Sunday, November 10, 2013

Apple Pancake: Birthday Brunch

I'm very thankful for the Fall hues that I get to experience up here in the Northeast, something I really missed when I was living in Georgia.  I can't help but smile when I see the decorative Indian corn husks, signs pointing to apple picking fun, and large orange pumpkins taking over small shops on the side of the road...or at least that's how it is outside the NYC bubble. 

Since Fall (along with most things) is a little different in the City, I decided to escape to the Berkshires in Massachusetts with a couple of close friends for my mid-October birthday celebration.  It was good to take time to explore the scenic views before New York minutes swallow up the season.

Relaxation was of course a priority on the agenda, along with hiking Mount Greylock, and the farmer's market to pick up fresh produce and a hot, buttery cider doughnut (aka Heaven).  Then there was lots (and I mean stretchy-pants-lots) of cooking and wine "tasting".  To most people, cooking on your weekend getaway may not sound like the best of times.  But for someone like me (and hopefully you can relate so I don't seem totally crazy), I saw it as an opportunity to try new foods with people who were equally excited about it.

Making meals for friends and family brings new opinions and influences to the mix.  It means experimenting with no judgment, and getting to share that food experience with the people you are close to.  I have to say, it was quite a successful outcome, with 6 restaurant-worthy gourmet pizzas pushed out from the kitchen for dinner (courtesy of our amateur pizza chef and friend, Rachel) and an amazing birthday brunch using recipes from a favorite food blogger of mine, Love & Lemons.
The other brunch recipe we made: Sweet Potato and Brussels Skillet

The main ingredient for this dish is truly an iconic one and I don't think I could've picked a better one for this occasion.  Aside from the apple's association to all things Fall, it's the state fruit of both New York and Washington, the fruit that poisoned Snow White, and the name of probably the most popular tech gadget company in the world.  Oh, and my favorite one...the famous fruit that hit Sir Isaac Newton on the head. 
Apples have quite the reputation in our society and in our daily lives.  This apple pancake recipe is great for brunch with a small group, easy to make, and of course amazingly delicious.  You know that cider doughnut ecstasy you were drooling over earlier?  Yea, it's like that.

Makes: 2-3 servings as main dish or 5-6 servings as a side dish
2 Tbsp. butter
3 apples (I used red), peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (or almond milk)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Gluten Free - Use a GF flour such as spelt or brown rice flour.
Local Friendly - Use as many ingredients from your local farmer's market as possible.  At the very least, you should be able to find brown eggs, apples, and fresh milk.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Whisk together eggs and milk.
  4. Mix together flour and baking powder and stir it into the egg/milk mixture.
  5. In a large oven-safe skillet (I used a 10" cast iron), melt butter and add the apple slices and 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar mixture.  Cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes.
  6. Pour the batter over the apples and sprinkle the remaining brown sugar mixture evenly on top.
  7. Transfer the skillet to oven, and bake until it puffs, around 18-20 minutes.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

*HINT: To dust with powdered sugar, use a fine metal sieve or strainer.  Place a small spoonful of powdered sugar in the sieve, hold over the pancake, and gently hit the sieve with your free hand.
Another technique?  Use a tea ball.  Any will work, but I favor this OXO tea ball.