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[Photograph: Ethan Finkelstein]

Scallion pancakes are definitely in that category of "easier-to-make-than-you-think" foods. All those flaky layers point towards hours of work and folding (like homemade croissants or puff pastry), but in reality these babies can come together in no time. Diana Kuan's scallion pancakes in The Chinese Takeout Cookbook are a prime example.

A simple dough of flour and water just needs a few minutes of kneading to turn supple; after a short rest, the dough is ready to be filled and rolled into miniature savory cakes. The secret to all of the layers? Spirals. The scallions are rolled up like a play-dough cigar inside the dough, and then the whole thing is spiraled into a snail-like circle before being flattened into a thin circle.

Why I picked this recipe: Who doesn't like a good flaky scallion pancake?

What worked: Kuan's photographs and detailed directions make the rolling process straightforward and easy.

What didn't: Don't be shy with the salt here. I didn't season my first few pancakes enough, and had to douse them in soy sauce to make up for it.

Suggested tweaks: I preferred the pancakes that I rolled a bit thinner than the directed 1/4-inch. Try a few different thicknesses to see what you like.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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