Monday, October 5, 2009

Saturday Morning Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

I was never all that fired up about apples until I moved to southeastern Minnesota, where they are grown in both quantity and quality. The Red Delicious apples, which were pretty much the only kind we ever had at home when I was a kid, weren’t going to do it for me, especially once I had tasted the apples that grew in my the yards of both of my pairs of grandparents. (Why didn’t we have more of these at home? My grandparents didn’t live far away.) Those were “real” apples, what apples were supposed to taste like. In comparison, the Red Delicious (and sometimes Golden Delicious) that my dad would eat every day, core and all, just weren’t so delicious to me.

I ate very few apples once I was on my own, but these days I can hardly wait for this time of year when the markets here are stuffed with locally-grown apples. I don’t even have to go out of my way to get them. There are local markets and fruit stands where I can pick up bags of lovely apples grown in the same zip code (or close to it), while I’m picking up my regular supplies of garlic, celery, oatmeal and quinoa. It’s just too easy.

I’ve spent some time so far this autumn tasting apples in hopes of being able to detect the differences between the varieties and picking a favorite. Everybody in Minnesota seems to love the Honeycrisp apple, a firm, sweet local-variety-does-good. This year, I’ve also bought (and eaten nearly all of already) Zestars and McIntosh that were really good. My mom even bought some huge, locally-grown Golden Delicious when she was visiting, and they, for once, lived up to their name (the best Golden Delicious I’ve ever had.) But my favorites right now are the Cortland apples grown so near by. They’re tart and juicy and have an elusive, floral-fruity taste that I just can’t quite put words to, although it makes me think of candy. It’s these Cortlands that I’ve been buying by the bagful for a few weeks, and what I used to make my most recent Saturday morning pancakes.

I have to say, I’m in love with these pancakes. From Harry, I just got, “Yeah, they’re good,” but I was savoring and “Yummmm”-ing over every bite. They are perky from the cider and lots of cinnamon in the batter. The grated apple melted into the pancake, giving it flavor and body, but not making it heavy, soggy or fibrous. Of course, the maple syrup I served these with is no slouch, but I can truly say that the pancakes weren’t just a vehicle (or excuse) for the syrup as plain pancakes too often can be. You could also top these with a syrup made of reduced apple cider (just boil it until it reaches a syrupy consistency), stewed apples, or just cinnamon and sugar.

I recommend using a good-quality apple cider to make these pancakes. I’m lucky enough to have that available locally, too. (It’s another thing I never really cared for until I moved here where they just do it right.) You could peel the apple(s) before grating them if you want to. I liked the idea of leaving the peel on, just for improved WFQ* (along with the added whole wheat flour), but my box grater wasn’t quite up to the task of tearing through apple peels. A sharper grater might do better. And a sharper cook probably doesn’t need me to tell him/her how to jazz up a batch of pancakes, but I liked these so much, I wanted to share them as they happened. Enjoy!

*WFQ = Whole Food Quotient

Apple Cinnamon Pancake Recipe
Modified from Midwest Living Magazine

1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup grated apple
Cooking spray, oil or butter to grease the pan or griddle

1. Preheat a large skillet or griddle on the stove over medium heat, or an electric frying pan (what I use) or griddle to 350 F. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until well-combined.

2. In a separate medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with the cooled melted butter. Add the brown sugar, apple cider and vanilla and whisk together until well-blended. Stir in the grated apple.

3. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredient mixture and stir until just combined. Try not to over-mix the batter. Just stir until the dry ingredients are moistened through. The batter will be quite thick.

4. Spray the heated pan with cooking spray or brush it with oil or butter. Spoon (it should be too thick to pour) about ¼ cup of the pancake batter for each (4-inch) pancake, placing as many on the pan as will fit with room to spread and flip. Cook the pancakes until they are brown on the pan side, and bubbles break through the batter on the top side, about 2-3 minutes.

5. Flip the pancakes and cook another 2-3 minutes, until brown and cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping cooked pancakes warm in a 200 F oven. Serve hot with syrup, or your favorite pancake accompaniment.

Makes about 10 4-inch pancakes

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