New treat: Pancakes served in hot pans

Quit waffling around already. Here are 3 pan-tastic treats to try this week

1. Hot Pans
1. Hot Pans
16 Dec 2015

1. Hot Pans

#02-14 BEDOK MARKET PLACE, 348 BEDOK RD, S469560. TEL: 9690-1079.
OPEN DAILY EXCEPT MON. NOON-3PM; 5.30PM-9.30PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/SGHOTPANS


The next time someone says, “Let’s go Dutch”, they may be referring to Dutch baby pancakes instead of splitting the tab. Either way, the pancakes at the newly-opened Hot Pans are so affordable (from $5.50), you really won’t need to split the bill anyway. So what exactly is a Dutch baby?

Well, for a start, it’s not Dutch at all. It’s really an original German recipe that was re-created in Seattle in the 1900s. “The daughter of the American restaurateur who took it over to America couldn’t pronounce ‘Deutsche,’ (the German word for ‘German’). That’s how it became known as Dutch baby pancake,” explains Hot Pans’ twentysomething co-owner, Stanley Chong. When done right, it’s a fabulously billowy cross between a thicker crepe and a Yorkshire pudding (or popover). It was originally served in small stacks (hence ‘baby’) with lemon wedges and powdered sugar.

The secret to a show-stopping Dutch baby is a very hot skillet as the heat from the pan evaporates the liquid in the batter and causes the edges to puff out and crisp up as the pancake bakes. Yes, another thing which differentiates a Dutch baby from a regular pancake is that it is baked in a highly heated oven instead of cooked on the stove. The ones at this stall on the second storey of the revamped Bedok Market Place in Simpang Bedok are made with flour, eggs, milk, butter, vanilla essence, sugar and salt, and served in piping hot cast iron skillets straight from the oven. These delectable puffy baked treats, freshly baked a la minute for 15 minutes at 200°C , have to be eaten as soon as possible ’cos they deflate quickly like soufflés. The duo, who tells us over 60 pancakes are sold a day on weekends, intends to expand the menu of five types of pancakes to include pandan pancakes and more savoury items next year. There are also plans to make their own ice cream.

THE LOOK: The quaint week-old stall, accented with repurposed pallet shelving, cast iron skillets and a black-and-white awning, is run by first-time F&B owners, Stanley, 27, a former law firm admin exec, and Andrew Tan, 27, who used to work at a charity organisation. Both “home-trained chefs” quit their jobs and pumped in $10,000 of their savings here. “I see F&B as an evergreen industry and food has always been a passion of mine,” says Stanley. “I first had Dutch baby pancakes in Bangkok some time ago and have been planning to bring it to Singapore ever since.”

Hot Pans: The Pancakes
Hot Pans: The Pancakes
16 Dec 2015

Hot Pans: The Pancakes

Pear & Apple Crumble ($9)
Light and crispy around the edges and soft in the middle, this six-inch-wide pancake is denser, less spongy and flatter than your average American pancake. It also tastes a lot more eggy. It arrived all fluffy and went flat within a few minutes like a typical Dutch baby. Overall good, if slightly dry. But like pancakes, you can throw just about any combination of toppings you want on it. The fruits were nicely caramelised and the crumble crunchy. It’s paired with homemade blueberry compote and salted caramel ice cream, which accentuate the buttery fragrance of the pancake. Big enough for two, but scrumptious enough to make you polish one off by yourself. You can also customise your own flavours with the plain Classic Dutch Baby ($5.50) and choose your preferred toppings.
 

Hot Pans: The Pancakes
Hot Pans: The Pancakes
16 Dec 2015

Hot Pans: The Pancakes

Honey Nutty Banana ($8.50)
Essentially a deconstructed banana split served on top a thin and silky pancake, this concoction with pan-fried honey bananas and fresh bananas, salted chocolate, peanuts and chocolate ice cream, lacks depth. The chocolate-on-chocolate combination completely drowns out the delicate flavours of the pancake. It’s also too mushy and screams for more texture.

BOTTOM LINE: Because the Dutch babies here are thinner and lighter than average pancakes, you won’t suffer from carb overload. Not a bad way to end dinner, if you don’t mind waiting up to 45 minutes like we did for ours.
 

2. D’ Good Café
2. D’ Good Café
16 Dec 2015

2. D’ Good Café

#02-01/02, 273 HOLLAND AVE, 278992. TEL: 6219-9807. OPEN DAILY. SUN-THUR 10AM-10PM; FRI-SAT 10AM-11PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/DGOODCAFE

In an attempt to breathe new life into its menu and stand out amid the barrage of waffle-hawking eateries everywhere, three-year-old coffee specialist D’ Good café at Holland Village decided to add the classic German dessert to its culinary repertoire. But they’re sticking to tradition and keeping things authentic by calling the new addition ‘Deutsche skillet pancakes’ instead of Dutch baby pancakes. “Our waffles are very popular,” says 48-year-old owner, Mike Chin. “But over the last year or two, almost every café has also started offering waffles, so we decided to do something different. I came across Dutch baby pancakes in Europe a long time ago, and more recently in Hongkong, so I decided to [offer them] here. I’m hoping it’ll be the next big thing that will replace waffles.” Apart from beefing up the menu with nine types of pancakes, Mike also plans to open another outlet in Takashimaya next year.

BREW IT YOURSELF: If you have very particular preferences when it comes to your cuppa, take advantage of the cafe’s 'Blend & Brew’ service. For $12, their barista will take you through a three-step cupping process where you'll get to smell and taste three different coffee beans, based on your preferences, to create your own blend, which you can enjoy after the session. When you’re done, you can even name your own customised coffee blend ($5.50 a cup) after yourself and order it every time you’re there.

