Sunday, November 13, 2005

Baked Pancake

When you take it out of the oven, a chorus of angels sings Hallelujah in your ear.
Maybe you know this as a Dutch Baby or a German Pancake or as Yorkshire pudding or a ginormous popover. In our house we call it Baked Pancake, and we make it all the time. It is Ben’s favorite weekend breakfast, especially since he doesn’t mind waiting for it, while his starving starving STARVING sister is growling and grouchy, fainting from hunger and demanding yogurt and cottage cheese and granola with fruit, because who can wait 15 minutes for the pancake to be out of the oven? That’s okay: Ben can eat the entire pancake by himself, and he like to.

This is another of the many, many recipes from my own childhood. My mother actually has the original and very ratty clipping from the 1966 New York Times, where this was called David Eyres Pancake after a Honolulu somebody whom Craig Claiborne something-or-othered with. The original recipe calls for a full stick of butter, although (apparently) this was identified as a mistake and amended in a later article. A full stick of butter would make this something more like a Dutch Clogged Coronary Artery—as it is, we’ve reduced the butter from 4 to 3 tablespoons for the sake of, er, a desire to be less fat.

I would also like to add that who most often makes this in my family is Michael. What’s with the dads making the weekend breakfasts? Okay, forget that dead-end question. I am glad Michael makes it. Gratitude is leaking out of me, rising like steam from my every pore. Because it could be that Michael would be the kind of person who would only feed the birds—who would manage four bird feeders, including a suet feeder and a finch feeder, which he would fill assiduously with seeds and fat and whatever all else the birds like to eat because, yes, his children and dinner and blah blah, but the birds! The birds must be fed! The poor, hungry little birds! But he’s not like that. Because he feeds his bird children AND he makes this baked pancake for his human ones. Praised be.

Baked Pancake
active time: 10 minutes; total time, including preheating the oven: 35 minutes

The only trick here is that the pan be very, very hot before you melt the butter and pour the batter in: that’s what will make the pancake puff (but if you burn the butter, wipe it out with a paper towel, and start over). The temperature of the ingredients, on the other hand, is a point of contention. Many people suggest that the ingredients should be cold, but we actually find that if they’re a bit warmer than right-out-of-the-fridge, then the whole pancake puffs and rises, which we like a lot; cold ingredients produce a pancake that is high on the sides and dead flat in the middle, which we like a little less. And every now and then, for no reason you can fathom, the pancake will rise so completely not at all that you will feel like you’re in the breakfast version of a Viagra commercial. It’s not you.

2 eggs
½ cup milk (2% and whole both work well)
½ cup flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, cut into a few pieces

Heat the oven to 425, then put the pan in to heat while you prepare the batter. A 10- or 12-inch oven-proof skillet is ideal, but you could use a comparably-sized baking dish (Pyrex, say)—you know, somewhere between 25π and 36π inches in area, give or take a couple of pi.

Now use a whisk to beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl (if it has a spout, to quote my former German housemate Ute, “the better it is”), then beat in the milk, then the flour and salt. The original recipe cautions against over-beating and recommends that you leave the batter a little lumpy, but we tend to beat it until it’s just smooth.

By now your pan should be very hot. Add the butter to it by tossing it into the cracked oven door (this is Michael’s trick) and letting it sit in there a couple of seconds, then remove the pan from the oven and swirl it so that the butter is melted and sizzling wildly. You need to do all this quite quickly because you don’t want the oven to lose its heat, you don’t want the pan to cool off, and you don’t want the butter to burn. It’s not hard, and I don’t mean to worry you. I’m just saying. Now pour the batter into the buttery pan and return it the oven. Set your timer for 15 minutes. We bake it for 20, but I think it’s worth peeking at it at 15 because your oven might be different from ours: you want it to be puffed and golden and quite brown in places.

The yummiest way to eat this is to sprinkle it with lemon juice and sieved powdered sugar, a la the original recipe. However, we usually eat it in big hand-held wedges, utterly plain or spread with jam.

1 comment:

  1. We make something similar but call it Big Apple Pancake (which may be it's original name from an Epicurious recipe). We start by sautéing an apple that's been cut into ~16-24 slices in a tablespoon or two of butter. Then we add the batter to that pan and pop in the hot oven. Ours, like yours, sometimes raises greatly, and other times not so much.