine nuts, pecans, or other types of nuts.

In fact, you are not limited to nuts alone – you can get creative with different fillings. For a healthier option, you can even replace sugar with a combination of pureed dates and seeds.

However, for now, I suggest sticking to this classic recipe as it provides a delicious foundation. Give it a try, and then feel free to experiment with your own variations

TIPS FOR MAKING HOTTEOK 

These pancakes are relatively easy to make, but they do require some planning due to their unique characteristics. Unlike regular pancakes, they have a dough-like consistency, which requires different handling techniques. Additionally, filling and sealing them is not as common. However, mastering the process doesn’t require excessive effort.

Here are some tips to ensure successful hotteok:

  • Allow enough time for the dough to rise. This enhances both the flavor and texture of the pancakes.
  • Before forming each individual hotteok, rub some oil on your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.
  • Begin by pinching the sides of the dough together across the filling, then bring together the remaining sides to seal it completely. Be careful to avoid any gaps that could cause the filling to escape while cooking.
  • When placing the sealed pancake into the hot oil, let it slip off your hand with the sealed side facing down.
  • Don’t hesitate to flatten the pancake well on each side while cooking. This ensures maximum contact with the pan, resulting in a crisp texture for the dough and thoroughly heated filling.

These filled pancakes are perfectly flavorful on their own, thanks to the delicious sweet nut filling. Avoid the temptation to bite into them right away as the filling will be extremely hot due to the molten sugar. Exercise patience and wait for a minute or two.

Making hotteok may require a bit more effort compared to other pancakes, but it’s definitely worth the time investment for a delightful, sweet, and slightly chewy treat. I’m certain that I’ll be making them as a special treat for the boys when they deserve it!

How to Make Delicious Hotteok

Ingredients

For the pancake dough:

  • ⅓ cup lukewarm water (80ml)
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast (fast-acting yeast)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (140g)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons walnuts (approximately 16g) or your preferred choice of nuts
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (40g)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

To cook:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any non-aromatic oil, add more as needed)

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine the warm water and sugar, then sprinkle the yeast over the mixture. Let it sit for a minute while you prepare the remaining ingredients. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour and salt, and gently stir them together. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix thoroughly until a relatively firm dough forms. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon or more of water to ensure the dough comes together.
  2. After gently kneading the dough for a minute and stretching it slightly, place it back in the bowl and cover it. Leave the bowl in a warm, draft-free area at room temperature for at least an hour, although three hours is also suitable for rising.
  3. Meanwhile, as the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Chop the nuts into relatively fine pieces and mix them with the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Once the dough has finished rising, gently press it down to release some of the air, then divide it into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball shape. In a small to medium-sized skillet or frying pan, warm the cooking oil over medium heat.
  5. Lightly coat your hands with oil, take a piece of dough, and flatten it into a disk shape with a slight indentation in the center. Hold it in one hand and spoon approximately 1 teaspoon of the filling into the indentation. Pinch together two opposite sides of the dough to seal the filling. Continue pinching and stretching the dough around the filling, joining the edges together, ensuring there are no gaps.
  6. Repeat the same process with the remaining balls of dough and filling, placing them on a lightly oiled surface to prevent sticking.
  7. In the warmed oil, cook three pancakes at a time. Allow each pancake to slide off your hand into the pan (you can flip your hand over to release it), making sure the side with the seal is facing down. Be cautious of the hot oil splatter. Use a spatula to gently press down on the pancakes, flattening them slightly (but not too much to avoid the filling from leaking).
  8. Cook the pancakes for about 3 minutes until the bottom side begins to turn golden brown. Flip them over, gently flatten them again, and continue cooking for a couple more minutes until they brown on the other side. If they start browning too quickly, lower the heat. Flip them back to the first side for a final minute, applying slight pressure, before removing them from the pan. Drain any excess oil and let them cool for a minute before serving. Repeat these steps with the remaining pancakes.

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