Baking Illustrated is by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine and is a handy book to have. Each recipe section goes into detail of the trial and error they went through to come up with the best version of the recipe they're publishing, just like they do with Cook's Illustrated. It's enlightening to read, especially when I'm looking for a particular recipe and want some background on the do's and don'ts of making it. That said, I don't go to this book as often as I do my other cookbooks. I can't say it's got THE best recipes for everything but then again, I haven't made as much from this one as others. There have been one or two that I didn't think turned out so well - whether it's the recipe or the baker, I don't know. Maybe that's why it hasn't been the Bible of my baking as much as I expected. But I still like checking with it first and seeing what they've got when I want to try something new.
The German Apple Pancake falls into the category of something I've never made before. I'm inordinately fond of breakfast food and see nothing wrong with having breakfast for dinner. Cooking breakfast always seems easier to me than cooking dinner. Plus I don't have much of an appetite in the morning until I've been up for at least a couple of hours and (preferably) got a workout in so I usually can't do justice to a good breakfast. I also like the concept of this pancake as something to make when I have friends over for brunch. Who doesn't like pancakes? Normally I like my pancakes plain but if there's a fruit that can be added to it, I prefer apple.
This was pretty simple to make. Because it calls for having the oven initially at such a high temperature, I recommend preheating your oven as the first step since it'll probably take your oven awhile to get up to 500 degrees. You can easily prepare this in the time the oven is heating. I opted to use 2 Granny Smith apples instead of 3 because I thought I didn't want to overwhelm the pancake with too much apple. I forgot, however, that apples cook down considerably and I actually ended up with less apple than I thought. Going with 3 apples would've been fine. The pancake puffed up at the sides rather than the middle and almost look like it was going to spill out of the pan but fortunately it was "baking" up the sides instead. I left it in the oven for 15 minutes as the edges were looking crispy and done even though the middle was still a bit pale.
Overall, this was delicious. It's best served warm and the apples made it sweet enough that I skipped the maple syrup entirely - no need for the extra calories. It's not a pancake like you'd think an IHOP buttermilk pancake is. The texture is less fluffy and thinner once the pancake collapses. But the browned, caramelized apples is a nice touch and the pancake serves as more of a backdrop for the apples. Definitely eat this while warm.
2 large eggs
¾ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 medium Granny Smith apples (about 1 ¼ pounds), peeled, cored and cut into ¼” slices (I used 2)
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Maple syrup, warmed
1. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 500⁰F. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, salt and granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and process until well combined, about 15 seconds. Add the flour and process until thoroughly mixed and free of lumps, about 30 seconds; set the batter aside.
2. Add the butter to a 10-inch ovenproof, nonstick skillet and heat over high heat until the butter foams. Add the apples and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over them. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the apples are golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Quickly pour the batter around the edge of the pan then over the apples; place the pan in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425⁰F and cook until browned and puffed, 16 to 17 minutes. With a heatproof spatula, loosen the edges of the pancake. Invert the pancake onto a serving platter, dust it with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately, accompanied by the warm maple syrup.