As soon as the server elbows through the kitchen door and begins to wend her way through the pancake-house rush, you can’t take your eyes off what she is ferrying. It is an eggy crater the size of a dinner plate, with tender, fat-tire curves and a sweet aroma the Pied Piper only wishes he could deploy.
It’s called a Dutch baby on the menu, and the reason is far from apparent. No matter; it demands immediate, before-it-deflates eating, topped with a compote or a shower of confectioners’ sugar at least.
Who could make such a thing? You can, in short order. The batter ingredients are few and come together in a blender. Pour smooth batter into a hot, buttered pan, and it will shimmer and bubble in the oven until the moment of liftoff. Then, the pancake curls at the edges that rise above the rim, accompanied by an occasional mogul at the center.
It is an old recipe, and its history skews sweet. Pancakes in the Dutch manner as presented in the 1998 cookbook “The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World” resembled spiced (flat) crepes, while the topography gets much closer to Dutch baby territory in recipes for German puffed apple pancakes made hundreds of years ago. The origin of Dutch could be “Deutsch,” and the dish’s popularity in America is due in part to Sunset magazine articles dating back more than 50 years.
But the Dutch baby is versatile enough to step toward savory. In other words, have your way with it. Spice up the batter. Use the pancake as a vessel for fresh vegetables and greens. Melt thin rafts of cheese on it and cut it into snack wedges. Old World becomes modern.
There are but a few rules to keep in mind: The batter should be well blended; any added bits that have weight, such as diced pancetta or bell pepper pieces, may impede the rise. The pan and its fat must be h-o-t. The puffed Dutch baby needs to sit in the oven for a few minutes after the timer goes off to improve the odds it will retain its structure longer.
It’s easy but spectacular. It can be breakfast, dinner or dessert. Isn’t it time you rediscovered the magic, or give it a go?
If you don’t have the two 8-inch skillets called for in the following recipe, you can bake all the batter in a single 10-inch ovenproof skillet, or use a pie plate. The oven time should be about the same.
Here, the batter is barely sweetened and flavored, with optional toppings that work for breakfast and dessert.
The eggs need to be close to room temperature in order to maximize their rise in the oven; see the quick technique for this, below.
FOR THE PANCAKES
3large eggs, at room temperature (see NOTE)
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
FOR THE OPTIONAL FILLING
1cupfrozen cherries, preferably tart
1heaping tablespoon granulated sugar
FOR THE OPTIONAL TOPPING (YOUR CHOICE, OR A MIX)
Plain Greek yogurt
Pumpkin seeds, (pepitas)
Toasted slivered almonds
For the pancakes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the eggs in a bowl of warm tap water for 5 minutes, or until they are close to room temperature.
Divide the butter between two 8-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillets; transfer to the oven. Watch closely so the butter melts, but do not let it brown or burn.
Beat the eggs in a blender on medium-high speed for 5 seconds, until frothy, then add the flour, milk, granulated sugar (to taste), salt and vanilla extract. Blend on low speed to incorporate, then blend on medium-high for 5 seconds.
Remove the hot pans from the oven and swirl the melted butter so it coats the sides. Immediately pour in the batter, dividing it evenly between the pans; bake (middle rack) for 13 to 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown at the edges, which should curve and rise above the rim. Turn off the oven, and let them sit there for 5 minutes. This will help the pancakes keep their structure.
Meanwhile, make the optional filling: Combine the frozen cherries and granulated sugar in a small saucepan; cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until juices coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat.
Use a thin spatula to dislodge the Dutch babies from their pans; they should slide out. Cut into halves or wedges. Top each portion with some of the stewed cherries and an optional topping or two, if desired. Serve right away.
Adapted from “The Minimalist Kitchen: The Practical Art of Making More With Less,” by Melissa Coleman (Oxmoor House, April 2018).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Servings Per Container: 4 to 6; Calories: 170; Total Fat: 9 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 110 mg; Sodium: 140 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 4 g; Protein: 6 g.