With Shrove Tuesday upon us, I am forced to face my annual pancake day gripe. It is, inevitably, the cook’s gripe: standard crèpe-like pancakes should be eaten as soon as they are cooked, each doled out to waiting mouths as soon as it’s ready. Yes, recipes tell you you can keep them warm in a low oven, but doing that tends them towards the rubbery and luke-warm. This means that the cook is standing at the stove ladling batter while everyone else eats. As a greedy cook, I resent this. But there is a pancake solution: the Dutch baby.
The name does not point to a Holland heritage: instead, the dish is named after the Pennsylvanian Dutch, a group of German-speaking immigrants to America. The Dutch baby is made with a similar batter to normal pancakes, but is baked in the oven, and one recipe stands as an entire meal for two hungry people or, with generous toppings, up to four. Like a yorkshire pudding or a toad in the hole, the batter goes into a screamingly hot pan, and then straight into a hot oven where it billows and balloons. Once out of the oven, the centre will drop, but the sides should remain tall, creating the perfect bowl for whichever filling your heart desires. Serve in the pan, and encourage diners to dig in together.
The batter contains no chemical leavening, and swirling the butter in the base of the pan, where it melts and fizzes and foams, before adding the thin batter, and shoving into the oven, it’s hard to believe that the mixture could do anything other than form a rubbery layer on the bottom of the pan. And yet, twenty minutes later, it is a sight to behold. Overcome by silliness when it came out of the oven, I topped it with sliced banana and salted caramel and a frilly layer of squirty cream.
‘Ooh, this would be good with bacon,’ says my husband through a mouthful of banana and batter, both an ingrate and – it would appear – an amateur recipe critic. Irritatingly, he is correct: savoury options work well here, although I’d plump for baked sausages and mustard (like a deconstructed toad in the hole, I suppose); golden-fried onion and grated mature cheddar would be great too. But don’t discount the sweet: the finished product cries out for a drift of icing sugar, and topping it with poached fruit and crème fraîche is both a stellar start to the day and a speedy and impressive pudding.
You’ll need an 8 inch frying pan for this recipe, ideally with a cast-iron base. Without wishing to state the obvious, make sure you’re cooking with an oven-safe pan (one where the handle won’t melt!), and be sure to use a thick, dy oven glove to handle the pan at all times – a tea towel is unlikely to cut the mustard.
Like all good pancakes, the dish is ridiculously quick, easy and cheap to make – and if you wish to make the raw batter in advance, it will keep well in the fridge overnight.
Makes: A generous breakfast for 2
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: 20 minutes
75g plain flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
125ml whole milk
Icing sugar (optional)
1. Place an oven-safe frying pan in the oven and preheat to 220°C.
2. Stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Whisk the eggs and milk together and add to the dry ingredients until you have a smooth batter the texture of pouring cream. You can do this in a blender if you prefer.
3. Using an oven glove, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and swirl the butter in the pan until it melts. Immediately pour all of the batter into the pan and return to the oven. Cook for 20 minutes.
4. Using an oven glove, remove the pan from the oven, sift with icing sugar if using and serve with the topping of your choice.