Yesterday I decide I had to bake some flatbreads again. I actually had planned to try quite a few recipes from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's Flatbreads and flavors but sort of got more interested in trying other recipes. I decided to go for scallion pancakes, or as they call them, Sichuan pepper bread. Together with them I decided to eat stir fried greens, probably not a traditional match (but I was craving them), and a chilli-peanut dip which Alford and Duguid describe as "the perfect dip for any flatbread". With such an introduction one has to try the stuff, right?
Before I go on I would like to excuse myself in advance with all those who have a much deeper knowledge of Chinese cooking than me. Feel free to correct any mistakes or to make criticisms. I'll be grateful or your comments.
So first of all I made the dip, which, after a brief look at the recipe, turned out to be a thinned version of the sauce for Sichuan spicy noodles, or (from what I could find out in the web) dan dan mian. This is made up of sesame paste (Chinese not middle eastern tahini, which tastes different), or non-sweetened peanut butter, which tastes almost the same and is cheaper, rice vinegar, scallions (or spring onions), garlic, ginger, toasted and ground Sichuan pepper and chilli flakes. There are loads of recipes on the net for the noodles and the sauce. To make the dip just dilute with a bit of warm water.
To make the pancakes I first made a dough using plain flour mixed with half boiling water first and then cold water to get a soft but dry dough. The dough made this way is incredibly silky. Alford and Duguid also add some salt and baking powder. Other recipes I found (for example here and here) don't. I had already made this pancakes a few years ago and I have the impression that the baking powder makes them fluffier. The dough once made has to rest 15 minutes. Once ready there are two ways to proceed. You can either divide the dough in pieces (from 3 cups of flour you'll get about 8 pancakes) and roll each out, or roll the whole dough out. At this point the filling is added: chopped scallions clearly, a brushing of sesames oil (in most recipes) and, if you like, a pinch of ground Sichuan pepper. Alford and Duguid's recipe is the only one I found that had this addition which I find a winner. The Sichuan pepper gives a wonderful fragrant note to the bread. On the other hand they don't use the sesames oil, which makes the bread a bit flakier, which I prefer. If you rolled the pieces you'll roll them like a jelly roll first, roll the rolls :-)) on themselves to get a circle/spiral of dough which you'll flatten out and gently roll to the desired thickness. If you rolled the dough in one piece you'll spread the stuffing and roll it in a big jelly roll which will be cut into slices, which will then be rolled into individual pancakes. I used the first method, which i find better because the stuffing tends to remain inside the bread and not burn during cooking.
To bake the pancakes I just put them in a medium hot griddle and turned them when brown spots appeared on one side. The breads tasted good on their own and were great with the peanut chilli dip. Definitely a keeper.