Pancakes are a breakfast favorite in our family, and I never cease to be amazed by the countless ways in which to prepare them.
Nearly every culture has some version of a pancake, and this week we’re delving into the delicious controversy of the Dutch Baby Pancake. A Dutch Baby Pancake resembles a popover in texture and is created with a simple runny batter that is oven-baked at a high temperature until golden brown and impressively puffy.
While its name implies origins in the Netherlands, the Dutch Baby Pancake is actually an American version of a German pancake and bears little resemblance to traditional, ultra-thin Dutch pancakes, or pannekoeken. The name Dutch Baby was coined in the early 1900s at Manca’s Cafe in Seattle where this specialty was served as a trio of small German pancakes.
As the story goes, the owner’s young daughter couldn’t pronounce the word Deutsche (meaning German), which she mistakenly replaced with Dutch, and proclaimed the trio of small, puffy pancakes were babies, hence the name, which is still in wide use today. Over time, this specialty has come to be made as they are in Germany, as one large puff rather than three baby ones, further adding to the confusion.
The batter is simple to prepare and requires pantry staples that you most likely already have on hand, including eggs, flour, butter, vanilla extract, sugar, salt and milk. I also like to add a bit of lemon or orange zest, which elevates the other ingredients and brightens up the overall flavor.
The eggs are whipped just until frothy, and the remaining ingredients are added and mixed in until the batter is smooth, runny and free of any lumps. Many recipes use either a liquid blender or food processor to make the batter, and the butter is melted in the hot dish with the batter poured over it. I’ve tried several of these versions over the years with fair to decent results.
However, I prefer to use my stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and incorporate the butter in two stages. First, I add two tablespoons of melted butter directly into the batter, and the remaining two tablespoons are melted in the hot pie dish just before the batter is added. I’m not sure why, but these modifications consistently yield the most spectacular results in volume, taste and overall texture.
There is no leavening agent in these pancakes, so a hot oven is essential to achieving the impressive rise and puff that is the signature of a well-made Dutch Baby Pancake. Many people use a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet to bake the pancake, but I prefer a glass pie dish and I always preheat the dish before adding the batter.
To serve, I like to fill the center of the pancake with an assortment of macerated berries followed by a generous dusting of powdered sugar, then I cut the pancake into four individual wedges.
No matter what you call them or how you serve them, a Dutch Baby Pancake is a terrific addition to your breakfast repertoire. And don’t worry about how to store leftovers - there won’t be any.
Sarah’s Dutch Baby Pancake
Serves: 2 to 4
3 extra-large eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
3 cups assorted berries
1 tablespoon sugar
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Other serving suggestions:
Chocolate spread (such as Nutella)
In a small bowl, toss the fresh berries with the sugar and let marinate at room temperature until pancake is ready. The berries may also be prepared the day before and refrigerated until ready to use (tossing occasionally), which will yield more syrup from the fruit.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a 9-inch pie dish or ovenproof skillet on the center rack.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on medium speed for 1 minute until frothy and combined. Add the milk and continue mixing on medium for 30 seconds.
Reduce the speed to low (1 or 2) and sprinkle the flour in slowly for even distribution. Keep the mixer on low and add the sugar, salt, vanilla extract, lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of melted butter, scraping down the sides as needed. Mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth and free of lumps, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Take the remaining 2 tablespoons of (room temperature) butter and place it in the center of the hot pie dish in the oven to melt. Once the butter is melted and bubbly, about 1 to 2 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and swirl it around so that the butter coats the bottom and sides.
Pour the batter into the dish and return it to the oven. Bake until the pancake is puffed to several inches with golden brown sides and darker brown edges, about 20 minutes. Oven temperatures vary, so start checking for doneness after 15 minutes.
To serve: Fill the center of the pancake with the berry mixture, including all the syrupy juice, and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Cut into quarters and serve. Best when served hot but may also be prepared a few hours in advance and held at room temperature until ready to serve.
“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at email@example.com.