chestnut & black sesame hotteok

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This is day 5 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

Hodo Kwaja, a bakery located in one of Toronto’s Koreatowns, is an efficient bustle of activity in the morning. The small nut-brown walnut cakes that the bakery is named after trundle by on a conveyer-belt like waffle iron. Along the way they are methodically filled, either with red bean paste, or my favourite, sweet and milky mashed potato mixed with ground almond or walnut. Bought by the half dozen – or several dozen – they’re scooped from wire baskets into paper bags or boxes.

Next to the hodo kwaja, hotteok, brown sugar filled pancakes are smacked onto an oiled griddle and pressed flat with a large wooden-handled aluminum stamp. Thin, chewy dough surrounds a syrupy centre of molten brown sugar seeping with cinnamon and chopped walnuts.

I first tried the hotteok, years ago when I was just visiting Toronto. “They’re amazing,” my sister promised me. And they were – we shared it as we walked, ripping off pieces of pancake. Think cinnamon sticky bun, pressed into a delightfully chewy pancake form big enough to hold with both hands and that burns if you bite into it too fast.

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I decided to give a try at making hotteok myself. As I tend to do when I make something new, I consulted a variety of recipes – from Allrecipes, Kimchimari, Maangchi and Korean Bapsang. Generally I found that the flour to water ratio was typically 2:1 by volume (the recipes I saw ranged from 2:0.75 to 2:1.25). Some recipes used milk, and some used water – as I was indecisive I used half and half. The proportion of glutinous rice flour varied more, from none to 1/5 to 1/2 of the the total flour, so I used a vague average of 1/4 glutinous rice flour.

I read that apparently while brown sugar, walnut and cinnamon is the classic filling, there’s a growing wealth of creative versions using other sweet or savoury fillings. With that in mind, I used brown sugar, cinnamon, a bit of roasted soybean powder, and chopped chestnuts for a filling a bit different, but that still reminds me of the original. I also tried a black sesame and brown sugar fillling, which produces a tarry toasted caramel.

These were quite fun to make and very satisfying. I can’t get them nearly as thin, even, and perfectly filled as Hodo Kwaja so I can’t wait to go back. However, that smell of cooking yeast dough and melting brown sugar that fills the kitchen is exactly the same.

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chestnut & black sesame hotteok

chestnut & black sesame hotteok

Based on an amalgamation of Allrecipes, Kimchimari, Maangchi and Korean Bapsang.

dough

  • 195g all purpose flour (1 1/2 c + 1 tbsp)
  • 56g glutinous rice flour (1/2 c)
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 120g cold milk (1/2c)
  • 120g boiling water (1/2c)
  • 1 tbsp oil

chestnut filling (for 4 hotteok)

  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 20g chopped chestnuts
  • 1 tbsp roasted soybean powder

black sesame filling (for 4 hotteok)

  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground black sesame seeds

To make the dough, stir together the flours, salt, sugar and yeast. Stir together the boiling water and cold milk (this will make for a nice warm mixture) and the oil. Add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a very sticky dough is formed. Cover with a damp towel and set aside to rise for an hour or so, or until doubled.

Make each filling by stirring together the ingredients.

Lightly grease your hand and work surface as you work with the dough. Divide dough into eight pieces. Flatten the dough into a large round in your palm. Top with the filling and pinch the dough to seal around the filling. Place on a tray lined with parchment and repeat until all the pancakes are filled.

Heat a pan over medium, or a bit on the medium-high side. Brush with oil. Place a filled of dough seam side down. Brush a large flat spatula with oil and use it to press the dough into a flat pancake – the dough is quite stretchy so you can flatten it quite a bit, but try not to flatten it so much that the seam breaks and the filling starts to leak.

Let cook until the bottom is golden and the pancake is slightly puffed. Flip over and cook on the other side until golden as well.

The hotteok are best eaten warm – if they’re not fresh from the pan, rewarm them in the microwave.

2 thoughts on “chestnut & black sesame hotteok

  1. This is such a meaningful series! I first tried hotteok in South Korea 4 winters ago and thought it was absolutely delicious. Will give this a go when I get my hands on some yeast (haven’t seen it in weeks thanks to panic buyers in London).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for such a kind comment! I’ve really enjoyed working on the series and it’s been helpful getting me through this time 🙂
      Wow, it sounds like you must have had some really fresh hotteok!! They went surprisingly well at home – certainly not as big and thin + some leaks here and there, but it was a good home project!
      Wishing you luck with finding groceries & stay safe!

      Liked by 1 person

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