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Fluffy Rice Pancakes (Vella Appam)

Fluffy Rice Pancakes (Vella Appams)

Fluffy Rice Pancakes (Vella Appams)

Vella appams (which means White bread in malayalam) are a very typical Kerala bread that is eaten in breakfast with any of the following four curries – Egg Curry, Chicken curry, vegetable/potato stew or  Kadala curry (black chick peas curry).   These appams are round, white, fluffy and soft in the middle with thin and lacy, crispy edges .  They are cooked in a typical pan called as ‘appam chatti’ which has a  deep center and flat edges thus giving its typical shape.

Growing up in India, vella appam was what my amma used to cook on a regular basis on most weekends – her appams were quite renowned in our small neighborhood with the womenfolk requesting her for demos of the appam making procedure which she would gladly oblige to!  Hence my initial unsuccessful attempts at making vellappam  in my home in the US were frustrating because I had thought it would be a breeze considering the numerous demos that I had seen from my mom!.  But alas, the cold weather was one main culprit among other things and so it took me quite some time to perfect the appams.  Finally now I can say that my appams are closer to how my amma’s used to be and I am sure she would be proud of me.

The consistency of the batter is the single most important thing here – the appam batter needs to be very very thick. And only then it will ferment well and turn loose to a pourable consistency.

I also did a video recently. You can watch it here.

Fluffy Rice Pancakes (Vella Appam)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 6-8 hrs to ferment the dough; 40 minutes to cook
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

This recipe will make about 14-16 appams.

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked rice (preferably parboiled rice)

3/4 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen that has been thawed) or 3/4 cup thick coconut milk

1 cup warm water to grind

3/4 tsp dried active yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water

3  1/2 cups rice flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup or so more water to form batter

Method:

In a blender or food processor, grind the cooked rice and the grated coconut using 1 cup warm water.  You need to grind it to a fine consistency such that the coconut is really finely ground.  Then add the yeast dissolved in water to this and blend further for a couple minutes.

Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl (or a big vessel) which will have room for the batter to rise.   To the mixture, add the rice flour and the salt and mix using your hands or a spatula until the rice flour is well mixed with the ground mixture.  At this point check the consistency of the batter and add a little more water (about 1/2 a cup or so) until you get a thick batter that is very thick and NOT of an easily pourable consistency.

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Cover with a lid and keep in warm place to ferment for about 6-8 hours or overnight. (In the US since we have cold weather most of the time, I warm my oven to the lowest setting and then immediately turn it off and then place the batter inside the oven)

After 6-8 hours, the batter should have risen to about 1.5 times its original volume and you should see a lot of frothy bubbles on top indicating that fermentation was successful.  That’s how you know that the batter is ready.  (see troubleshooting tips below if you don’t see this.)

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Add a little bit more water to the batter so that it becomes of a pancake batter (dosa batter) consistency. To cook the appams, you need an appam chatti which is a small pan which is deep at the center and flatter on the sides. That’s how you get the typical shape of the vella appams – thicker in the middle and lacy on the edges.  If you do not have this appam chatti, you can also use a regular flat non stick or cast iron pan or hard anodized pan. The appams will still come out good even though they will be flatter like dosas or pancakes.

Heat the pan on medium heat setting and keep a wet clean dish cloth or a wet folded paper towel ready. As soon as the pan is hot, wipe the surface of the pan with the wet cloth quickly to cool the surface a little bit to enable spreading of the batter.  Immediately pour about 1/4 cup batter (a large ladle) into the center of the pan and using the pan’s handles swirl the pan in a circular motion so that the batter spreads from the center to the sides creating a thick middle and lacy edges. Cover with a lid and let cook  for about 2 minutes on medium heat.  The appam is done when the edges start turning golden brown at the bottom and the edges start turning a little inwards towards the center.  When that happens, use a spatula to get the appam out of the pan and transfer to a plate or a casserole to keep warm. Continue making the rest of the appams.

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Enjoy with any delicious coconut based curry like Egg Curry, chicken curry, vegatable stew or kadala (black chana) curry.!

Notes:

Trouble shooting tips: If at the end of 8 hours, your batter has not risen at all, then do the following:

1. Check the consistency of the batter- if its too loose (as in watery), then it means that you had added too much water at the beginning.  What you can do now is add a little more flour and make it thicker and again keep in a warm place (try warm oven method suggested above) for another 1-2 hours.  If it still does not rise, then try #2 below.

2. If #1 did not help or if your batter does not seem too watery, then just add a little club soda or sprite or gingerale (about 2 tbsp ) and proceed to cook the appams.

I use rice flour instead of grinding rice that has been soaked because of the difficulty of grinding rice to the desired fine consistency. But if you want to use rice instead of rice flour, you can do that too. I find no difference in texture or taste of the appams while using rice flour instead of soaked rice. Coconut adds a nice sweet flavor to this pancake but you could also make these without the coconut.

Also I always use warm water to grind all my batter (idli and dosa etc) because of the cold weather in the US so if you are not in a cold place, you can use regular water.