All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow. — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
February is a rather dreary month here in Pennsylvania. Our national treasure, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog, did not see his shadow yesterday, which is good news for those of us hoping for an early spring. The bad news is that Phil is only correct about 39% of the time. But one way or another, spring will come, and I am trying to enjoy the beauty of winter while it’s still here. That, of course, includes more carbs and less salads. See? Winter isn’t so awful. Light and shadow, people. Light and shadow.
Traditional German pancakes are made with apples, but this recipe caught my eye. There is something comforting about the alliterative pear pancake; it sounds warm and appealing, doesn’t it? Add in the fact that it’s prepared with a cast iron skillet, and I knew I’d be making this the first chance I got.
Fine Cooking says this recipe serves four to six, but a word of warning: Unless you are serving six anorexic models, don’t plan on serving this to more than four people. Also, inform your children that it’s not like a “normal” pancake; I have learned so much of life is about managing expectations. This almost has a bread pudding quality to it. Pleasantly sweet, but not overly so. Pairs very well with bacon or sausage on a cold winter’s day.
German Pear Pancake, Fine Cooking, original recipe here
1 large firm-ripe Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 large lemon, finely grated to yield 1/2 Tbs. zest, squeezed to yield 2 Tbs. juice
4 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3 oz. (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 3 slices
3 to 4 Tbs. confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Crème fraîche (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
In a medium bowl, toss the pear slices with the lemon juice and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric hand mixer on high speed until thick and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix on low speed until combined. Sift in the flour and mix on low speed until combined (don’t worry if there are lumps).
Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the butter, and when it begins to foam, add the pear slices, quickly turning them to coat with the butter, and arranging them in a single layer. Pour the batter evenly over the pears and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the pancake is set in the middle, the sides have risen, and the bottom is nicely browned, about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the pancake with the confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately with a dollop of crème fraîche, if using.