Mama's Savory Dutch Babies
by Kate Heyhoe
Dutch Babies don't wear wooden shoes, and they don't have to be sweet. That is, not the type of Dutch Babies you eat, also known as German pancakes or Bismarks. They make an ideal breakfast or brunch for Mother's Day, and, as I'll show below, they lend themselves well to name games.
While I've eaten "Dutch Babies" before, I had no idea how ridiculously easy they were to make. They take about 15 minutes to prepare, start to finish. Baked in the oven rather than fried on the stovetop, these showy little numbers puff up light and airy, with golden hues, and must be served right away, while their bouffant crest still rides high.
Most people serve their Dutch Babies sweetened, usually with a dusting of powdered sugar, some fruit preserves or syrup—which is why I always thought of them as being sweet breakfast treats. But while most Americans love donuts and sugary ways to start their day, I prefer non-sweet breakfasts. Sugar first thing in the morning just makes my metabolism go wacky.
When I whipped up my first batch of Babies, I discovered that the batter contains no sugar at all, but sweet toppings always masked that from me. It's nothing more than eggs, flour, salt and milk, baked in a delirious amount of butter.
My epiphany came when I tasted the Babies without adulteration—no sweeteners at all. To make them, you simply heat a shallow pan in the oven, melt some butter in it, then pour in the batter and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. I accidentally let the butter brown slightly, but this gave the pancake a rich, nutty taste. One bite and I felt my Buttery Browned Baby needed nothing more than a fork with which to swiftly devour it. But in the interests of culinary science, I also tried it with pure maple syrup, and all sweetness aside, have to admit it was just as awesome.
Dutch Babies and Their Brethren
Legend has it that Victor Manca of Manca's restaurant, a longtime Seattle institution, first served small-sized versions of traditional German pancakes. His kids named them Dutch Babies and the name not only stuck, but eventually the same type of baked pancake, no matter what size, came to be known as a Dutch Baby, at least in North America.
The name is appealing, and both the name and the simplicity of the recipe open themselves up to endless variations.
For a classic Dutch Baby, dust the top with powdered sugar and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Or adorn it with berries or seasonal fresh fruit—it's the perfect foil for such flavors. I call these variations "Sweet Babies." A drizzle of honey and you have, of course, "Honey Babies"—an appropriate gift from Dad to Mom. Bring the kids into the act and let them come up with their own versions of "Mama's Boy" babies and "Baby Daughters." A few fresh edible flowers on top, and you have... a "Flower Child."
I fooled around with savory flavors, adding cheese and herbs to several variations. Flecks of prosciutto, coarsely-ground pepper and a dusting of Parmesan makes a killer combination, which I call "Un' Bambino." Finely minced onion blended into the batter creates a "Cry Baby." For feeding a brunch crowd, you can use an extra large or paella pan to make "Big Babies." and a crumble of goat cheese on top turns a simple baby into "Kid Stuff."
Making Dutch Babies: Ingredients to Pan Ratio
Use a shallow pan, not more than 3 inches deep. Examples: pie pans, iron skillets, oven-proof fry pans, baking dishes, paella pans. The deeper the batter, the longer it takes to cook, and the more moist and custard-like the pancake. Thinner levels of batter can be just as tasty, but cooking them too long results in drier pancakes.
A number of formulas exist for making Dutch Babies, depending on the size of the pan and the number of mouths you're feeding. Sunset magazine published a chart in 1980 that listed pans by quart size with corresponding amounts of ingredients. Most home cooks have no idea how many quarts their cookware pieces hold (though you can find out by pouring in quarts of water). James McNair's formula in his book Breakfasts results in a simpler and still foolproof recipe, just by using a pan's diameter as a guide, so I modified it below.
Basic Dutch Baby Recipe
You can make a small and cute baby (an "Itty Bitty Baby") using just one egg, or you can make a Big Baby with a dozen eggs and slice it into wedges. Regardless of the size baby you cook, the ratio of eggs to other ingredients is always the same:
Recipe Per Egg:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup milk (not nonfat)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
I recommend allowing two eggs per average serving. To cook specific serving amounts, use pans of the following diameters:
1 small serving (1 egg) = 4 inch pan
1 average serving (2 eggs) = 6 inch pan
2 to 3 servings (4 to 6 eggs) = 9 to 10 inch pan
3 to 4 servings (6 to 8 eggs) = 10 to 12 inch pan
5 to 6 servings (10 to 12 eggs) = 14 to 16 inch pan
To Cook a Dutch Baby:
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Determine the correct pan size for the amount of ingredients/servings you're making.
Prepare the batter while the oven heats. Using a blender, combine the egg, milk, flour and salt until thoroughly mixed and the batter is smooth. (Tip: you can also substitute a spoonful or so of yogurt for some of the milk, to get a more tangy flavor.)
Cut the butter into even chunks (1 tablespoon size or less) so it melts evenly. Place the butter in the appropriately sized pan. Heat the pan and butter in the oven until the butter is melted and the pan hot. For a nutty flavor, let the butter brown slightly but don't let it burn. Swirl the butter in the pan to coat the bottom and sides before pouring in the batter.
Pour the batter into the hot pan and return the pan to the oven (be careful not to spill: the batter may swirl around a bit in the shallow pan as you move it).
Bake until the pancake is puffed and golden. Allow 12 to 15 minutes for a 4-egg pancake. Smaller and larger pancakes' cooking times will vary accordingly. If you notice one side of the pan puffing up more than the other, turn the pan around about half-way through for more even cooking.
Once out of the oven the pancake will begin to deflate. Serve it right away, adding any toppings as desired. For variety, add different flavorings to the batter, including herbs, sun dried tomato bits, spices and other seasonings. For a light Italian twist, try the "Un' Bambino" recipe below.
Kate's Global Kitchen for May, 2001:
05/05/01 Energy Synergy: Beating the Power Crunch
05/12/01 Mama's Savory Dutch Babies
05/19/01 Remembering the Sandwich: Great Moments, Great Sandwiches in History
05/26/01 Memorial Day Mixed Grill
Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created May 2001