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Apple Pancake – Yes, THE apple pancake

May 15, 2011

Our high school swim team was given a once a season ‘by’ on our early-morning workouts and our the tradition was to head to Walker Bros. on Greenbay Road for breakfast. There were a few of the ‘guy swimmers’ who could put away an entire apple pancake, one I can think of would ask us for our leftovers, hard to fathom but true. If you’ve ever been to Walker Bros. the Original Pancake House in the Northern Chicago suburbs (or Portland, OR) and had the apple pancake that is paraded out of the kitchen every few minutes, then you’re in for a treat. I’m thrilled to pass this recipe along to you. I’d love the stats on this one and how they keep them rolling out of the kitchen so quickly. I’ve tried making and apple pancake several times with tasty but results that just didn’t match the taste and texture of the pancake I was trying to recreate. So, to the internet I went and found this recipe. I’m listing it just as I found it but recommend you read the full article published in The Chicago Tribune 2007 article “Chicago’s Big Apple” by Steve Katz who researched and came up with this recipe worth sharing. Using vital wheat gluten and bread flour as well as nutmeg and powdered sugar in the batter are key pieces to the texture and taste I was looking for. If you are not familiar with Walker Bros. here is a great link to Road Food and their review of it.

Some important notes from the Tribune article…In restaurants, the classic German apple pancake is prepared in an 8-inch non-stick skillet with sloped sides and a 3-cup capacity. Although trade secrets are involved, writer Steve Katz figured out that the baking requires two steps: Allow the pancake batter to “set up” by baking it 30 minutes at 250 degrees, then “fire up” the pancake 15 minutes at 450 degrees–and watch it rise dramatically. It will rise better if you use the wheat gluten, which is available in some supermarkets and health food markets. The photo of this perfect pancake is from Walker Bros. website.

 The Classic baked German apple pancake

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Batter:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup non-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons wheat gluten
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Apples and cinnamon sugar:

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into
  • 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Beat eggs until foamy with an electric mixer (with the whisk attachment, if you have one) on medium speed; add milk and cream, beating until well blended. Sift flour, gluten, confectioners’ sugar, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, beating on low speed, until well blended, about 2 minutes. Set aside 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 300 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in an 8-inch non-stick oven-safe skillet over medium heat; add apple slices. Cook, turning occasionally, until apples begin to soften but not brown, about 4 minutes; transfer to a bowl.

3. Meanwhile, stir together the brown sugar, superfine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sift the cornstarch into the mix; blend thoroughly with a fork. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Slowly pour butter into the cinnamon-sugar mixture, stirring with a fork until it resembles a streusel like topping; spread the mixture over the bottom of the skillet. Layer apples (without piling up in the middle) over the sugar mixture to cover the bottom of the skillet.

4. Pour the batter over the apples. Place skillet in oven; reduce heat to 250 degrees. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven; cover with foil to keep warm. Increase oven heat to 500 degrees. Lower heat to 450 degrees. Return pancake to oven; bake until pancake puffs and edges begin to brown, 12-15 minutes. Remove pan from oven, carefully invert pan onto a platter or plate.

                                                 

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2011 8:36 pm

    A complete new process to me, but a wonderful result!

  2. May 15, 2011 8:43 pm

    The magic seems to be in the wheat gluten and the first baking to set it up. It does puff up like magic once it’s put back into the hot oven.

    • August 21, 2011 6:29 pm

      Amy

      Hi, I’m Steve Katz, I wrote the Trib article — and if you care to chat or talk further, I’d be happy to hear from you. I can explain the science and other details. As you probably know, the recipe is my attempt to reengineer the Original Pancake House approach — though their’s remains a trade secret.

      I graduated from NTE in 1972 — played on the football team, ran track, lacrosse, Student Council Board … and of course, loved Walker Bros.

      My email is emailkatz@yahoo.com

      I now live in the Washington DC area — where there are three OPH but I still love coming home and going to Walker Bros in Wilmette.

      For other articles of mine in the Trib and elsewhere, I recently had a piece in the Trib on cookbook author Maida Heatter, and I another one coming out this week on what home cooks can learn from professional chefs …. and I also suggest you Google the phrase Slow Goes It for a piece of mine on slow low temp roast beef.

      Best.

      Steve Katz

      • October 3, 2011 9:23 pm

        Steve, Thanks for contacting me and sorry for the delay in replying! Love your recipe and thougth it was very close to the original – I had no idea there were OPH on the East coast. We travel there yearly to visit family in and around DC. I’ll be sure to check your other pieces. May I ask how you came to writing for the Tribune? If I don’t hear back I’ll try your email.
        Thanks and best to you,
        Amy

  3. May 15, 2011 11:52 pm

    What a great idea. I’ve never baked a pancake before.
    🙂 Mandy

  4. elaine permalink
    June 26, 2012 9:14 pm

    I am SOOOOO excited to try this recipe!!

  5. September 18, 2013 11:04 am

    Do you remove the aluminum cover before you insert it to bake in the 450 degrees?

    • September 18, 2013 11:12 am

      Yes, remove the foil so browing can happen! Let me know how it turns out for you and enjoy!

      • September 19, 2013 5:32 pm

        Hi Amy. I followed the recipe, and I was Amazing.

        Loved it it.

  6. saul leibowitz permalink
    August 26, 2015 4:45 pm

    what’s the point of using non-fat milk for the batter?

    • August 27, 2015 7:56 am

      Good question. The recipe was developed by someone else as I wrote in the post so I cannot tell you why but understand the curiosity given the other full fat dairy used. Thanks for visiting my blog. Amy

  7. April 25, 2016 3:39 pm

    An this be done in a cast iron skillet?

    • April 25, 2016 4:56 pm

      Yes! Actually, it’s best done in a cast iron skillet. Let me know how it turns out.

  8. Mike Carol permalink
    June 15, 2016 10:22 pm

    The Apple Pancake is a dish very unique to The Original
    Pancake House that takes over an hour to cook.
    We peel and slice fresh, tart and tangy Granny Smith apples.
    The apples are placed in an eight inch skillet and lightly
    sautéed in clarified butter. Next, the egg based German batter
    is added from a batch that was made fresh that morning. The
    skillet is then placed in a 200 degree oven for approximately
    45 minutes. At this temperature the German batter will
    solidify, but will not bake. Then the skillet is removed from
    the oven and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, the pancake is
    flipped over and baked in a 450 degree oven.
    At this point the German batter will rise in the skillet as it
    bakes and the cinnamon sugar mixture on the bottom begins to
    caramelize. After approximately 15 minutes of bake time the
    Apple Pancake is flipped back over onto a plate, and served.

  9. Aneta permalink
    October 29, 2016 11:26 am

    Wow, I just made it, it is incredibly delicious ! Its even better that from Walker.
    Love it!

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