THE APPLE

Way back when I was a baby (and by baby, I mean in my ’20s, in the ’80s, in Chicago), there was no better post-club cure than a trip to the Lincoln Park Walker Brothers.* My go-to was two eggs (over easy), bacon, hash browns, and rye toast. But for the table, we always got what some kids called a Dutch Baby, some called a German Baby, and the servers called simply THE APPLE—a giant panful of blazing-hot, crisp-edged, custard-centered apple goo.

This is a scaled-down version, in both portion size and in complexity. Whiz the batter in a blender, pour it over sautéed apples, bake, eat, repeat next weekend.

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Last week’s fruit share was 11 MacIntosh + 11 Jonathans. So far, I’ve made crisp, two jars of applesauce, and the big-ass pancake.
Baked Apple Pancake

Adapted from Gourmet and Gale Gand’s clafoutis in Short and Sweet. Serves 2 for breakfast, 4 for dessert. 

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 12 oz apples (2 medium-large apples), peeled, cored, and sliced into wedges
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup milk (whole preferred)
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • lemon wedges, for serving (and for coating the pre-cooked apples)
  • confectioners’ sugar (for serving)

Preheat oven to 450ºF/230ºC.

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I never bother with a corer, preferring to just slice vertically along the core in 5 or 6 chunks, then cut the chunks into wedges. One less thingee to wash.

Toss the apples in a bowl with a spritz of lemon juice, the brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a 9- or 10-inch ovenproof skillet (a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet will brown the apples better; a non-stick skillet will make clean-up easier; your call—just make sure the handle can withstand high heat), melt the butter, then pour about half of it into a blender or food processor. Add milk, yogurt, eggs, flour, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt to the blender, and blitz until smooth. Let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes while you cook the apples.

In the remaining butter, simmer the apples for 8-10 minutes until they’re well on the way to soft. Note: Some folks go full tarte Tatin here, adding more sugar, cranking up the heat, and letting the apples caramelize, but I never bother—it can be a mess, it takes a lot longer, and I like the fresher taste just fine.

Turn off the heat. If necessary, nudge or shake the apples so they form an even layer in the pan. Now, evenly pour the batter over over the apples.

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I didn’t have any plain yogurt in the fridge this morning, so I used vanilla yogurt instead and backed off a bit on the extract and granulated sugar. Tasted the same as usual.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the cake is golden on top, browned around the edges, and risen above the pan.

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Don’t worry if the cake falls after a minute out of the oven; that’s normal.

Unlike cherry clafouti, which I enjoy warm, room temp, or even cold, this apple version is best hot out of the oven. Just add a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice. At Walker Brothers, they used to make a show of running it (truly, terrifyingly) from the kitchen through the maze of overloaded tables and wobbly, waiting patrons straight to your placemat. That seems silly now that I can just turn around, set the pan on a board, and stand over the counter with a fork.

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Brunch, sure, but master the apple pancake, and you also have a terrific à la minute dessert in your pocket. Clear the table, soften some ice cream, and maybe pour everyone a Calvados while it bakes.

 

*Sticklers for Chicago history will know that the in-city locations were a spin-off of the original Wilmette Walker Brothers, and were called “The Original Pancake House.” We called them all the same thing, though, and there was always a line. Neighborhood theater kids preferred the Belden Deli, where you were often in a booth adjacent to Malkovich, Mamet, or a Sedaris. And if you were waiting on payday, you hit the diner at 2222 N. Clark, where you ordered the 2-2-2-2 special: two eggs, two links, two slices of bacon, and two silver-dollar pancakes for two bucks.

 

 

 

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