Spring rolls began showing up on American Chinese menus in the 50′s and 60′s. That’s easy to understand when you consider they’re not Cantonese but hail from the Eastern and Northern regions of China, where they’re typically eaten during spring festivals. Thus the name. Chinese spring rolls are made with wheat skins as opposed to rice paper (the latter being Vietnamese).
The ultra-thin wrappers are made via an unusual technique whereby a large mass of high-gluten dough is dabbed on a hot plate. The skin cooks up in about a minute, and is then peeled off. More on that in the tutorial. For now you’ll need:
1 lb. 10 ounces bread or high gluten flour
1 lb. 8 ounces water
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Stir to combine, about two minutes until a lumpy dough forms. Pour about two cups of water into the mixer bowl, enough to cover the dough with water, then refrigerate the bowl overnight.
The next day pour off the excess water and affix the paddle attachment to the mixer. Turn the mixer on medium-high and mix for about 15 minutes, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and gathers around the paddle.
Heat a nonstick skillet over very low heat on a stove top. It should be about 200 degrees…hot enough so you can comfortably place your finger on it for about one second. Pick up the mass of dough in one hand and dab it momentarily onto the pan. It will leave a film behind. Smooth out any larger blobs with a spatula. Let the dough cook until the edges start to curl upward, then peel up the whole skin. Remove it to a plate and cover it with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool about 30 seconds before starting again.