This is day 9 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.
Okay, so one more café (my guilty pleasure).
Ninetails Coffee Bar is a newer addition to the Bloor Koreatown strip serving coffee, matcha and Japanese sweets to a cheery backdrop of pop-y Beatle’s covers and doo-wop. Their freshly made dorayaki are generously-sized and sandwich one of three fillings – anko, custard, and matcha custard. My previous dorayaki experiences have all emerged from imported plastic packaging, where I had assumed the perfectly shaped pancakes were due to the magic of food manufacturing technology. However, the pancakes at Ninetails are actual embodiments of perfection as well: circular, evenly deep brown, and branded with a small nine-tailed fox. They’re firm, honeyed, surprisingly tender, and sport a bouncy chew unlike an American style pancake. Against that backdrop, I am most partial to the thick soft swirl of custard cream as a filling. (On the savoury side, they also happen to have an avocado toast of miracles – thick-cut crusty bread piled with an eqi-thickness of avocado, toasted sesame oil, furikake and shichimi togarashi.)
Fresh dorayaki has been a revelation, as has been the creativity of their fillings beyond anko. It gave me some inspirational leeway to brainstorm other dorayaki filling flavours. I filled these ones with a houjicha pastry cream and a very end of season persimmon compote. It’s a mellow, comforting combination.
houjicha & persimmon dorayaki
Pancake recipe from Cooking with Dog.
- 2 eggs
- 60g sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 50mL water
- 120g cake flour
- 1-2 tbsp of water
Whisk eggs with sugar and honey, and beat for 3 min (i.e. listen to one song while you do this) until light and thick. Dissolve the baking soda in 50mL water and whisk into the eggs.
Sieve the flour overtop, and whisk until just combined. Cover and let the batter rest in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.
Add 1 tbsp of water at a time to make batter flow fluidly (see the original recipe for a video which gives you a sense of the desired consistency).
Heat a nonstick pan over medium or medium low. Once heated, pour a bit of oil into the pan and rub in a thin layer over the pan. When making the pancakes, pour the batter from a few inches above the pan in one spot to allow the batter to spread out into a circle on its own. I found it took around 35g (3 tbsp) of batter to make a 3 ½” diameter circles. Cook the pancake until you can see bubbles appearing under the surface, then scoot around the edges of the pancake with the spatula to loosen before flipping. Cook for another 30 seconds or so on the second side or until the pancake is springy and the bottom is golden brown.
Set the pancakes on a tray and cover with a damp kitchen towel to soften the surface and keep them from drying out. Repeat until all the batter is used. It will make about 10 pancakes.
houjicha pastry cream
- 2 tsp houjicha powder
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- 240g whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 15g cornstarch
- 35g granulated sugar, or more to taste
- a pat of butter
Have a sieve set over a bowl for when you’re done the pastry cream.
Whisk together the houjicha powder and water until smooth and no lumps remain. Place the milk in a saucepan and whisk in the houjicha mixture.
Whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl.
Heat the milk until steaming, then pour into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly to temper the egg. Return to the saucepan and continue to cook, whisking constantly (or stirring constantly with a rubber spatula) until the pastry cream begins to thicken and bubble (you will need to briefly pause your whisking to check for bubbling – it will look like a slow sort of “burp”). Cook for 1 minute at a bubble, whisking vigorously, to ensure that the cornstarch is cooked.
Immediately remove from the heat and scrape into a sieve, passing it through the sieve to remove any lumps and into a bowl. Whisk in the butter. Cover, let cool, then chill completely. When ready to use, whisk to loosen the cream.
vanilla persimmon compote
- about 100g fuyu persimmon, peeled and cut into dice
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Peel the persimmon and cut into chunks. Place a small saucepan with a small splash of water, a sprinkle of sugar and the vanilla bean paste. Simmer, stirring, until the fruit is tender and the liquid is reduced and syrupy. Let cool completely.
Match each pancake with another close in size. Dollop some pastry cream on one of the pancakes and spread so that it is thicker in the middle than along the edges. Press some chunks of persimmon compote into the pastry cream and top with the matching pancake. Chill for a bit before eating which allows the pastry cream to firm up a little bit and makes them easier to cut without the pastry cream squishing out.
Notes on making dorayaki:
- 1. Making consistently sized dorayaki – for this recipe you can use a 1/4 cup scoop filled about 3/4 of the way. What I find helps me make even more consistently sized dorayaki is to measure out the same amount of batter into a small bowl and then use that to pour the pancakes. For this recipe, measure out 35g of batter into a small bowl and repeat with each pancake (keep using the same bowl). The first pancake add a few grams extra as some batter will remain in the bowl.
- 2. Oiling the pan – I find it’s better to use a bit more oil the first time and get a not so nice looking pancake (use it on the bottom of a dorayaki). It gives the pan a chance to be seasoned so the subsequent dorayaki don’t stick.
- 3. When to flip the pancakes – In my first couple batches, I found I tended to end up with very thick dorayaki, even with proper batter consistency. I realised that it was because I was waiting too long to flip the pancakes over – I would wait until bubbles had appeared, risen to the surface and popped all over the surface of the pancake. Rather, I found it is best to look for the bubbles to appear under the surface, but not quite reach the surface and pop – then flip the pancakes over for a still fluffy pancake, but with more manageable thickness!
- 4. Making thin dorayaki – another way to ensure you have thinner dorayaki is to use a thinner batter (which is what I did in the batch photographed). If you add about 4 tbsp of water to the batter (instead of 1-2) so that it is the consistency of thick cream, it ensures you make thinner pancakes, but there are some drawbacks to the texture – not quite as bouncy and tender as usual! As for when to flip: the batter bubbles very easily when it is this thin, so flip the pancakes where bubbles are clearly visible across the pancake.
Update notes: Updated November 2021.