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Of apples and early mornings

November 9, 2009

To me, apples are the most simple food in the world. They are the original health food – apple a day, right? And A is for Apple. Which means that they are the first food/word to which I could attribute a letter. My mom use to love taking us to pick apples, so it should suffice to say that I get apples.

That doesn’t make me any better at remembering which apples are for eating versus baking versus cidering versus turning into sauce. As is, I 

indiscriminately cut up any apple to dip in peanut butter or add to a salad.

But when it comes to baking, I always fall back onto Whole Foods for the “everything you could ever need to know, and nothing you don’t need to worry about” guides to produce. Not that I ever remember to have my guide with me when selecting apples.

Now, for those of you that may think I’m over complicating the wonderful apple, let me just point out that there are over 7,000 varieties of apples cultivated worldwide. Which means, you could taste a different one every day for more than 19 years and never eat the same kind twice. So, I do what most of us do, and I pick apples based on pure ascetics.

The Cortland apples that I picked up from Maple Acres Farm on Friday were beautiful. A yellow background, covered in a true “apple red” and flecks of green. Honestly, they looked a little evil. Exactly the kind of apple you’d expect to tempted with by a serpent or old witch. It took all my will-power not to munch one pre-dinner on Friday, but I had grander plans from Saturday brunch.

Also – an aside on pancakes. I finished a box of Bisquick about a year ago, and haven’t looked back. Bisquick is tasty and easy and makes a good, dependable pancake. But throwing flour and eggs and a few other small staple ingredients into a bowl has the same (if not better) effect. It makes me wonder how Bisquick ever convinced us that we need a pancake mix. Did our mothers and grandmothers really struggle with the pressures of mixing pancakes? It seems unlikely. Is Bisquick really that less expensive then the flour, eggs, and milk that we already have in the house? It’s not (I checked). But I mean Bisquick no ill-will. They were a staple in my formative years. This recipe I just found to be as easy and forgiving, quick and delicious as anything Bisquick ever resulted. And with some stewed up apples in their own apple syrup, it was pretty unbelievable.

Pancakes a la Betty Crocker Wedding Cookbook

For Apple Syrup
2 medium sized cored, chopped, but not peeled Corland Apples (or any other apple that lists as good for sauce or baking)

2 tblsp butter
2 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp cinnamon
1 tblsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup apple cider – optional

For Pancakes 
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp granulated or packed brown sugar
2 Tbsps vegetable oil
3 tsps baking powder
1/4 teaspon salt
butter for the pan

Finally a chance to use your wok for breakfast! In a small wok (or medium sauce pan), melt 2 tblsp butter over medium heat, swirling the pan to coat evenly. Add the apples. They will start releasing their juices pretty quickly – 2-3 minutes, at which time feel free to add the rest of your ingredients.

Reduce the heat to low (you don’t want too much simmering going on) and let cook while you make your pancakes.

In a medium bowl, beat egg until pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients except butter just until smooth. For thinner pancakes, stir in additional 1 to 2 tablespoons milk.

Heat griddle (if you are being fancy) or skillet over medium heat. Grease with butter. The rule of thumb in testing a griddle/skillet for optimal pancake cooking temperature: sprinkle with a few drops of water; if bubbles jump around, heat is just right.

For each pancake, pour slightly less than 1/4 cup batter from cup or pitcher onto hot griddle. Cook pancake until puffed and bubbles appear around the edge. Turn and cook other side until golden brown. Continue until you’ve used up your batter.

At this point, your apples should be fairly mushy and the syrup should have thickened nicely. Remove your apples from the heat and apply between your stacks of pancakes. I like my pancakes very buttery, so I added even more butter to the top layer of pancakes, before draping the whole plate in apple syrup. And I can officially recommend this method to any other apple lovers out there.

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