Sunday afternoon, some friends and I drove out to the country, where on either side of the highway, green acres stretch as far as you can see. There was a lot of talk about farms, about milking cows, about which of us would be first to admit the whole country-living thing sounds appealing. (Personally, I think I’d like very much to eat from my own land, to work with the earth, to wear blue jeans and t-shirts every day. At least I think this now, having never done it.) And after miles of corn fields, sprawling estates and one high school, we came to our destination: Kuipers Family Farm, which convinced me that I really would like it, this whole rural thing, even more.
There’s just something about an apple orchard. The kind of something that makes you feel young again, like you’re a kid, like there’s nothing in all the world as important as filling your bag with fresh fruit and biting into the juicy flesh of a golden Honeycrisp. This time of year, most of the trees have been picked at prime, leaving large wooden crates filled with apples at the end of rows of bare trees, so we picked from those instead of branches.
And there was a little boy, maybe seven or eight years old, searching the bins, intent on finding the best fruit. He was loud, enough to get the attention of a group of us, pointing at one big, red apple a few inches lower than his arm. “Could someone hand me that apple right there?” he asked, to no one in particular, but confident he would get it. Later, I heard him shout, “It’s a really big one!” as he grabbed an apple larger than his fist. I asked him what his secret was, and this is what he told me, after pausing and with complete authority: look for the ones without the bruisings.
We took a hayride into the orchard and a short walk out, on the way in with empty bags and steaming cider, on the way out with clusters of juicy apples, each of us biting into one as we walked. They were delicious, crisp skin revealing tender, slightly bitter flesh.
When I got home, I sliced two large Honeycrisp apples into thin, thin slices, preparing them for a recipe I’d been eager to try: a puffed apple pancake, taken from Bon Appetit September 2002 and recently posted at Cocoa & Cheese.
I felt like I was the star of a cooking show, whipping the ingredients together quickly—the recipe is so simple! with basic ingredients! easy instructions!—that I honestly impressed myself, I’ll just admit it. While the pancake cooked, I even made an omelet, which, since I’m feeling transparent, I’ll just say wasn’t quite as impressive, and we’ll leave it at that.
No, but really, if you are enjoying apple season like I am, if you like impressive breakfasty recipes that could not be simpler, if you have been looking for something a little different to try: this puffed apple pancake is the thing. It will disappear as quickly as you can make it.
Puffed Apple Pancake
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2002
1 cup skim milk
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2-3 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in large bowl until well blended. Add flour and whisk until batter is smooth. Place butter in a glass pie dish. Place dish in oven until butter melts, about 5 minutes. Remove dish from oven. Place apple slices in overlapping rows atop melted butter in baking dish (they don’t need to be orderly, particularly if you’d like a rustic look). Return to oven and bake until apples begin to soften slightly and butter is bubbling and beginning to brown around edges of dish, about 10 minutes.
Pour batter over apples in dish and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake pancake until puffed and brown, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm.
Makes 4 servings