Vellayappam or Lace rimmed rice pancakes

In Kerala, Vellayappam is one of the most popular breakfasts. Almost every household has Vellayappam for breakfast atleast once a week. But they can pass really well for lunch or dinner as well.
The lore is that this delicacy is a foreigner to the Mallu-land. It's said the Dutch got the Appam into our land ages ago.  I’m really not sure about the authenticity of that tale, but if it’s true, I’m so thankful to the Dutch!!  
Traditionally this recipe uses ‘toddy’ instead of yeast, but I really have no way of getting toddy here! So the next best alternative is active dry yeast. I’ve heard that people collect water from the coconuts they use for regular cooking for about a week  or so and store it up in the refrigerator, (We Mallus use quite an amount of coconut in our cooking, I’m sure that isn’t news for most people). The stored up coconut water is supposed to be a good enough supplement for the toddy, but I haven’t tried it yet, so no guarantees on that one. I’ve come to trust the good ol’ yeast by now.
  
Raw rice 3 cups (Soak for 5-8 hours)
Coconut, grated 1 cup
Cooked rice ¾ cup
Yeast mixture ¼ cup*
Sugar 2 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp or as per taste
Baking soda ¼ tsp (Optional)

*For the yeast mixture:
   Warm milk or water ¼ cup
   Sugar 1 tsp
   Dry yeast ¼ tsp

·        Add 1 tsp sugar to the warm milk or water. To this mixture add the yeast. The milk should just be lukewarm. Leave the mixture aside for a few minutes to let the yeast develop.

For the batter:

·        Grind the raw rice, cooked rice and coconut to make a fine batter (slightly thicker in consistency than Dosa batter)
·        Add the yeast mixture and salt to the batter. Use a bowl in which the batter will only be half full. This is because the batter will rise up in a few hours and there should be space for it to come up, if not it’ll spill out of the bowl and that’ll be lotsa mess to cleanup, and lotsa batter wasted
·        Keep it aside in a warm place overnight or for atleast 6-7 hours
·        Next morning, add the baking soda and sugar (2 tbsp) and mix it in very slowly, so as not to disturb the batter too much. DO NOT mix vigorously, as that will affect the quality of the appam

To make the Appam: 

·        Lightly grease an appam chatti or wok, and heat it on a high flame. Once it’s heated, lower the flame and pour one ladle, or ½ cup, of the batter in and swirl the chatti or wok around so that the batter coats the wok to make a thin crust around the rest of the batter which settles into the center. Close with the lid and cook on low flame for about 2-3 minutes, or till the appam is cooked in the middle (slowly poke with a skewer in the middle part and if the batter doesn’t stick, then the appam is ready) and lacy part around the middle would have turned into a light brown color.
·        Gently remove the appam onto a plate or tray and repeat this process to make the number of appams you need. If there is any batter left, you can store it for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator
·        Appam is best served hot, with a variety of side dishes like stew, chicken curry, pork curry, fish curry, vegetable korma, kadala curry, egg curry and the list goes on and on… in short, appam tastes good with almost any side dish, but i suppose the winning combo is Appam with sweetened coconut milk.