Thursday, January 15, 2009

Apple pancake

Famous in pies, turnovers, crumbles, coblers, pan dowdies, and brown betties, apples are great in the oven or on the stovetop.

A weekend breakfast treat in my house is this baked apple pancake, which we just call "a pancake." It is basically a big popover with thinly sliced apples in the batter. Though it needs 25 minutes to bake, it's easy to make and tastes as light and spectacular as it looks.

Garnished with powdered sugar or ice cream, this is desert, but I prefer it with Grade B maple syrup for a special brunch.

The proportions of the basic popover recipe are one quarter cup of flour and one quarter cup of milk for every egg, plus a little salt. The recipe below assumes three eggs, enough for two people, but you can adjust accordingly.

This recipe is loosely adapted from the original Vegetarian Epicure cookbook, a simple version of a dish called a German pancake or a Dutch baby.

Granny Smith works well with this pancake, but on December 25 I cooked it with my last Newtown Pippin. Other fine-grained tart apples will do.

Ingredients
3 eggs
3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. flour
3/4 of 1 tart, fine-grained apple
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tbs. butter

Warm the eggs to room temperature by immersing in hot water. Preheat oven to 425 F.

With a whisk or egg beater, beat the eggs and then mix in the milk.

Little by little, whisk or beat the flour into the batter until it is completely combined.

With a very sharp knife, quarter, core, and slice the apple very thinly (1/8" slices or thinner). A mandoline would be great for this but I don't have one.

A few slices at a time, stir the apple into the batter. Reserve any extra apple for a garnish.

Heat a 10" cast iron (or other oven-safe) pan over a medium flame until hot but not smoking. When hot, add the butter and swirl it around the pan. Once the butter has melted and stopped foaming, pour in the batter. Use a spatula to get it all in. Then put the loaded pan into the hot oven.

After 15 minutes, pierce any puffy parts of the pancake with a cake tester or fork and bake for another 10 minutes at 350 F. Slice like a pizza and serve at once.

The pan will be hot.

This dish does not puff up as impressively in a larger pan. Three eggs in 10" is optimal, but four (with other ingredients adjusted) is also very good, a little more custardy. For a five-egg version, divide the batter 60-40 between a 10" and an 8" pan.

I'm not much of a baker, but this is a snap. There is a series of posts about the quest for the perfect pie and crust at fruitslinger if you want more. Alas, Fruitslinger is no more.

Update: Can now report after rigorous field experiments this morning that Esopus Spitzenberg is an outstanding choice for this dish.

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