I was introduced to my first Dutch Baby almost 20 years years ago at the Original Pancake House in Southfield Michigan. Despite my morning palette tending decidedly toward savoury breakfast fare, I was hooked from the first bite. Legend has it that this kind of pancake – and the establishment that first served them up in North America – has its humble beginnings in Seattle, Washington. The term Dutch Baby was purportedly coined by one of Victor Manca’s daughters while she was working at Manca’s eponymous café in Seattle. The origins of this pancake, however, are not Dutch; the already impressive Dutch Baby is simply a smaller version of a larger traditional German Pfannkuchen. Manca’s began serving these pancakes in the early 1900’s. Later in the 1950's, they would find their way on to the menu at the Original Pancake House in Portland, Oregon. OPH now has over 100 franchises in the United States and the Dutch Baby (and the larger Big German) continue to feature as crowd favourites on the menu.
Despite being a show-stopper at the table, making Dutch Baby pancakes is surprisingly easy. That said, there are a few key factors that are essential for success when preparing and cooking them:
1) Start off with quality ingredients. Our rule of thumb is always "the better the ingredients, the better the result". We often find that the simpler the recipe, the truer this is. There are only three key ingredients in this recipe; it is well worth it to make sure they are top-quality.
2) It is very important that the ingredients be at (or just below) room temperature. The idea being that the batter should not shock the pan when it is poured in. The quicker the batter temperature heats up, the quicker the pancake will rise and the more evenly formed it will be.
3) We have seen recipes that suggest the use of a pyrex pie plate to cook these. While that may work, the traditional vessel of choice is a cast iron pan. Lodge are the industry standard and make excellent pans. We are also smitten with the beautiful skillets made by Borough Furnace in Syracuse, NY. For this recipe, a 9” or 10” cast iron fry pan is ideal.
4) The amount of fat used to prep the pan. We have tried a number of recipes over the years and most recommend too much butter. In our experience, an excess of butter results in more fat that pools on the batter as it’s trying to rise; this often creates a misshapen and unevenly cooked pancake.
The recipe that follows is revised from one I posted on my old blog in 2010.
DUTCH BABIES (makes one):
35 grams (approximately 3 Tablespoons) butter.
2 large eggs.
1/2 cup milk.
1/2 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour.
1/4 teaspoon good quality salt. We use Malden’s, Pink Himalayan or Fleur de sel.
1 teaspoon raw cane sugar.
Pinch of powdered Madagascar vanilla.
Place your cast iron pan in the oven and pre-heat to 425ºF (220ºC). Beat eggs, milk, sugar and salt until uniform. Stir in flour and vanilla until the mixture is a smooth batter. Remove the hot pan from the oven and swirl the butter to melt and coat the base and edges. Place the pan back into the oven and leave for 2 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and pour in the batter. Replace in the oven on the center rack (you need some headspace as the pancake will rise considerably) and allow to cook for 18-22 minutes: cooking time will depend on the temperature of your oven and the desired crispiness of the edges.
Remove from oven, plate and dust with powdered sugar. Squeeze the juice from a couple of fresh lemon wedges over the Dutch Baby and enjoy. Although lemon and sugar are the traditional accompaniment, we also love to serve ours with fresh berries and a good quality maple syrup.
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