saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake

saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake

My father-in-law makes a fabulous German apple pancake, and in the fourteen years I’ve known my husband, I’ve enjoyed it more times than I can even remember, but it never loses its novelty. If you’ve never had one before, it’s basically a big, puffy, caramelized pancake for sharing. It’s a lot like a Dutch baby, but the apples keep it from popping over, so it has a more custardy texture. And while it’s often flavored with cinnamon, lately I’ve been adding a little saffron too. This might come as a surprise if you’re most used to seeing saffron in paella and the like, but it makes total sense if you’re familiar with many Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian desserts.

Saffron works wonderfully with apples and cinnamon, but it’s important to make sure the flavors are subtle and balanced. A little adds a lovely aroma, but too much can taste medicinal and metallic. After a bit of tinkering with my recipe, I settled on thirty-five threads as the magic number, but it might vary a little depending on the quality and age of your saffron, so feel free to adjust it to your liking. Just make sure you don’t add more cinnamon, which would overpower the saffron’s delicate flavor.

saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake
saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake
saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake
saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake

saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake

yield: 4 to 6 servings
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
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  • 35 threads saffron

  • 14g (1 tablespoon) water

  • 100g (about 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) all purpose flour

  • 14g (1 tablespoon) sugar

  • 3g (1/2 teaspoon) salt

  • 240g (1 cup) milk

  • 3 large eggs (170g)

  • 57g (4 tablespoons) butter

  • 0.5g (1/4 teaspoon) cinnamon

  • 50g (1/4 cup) light brown sugar

  • 3 granny smith apples (530g), peeled and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces

  1. Steep 35 threads of saffron in 1 tablespoon of water for at least 10 minutes. Set aside until later.

  2. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245° C) convection.

  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Separately, whisk together the milk and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and whisk just until it comes together (don’t worry about a few small lumps). Set aside.

  4. Set a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, and place the butter in the skillet.

  5. Once the butter melts completely, swirl to coat and add the apples to the skillet, along with the saffron and its soaking water. Stir occasionally for about 5 to 7 minutes, just until the apples slightly soften. Once softened, immediately add the cinnamon and light brown sugar, and stir to distribute evenly. Smooth the apples into 1 even layer. Pour the batter right on top of the apples (in the hot skillet, still over medium heat) and don’t stir.

  6. Immediately move the skillet to the oven, and bake for about 10 minutes. Once it’s puffed around the edges, caramelized in spots, and cooked through, bring it out of the oven, and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.

saffron and cinnamon german apple pancake

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

It’s barely a walk from our apartment to one of our favorite restaurants in Hong Kong, the izakaya Okra Kitchen. Naming a restaurant after a polarizing vegetable is the kind of thing I could totally see myself insisting on, and I happen to be strongly on team okra, so I was sold right away. We most often find ourselves ordering their brussels sprouts, which are deep fried, sprinkled with boozy Xinjiang raisins, covered in their special sauce, and piled high with julienned radishes.

So lately I’ve been making a more home-cooked Middle Eastern version of this for quick weeknight meals and holiday celebrations, with yogurt tahini sauce, pickled apples, a little crushed red pepper, and my favorite magical thing I learned from my grandmother: roasted raisins.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

why roast or sauté your raisins?

The difference between roasted raisins and straight-out-of-the-box is like the difference between homemade sea salt caramels and milk duds. Roasting takes them from stale, lifeless blobs to soft, chewy flavor bombs.

Even before I knew what roasted or sautéed raisins were, I loved them in riza sh’ariyeh (jeweled rice with vermicelli noodles). I’d always strategically scoop rice onto my plate to end up with extra topping. If we had guests over, I would do this as tactfully as possible, but if it was just our immediate family, all civility went out the window and I was shameless.

It wasn’t until I learned how to cook riza sh’ariyeh a couple years ago that I learned what made the raisins in it so delicious. It turns out, my grandmother sautés them briefly in butter, before sprinkling them on top of the rice. It takes so little time that it may seem like an insignificant detail, but it’s everything.

When I’m cooking on the stove, I sauté them in a little butter, but when I’m roasting, I like throwing them on the sheet pan for the last couple minutes, just until they puff up a little and caramelize slightly. In this brussels sprouts recipe, you sprinkle them on after the sprouts have started to caramelize, so they can broil for a minute or so. Top everything with yogurt tahini sauce, pickled apples, and crushed red pepper, and be sure to watch out for strategic raisin scooping at the dinner table.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins
brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins

yield: about 5 servings
active time: 15 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
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PDF to print

yogurt tahini sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tahini

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt *

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1 pinch salt

  • Water, as needed

  1. Combine the tahini, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and salt, and stir together until it forms a thick sauce. Stir in water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, stopping once the sauce still has some body, but is a pourable consistency (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons when developing this recipe—it will vary depending on your Greek yogurt).

quick pickled apples

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 big pinch salt

  • 1 small pinch sugar

  • 1/2 of 1 granny smith apple

  1. Combine the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and sugar in a small bowl, and stir until dissolved.

  2. Peel and julienne (or allumette) the half apple, using a mandolin or very sharp knife.

  3. Add the julienned apple to the brine (quickly so it doesn’t brown), and gently press it down with the back of a spoon until it’s submerged. Let it stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour, and then strain once it’s as tangy as you’d like.

roast veggies

  • 21 to 22 ounces (600g) brussels sprouts (about 50 small sprouts, 25 medium ones, or 17 giant ones)

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 tablespoon softened or melted butter

  • crushed red pepper

  1. Preheat the oven’s broiler.

  2. Halve the brussels sprouts, coat them in oil, place cut-side-up on a sheet pan, and season to taste.

  3. Broil the brussels sprouts for about 10 minutes (it might take as little as 5). Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not caramelizing too quickly (if they are, move them away from the heat source, turn the temperature down, and/or remove them from the oven early).

  4. Coat the raisins in a little softened or melted butter. In the last minute of broiling, sprinkle the raisins over the brussels sprouts, and broil them for about 1 minute, just until they’re starting to swell a little and caramelize in spots. Do not let them burn, and keep a close eye on them (it might take just 30 seconds, and varies from oven to oven).

  5. Move the brussels sprouts and some of the raisins to a serving bowl, top with a few spoonfuls of yogurt tahini sauce, sprinkle the rest of the raisins over the top, and top with a heap of the apple pickles. Garnish with crushed red pepper, and serve with extra yogurt sauce on the side.

* To make this vegan, instead make a lemon tahini sauce. Also be sure to use oil instead of butter when you roast the raisins.

brussels sprouts with pickled apples and roasted raisins