Tartine's Almond-Lemon Tea Cake
Deborah Madison's Chard and Saffron Tart

Sow's Ear Baked Apple Pancake


I didn't technically clip this recipe from the Los Angeles Times. Those Best American Recipe ladies did, four years ago. They didn't know where the recipe came from (whether The Sow's Ear was the restaurant the pancake came from, or whether sow's ear just referred to the pancake's appealingly floppy shape), and neither do I. But I'm telling you, this might be my new favorite dessert. It's definitely getting laminated. Going in the Hall of Fame. Getting made over and over again. I love this recipe.

You know those gloriously puffy Dutch babies? They're like a sugar-doused Yorkshire pudding or popover - towering mile-high in the oven, gilded with melted butter, light as a dream. Well, this apple pancake is a close cousin to those, only it's been dolled up for the dessert table, with a fillip of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla, and thin, tender slices of apple studded throughout.

After a square meal last night of pork chops and winter squash (more on those another time) and a salty-sour fennel salad, I cleared the table and prepared the simple batter as my friend Barbara and I continued our conversation (men and women, Mars and Venus, that sort of thing). I beat together some skim milk, several eggs, a spoonful of sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and melted butter. While the oven heated and more butter melted in my cast-iron skillet, I made quick work of the two apples.

I sauteed the sliced apples in the melted butter before pouring in the thin batter and sprinkling the top with brown sugar (I was disorganized and didn't measure the sugar, so I think I actually used less than called for - and it was perfect. The lesson here: use your sweet-tooth as judgment). The whole pan went into the oven while I washed up our dinner dishes. Exactly 23 minutes later, I opened the oven to find a puffed, burnished cloud of apples and pancake. Pulling that hot, heavy pan out of the oven was an ordeal (use two hands, friends - both clothed in oven mitts, please), but I managed to bring it to the table, dust it beautifully with powdered sugar (a lot less than called for - maybe only one tablespoon?) and thoroughly impress Barbara.

We dug into this beauty of a dessert to find a soft and yielding pancake base - in parts custardy, like a far breton or a clafoutis, but also with crispy, feathery edges - and silky, tender, gently spiced apples. The brown sugar had caramelized in spots, which added deeper flavors and a fantastic textural note. And even better, after an overnight rest in the fridge (removed from the skillet), the pancake sort of settled in on itself, became fudgy and dense. This, with a glass of cold milk, made a superb weekend breakfast.

I can't wait to make this again. But today and tomorrow, with Ben out of town, I get all the leftovers to myself. Glory, glory, glory! Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone.

Baked Apple Pancake
Serves 6

5 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
2 small apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Heat the oven to 450°. Combine 2 tablespoons of melted butter with the eggs, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and flour. Mix the batter by hand or in a food processor. Set aside.

2. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter with the apple slices in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet until the apples are sizzling and slightly cooked. Pour in the batter. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar and bake until well browned and puffed, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.