The dream about the apple pancake

I awoke this morning from a dream in which I was having a meal in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field’s State Street store in Chicago. The Walnut Room still exists but Field’s doesn’t, which makes me sad.

It was a very large table where I sat in the Walnut Room, accommodating 10 or 12 hungry shoppers. The specialty of the house seemed to be a large, baked apple pancake. I was aware in the dream, but not disturbed, that Marshall Field’s was not known for baked apple pancakes. I was aware, though not disturbed, that the apple pancakes being served in the Walnut Room were very much like those that are the specialty at Walker Bros. in Wilmette, Illinois.

The format was Benihana-ish, in that the ladies who served these baked apple pancakes would bring them to the table, chop them up with great flair, spray some canned whipped cream onto a portion, and then flip your portion onto your plate from a couple of feet away. In my case the server’s aim was off, my portion of Walker Bros.-ish apple pancake landing on the rim of my plate. Half of it blopped onto the tablecloth, with some of the canned whipped cream splashing across the plate toward my lap.

The situation annoyed me, and as I watched servers chopping apple pancakes, spraying canned whipped cream on them, and flipping portions onto hungry diners’ plates, I woke up.

I suppose now that I’ll need to make a baked apple pancake. And here is a recipe for such a thing, as appeared in the Chicago Tribune, in an article by Steven Katz about Walker Bros., on Jan. 10, 2007:


Classic baked German apple pancake

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.

4 eggs
1/2 cup non-fat milk
2 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons wheat gluten, optional
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

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.

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.

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.

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.