Fall comfort on a plate: Good-for-you whole wheat apple pancakes served with aromatic baked citrus applesauce. Just add maple syrup!
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While fall’s gray skies can affect one’s mood for sure, I actually usually welcome the opportunity to stay in, cook and bake something comforting, and eat it wrapped in a blanket. Comfort food isn’t just a trendy hashtag come fall, it’s all that I wanna eat when cooler seasons roll around—and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
One of the best things about fall has to be apple season, am I right? Every September, I fill the fridge (literally!) with several apple varieties, from crisp and tart apples to applesauce-ready, sweet ones. It’s my family’s snack of choice, but I also LOVE to bake with apples. From simple crumbles to spectacular layered cakes, from deep-dish Dutch apple pies to French macarons—I welcome any and all sweet opportunities to showcase the flavor of apples.
Several years ago, I was looking to use up a box of apples and an obvious choice was to make applesauce. As I flipped through my cookbooks, I discovered a new-to-me technique to make applesauce: baking apples, instead of boiling them. Ina Garten is probably the icon of comfort food so it was no surprise she could teach me a thing or two about apples. In The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina bakes apples in citrus juices, instead of boiling them in water. Baking the apples renders a deep, almost caramelized taste that reminds me of Tarte Tatin. The citrus juice and zest keep the flavors wide awake and the slow cooking process means produces apples are so tender they can simply be whisked and voilà, there’s applesauce.
So now I had the most delightful applesauce on my hands and I was looking for ways to showcase it. The citrus fruits used in the applesauce reminded me of breakfast: pancakes came to mind. I adapted my go-to pancake formula to use whole wheat flour and incorporate grated apple (I really did have a lot of apples on my hands!), and the recipe produced wonderfully fluffy, not-too-sweet pancakes that welcomed the zesty applesauce and a drizzle of maple syrup to perfection. This dreamy combination of whole wheat apple pancakes and baked citrus applesauce instantly became a fall classic for my family and I—I hope it’ll become one for you and yours, as well.
Go for a firm and sweet variety, such as Honeycrisp, Gala, Red Delicious, or Fuji. Picking a firm variety means the grated apple won’t turn to mush upon cooking, which would weigh the pancakes down.
Yes, you can. As you cook pancakes, transfer them to a rack set over a baking sheet. This will allow them to cool more quickly and without sogging. Once the pancakes have cooled to room temperature, stack them in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat pancakes by setting them side-by-side on a baking sheet and placing them in a 300°F (150°C) the oven until warm and crisp, about 10 minutes. I would not recommend freezing whole wheat apple pancakes because the defrosting process would release the water from the grated apple in the batter and produce soggy pancakes. No one likes soggy pancakes!
To make baked applesauce, you could pretty much use any apple variety. In fact, mixing varieties produces applesauce with a more complex, delightful flavor. McIntosh and Golden Delicious are obvious picks because they break down easily upon baking, but don’t be afraid of using firmer varieties as well. The baking process will give them plenty of time to cook through and melt with the other varieties.
Of course, it can. Let the applesauce cool to room temperature, then store in airtight containers and freeze for months.
This baked applesauce comes out smooth, but it does have texture. Some people prefer a silky smooth applesauce—little ones, especially. To make this baked applesauce extra smooth, simply process it using a stick blender, or pass it through a blender or a food processor.
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