Around this time of year, I am conditioned to expect fall weather. Cooler temperatures, the slight change in the shade of maple leaves, and the crispness that suddenly hits the air. Warm mugs of hot apple cider become a daily indulgence and I cannot help but love every ounce of what the season has to offer. That’s all thanks to growing up in Minnesota, where the seasons, though unpredictable at times, come in the appropriate month. For the past 3 years, I have been constantly disappointed that the temperatures still rise above 90 F and that the humidity has yet to subside. Part of me understands that I am in a place that clearly does not experience fall on my personal timetable. And yet I cannot help but hope that this time will be different.
When autumn does finally arrive, I feel a sense of release. Like I’ve been wrapped up in a straight jacket for the past weeks and months that has finally been removed and I can at last take a deep breath of fresh air. We haven’t come to that time yet in Tokyo, so my mind has been wandering to thoughts of cider, viewing fall leaves, and enjoying the coziness of the first sweater of the season.
Autumn in Minnesota always means taking a trip to our local apple orchard which is conveniently located a mere 15 minute walk from the house I grew up in. I enjoyed going there with my family to get caramel apples, apple pie, apple muffins, apple cider donuts, and of course, a paper cup of hot spiced cider and maybe a little cinnamon ice cream. There are so many warm memories stored away in my mind from growing up with this tradition.
In an attempt to bring a little bit of those memories to life here in Tokyo, I decided to try making apple cider pancakes. I’ve been craving the apple cider donuts of my youth, but being that they are thousands of miles away I had to improvise. I tried to recreate the same flavor profile in these pancakes by adding cinnamon and apple cider (actually apple juice for me today) and topping them with butter, cinnamon and sugar.
The warmth of the cinnamon with the sweet tang of the apple brought me right back to those days of standing outside in late September, gazing up at a clear, crisp Minnesota sky drinking in the perfection that is autumn. The topping perfectly mimicked the coating of those apple cider donuts- a little greasy from the butter , like a cake donut should be, with the spicy-sweet-finger-licking combination of cinnamon and sugar.
I’m still waiting for the wind to bring with it cooler, more comfortable temperatures. But until then, these pancakes will have to get me through these last few days of a very hot Tokyo summer.
Apple Cider Pancakes + Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
*This recipe makes a large batch. If you are making these for 2 or 3 people, just save the extra dry mix as I’ve indicated below. This way you’ll have plenty for the next time you decide to make pancakes! If you’d prefer not to use whole wheat flour, use white flour instead.
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
Place ingredients in an airtight container and store until ready to use. Or continue with the recipe below, which makes nice amount of pancakes for 2 very hungry people or 4 not so hungry people:
1 cups dry pancake mix
1 egg, separated
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup apple cider (or apple juice if you can’t find cider)
Unsalted Butter (both for cooking the pancakes and topping them when they are finished)
3 Tablespoons sugar + 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
Place the 1 cup of dry mix in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white, buttermilk, yogurt, honey and cider. In another small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and olive oil. Whisk the wet ingredients in one bowl until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry mix and stir until just combined. Lumps are good! Don’t get rid of them!
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or vegetable oil in a medium pan. Measure 1/3 cup of the batter and pour into the pan. When you start to see small bubbles on the top of the pancakes and the edges are beginning to cook, flip the pancake. Be sure to add more butter or oil as needed so the pancakes don’t stick.
While the pancakes are still warm, top with some butter and allow it to melt over the top of the pancakes. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture and eat!