Because today was Saturday, and the semester is over, and I slept until 9 a.m., I decided it was a good day for Lana's Apple Skillet Cake, aka "Dutch Baby Pancake" for breakfast. It turned out pretty--prettier, in fact, than the first one I made, but it does not taste quite as custardy and is missing something that was definitely in the first one (photograph below).
Although Lana's recipe called for Granny Smith apples, I used Gala the first time as I was shopping without the recipe and did not remember that. I am not really a Granny Smith fan, so I had Randy get Gala this last week…only he got Fuji. Both stand up to baking well, so I did not think it would be that much of an issue, but I sense it affects the flavor a bit.
On my first effort, I discovered during the prep process that Mom had no brown sugar. Not daunted in my desire to make this recipe, I just mixed a bit of molasses (1 tsp) with the 2 tbs of white sugar, since that is all that brown sugar is anyway. Perhaps it was that tangy B'rer Rabbit molasses that gave it such a different texture (much more custard-like) and a darker color, but it might also have contributed to the uniquely caramel-like bread pudding taste and texture as well.
Now to be sure, in less than 15 minutes, the current version of apple skillet cake is gone, and I have had one tiny serving. Clearly, J and Rand were undaunted by the minute difference I noted in the two versions…but to be fair, neither did they taste the first version.
There is just nothing left to do but in the name of scientific inquiry, I am compelled to make it again next week while I am in Graham, using Gala apples and B'rer Rabbit molasses, in my dad's well-seasoned cast iron skillet using the gas cook stove. Then, on return to Mississippi, I will have to make it again, using those exact same ingredients, minus the gas stove and dad's skillet. That will narrow some of the spurious details enough that I can at least rule out the electric vs. gas theory, and the not-as-well-seasoned cast iron skillet vs. the lifetime seasoned cast iron skillet theory. Once I check those results, I'll determine if I need to do the comparison again without the molasses and Gala. Heck, maybe I will even try it with those Granny Smiths. I sure hope Lana overlooks my experimentation with her lovely recipe, but truth-be-told, I have been tinkering with my version of recipes since the first time I started trying to figure out how to make parmesan-crusted red-pepper catfish without a recipe.
I recently read a story about Chef Andreas Viestad who said his goal is to use tomatoes every day and never have the recipe taste exactly the same way. Challenge accepted!