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The Mixing Bowl: Japanese Souffle pancakes

You may have seen pictures of these lovely little puffy cloud pancakes on TV and the internet. For breakfast, brunch or dessert, sweet and light, they really don’t need syrup; powdered sugar and some fresh strawberries make a perfect alternative.

These pancakes were the rage in Japan in 2016 according to Nami, a Japanese home cook out of San Francisco who has a website justonecookbook.com. She reports that pancake shops were opening all over Japan. It’s taken a few years to make it here to the U.S. I saw the recipe by Daniela Galarza in May’s New York Times and adapted the recipe here.

You are basically making small souffles and after they are baked, they collapse a bit and lose their loft. The metal rings and cake flour mitigate this collapse but the flavor isn’t affected. You are creating a small oven with your frying pan and lid. It is easier to “bake” the pancakes and flip them over if you have a griddle that you can cover with a high domed lid but a flat-bottomed cast iron frying pan with a lid works well too.           

Cake flour is an important ingredient you may not already have. The lighter the flour, the easier it is for the pancakes to rise. As I mention below, you can use 00 pizza flour or you can do what I did one time out of desperation and put regular flour in the blender and pulse it to make it finer.

This recipe calls for metal rings that are about three to four inches in diameter and at least one inch high. I have some left over from when I was in my crumpet making phase, so it was nice to be able to not have to buy something new. But you don’t really need them. Other recipes I researched just required you to gently mound the batter on a perfectly heated  (not too cold and not too hot) frying pan, cover and flip when one side is done.

Japanese Souffle Pancakes

4 large eggs – 4 egg whites and 2 egg yolks, separated and chilled

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons cake flour or try 00 pizza flour that is also finely milled and low in gluten

¼ cup milk, chilled

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Butter, for greasing and serving

Confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream and fresh berries, for serving

4 metal rings about 3” to 4” in diameter and 1” or greater in height (optional)

Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium bowl; set aside. Place egg yolks in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, the vanilla and baking powder to egg yolks and whisk until blended. Add flour and milk; whisk until fully combined.

Add lemon juice and salt to egg whites. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip mixture on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Continue to whip while gradually sprinkling in the remaining five tablespoons granulated sugar. Turn speed to high and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture doubles in size, about one minute. Take care not to overbeat meringue.

Heat a lidded nonstick skillet over the lowest heat setting and set the lid aside.

Using a rubber spatula, scoop about 1/3 of meringue into the egg yolk mixture and gently fold in until almost combined. Repeat with half of the remaining meringue until almost combined, then fold in the remaining meringue, and finally mix gently until no streaks remain.

Carefully butter the warm skillet. Also, butter the inside of the metal rings if you are using them. Check the heat of the pan by sprinkling a bit of water in it. Droplets should steam off the surface, but not dance or sputter. Place the greased rings on the warm pan and ladle about 1/2 cup batter into each ring depending on the diameter of the rings. Place the lid on top of the pan and cook pancakes on very low heat until they start to rise and a few small bubbles start to form on top, on about three to four minutes.

Remove lid, carefully slide a flat spatula underneath each pancake and position another spatula on top, then gently flip pancakes in their rings. Immediately replace lid and cook until pancakes are cooked through and spring back to the touch, two to three minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a platter and keep warm. Grease the skillet and pastry rings, and repeat to make four additional pancakes.

Top pancakes with a pat of butter and drizzle with maple syrup; serve immediately. Serve with any combination of confectioners’ sugar, whipped cream and berries, if desired.

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