Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

I shared my Thanksgiving with a very un-American crowd.  My sister and I (Korean American).  Two Koreans who went to school in the states most of their lives.  One Korean Korean.  One Ukrainian New Zealander.  One French Australian from New Caledonia.  One Taiwanese American from Kuwait.  One Frenchman.  And one plain ol' white American.  If Noel hadn't been stuck in Japan, that would have been one more American to the count.

Without Noel, that left me alone in the smallest kitchen in Seoul to cook a massive thanksgiving dinner for 9 guests.  All in all, I was able to pull it off with the help of all my heat-producing appliances.  (Ever used a fan heater to keep your dishes warm?)  One of the dishes I made was pumpkin pie from Japanese Kabocha pumpkins.  I steamed the flesh and mashed it to make the puree necessary for the pie.  I ended up with 5 pumpkins pies (all consumed within two days).

I used two Kabocha pumpkins (on sale for 1,500 won, usually 3,000 won each).  Kabocha pumpkins are also known as 단호박 or dan-ho-bak, which means "sweet pumpkin."  I had about 1/2 cup of puree left.  Pumpkin pancakes!!!!  It's not just the alliteration that excites me.  These pancakes combine the buttery sweetness of the Kabocha pumpkin with the fluffy carbness of the pancake.  The result is a light and airy pumpkin pie-infused pancake.  

Obviously, you can use whatever sort of pumpkin you'd like.  Ideally, any pumpkin you see fit to use for a pumpkin pie, you should use for pumpkin pancakes.  If you're using a canned puree, make sure it's a puree of pumpkin and not "pumpkin pie filling," which is loaded with fillers and not-pumpkin ingredients.  Kabocha pumpkins are perfect because they taste so good on their own.  When I was steaming and mashing them for the pumpkin pie, I could not stop eating them.  They have a smooth texture and a sweetness not unlike a chestnut or sweet potato.  I love using them in pumpkin curry, or eating them sliced and roasted with a bit of olive oil and rosemary.  

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and whisk together for two minutes to aerate.  In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, egg, milk, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Mix in the flour mixture, and stir just until moistened. (Do not overmix.)  The mixture will be very thick like banana bread batter; much thicker than usual pancake batter.  That's okay.

Coat skillet with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over medium heat.  

Cooking the pancakes is the most important step.  To cook them perfectly, you can't rely on time.  You need to use what you see.  The first pancake will always look weird.  That's because there's still oil on the pan.  I usually heat up the veggie oil then swipe it all out using a paper towel.  Then spoon on your first pancake.  I make them on the small side because they cook better this way.  Larger pancakes require a large, evenly heated skillet.  As soon as you spoon on the batter, spread it out using the spoon.  This wouldn't be necessary for ordinary pancakes, but pumpkin pancake batter is very thick and needs a little help.  Then wait.  Within a minute or so, the edges will start to dry out and bubbles will start to form.  This is the time to flip them so the bubbles can keep forming and rising the pancake.  You'll know when to flip them because the edges are slightly dry, the bubbles have started to form, and the pancake will be relatively easy to flip and not so raw that it's still sticking to the pan and squidging up when you try to lift it with the spatula.  The first pancake will help you calibrate your timing.

Wait about 2 minutes on the other side then it's done.  Stack the pancakes so they keep warm.  They'll continue to cook off a wee bit after you remove them from the heat.

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