One of the first street foods I tried while in Seoul was hotteok, which was recommended to me by The Girl Who Ate Everything just before I left. Hotteok are breads, either baked or fried until crispy, that are filled with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. They’re actually a really simple dish, but quite tasty and a nice sweet afternoon snack. I wanted to try and create a similar version that I could make at home, since 12 hours is a long flight to take for a snack!
I saw many variations of this snack, some that looked like pita breads and some that more closely resembled large disc-like donuts. The ratio of bread to filling varied, as did the amount of filling in each. What did not vary was the cinnamon sugar flavor of the filling and the fact that these must be served warm and fresh, so the exterior is slightly crisp and the filling slightly gooey.
I started with a simple, plain bread dough – a non-yeast dough – and kneaded it until it was smooth. I let the dough rest for a few minutes while preparing a cinnamon-sugar filling so the gluten could relax and the dough would be easier to work with, then divided up the dough into pieces and rolled them out to be filled. Once I added some sugar and sealed the breads, I rolled them out again until they were very thin. This turned out to be one of the keys in getting a good texture, so you got plenty of filling in each bite and not too much bread. I cooked them in a skilled with a bit of oil and ate them hot. I’m not going to set up a stand the next time I’m in Seoul, but they were still an excellent snack and a good recreation, with a crispy exterior and a melty center. They are fairly large and quite satisfying, too.
These really are at their best when they’re cooked in a bit of oil. If you want to cook them in a dry skillet, they will puff up more and be a bit “breadier,” tasting more like Cinnamon English Muffins than the street snack I had in Seoul. This isn’t a bad thing, but the version cooked with a bit of oil is just better if you ask me.
2 3/4 – 3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk (low fat or full)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Stir in milk and mix until smooth. Gradually add in the remaining flour until dough is very stiff.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead until dough is just barely tacky to the touch, and feels fairly smooth and elastic (about 1 minute). Shape dough into a ball, cover it with a clean dish towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, combine all filling ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Once rested, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces.
Work with one piece of dough at a time. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 5-6-in. wide. Place 1 tbsp filling in the center of the dough, then bring up the sides and pinch them together around the filling to seal tightly.
Roll out the dough ball with filling inside, lightly flouring both the surface and the rolling pin to ensure that nothing sticks and tears open the dough, until you have a disc about 1/4-inch thick. Slightly thicker is ok, but the cake should be quite thin. Repeat with all remaining pieces of dough.
Put about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large skillet and turn up the heat to medium-high. When oil is hot, place 1 or 2 of the hotteoks (depending on the size of your pan) in the skillet and cook until golden brown. Turn once, then cook the second side until it is golden brown as well, about 3-5 minutes overall.
Repeat with remaining hotteoks.