Walker’s sister lives in a very cool town called Benton Harbor, Michigan. In fact, she owns and runs an even cooler cafe up there – if you happen to be in the area, go check it out – it’s called The Phoenix. She also makes a fantastic croissant.

Walker and I went up to visit, right before the cafe got off the ground, in part to see a Sigur Ros concert up in Chicago. On a CD they sound a little bit like whale calls to me, but live, is a different story. They’re a rock band live, and the way they play with sound is really out of this world.

The morning after the concert, when our ears were still ringing, Liz drove us to a little diner on the outskirts of Benton Harbor. I couldn’t find it again if I tried, but I remember distinctly how good the food was. I ordered an Apple Dutch Baby, because I’d never heard of such a thing, and my food-curiosity got the better of me. Well it came, and it could have swallowed the whole city of Chicago by itself.  It was so big that I offered to share before taking a bite.

After I did indulge in that first bite, I instantly regretted my offer. I spent the rest of breakfast fending off Walker’s hovering fork. The clashing silverware sounded like an old Zorro movie. It was a wonder someone didn’t get stabbed.

I largely forgot about my Dutch Baby experience until the other day, when Walker yet again asked for pancakes for breakfast. Already having been fooled once with the zucchini pancakes, he was more specific this time. He didn’t want vegetable pancakes, he specified. But he didn’t say a thing about fruit, and he didn’t demand maple syrup. A novice at this type of food negotiations – he should never underestimate my boredom with pancakes.

Side note: got an offbeat pancake recipe? Please share in comments. I predict I will be artfully dodging requests for pancakes for the rest of time.

Apple Dutch Baby
Inspiration from Orangette

Ingredients

2 big sweet apples (your favorite) peeled and sliced thinly – I used Gala
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
a few grates of fresh nutmeg, to taste
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter into one large oven safe skillet (If your skillet’s handle isn’t oven safe, as mine is not, don’t worry, I’ll share a trick with you down the way). Saute the apples along with sugar, cinnimon, and nutmeg, until apples are softened and sticky with sugar.

2. In a blender, whir together the eggs, flour, milk, and cream.

3. Pour the batter into the skillet over the melted butter. If your skillet’s handle is not oven safe, wrap the handle with two or three layers of aluminum foil, and proceed. Slide the skillet into the oven, and bake for 25 minutes. The pancake will start to rise quickly. Begin to watch it (without opening oven door) at 20 minutes,  and when it is the appropriate shade of brown for your taste, remove from oven.

4. Transfer puffed pancake to a plate or shallow bowl, and pour caramel sauce, and add a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Caramel Sauce
from Simply Recipes
makes about 1 cup of sauce

Ingredients

1 cup of sugar
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preparation

1. Assemble everything you’ll need for this recipe and set it within reach of your pan. This process goes quickly, and you don’t want to be fumbling for a whisk as your caramel hardens to an unusable block.

2. Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. If you’re using a thinner bottomed pan, don’t despair. Just add half a cup of water. This will add time to the process as the water must evaporate, but you get largely the same result. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan, but stirring will break the crystals that the melted sugar is forming.

3. As soon as the sugar becomes liquid and dark amber in color, immediately add the butter to the pan. The mixture will bubble up, fiercely, but keep whisking. Whisk until the butter has melted.

4. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. More big bubbles. This is why you need to be using a 2-3 quart pot, even though the mixture will eventually be only one cup. Molten sugar + skin = a lot of pain. Learned that lesson the hard way.

5. Whisk until sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. The jar will become hot as well, so if you move it, use a thick kitchen towel. After it comes to room temperature, it can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you can resist eating it all with a spoon.

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