Food & Drink

Carol of the smells

By J.M. Hirsch

The Associated Press

A bacon apple baked pancake is a good option for Christmas breakfast.
A bacon apple baked pancake is a good option for Christmas breakfast. The Associated Press

Like Thanksgiving, Christmas is one of those holidays that requires aroma.

On the November holiday, we need the house to smell of turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes. On Christmas, we need whiffs of indulgent breakfast items, like cinnamon rolls or a bubbling fruit crisp. Or maybe you prefer hash browns and bacon. Those get the job done nicely, too.

This year I wanted both sweet and savory, so I created this baked pancake inspired by an upside down cake. For ease, it can partially prepped the night before. To do that, just make the batter as directed in a blender, then refrigerate it overnight in the blender carafe. In the morning, just give it a quick whir to freshen it, then you’re ready to assemble the pancake.

And that’s when things get good. You start by frying bacon in a skillet. Once the bacon is crisp, you top it with a layer of thinly sliced apples. Give those a couple minutes to soften, then you add a hefty sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon. Finally, you pour on the batter and pop the whole thing in the oven to finish.

When it’s done, you overturn the pancake onto a serving platter and cut it into wedges. You may not need to, but there’s no harm in dousing the whole thing with maple syrup.

Not into pancakes? Check out the frittata recipe, which has several variations, and an unexpectedly spicy recipe for French toast. Either would make for an aromatic celebratory breakfast.

Bacon-apple baked pancake

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Serves 4


3/4 cup whole milk

1 egg

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

1 / 2teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Kosher salt

1 large apple

8 strips bacon

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon


Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a blender, combine the milk, egg, oil and vanilla. Blender until smooth. With the blender running on low, sprinkle in the flour, sugar, baking powder and 1 / 2teaspoon salt. Stop blending as soon as the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Use an apple corer or melon baller to core the apple, but leave the fruit intact. Set the apple on its side, then cut it into thin round slices. Set aside.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium. Add the bacon and cook for 6 to 7 minutes on one side. Spoon out and discard about half of the fat in the pan, then turn the bacon strips to cook on the other side, laying them flat and evenly over the bottom of the pan. Top the bacon with the apple slices, arranging them evenly. Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt, then sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Carefully and evenly pour the pancake batter over the apples and bacon. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until lightly browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Let the pancake cool for 5 minutes. Use a paring knife to loosen the edges of the pancake, then overturn a large serving plate over the skillet. Invert the skillet to release the pancake onto the plate. Cut into wedges.

Per serving: 530 calories; 260 calories from fat (49 percent of total calories); 29 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 13 g protein; 860 mg sodium.

Thick French toast with spicy rum butter

Serves 4

Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Chili Pepper Madness” by Michael Hultquist.


3 eggs

1/3 cup milk

½ teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of sugar

4 1-inch-thick slices multigrain bread

For spicy rum butter

½ stick butter

¼ cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon rum extract

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon chili powder


In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk, vanilla and sugar. Soak bread in egg mixture.

Heat a frying pan to medium heat and cook each piece of bread about 1 to 2 minutes per side or until browned.

For rum butter: Soften butter. Cream with brown sugar, rum extract, cinnamon and chili powder. Serve over French toast.

Fresh herb frittata

Serves 4

Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.


1 tablespoon oil

1 diced onion

8 eggs

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon each minced fresh parsley, basil, dill and tarragon, or any combination you like


Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 10-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Saute the onion until just soft.

In the meantime, whisk 8 large eggs until lightly beaten. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and herbs.

Pour the egg mixture over the sauteed vegetables in the pan. Stir gently until eggs on bottom are set and firm, about 1 minute.

Using a heatproof rubber spatula, gently pull cooked eggs back from edge of skillet and tilt pan, allowing any uncooked egg to run to cleared edge of skillet. Repeat this process, working your way around the skillet, until the egg on top is mostly set but still moist, 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake until frittata top is set and dry to touch, about 5 minutes. Run spatula around skillet edge to loosen frittata, then carefully slide it out onto serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variations (instead of the onion, Parmesan and herbs):

Sausage and red onion: Saute sliced red onion just to soften. Stir cooked crumbled sausage and chopped parsley into the egg mixture. Pour over sauteed onions; set and finish in oven.

Portobello and Gruyere: Saute sliced portobello mushrooms in oil. Stir 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves into the egg mixture. Finish in oven.

Green chilies and cheese: Saute 1 small, diced onion. Add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 1 small can roasted, diced chilies to egg mixture and pour into skillet. Serve with sour cream and Sriracha sauce after finishing in oven.