Friday, November 14, 2008

German Apple Pancakes

I've promised this to numerous and sundry people at various times. I pray that my memory (especially of ingredient amounts) is up to the task of making this a decent replication of the way I actually cook this dish.

This recipe is different from the one in my cookbook, so I'm not sure whether I should change the name to show that it's not really authentic, or if I should keep it, because it is substantially the same recipe and I want to show influences. I've settled on the latter strategy, because I think that it rests on the more relevant fact. Besides which, it's really difficult for me to come up with (good) recipe names.

  • an apple. If you want to make a small pancake or you are short on time, use half an apple. My personal most recent favorite is to use Galas (which the grocery store says are bad for cooking with, and I don't know how to respond to that), but I think that anything you want to use will be fine. Red delicious will probably mush up on you, but if you are fine with that, I'm certainly fine with that.
  • allspice (or other sweet spices, if you don't have allspice): 1/2 teaspoon? It has been a really long time since I measured this for this recipe.
  • a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar (I never measure this-- it's just a guess, based on what I think I remember from the recipe and what I usually do)
  • butter and/or oil (a couple of tablespoons, between the two of them)
  • one egg
  • a pinch of salt
  • about a tablespoon of flour. Maybe less. I've forgotten the flour before and it has been OK, but it really doesn't taste the same.
Chop and core the apple. I sometimes peel them but usually don't. The peel adds a texture that I like. Start frying the apple in preheated cast-iron skillet. You can use butter at this stage if you want, but I like oil because it is healthier, it is cheaper, and it doesn't burn as easily-- meaning that you get a bigger chance of turning out a pretty good pancake. (This, by the way, is the step where I somehow deviated from the cookbook. In the cookbook that I got this recipe from, you add the apples after you have added the batter. Having made them in the adulterated way, I will never go back, but in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I'd let you know where I deviate from authenticity.)

Add the allspice at some point. It really isn't so picky about the allspice, since the allspice doesn't have to brown or anything.

The apples do need to brown, for maximum yumminess. As an interruption to your sitting on your hands to make yourself be patient while they do so, crack the egg in to a reasonably sized bowl (like a cereal bowl), add a tablespoon of water, beat it with a wire whisk if you have one, with a fork if you don't, and then add the salt and flour and beat them until you've gotten as many lumps out as you figure you're going to get. I sometimes remember to start this process before I chop up the apple, but if I take long enough on browning the apple, it turns out OK anyway. Even when the egg has flour lumps it turns out pretty yummy, so don't fret.

Once the apples have browned as much as you have the patience to let them (my record was something like twenty minutes, but usually I'm in more of a hurry than that), add the butter and brown sugar. I do like butter better than oil at this point, because it interacts in a totally delicious way with the brown sugar in a way that oil does not.

The recipe gets kind of finicky at this point. What you want is for the brown sugar to melt in with the butter and start to turn to something like caramel, but you have to factor in the cooking time for the egg, which gets added in for the final bit of caramelization. You also have to not burn the sugar. Some people like the taste of burned sugar, but I do not. If you are nervous about this, then just dump the egg mixture in about a minute after you have added the brown sugar and butter, and you will come out with a totally delicious pancake, even though it is not at the extreme edges of deliciousness to which this recipe can be pushed. If you are not nervous, then trust your gut, make the recipe a few times (keeping careful notes), and email me the results so that I can tell people with precision how to do this part.

Add the egg mixture to the skillet. Turn on the broiler at the same time so that it can preheat, and make sure that the oven rack is on the top shelf. Moving it after the broiler has preheated involves putting your delicate hand very close to a 500 degree element, which is not my favorite thing to do, especially since I don't usually have the glove kind of hot pad available.

Once the egg is mostly not runny any more, take it off the heat and put it in the broiler for one minute. Or maybe two. You want the egg to be done and the top to be brown. (Darn it, I'm going to have to go home and make up a batch to check the time on this, among other things.) When you take it out, salt it (if you want-- I always need to), and enjoy. I usually take mine out of the skillet in quarters or halves.

You can double this recipe in an eight-inch skillet with relative impunity (the cooking time will of course be longer), but for more than that I'd definitely do batches.

If for whatever reason you don't have a working broiler, then put a lid on the pan as soon as you add the egg, and be sure that your heat is low enough that you won't burn the sugar (which is all on the bottom of the pan, right next to the heat source) while the egg is cooking. It will take longer to cook, but it will be-- almost-- as yummy.

If you have a tilty stove-top, such that most of your egg slides to one side of the pan and sits there, refusing to cook, in a salmonella-inviting mass, as the film on the other side becomes crispy and starts curling, then swirl the egg around now and again while it is cooking. This probably seems obvious to some of my readers, but it took me a while to figure out.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I would actually own a cookbook if it were this entertaining to read.