Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dessert For Breakfast

Like many of you, I spend a fair amount of my web surfing time browsing through photos of food.  Because the next best thing to enjoying food in my mouth is enjoying food with my eyes, yes?  Most of the photos I look at are admired but grazed over, some of it gets an audible "mmm" reaction, but only a select few manage to burrow under my skin and won't dislodge unless I take some action.

Salted caramel apple tart is the latest subject of my daydreams.  I love pies and tarts already, but now it has salted caramel?  And apple pie... such nostalgic, sweet soul food, perfectly fitting for this brisk autumn weather.  I find myself dreaming of salted caramel apple tart all day, every day.  I know what must be done to quiet the beast, but there's hesitation.  You see, lately I've been having a string of bad luck in the kitchen.  Forgetting baking powder in a pumpkin loaf, adding too much flour to banana muffins, adding too little butter to graham cracker crust... it's left me with a dwindling confidence and a lot of not-so-tasty mistakes to be eaten by my lonesome.  On top of that, I can't seem to convince myself that making a whole tart for no special occasion is somehow a good idea.

So instead of salted caramel apple tart for no special occasion, I make salted caramel apple buttermilk pancakes for Sunday breakfast.  It feels even more like dessert if you drizzle the caramel between each pancake, like a layer cake.  I even went so far as to using a lightly buttered 6" cake ring to mould each pancake to the same size.

A word of warning: this is expert level breakfast making for those who have time and patience to spare.  Yes, it is worth it, just don't attempt to make this on an empty stomach or just before going to work.  And please, do not multitask while making the caramel, or you may end up with a pot of thick black goo.  I recommend making the caramel first, then pancakes, then when you're halfway through the pancake batter, the apples.

Apple Buttermilk Pancakes with Salted Caramel
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart and The Brown Eyed Baker.
Makes 1 large stack of 6 pancakes, enough for 2 people to share.

For the salted caramel sauce:

2/3 cup sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 tbsp flaked salt, such as Maldon (plus a few more pinches for sprinkling)

Heat the sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Once the sugar has melted, stir occassionally but keep an eye out as it can brown very suddenly.  Cook until the colour is a medium amber colour, around 350F.  Remove from heat, add butter and stir, being careful as it can splatter.  Add cream slowly while stirring, and then mix in salt.  Place the pot back onto the element, but this time on the lowest heat setting to keep the sauce pourable and not too thick.

For the pancakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp vegetable oil (plus more to oil the skillet)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Add egg, buttermilk and vegetable oil, and mix only until combined.  The batter should be lumpy.

Heat skillet on medium heat.  When the skillet is nice and hot, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to coat the bottom.  Place a lightly oiled 6" cake ring in the centre (if using), and pour in about 1/2 cup batter.  Cook for about 3 minutes, until the top is bubbling and sides look dry.  Remove the ring (if using), flip, and cook the second side for another 3 minutes until golden brown.  If you want to keep the pancakes warm, store them in a warmed oven while you're making the next pancake.

For the apples:

2 firm, crisp apples (such as Gala), cored and sliced into 8-12 pieces
1 tsp butter
A sprinkle of sugar

When you have about 1-1/2 cups of pancake batter left to cook, heat a second skillet over medium-high heat.  Add butter and apples, and stir to coat.  Once apples start to brown slightly after a few minutes, sprinkle with sugar.  Turn apple slices to caramelize both sides.  Remove from heat once apples slices are golden brown.

To assemble:

Place one pancake on a plate, and drizzle with caramel.  Place another pancake on top, and drizzle with caramel.  After every third pancake, add a light sprinkle of flaked salt.  Repeat, until you have a nice tall stack of pancakes layered with caramel.  When you add the last pancake to the stack, pile on half of the apples, then drizzle caramel, then the rest of the apples, then more caramel and a final sprinkling of salt.

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