D’ Good Café: The Pancakes
D’ Good Café: The Pancakes
16 Dec 2015

D’ Good Café: The Pancakes

Classic Deutsche Skillet Pancake ($8)
Although this crepe-like pancake doesn’t boast a crispy outer crust like the one at Hot Pans, and arrived sadly deflated instead of gloriously puffy, it is silkier, more custardy and aromatic. Large enough for two, the pancake is served in a 10-inch skillet. It’s traditional to serve Dutch baby pancakes with a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of icing sugar. But here, you also get some maple syrup and cream cheese on the side. The combination of sweet, tangy and salty flavours is elegant in its simplicity and allows the pancake to take centrestage while subtly elevating its flavours.
 

D’ Good Café: The Pancakes
D’ Good Café: The Pancakes
16 Dec 2015

D’ Good Café: The Pancakes

(L) Christmas-inspired Pomegranate Citrus Smoked Duck Pancake ($13)
The sweet and salty marriage of the smoked duck, paired with the tartness of the mandarin orange and pomegranate, and crunch of the pear and caramelised cinnamon walnuts, works like a treat with the eggy, creamy, vanilla-tinged pancake. It’s only available until Dec 31.

(R) Black Pepper Beef Salad Pancake ($12)
On its own, a salad with beef, poached egg, sundried tomatoes and truffle oil works, but not when it’s slapped atop a sweet pancake. The greens also started wilting on the hot pan, leaving an unpleasant and bitter aftertaste. Weird creation.

BOTTOM LINE: Heartier than a crepe, less filling than your usual pancakes and more satisfying than a soufflé, the Dutch pancake here is a meal on its own. We only wish it stayed puffed up until we’d at least taken a bite of it. The lovely house-roasted coffee here is a plus.
 

3. The Populus Coffee & Food Co.
3. The Populus Coffee & Food Co.
16 Dec 2015

3. The Populus Coffee & Food Co.

146 NEIL RD S088875. TEL: 6635-8420. OPEN DAILY EXCEPT TUES. MON & WED 9AM-7PM, THUR-FRI 9AM-10.30PM, SAT 9.30AM-10.30PM, SUN 9.30-7PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/THEPOPULUSCAFE

Most café food we’ve tried falls somewhere between pretentious, gimmicky and overpriced rubbish. That, however, is not the case at Populus (Latin for ‘people’). Located in a shophouse down the road from The Lokal and The Daily Roundup, the month-old joint, a collaboration between the Department of Caffeine (DOC) and new local specialty coffee roasters, 2Degrees North Coffee Co, serves up some pretty good Asian-fusion nosh, like Japanese-inspired Donburi bowls (weekdays only) at wallet-friendly prices.

Apart from rich, nutty cuppas using beans roasted in-house, Populus, which co-owner, Andrew Lek, 37, describes as “a more refined and mature version” of Department of Caffeine, also dishes out all-day brunch that includes their unique take on pancakes baked in a pan. They don’t do Dutch baby pancakes, though. “Dutch babies are easy to make, but they don’t fare well in air-conditioned environments,” explains Andrew. “It’s like making pastry in a hot room — it looks pretty fresh out of the oven, but collapses by the time it reaches the table.”

THE LOOK: A chic, comfortable blend of concrete, glass, metal and wood, accented by naked Edison bulbs. The “soft industrial décor” here cost a cool $800,000, and draws inspiration from DOC, playing on hexagonal shapes and lines.

The Populus Coffee & Food Co.: The Pancakes
The Populus Coffee & Food Co.: The Pancakes
16 Dec 2015

The Populus Coffee & Food Co.: The Pancakes

Buckwheat Pancake ($18)
More cake/muffin than pancake, Populus’ plus-sized number conceived and prepared by Andrew’s team of young cooks, is a whole different beast from the Dutch baby and a real treat. Served in a skillet, the highly-Instagrammable dessert, topped with delicate edible flowers, looks dense, but is soft, airy and very fluffy.

It’s whipped up with a mixture of pastry flour and buckwheat flour for extra rise and a deep, nutty flavour. It’s then baked a la minute for 15 minutes in the oven, so be prepared to wait. It arrives like a fresh whole cake at the table, beautifully decorated and paired with contrasting flavours like tangy house-made passionfruit curd, berry compote, lemon balm and a herby thyme-infused maple syrup. The balance of acidity and sweetness is sublime and makes what should be a heavy dessert light and bright. The crunch from the generous shower of buttery sweet cornflake crumbs — which tastes like a more intensely crusty crumble — also adds another dimension to this awesome dessert that feeds two. 

The Populus Coffee & Food Co.: The Pancakes
The Populus Coffee & Food Co.: The Pancakes
16 Dec 2015

The Populus Coffee & Food Co.: The Pancakes

Spring Pancake and Fried Chicken ($21)
Ok, this is no pancake-in-a-pan, but Populus’ twist on the fried chicken and waffle combo. The Korean- and Indian-inspired savoury pancake is denser and intensely flavoured with a sweet batter made with spring onions, charred corn, a touch of cumin and paprika. Sorta like a Korean scallion pancake-meets-vadai. The crispy fried chicken thigh fillets are marinated in white wine, soy and ginger and taste like a deliciously punchy chicken karaage. It’s drizzled with creamy-tart homemade ranch dressing accented with pickles and paprika, though we wish they wouldn’t drown the chook in this because it makes it slightly soggy.

BOTTOM LINE: We’ll come back just for the massive, moist, fluffy buckwheat pancake and great coffee. The rest of the stuff — while better than average café fare — can be a bit hit-or-miss (like the middling grain bowls).
 

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