Sometimes, it's not just what you're cooking...it's what you're cooking in---in this instance, a cast iron skillet.
Well seasoned and well loved, there's something about using heavy, cast iron cookware that makes me dream of days long past...days of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie. But in my modern kitchen, I can recapture a bit of that pioneering spirit with this recipe for a German Pancake with Caramel Apple Topping, made, of course, in a cast iron skillet.
German pancakes (referred to as Dutch Babies if served individually) are not at all difficult to make provided you are willing to follow a recipe. But, if you become hasty (like me) and attempt to make a German pancake when either hurried, improvising or multi-tasking, there's a very good chance your attempt may fail. Miserably.
Perhaps (like me), you won't read the recipe thoroughly and will inattentively choose a skillet too large (or too small) for the ingredients you are using. Or perhaps (like me), your timing will be off and your apple topping won't be ready at the same time your German pancake is (and as I discovered, you can't keep an German pancake warm without turning it into a frisbee). BUT, if you are willing to learn from my mistakes, I can save you oodles of time, heartache & frustration and have you turning out a delicious German pancake on your very first try.
Rustic charm aside, German pancakes are ideal for cooks seeking an alternative to traditional pancakes or waffles. A hybrid of sorts between a pancake, omelet and even soufflé, German pancakes can be baked in 1 large skillet or individually-sized pans. For home cooks, I'm sharing this recipe made in an 11-inch cast iron skillet, but any 11-inch *oven-proof skillet will do (*withstanding temperatures of up to 450 degrees F with an oven-proof handle). And, if you are interested in using this batter for individual-sized servings and making Dutch Babies, simply use four (4) 6-inch pie or cake pans instead.
One last word: a German pancake will never have the same appearance twice. Each rises and sets in different places, so if your German pancake ends up resembling a relief map, it's perfectly normal (not to mention acceptable).
Ready to begin?
German Pancake with Caramel Apple Topping
adapted from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book and Oxmoor House's The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
Recipe Notes: Before beginning, it's important to gather all necessary ingredients. I suggest preparing the apple topping first, as it will keep warm (or reheat if prepared in advance) as the German pancake bakes. Lastly, be sure to remove your eggs from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature before beating. This step will help ensure your German pancake (or Dutch Babies) rise high and fluffy.
for the apple topping, you will need
- 4 cups apples, peeled and chopped (I like a mix of tart and sweet and suggest 2 Granny Smith and 2 Honeycrisp, or your favorite varities)
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan; stir in milk and melted butter. Over medium heat, cook 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Add chopped apples, cooking 10 minute longer or until tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and keep warm until use, or store in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed, reheating before use.
for the German pancake (made in an 11-inch oven-proof skillet; or if making Dutch Babies, use four (4) 6-inch pie or cake pans), you will need
- 3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon buter, melted
- another 1 teaspoon butter to add to hot skillet before adding batter
- confectioner's sugar to garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. When oven reaches full temperature, warm cast iron skillet for 5 minutes. Using 1 teaspoon butter, butter skillet (or individual baking pans) and set aside. Break eggs into a medium-sized mixing bowl, beating thoroughly until blended. Add milk and mix well. In a smaller bowl, combine all-purpose flour and salt. Sift flour mixture into eggs and milk, blending thoroughly as you combine; blend until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon melted butter and blend again. Pour batter into prepared 11-inch skillet and bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking for another 10 minutes. (Note - if using four (4) individual 6-inch baking pans, bake Dutch Babies for 15 minutes (total) at 450 degrees F and remove from oven.) When time has elapsed, remove skillet from oven.
Serve the German pancake directly from the skillet (or in individual pans) for a down-home feel, or carefully remove pancake to serving plate. If removing pancake to serving plate, gently loosen sides and underneath of pancake before transferring (using a flexible spatula and sliding out onto plate). Dust pancake with confectioner's sugar to garnish and fill with warm apple topping. To serve, cut pancake into pie-shaped wedges (a sturdy spatula works great here).
Yield: one (1) 11-inch German pancake (serves 6-8 single servings) or four (4) individual 6-inch Dutch Babies.
Wondering how to season a cast iron skillet? Click here.