I’ve been road tripping around Northern California all month (have you been following me on Instagram?) and as the weeks have passed, I’ve really been enjoying the change of seasons. The pine needles are dropping, the leaves are turning color, and the days are getting cooler. It’s something we don’t see much of in Southern California, especially with the Indian summers we usually have in September.
But up north, it’s undeniably fall. And one of the first telltale signs of fall is the arrival of sweet, juicy, tree-ripened apples by the bushel. These are the kinds of apples that may be full of worms or holes, or grow a little smaller or appear a little duller, but they’re above and beyond the year-round supermarket apple that looks perfect but tastes a bit like styrofoam.
Our friend in Sebastopol lives on several acres of fruit trees, and right outside his kitchen is a beautiful apple tree grafted with four different varieties of apples. I went fruit-picking on his property one afternoon and filled up my basket (a souvenir from the Sebastopol farmers’ market) with armfuls of apples and even some pears.
The apples have traveled with me from place to place, making the rounds from Sonoma to Marin to Placer Counties and now to Nevada County, where I’m spending my last week on the road. In every house we’ve stayed, I’ve whipped up some version of this puffed apple pancake for brunch (and sometimes with a pear or two thrown in for good measure).
Also called a German pancake, Dutch puff, or Dutch baby, it’s a cross between a souffle and an omelette. The eggs make it puffy and you’ll see the pancake rise to great heights while it’s baking, but it deflates soon after it comes out of the oven. Because of this, it’s best served right away and right on the table in the pan it’s cooked in.
It’s a simple and satisfying meal to make for breakfast or brunch, but it’s also a delicious dessert (especially with ice cream on the side). It’s not as heavy as a regular pancake — more fruity than it is doughy. Two hungry people can easily share this apple pancake, but four can make it a full meal with a side of bacon and potatoes.
Happy first day of fall, friends!
Puffed Apple Pancake
Makes 2 to 4 servings
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/4 cup butter
3 medium apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Combine the brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
In a deep, ovenproof 10-inch pan (or a shallow, ovenproof 12-inch pan) over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and stir to coat. The apples should just fill the pan to the top. Sprinkle half the brown sugar over the apples and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until well combined. Whisk in the flour and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon until smooth.
Pour the batter evenly over the apples and sprinkle the remaining brown sugar on top.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the pancake is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve the pancake in the pan with a dusting of powdered sugar.