In these northern climates, we really should be taking a cue from the south and use Mardi Gras as an excuse to fend off the dregs of winter with beads, sequins and feathers. Instead, we will sit at home with our pancakes.
Rather than the usual humdrum stack of hotcakes, the least we can do is add some excitement and make one uber-impressive big puffy pancake.
Dutch Baby Pancake with Spiced ApplesDutch baby is a lot like an enormous Yorkshire pudding. The pancake itself is not overy sweet, and the ginger and black pepper give the apples a surprising but pleasant heat... a perfect counter to the sweet and slight tart of the apples. Nevermind how good it tastes though, the wow factor when you pull it out of the oven will make you feel like you didn't work hard enough for it.
for the pancake:
|In the spirit of Fat Tuesday, use up some of the good stuff.|
1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c. (scant) whole wheat flour
1 c. milk
4 tsp local honey
1 tbsp lard or butter
for the apple topping:
2 or 3 med-sized apples*
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp butter or lard
*we used Spartan apples; by this time of year almost any apple picked last fall, particularly if it wasn't stored well, is more of a cooking apple than an eating apple... use a tart apple for best results
|When the dutch baby is done, it's puffed up all over and golden brown. It will collapse as it begins to cool, don't worry about that. Just make sure everyone's in the kitchen to see it emerge from the oven.|
Pre-heat oven to 425F. Put a cold cast iron skillet in the oven during the pre-heat so that the pan is good and hot when it's time to cook the dutch baby.
Put eggs, flour, milk and honey in a blender (in that order). Blend on a low-ish speed to combine, then on a not-quite-high speed for 30-45 seconds. Let sit at room temp while the oven finishes heating.
When the oven is hot, open it and drop the lard onto the pan, quickly close the door. Whiz the batter in the blender again to mix. By now the lard should be melted. Working quickly, open the oven and pull out the rack with the pan, pour the batter into the hot fat, push the rack back in, and close the door. Turn the oven down to 400F and cook for 20-25 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN until at least 20 minutes has passed.
|Tart apples sweetened with a touch of honey are a good complement to|
the heat of the ginger and pepper.
The pancake is done when it is puffed up high (including the center) and is golden brown. If you peek at it at 20 minutes and it's not done, close the door quickly and wait for 3-5 minutes longer.
To serve: Spoon apple mixture over dutch baby and sprinkle with icing sugar, to taste.
Newfoundland is a quirky place. I don't mean that disparagingly, it's just the way of things. One of it's quirks is around Mardi Gras. Every year, people dress up in costumes and converge on George Street in St. John's for a big outdoor street party. Lots of dancing, lots of drinking, prizes for the best costumes... sounds not so strange for a Mardi Gras event, right? Except it's in October. The part of October more commonly known as Hallowe'en. By which, I mean the weekend closest to (so, also, never on an actual Tuesday).
Maybe that's because it's still warm enough in October to mill around outdoors with a plastic cup of booze in your hands, dressed in a costume of questionable decorum? (Though that still doesn't explain calling it Mardi Gras). The real Fat Tuesday, on the other hand, occurs in the worst part of winter... right when the rest of the civilized northern hemisphere is starting to believe spring will actually happen sometime soon; but we know it won't, not here. That same trick of the Atlantic Ocean which keeps Newfoundland warm-ish through October pulls a fast one in March and does not let us shake winter off for a good long time yet.
Having watched the entire available library of Treme while stuck indoors so much over the last few months, Fefe Noir and I have, admittedly, developed a little bit of New-Orleans-style-Mardi-Gras envy. What we NEED this time of year is a big old silly street party, a way to defy the bleak outlook. Fight the winter with beads, sequins, feathers and outdoor dancing.
Realistically, we will stay in... but maybe we'll get all dressed up and listen to some marching band jazz while we eat our pancakes.