Wednesday, September 03, 2008

German Apple Pancake

I feel like I owe Cooking Light an apology. A very public apology. I mean, I truly enjoy the magazine. Unlike some of the more frou-frou cooking publications, Cooking Light is very accessible to the average cook, with recipes that do not tend to daunt even a beginner. For that alone, I think they deserve a medal of honor. Anyone who can make home-cooked meals seem not only possible, but something that can be accomplished quickly on a weeknight for the average joe is doing a great service to mankind as far as I’m concerned. And Cooking Light focuses on fresh flavors as a general rule, with seasonal recipes and primers on using what is readily available.

My only real complaint has to do with the, eh, ‘light’ designation in the title. See, I’m more of a happy medium kind of person. I have no desire to cut back on my butter consumption or to lower my fat calories. I do not need to lower my cholesterol, regulate my sodium intake, or lose weight.

I mean, yeah, I eat really healthfully, but see, if you don’t eat meat or processed foods, and if you tend to stay relatively low on the food chain, well, that kind of leaves some wiggle room for things like butter, olive oil, nuts, eggs and salt. So it is without fail that when I try any given Cooking Light recipe, I have to make some changes from the get-go. They use a lot of egg substitute, which gives me the willies, and I never think enough salt, oil or butter is included in their ingredient lists. Ever.

I get what they’re doing. Really, I do. I just disagree with how they go about it sometimes. Because the thing is, if you don’t eat processed foods, most likely you’re not getting too much sodium, and using a teaspoon of salt in a recipe that is split into six servings just isn’t going to raise your blood pressure, you know? And butter is not the enemy. Margarine is, but that’s another topic altogether.

So it is with some trepidation that I share my experiences with their recipes here. I cook from this magazine a lot, and many of my favorite dishes that I have shared come from them. The dilemma comes when I go to give credit where credit is due. If all I have done to a recipe is increase the salt and the sauté oil, and maybe switch out real eggs for that nasty substitute egg-ish thing, then it is only fair that I use the words “adapted from Cooking Light.” With any other magazine, that wouldn’t be an issue, but with this one, when their whole premise is based on lowering the amounts of salt and oil in a recipe, then by virtue of my adding them back, well, aren’t I in fact bastardizing their recipe beyond recognition?

Like I said, I feel like I owe them an apology.

That said, tonight I baked a luscious, crowd-pleasing and kid-friendly German Apple Pancake that was the cover recipe from the August issue of Cooking Light, and as I’m sure is painfully obvious at this point, I worked diligently to add some fat grams and calories back in to a recipe that I am sure they worked equally as hard to lighten. So I’m conflicted. Would they be appalled to see what I’ve done to their recipe? Is it even still their recipe now that I’ve done my own brand of damage to it?

Does it even matter?

I had cut this recipe out a month ago, and sat upon it in the most impatient of manners, waiting breathlessly for the first apples of the season. The recipe specified Granny Smiths, but when the first tiny organic apples hit the Locally Grown shopping list with the disclaimer that they were still very tart and were best used for baking, I jumped. I spent $1.50 for three little ping-pong sized apples and cradled them gingerly on the way home and oh, they did not disappoint. Truth be told, I would have paid twice that amount. Fresh, organically and locally grown fruit is so far superior in taste to the mealy, flavorless fruit in the supermarket that any far-from-discerning palate can tell the difference.

And I just adore seasonal recipes like this one. When I see something akin to it, for apple pancakes, or for squash fritters or sautéed summer vegetables, I clip the recipe in a hurry and put it in a special binder that I save explicitly for the purpose of waiting until the starring ingredients are in season and can be purchased within a day or two of having been harvested. A little anticipation never hurt anybody.

In this case, it was worth the wait. The pancake, which is not a very apt descriptive title, is rich and thick, with a texture more similar to a custard than a pancake, and the flavors are simple and divine. Cut into wedges and served with creamy polenta made decadent with melted blue cheese, this would make the perfect brunch (or tonight's ideal dinner, in the case of my family and The Semi-Permanent Houseguest).

So, Cooking Light, please accept my apologies. I used more salt, more butter, real eggs, and whole milk, and that is how I am presenting your recipe here.


GERMAN APPLE PANCAKES (rudely adapted from Cooking Light, serves 4 to 6)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into measuring cup, then leveled off with a knife
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbs sugar, plus 1/2 cup, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, plus 1/2 tsp, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs butter, melted, plus 1 Tbs for greasing pan
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup thinly sliced tart apple (peeling left on)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, 1 Tbs sugar, salt, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. Stir with a whisk.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 2 Tbs butter (melted), and vanilla.
  3. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with a whisk. Do not get stressed out about lumps. Just leave them be. Let batter stand for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (cast iron is perfect for this) with extra butter.
  6. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp nutmeg.
  7. Sprinkle sugar mixture fairly evenly over bottom and sides of prepared pan.
  8. Arrange apple slices in an even spoke-like layer in pan. Perfection is not the goal.
  9. Sprinkle apples with remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and cook over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until sugar is bubbly and brown.
  10. Slowly pour batter over apple mixture, and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
  11. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees (do not pull pan out of oven) and bake for an additional 13 to 15 minutes, or until center is set.
  12. Cut into wedges and serve hot.


Anonymous said...

Could you maybe post pics of the recipes that you make? Sometimes it's hard to picture them without a photo. I found a pic of this one on the Cooking Light website though. They don't have to be all Pioneer Woman fancy either! Just a quick pic once it's cooked...

Thanks, from a lurker!

Sarah Beam said...

Lurker - I could post photos of the recipes, but for a myriad of reasons, I do not. Mostly, the issue is lighting. Food photography looks best with natural light, which is gone by the time I am finished making supper generally. And when I have taken photos of the food with my crappy camera, it tends to not look especially appetizing. I hope to one day spend time perfecting food photography, and maybe that day will come sooner since you have mentioned it, but I'm not holding my breath.

Besides, my mother might not read my blog any longer if I don't have pics of my kids to see.

Anonymous said...

Amen to eating foods in season and eating right so that we don't have to leave the tasty things out of a recipe. I do the very same changes to recipes. Your blog is great.

Me said...

I enjoy your blog very much and completely agree about the need to give Cooking Light's recipes more substance:-). Keep writing!

Sarah Beam said...

Aw, thanks Me. (Hmm. That sentence sounds kind of odd, doesn't it?). Good to know I'm not the only one out there tinkering around with those light recipes.

Meg an Aggie in Frisco said...

I too look at a recipe as a guide, not set in stone. I prefer to take a full fat and make it lighter myself. I find I can change things and keep the integrity of the recipe better. I do not lower salt, I do not need to. I am still waiting for a weekend that I have time to make your potatoes.

Sarah Beam said...

Oh, Meg. Do not delay in making those potatoes. I had them again last night. Yum. Yum.