It's not every day that a renowned and dashing chef comes over to make pancakes, certainly not one named an international Culinary Ambassador by Hillary Clinton. But Mourad Lahlou, the owner of San Francisco's Aziza restaurant and author of the New Moroccan cookbook, was happy to make a house call to test out his new Moroccan Beghrir pancake mix, part of a full product line from Williams Sonoma, in a less-than-professional kitchen.
"The worst thing to me is if people buy and take it home and it doesn't work," says Lahlou.
And, luckily, our almost-scientific experiment of making them with the store-bought mix versus batter he whipped up fresh at Aziza in both a regular crappy non-stick pan (SFoodie's own) and a cast iron silver dollar pancake pan (Lahlou's recommendation, but something that's hard to find without ordering online) all yielded great results. Lahlou's instructions are clear, easy, and accurate, and even though he describes Beghrir pancakes (which are leavened with yeast and contain turmeric for a hint of savory flavor) as a craft in Morocco, he assured us that our first try turned out pretty well.
"These represent happy times for me," he shares. "Every culture has their own version of pancakes, but I think these are legendary."
Back in Morocco, he says, most families only have one special pancake whisperer who can make them properly, and in his family that's his mother and restaurant's namesake, Aziza. She'd make them on holidays and family members would gather around to watch and try to glean some of her chemistry secrets, but to no avail.
"It just made her into this little legend," he marvels. "It's so cool!"
The pancakes are slathered with butter and honey and rolled up. "It's just a vehicle for butter and honey!"
Other products in the Williams Sonoma line include preserved lemons, braising charmoula, macaroon mix, and spice blends, all developed over the course of two years and an extensive research trip to Morocco.
"I don't just wanna put shit in a jar and put my name on it," Lahlou insists. "I really want to make sure it represents me, Aziza, and Morocco."