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.
German Apple Pancake
serves 6 to 8
- 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
- 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.