Korean Cinnamon Sugar Stuffed Pancakes (Hotteok)
Last fall I visited Korea right after the Chuseok holiday and tried hotteok for the first time.
I couldn’t figure out how I had possibly missed these scrumptious snacks during all of the time I’d spent in Seoul in the past. But then my friend/Seoul-roommate/honorary-sister Kyongsuh gave me an English-language Korean cookbook as a souvenir (or maybe because I’d recently started this blog?) and there was hotteok!
The cookbook described it as a “delectable Korean treat in the winter season.”
That explained it. All of the time I’d spent in Seoul before had been in the summer (icky heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, yes, but also patpingsu, sujeonggwa, and samgyetang, which
more than kind of made up for it).
I spent the autumn harvest festival, Chuseok (which was yesterday!), in Seoul once in 2008, but had yet to stay past September to sample the changing foods of the colder months.
Discovering an entirely different assortment of seasonal Korean street food was an unexpected (but welcome) little reminder of just how much more I have to learn about Korean food, language, and culture, etc. You can’t just spend a season– let alone a week– and expect to really get to know a place inside and out; for that, you have to spend years!
(And this is why I have trouble reading most travel writing, why I am skeptical of travel advice from Rick Steves, and why I am dubious that Anthony Bourdain could really have stumbled upon the BEST of the best local food in each locale– yet still of course a little impressed and jealous whenever he gets it right.)
But back to the hotteok. Redundant though this may be from the photos, hotteok is basically baked or fried dough surrounding either a sweet or a savory filling. These sweet hotteok are filled with brown sugar, cinnamon, and crushed toasted peanuts.
The cinnamon sugar hotteok I bought in Seoul’s Namdaemun market were baked inside a cast iron mold. It’s easy to achieve a similar brown crispy exterior with this homemade version, too. All you need is a frying pan and a little bit of peanut or canola oil.
The trickiest part (in my opinion) is handling the yeasted dough, but it was my girlfriend’s idea to try making our own hotteok and considering how much yeasted bread she’s been baking, she certainly wasn’t afraid to tackle this recipe.
(Some varieties of hotteok are actually made from a glutinous rice flour rather than wheat, but wheat works, too!)
Our dough was a little bit thicker than that of professional street food hotteok, but the results were still wonderful: a crispy yet chewy warm toasted pastry filled with sticky, practically caramelized and gooey brown sugar, cinnamon, and crumbled peanuts.
Now I hope you understand why I just couldn’t wait until winter to share this recipe with you.
Oh and Happy Chuseok (one day late)!
p.s. I’m guessing that either 1. you’re pleasantly surprised by how little hotteok actually resemble pancakes, or 2. you’re incredibly disappointed by how little they resemble pancakes. (Or 3. you’ve stopped reading by now…) To the second group: I’m sorry, but I couldn’t think of what else to call them– though they are more like snacks or dessert than breakfast– if you can think of a different fitting word besides “pancakes,” please let me know!
Korean Cinnamon Sugar Stuffed Pancakes (Hotteok)
Barely adapted from Korean Favorites, by Yu-kyoung Moon and Jonathan Hopfner.
(Makes 14-18 hotteok)
~ 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
~ 1½ tsp. sugar
~ ½ cup warm water
~ 3 cups flour
~ 1 cup milk
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 3 Tbsp. roasted (or salted) peanuts, crushed
~ ½ cup brown sugar
~ 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
~ peanut oil or canola oil for pan-frying the hotteok
How to make it:
1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl, then proof the yeast by letting it sit for about 5 minutes until it becomes foamy.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, milk, and salt. Once the yeast mixture has proofed, add it to the large bowl, and mix the dough into a flour. Knead the dough with your hands on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, then place the dough in a bowl, cover with a cloth, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours until it’s doubled in size.
3. To prepare the filling: If using peanuts that have not been roasted, you can toast them on a sheet pan in a toaster oven or an oven at 350 degrees for only 2-3 minutes, or until they’ve just started to brown. Then finely chop or crush the peanuts. Combine the crushed peanuts with the brown sugar and the cinnamon and mix well.
4. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 14-18 equal portions. To fill the hotteok: roll a portion of dough into a ball, then flatten it using your palm or a rolling pin. Place 1-2 heaping teaspoons of filling in the center of the circle, then fold the edges in and over the filling, sealing it into the center of the “pancake.” Once again flatten the now-stuffed hotteok with the palm of your hand until 1-2 cm thick.
5. Once all of the hotteok have been stuffed with filling, sealed, and flattened, prepare a frying pan (I used a cast iron skillet and it browned them nicely). Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in the frying pan, then fry a batch of 4-5 hotteok over low heat until browned, for 3-5 minutes on each side. Once browned, set aside on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Add a new 2 Tbsp. of oil to the pan for each new batch of hotteok.
6. Serve immediately, while still hot! (Also good the next day, warmed up on a skillet or in the toaster oven, but they’re really best on the first day.)