Wednesday, April 28, 2010

German Apple Pancakes

If my husband and I ever open a B&B, I know what one of our dishes will be. Have you ever had German Apple Pancakes? My friend, Teresa, over at A Blog About Food posted a recipe for some German Apple Pancakes that they made on Easter Morning. They. Are. Divine.

Now, I have had just plain German pancakes, and I liked them. But I had no idea you could add a few things and make it taste this amazing. First off, you use half and half. Awesome. Second, you caramelize the apples in a combination of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Even better. To top if off, you give it a little dusting of powdered sugar. Oh yeah.

This is now my go-to recipe for any special occasion where breakfast is served. Or really, any day when breakfast is served. It's that good.

German Apple Pancake
from America's Test Kitchen

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pounds apples (3-4) quartered, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
confectioner's sugar

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half and vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until no lumps remain.

Melt the butter in 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples, brown sugar and cinnamon and cook until the apples are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice.

Quickly pour the batter around the edge of the skillet, then over the apples. Place the skillet in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the pancake has risen above the edges of the skillet and is brown, about 18 minutes. Loosen the pancake edges from the hot skillet with a spatula and invert the pancake onto a large plate or serving platter. Dust with confectioners sugar, and cut into wedges before serving.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tips for perfect cookies

I'm sitting here eating a 2-day old chocolate chip cookie. I'll let you take a guess as to whether or not it's still chewy and moist, or crunchy and dry. I'll let you know at the end of this post...

I've heard a lot of people say that they just can't make good cookies. I have such a hard time comprehending this! Now, don't get me wrong, I have had some cookie batches come out horribly wrong and threw them immediately into the trash. But for the most part the cookies I make come out as they should and taste delicious.

I thought I'd give a few simple tips to help make your baking experience better, and I'll throw in a recipe for some amazing chocolate chip cookies, too.

1. Follow the recipe! Sounds simple, right? I'm amazed at how many people "experiment" or don't measure out ingredients when baking. Please, for my sake, follow the recipe. At least the first time you make it.

2. Use a cookie scoop! A common thing I hear when I make cookies for other people is, "How do you get them all the same size and shape?" I wish I could say it was my talent for pulling the exact same amount of dough out of the bowl every time. But it's not. I am a huge fan of cookie scoops. They make your life so much easier (and cleaner). And they make perfectly round cookies.

3. Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper! I HATED when my cookies used to stick to the baking sheet. I would have to use a heavy duty metal spatula to try to scrape them off, and they'd come out looking all battered and scarred. And then, a beautiful thing happened. Silicone. I never bake cookies without using my silicone baking mat or parchment paper (parchment is silicone coated paper).

4. Underbake! This is key to making chewy, moist cookies. I understand that there are times when you will want a crunchy cookie. But I think most people enjoy that chewy texture. When you're going to check on the cookies, you'll want them to look slightly underdone in the center.

That's it! Now go and make some perfect cookies and bring some over to me! Oh, and my 2-day old cookie? Chewy, moist, and delicious!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Jacques Torres, courtesy of The New York Times
Time: 45 minutes, plus at least 24 hours' chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate chips in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 1 tbsp of dough onto baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.