I'm always in the mood to bake, especially when it's as cold as it has been lately. I love welcoming the older children back home after school to a kitchen full of sweet-smelling warmth. It's a special treat when I get to introduce them to food that brings back lots of memories for me. This treat, hoddeok, reminds me of my year abroad in Korea when I was in college. It's pan-fried bread filled with a syrupy mixture of walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and it's often sold by street vendors in the middle of winter. It's sublime hot off the griddle.
There are mixes and even frozen hoddeok in Korean markets, but I found this recipe online which is pretty good. I followed it the first time I made this and it was pretty successful. I've tweaked it whenever making it afterwards, which means that I don't really follow a recipe at all and just wing it – it's easier to make things like this spontaneously when I don't have to be getting out measuring cups and whatnot.
Start by making some sort of bread dough (mix yeast, 1/4 cup of warm water, and a bit of sugar in a bowl till the yeast bubbles, then add enough flour and liquid until it feels like a moist bread dough. For liquid, use milk in addition to water, and add a touch more sugar so it's slightly sweet. I also substituted whole wheat flour for about half of the white). Knead lightly, cover, and then set aside to rise in a warm place for about an hour or so.
After it rises, you get to enjoy the fun of assembly. This is a lot of fun to do with little children.
Mix together brown sugar with liberal amounts of cinnamon. Add chopped walnuts if you like. Raisins are good too. Put these in a bowl with lots of little spoons for your little helpers.
Next, pinch off little balls of dough and shape them so that you have a little well in the middle.
Fill the well with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Using your fingers, continue to stretch and shape the ball so that the brown sugar mixture is now on the inside, fully enclosed.
Now flatten it out. The children and I did this by patting and stretching out the dough with our hands but of course you can use a rolling pin too. Make sure you filled your ball with enough brown sugar mixture that it gets well-distributed on the inside. See the dark lump in the middle? That's a walnut, unchopped – I'm always wearing the baby when I'm in the kitchen so I do as little chopping as I can get away with.
This is really basically all there is to it, except for the frying. Pan fry in a bit of oil and then flip like a regular pancake and serve while hot.
I serve it with yuja cha – Korean yuzu tea, sprinkled with pine nuts. This golden, sweet citrusy tea is the perfect match for these pancakes and warms us up on these cold afternoons.
What snacks do you like to eat in the winter?