Some time ago, a friend of mine texted an article about how Japanese Soufflé Pancakes are all the rage in NYC. She lives in NYC, is quite the foodie, but hasn’t seen or heard of one.
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It’s obvious that the agents that are going to help these pancakes rise are the egg white meringue and the baking powder. What I was more curious about was the process.
The dough mixture is pretty straightforward, mix the egg yolks with most of the ingredients, then make the meringue and fold.
What’s different about these soufflé pancakes from regular pancakes in terms of cooking process is that they are to be cooked on very low heat and lidded so that it’s somewhat steamed.
This New York Times recipe instructs to use a ring that is 3 inches wide and at least 1.5 inches tall as a mold. Initially this seems like a good idea, but flipping can be a challenge and the ring ends up being more trouble than it is worth.
But before we even talk about the rings, let’s talk about the flipping instructions. It tells you to use two spatulas, one to slide under, and the other to go on top as you’re flipping. The problem with sliding the spatula under is that the ring gets in the way and you have to sort of lift the ring up to get the spatula to go under. The ring is hot at this point, so touching with your fingers is not recommended. I used tongs instead. Then, you also run into a second problem which is that the cooked layer will sometimes stick to the spatula and wrinkle while the uncooked delicate dough will stick all over the spatula.
In theory I understand the role of the second spatula to go on top, but it does not work well. If the dough is billowing above the ring, why put a spatula there? It would crush the beautiful bubbles that have just formed. Then, once you flip, you have to get the thing off of the second spatula so now you have delicate and semi-cooked batter smeared all over the spatula, not to mention a soufflé getting flat from all the messing around.
Anyway, getting back to the ring. The problem with the ring is that the dough seems to stick a little to the edge of the ring at the bottom, so when you flip the pancake, the ring which is now on top, sticks to the top and seems to weigh the pancake down. The pancake would be better off with the ring either taken off right before or after flipping, or just no ring at all. Which I also tried.
The ring was sort of a pain to have to take off and re-grease every batch, so out of curiosity I did a batch without the ring, and that seemed to work just as well. You won’t get perfect circles, but if you carefully make a small circle and dollop the dough on top to create a voluminous mound, it comes out just as fluffy and about the same thickness as the ringed one (at least for me that was the case).
So how about the taste and texture, you ask? It tasted like angel food cake as a pancake. And the texture was like eating air. If you’re into that sort of taste and texture, then by all means take a crack at this recipe! To me, the work was not worth the reward, but the novelty aspect was fun to explore.