Dutch Baby is a longstanding Christmas morning tradition in my family. Although considered a pancake, this dish bakes in the oven, puffing up on the edges and remaining slightly custardy in the center. It behaves a bit like an oversized popover or spoon bread with flour instead of cornmeal – intentionally collapsing in places as soon as you open the oven.
When I was young, my mom made her fancy version of Dutch Baby once a year, spreading a layer of sautéed apple slices in the bottom of the pan before pouring in the batter. This tasty addition increased the custardy texture, and she switched to her Saturday morning recipe even for the holiday once everyone voiced their preference for puffy if plain.
Rather than looking for flavors within Dutch Baby, my family members prefer them on top. Powdered sugar is always set out, and my dad doubles down by adding maple syrup. I prefer a light dusting of sugar and grated lemon zest. Fresh berries, especially huckleberries, are a delightful summer topping, and in winter I use defrosted and drained ones – catching the liquid to blend into a smoothie because it’s too good to waste. Fruit syrups and lemon or berry curd will also gussy up this breakfast.
This recipe is scaled for a weekend breakfast for two rather than a holiday gathering. For each additional person at your table, add one more egg and an extra 1/4 cup each of milk and flour. Be sure to increase the pan size too, by at least 1/2 quart, and melt an extra tablespoon of butter for each added portion. If you’re serving more than five people, blend up a second batch separately and pour it into another pan.
1/4 cup salted butter
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of nutmeg
Powdered sugar to taste (optional)
Lemon zest to taste (optional)
Place the butter in a 2- to 3-quart baking dish and set the pan in a 425°F oven until the butter starts to melt. When the butter begins to foam, start to prepare the batter. In a blender, whirl the eggs at high speed for 1 minute. With the motor running, open the lid, gradually pour in the milk and then slowly add the flour; whirl another 30 seconds.
Immediately and carefully, remove the hot pan from the oven and pour in the batter. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pancake is puffy and well browned. Instead of opening the oven door, use the oven light to watch its progress so that it rises until fully cooked. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the pancake with nutmeg. Cut into squares and serve immediately with powdered sugar and lemon zest, if desired.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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