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German apple pancake

No food tradition in our family is longer-lived than the German apple pancake. So central a family holiday tradition, so beloved, for years it even served as the “secret password” between my daughters and me. We never needed to use it, but it was comforting knowing it was there. ; )

Every Christmas morning for our children’s lives our house would fill with the sweet perfume of cinnamon and nutmeg and caramelizing apples. Every Christmas morning, the girls’ eyes, and later on, the boy’s, would pop at the big puff of a pancake as it came from the oven. (It’s a bit of a wonderment really.) From the oven, I’d slip it onto a warm platter and then –  into the golden heart of it a steaming skillet-ful of glistening caramelized apples would tumble. I think it’s become impossible for any of us now to separate Christmas morning from the pancake.

As true as that is, we enjoy this special breakfast too much to relegate it to one morning a year. It manages to show up at birthday breakfast tables by request, and occasionally it appears just because  someone’s in need of a little extra lovin’ or an atta-boy or -girl! This year we’ll bring it the New Year’s table too. It’s how our family celebrates with breakfast.

So disappointed I forgot to include the cranberries for this one – it’s positively beautiful with them.

German Apple Pancake

serves 6 to 8 

the pancake:

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour (3¾ oz. – 105 g.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1½ Tablespoons butter

the apples:

  • 1½ pounds apples (up to 2 pounds will work) – Granny Smith are a good choice
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (either new or freshly grated is best)
  • ½ cranberries (optional)

the sprinkling of snow:

  • powdered sugar

Place an oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Into a blender (or food processor) break 3 eggs. Add milk and vanilla, and process for about 30 seconds. Add the flour, salt and sugar and process until lumps are gone, about 15 seconds. (Don’t overmix.) Allow to “bloom” – for flour to absorb the liquids completely – at least 15 minutes, and as long as overnight. Briefly mix again before pouring in the pan.

With oven at 500°F, melt 1½ Tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat- cast iron works very well for this. When the butter has turned to foam, swirl it around the bottom of the pan, and slightly up the sides. Pour in the pancake batter and place the pan in the oven. Promptly lower the heat to 425°F. Cook for 10 minutes at this setting, and then lower the heat to 350°F and cook for about 15 minutes longer. (If during the initial stages of the baking, the center of the pancakes bubbles up and forms a little mountain, pierce it with a long handled fork. No worries if it doesn’t completely flatten though because the apples will take care of most of that.) Like magic, the sides of the pancake will rise up and form a bowl. 

While the pancake is baking prepare the apples. Peel and core the apples. Cut into ¼-inch slices. Melt ¼ cup butter in heavy skillet.  (You’ll get better caramelizing results if you don’t use a non-stick pan.) Add the brown sugar and melt together. Add the apples and spices. Stirring fairly continually over medium heat for about 10 minutes, caramelize the apples. During the last 3 or 4 minutes of cooking, add cranberries if using. Remove the pan from heat when apples are cooked through and some are beginning to brown. You want them to still gently hold their shape.

Pre-warm your platter by pouring boiling water over it a couple minutes before serving.

To serve: Lift or slide the pancake onto a platter, tumble the prepared apples inside, dust with a sprinkling of sifted powdered sugar. Cut into wedges.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is wonderful looking, I can see why it’s a favorite.

    December 29, 2011
  2. I LOVE THIS! And this year’s addition of cranberries was fantastic. As I remember, too, Mama, when you were beginning to share recipes and the stories that accompany them — pre blog — this special German Apple Pancake was among the first offerings to Ali and me. I so love this tradition. The smells. The tastes. The puff of pancake. The drippings of apples. The look of the skillet holding the treasure before it’s arranged beautifully on a platter. Each and every part a treasure intermingled with the joy of Christmas and celebration.

    December 29, 2011
  3. Love the story and the tradition – and a wonderful recipe too. It reminds me of a sweet yorkshire pudding, delicious!

    December 29, 2011
    • VERY much like Yorkshire pudding, yes!

      December 29, 2011
  4. I have heard of a German apple pancake but have never had one. I’m going to have to remedy that real soon…you photo makes it look delicious.

    December 29, 2011
    • Oh Karen I’m not sure the photo made it look any more delicious than it IS. But thank you! : )

      December 29, 2011
  5. This looks just incredible! I very much prefer apples with breakfast over all other fruit and I would have begged relentlessly for a breakfast of these.

    December 29, 2011
    • I’m with you on apples for breakfast, John. And you wouldn’t have had to beg long around our house!

      December 30, 2011
  6. I have never seen anything like this before, but it looks delightful!

    December 29, 2011
  7. Ali #

    Without a doubt, my ALL-TIME FAVORITE breakfast!!!
    I too, loved the addition of cranberries this year!! Thanks as always, for putting love on the table!!

    December 29, 2011
  8. This looks delicious, and I will be making it one of these weekends. As you might tell from my photo, I’m rather fond of apples :). In fact, I just wrote today about a Flemish fried egg and apple breakfast that my mother used to make for us when we were kids; such a treat to have it again after all these years.

    I’m enjoying following your beautiful blog. Cheers!

    December 30, 2011
  9. I think it looks great even without the cranberries. Thank you for sharing.

    January 13, 2012
  10. This looks lovely. I love any food with the word “German” attached!

    January 19, 2012
  11. This looks and sounds so delicious!

    January 24, 2012
  12. peasepudding #

    Only just seen these on Foodpress, they look amazing, I might have to sneak a dollop of cream on top even for breakfast!

    January 25, 2012
  13. Found this recipe a few weeks ago, and made it three times since! An instant succes with my family and friends, yet so easy to make :).

    I don’t have a skillet that can go in the oven, so I made it in a pie dish that I had preheated with the butter. Works just as well!

    February 25, 2013
    • Well, you’ve just surprised me! I never would have expected that this would work without a cast iron skillet (or something else equally heavy and heat-conductive.) Thank you so much for letting me know, and I’m so happy you enjoyed! 🙂

      February 28, 2013
  14. Claudia Fowlkes #

    Thank you, my precious Soul Sister. These Apple pancakes make my heart smile. I love you so much.

    July 18, 2021

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