The Dutch Baby

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Seldom do I pull this dish out of the oven, alone or in company, and not childishly announce its gender (although there many who believe I should allow the dish itself to decide)

The Dutch baby is a favorite of mine because if you have your basic pantry and fridge staples, then you have the goods to make a baby. It is also a favorite of mine because the DB needs no real invitation to the table – baby is always in the right place whether it is on your plate at breakfast, lunch or after dinner. It is a dish that serves well as a vehicle for ridding yourself of extra fruits you have laying around that you need to find a quick use for, thus cutting down on food waste.

Despite being dubbed a “Dutch baby”, this baked pancake is quite American. Not all dishes can be traced back to one hard origin, but Seattle based Manca’s Cafe held claim that they first created this spin-off of the German Pfannkuchen. This is not entirely important for the execution of this recipe, although it is a short little story you can provide guests you serve this dish to so that they find you worldly (or boring. It’s a slippery slope, I’ve found.)

Manca’s Cafe, to the left, located in downtown Seattle, 1902. From the University of Washington Libraries digital collection.

The Puff

A noticeable characteristic of this dish is the puffiness of the pancake in its later stage of baking, which falls within minutes of leaving the oven. My picture above is about a minute or so after removal, and was already falling. What causes the puff? From light research and a lot of mistakes and changes in variables, I’ve found a few different factors contribute to the puff. This dish is technically a popover, as it’s a low viscosity batter due to the ratio of liquid ingredients (eggs, milk) to flour. What is created when we add water to heat? Steam. The puff occurs as this water cooks out and needs to escape, while the heat of the oven solidifies our egg and flour mixture, causing structure to form where the bubbles formed where steam was escaping. This is short lived however, as this light and fluffy batter stays light and fluffy after cooking – the air cells collapse. For the sake of impressing our guests and making Instagram worthy photos, here are a few things to keep in mind to maximize puff:

  1. Make sure your skillet completely preheats in the oven (use an oven thermometer!). Hearing the sizzle of the batter as you pour it into the skillet means that it’s quickly setting and means the moisture can only move upward to escape.
  2. Aerate your batter well. This is more difficult when hand mixing. I typically hold my ingredients until just before the oven is completely preheated (again, use an oven thermometer!) and then aerate them well with a whisk, or if you have a food processor or blender, blend it just before you’re going to pour it, until the batter is nice and frothy.
  3. Keep the oven closed! We want heat as it is preheating, yes, but we don’t want to lose heat throughout the latter part of the cooking process because we’re opening the oven to check every 5 minutes. Only check on your baby after 15 minutes of cooking, and be quick with it.

Traditionally, a benchmark batter uses a third of a cup of flour and a third of a cup of milk per egg, although that isn’t quite what I do below. Toppings aside, what is fun about this pancake are the additions to the batter you can make to your own taste. I often cut back on the sugar and use no cinnamon, but I enjoy vanilla and nutmeg. Have fun with this one and make it your own!

Dutch Baby 

Makes 1 Dutch baby

Serves 2-3 rational diners or 1 Shoestring Cookery writer

bananababy2

DB feat. lightly fried banana slices

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature (or anything but non-fat)
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs whisked, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted (plus 1 tbsp set aside)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Squeezed lemon, berries, sliced bananas or any other fruit toppings (optional)

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet (~10 inch)
  • food processor or whisk

Preheat oven to 400F with skillet placed inside. If using a food processor, place flour, sugar and salt into processor and aerate them by pulsing a few times. If using a whisk, thoroughly mix until well incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and blend or mix until a smooth, frothy texture is achieved.

Remove skillet from oven and add your 1 tbsp of reserved butter to pan and coat evenly. Pour batter in, expecting some light sizzling. Place skillet and batter in oven for 15 minutes. The pancake should puff up towards the end of its cook time.

When removed, top with fruits, powdered sugar, syrup, or a squeeze of lemon or any desired combination.

Note: I prefer a less sweet pancake. If you like your sweets more than I, increase the amount of sugar and experiment.

 

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