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in the kitchen with: vanessa rees’ sesame pancake sandwich bread

by Kristina Gill

I came across photographer Vanessa Rees’ work on Pinterest. I really liked her photos and the food in the images, but I fell in love with her assistant, Marshall.  Vanessa and I began exchanging emails about possible vegan recipes, but her ideas didn’t quite pan out in the research phase. Finally, she settled on Sesame Pancake Sandwich Bread, which I admit, I had never heard of. I was happy, however, to be surprised because not only does the recipe sound great, but I also love the story behind it. It’s nothing fancy, but it really resonated with me. Whenever I taste something I like, I’m curious to discover my own version or to find a great recipe for it. I have chickpeas soaking in water and just bought some tahini. I think it will go great with Vanessa’s recipe, alongside some finely sliced vegetables. — Kristina

About Vanessa: Vanessa Rees is a Brooklyn-based photographer and the owner/operator of V.K.Rees Photography, which focuses on food, wedding and lifestyle photography. She lives with her long-time boyfriend and fat yellow cat, Marshall, above the best bagel shop in all of New York City.

The full recipe continues after the jump . . .

Sesame Pancake Sandwiches v2.0 (Recipe Updated 30 March, 2012)

  • bread flour, 1.25
  • yeast, quick rising, 1/2 tsp
  • kosher salt, 1/2 tsp
  • sugar, 1/2 tsp
  • water, 2/3 cup
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp olive oil

1. In a small bowl, heat up 1/2 cup water in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir the yeast, sugar, and salt into the water and stir until it has all dissolved. Slowly stir the yeast mixture into the flour. Knead the dough on a floured surface, by hand, for 6 minutes. Don’t be afraid to add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky or bit more water if the dough is not sticking together.

2. Cover the dough and let it sit on the floured surface for 10 minutes.

3. Roll the dough into a round loaf that is about 7″ in diameter. Don’t let the loaf get any thinner than 1″ inch or it will be hard to cut in half and use as a sandwich.

4. Heat up 1 tsp of oil in the cast iron skillet and carefully place the dough in the pan.

5. Cover the pan and let the dough cook until the bottom of it is hard and half of the dough (the side closest to the pan) seems to have cooked through.

6. Uncover the pan and carefully flip the dough onto the other side. Cover the pan again, and let it cook until the crust is crispy and the second half of the dough seems to have cooked all the way through. Keep cooking the bread until it seems slightly overcooked. The bread shouldn’t be doughy and the edges should be hard. The steaming process will soften it up.

* Be careful not to turn your heat up too high. Having the heat on too high will cause the outside of the dough to burn before the inside has had a chance to cook- similar to cooking a pancake. You’ll have to find your stove’s sweet spot. For my gas stove, a low heat works best. Cooking times and the intensity of your burner will vary depending on the kind of stove you have and the thickness of the pancake.

7. Turn the heat up a bit, remove the lid, and pour 1/3 cup water and then 1/4 cup sesame seeds on top of the pancake. Put the lid back on pan and let the bread steam until all the water is gone and the crust of the bread on the pan starts to slightly harden up again- roughly 7 minutes.

8. Turn the heat off and take the lid off of the pan. Let the bread sit for until it is cool enough to handle with your hands.

9. Cut the bread in half and use in your favorite sandwich.

Marshall overseeing the photoshoot

Why Vanessa Loves This Recipe

As a photographer, I work on a lot of sets and am used to the typical craft services lunch of veggie wraps and mixed fruit salad (hey, I’m not complaining). Recently, however, I was working on set, and when noon rolled around, we were brought something totally different — warm triangle sandwiches coated with sesame seeds and stuffed with cilantro, carrots, and red bell peppers. Crispy on the outside, delicate and warm on the inside, these pancakes made a delicious substitute for sandwich bread. Having never heard of them before, I did some research. These are Sesame Pancake Sandwiches, and unlike the bread I’m used to, this kind is baked in a pan by being fried and steamed. I’m hooked. Sandwich bread move aside!

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  • You guys obviously need to go to Vanessa’s Dumplings in Chinatown/LES! They make HUGE sesame pancakes. probably a foot across, and beside the original of carrots and cilantro, their pecking duck version is to-die-for. And cheap! The original is $1.00. I also have to suggest their famed fried dumplings.

  • I’m not always a sandwich kind of lady, but I think this could win me over! Thanks for the recipe, and the introduction to a new-to-me photographer.

  • Just made this to put breakfast sandwiches on. It turned out tasty, and it was easy to make, but it took way longer (and a higher heat setting) than the recipe said. And then the steaming part at the end made it soggy–perhaps I did something wrong, but I ended up having to finish it off in the toaster oven to crisp it back up. I think next time I’ll probably just skip the steam part and brush on some butter at the end with the sesame seeds.

    Still–easy and delicious (and a lot quicker than most breads). Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • This looks amazing. Has all the potential for a weekday lunch sandwich that I’d actually look forward to eating!

  • I’m in the middle of making this, and I think that the recipe needs a bit of testing/proof reading.
    -Where is the salt added?
    -Quick rising yeast doesn’t need to be mixed with water. I works best when you add it directly to the flour.
    -I assume that you cover the pan when you add the water? The recipe says “steam,” but how does the steam escape if you’re supposed to cook it until the water is gone?
    -Is 1.5″ the correct height to roll the pancake out to? I did this and my pancakes had about a 3″ circumference, which looks different than the picture.

  • This is a great recipe! Very tasty!

    Love the kitty! The picture of him on the bed is BEYOND cute! :)

  • this could be a good base recipe for making scallion-sesame bread similar to those from northern chinese joints (note: this is different from the ubiquitous scallion pancakes, which are multilayered, thinner, and not steamed). two suggestions:

    1. add minced green scallions while you are kneading the dough for the second time (duh).

    2. instead of adding sesame seeds at the very end when you’re steaming the bread, add them when you’re forming the dough into pancakes. you could do it by either scattering the seeds on your rolling surface (and then rolling the dough on top) or by pressing them on top of your formed pancakes. this would give the sesame seeds extra toasting time in the pan and release more aroma.

  • This sounds amazing, I’ll have to try it! I love the idea of homemade bread, but the time involved always stops me. Perfect solution.

  • I made this last night and well, it was a disappointment. When I flattened it to 1 1/2″ thick it was tiny – not nearly large enough for one sandwich let alone cutting a wedge off for a sandwich. So I made it thinner – about 1/2″ thick which made a 8″ round. I cooked it according to the instructions, but when it was “done” it was still raw in the middle and terribly soggy from the steaming. So I cooked it some more, then took the lid off to get rid of the sogginess. It was edible, but not much more than that. Disappointing :(

  • I made this last night and realized at the end that I never added the salt! It’s listed in the ingredients but never mentioned in the directions.. boo. When should the salt be added?

  • A fantastic quick bread! I skipped the steaming instruction and ended up with a lovely, dense bread.

  • uh oh…sorry to make you revise it again…1.25 ” cups”? flour ? i didn’t make it when you first had it posted and am itching to try it …thanks for all the good stuff you bring us every day….you are a super hero!

  • I am confused by the 1.25 too. Would appreciate if you corrected the recipe. Thanks!

  • Also wondering what the 1.25 stands for… I’m assuming it has to be cups but the format doesn’t match with the other ingredients. If it is cups, please say so! And changing it so say 1 1/4 would be much clearer as well!