Unlike last year’s sad showing, this season’s apple crop is abundant. We love to eat them out of hand, or as a “cracker” for creamy cheeses, but is there anything better than the perfume of apples combined with sugar, cinnamon and butter cooking? We’re blessed with many wonderful varieties here in Maine, so choose whatever local apples are your favorites.
PUFFED APPLE SKILLET PANCAKE
Simple and easy to put together, this pancake puffs impressively in the oven like a soufflé, making for the perfect breakfast or brunch dish.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons
4 cups cored, peeled, and sliced medium-tart apples such as Macoun, Crispin, or Jonagold (about 3 medium-sized apples)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk, whole or low-fat
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar for sifting over top
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In an 11- or 12-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, with ovenproof handle, melt all 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Spoon out 2 tablespoons and transfer it to a large bowl. To the remaining butter in the skillet, add the apples. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and continue to cook until sugar dissolves and apples are almost tender, about 5 more minutes.
Break eggs into the bowl with the reserved butter. Add salt, milk, and vanilla, and whisk until blended. (The mixture will still be slightly lumpy.) Place flour in a sieve and sift it over the egg mixture. Whisk gently until just combined. Do not overmix. Spread apples out in an even layer in the skillet and pour batter over them. Bake in the preheated oven until the pancake is puffed and golden and crisp around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.
Sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar and serve immediately, cut in wedges. (Remember that the skillet handle is hot!)
FARM STAND APPLE CRISP WITH WALNUT-OAT CRUNCH
A crisp, which is even more casual and easier to make than a cobbler, seems to me perfectly suited to fall cooking. Sturdier, less sweet autumn fruits are blanketed by a layer of oaty/almondy topping which develops into a crunchy crust as it bakes.
¼ cup walnuts
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick-cooking oats (not instant oatmeal)
8 cups peeled and sliced medium-sweet apples such as Cortland, Jonathan, or Macoun, or a mixture of tart and sweet such as Granny Smith and McIntosh (about 2 ½ pounds)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream
In a food processor, pulse walnuts in short bursts until coarsely chopped. Remove and reserve. Combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt and process with long pulses to remove any lumps in the sugar. Add butter and pulse in short bursts until most of the butter clumps are about the size of lima beans. Add oats and pulse once or twice just to combine. Don’t over process or the topping will be too uniform. Stir in the walnuts. (The topping can be made by hand by cutting the flour and shortening together. It can be made ahead and refrigerated.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish such as a 9-inch square.
In a large bowl, toss the apples with sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla and spread in the bottom of the prepared dish. Sprinkle on the topping, spreading to the edges. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until apples are tender and the topping is browned. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with scoops of whipped cream.
Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks. She can be contacted via Facebook at: facebook.com/brookedojny