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I grew up in a small town where all the pancakes were regular, boring flat ones. They have never been my favorite thing – kind of heavy and carby for breakfast.
But, a few years after high school, I found myself in Boulder Colorado for awhile, which is where I was introduced to another whole world of pancake amazement. There is a diner in Boulder called Dot’s, where we went for breakfast one morning. While I was perusing the omelet selections, the waitress sailed by with an amazing puffy, fragrant delight held aloft as she made her way to the lucky person who had ordered it. I was immediately seized with an overwhelming desire to have one, but upon looking at the menu, where they were called German Pancakes, I saw that they take 25 minutes, and we were in too much of a hurry to wait.
It was a few years later, when Larry I were back in Boulder for a visit, that I finally got back to Dot’s and was able to order one. It was everything I had anticipated, and more – eggy, fluffy, crispy on the outside and reminiscent more of a crepe than a pancake. Heaven.
To this day, regular pancakes aren’t my favorite thing, though I do sometimes make them when the family is all here. They are time consuming and a bit heavy for breakfast, but Larry and the grandkids love them, so a few times a year I turn out a batch. The trouble with making pancakes for a bunch of people is that even with a griddle and two iron skillets, it takes awhile to get them all cooked – which means the cook is standing in the kitchen while everyone else is eating.
But a Dutch Baby is something else again. You zap the batter up in the blender, and then let the whole thing cook in the oven while you enjoy your coffee and hanging out with the rest of the family. A Dutch baby is light and airy, with a slightly custard-y flavor, and the perfect resting place for a big pile of fresh fruit.When I get up, I set the oven to preheat, with my cast iron skillet in there, and by the time I’ve had a chance to really wake up, it is heated enough, and in just a minute or two, I can have the pancake baking. For a larger crowd, I just make two at once with no more effort than making one.
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons soft butter
- Set the oven to preheat to 400º, and place an empty, dry 8 inch iron skillet inside while it heats. Let it get completely warmed to temperature before proceeding.
- Place all of the ingredients except the butter in a blender, and blend at high speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the blender jar to make sure there is not dry flour around the edge, and blend again for another 10 seconds or so. The batter will on the thin side and very smooth.
- Put the butter into the hot skillet [you can take the skillet out of the oven to do this, or just pull out the rack, which is what I do] and let it foam and sizzle and melt completely. Be really careful not to forget and touch the pan without an oven mitt, and keep everyone away from the stove.
- Pour the batter into the center of the skillet.
- Return the pan to the oven and allow the pan cake to bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. It will puff up outrageously, but don't worry - it won't run over.
- When the pancake is done, remove the pan from the oven, and carefully loosen the pancake, [an offset spatula works nicely for this] sliding it onto a cooling rack for a couple minutes, so that the trapped steam can escape, rather than making the bottom soggy.
- Serve immediately, by cutting into wedges, and dusting with powdered sugar, topping with a squirt of fresh lemon and a generous slurp of maple syrup. Or top with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey. Or whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Or Greek yogurt and berries. There is no wrong way to do this!
There are tons of different ways to top it, but I think my favorite is with some fresh squeezed lemon and dark amber maple syrup.Finally – you can vary how a Dutch Baby turns out by increasing the amount of batter – a double recipe, cooked in an 8 inch skillet will have a thicker inner layer which will be more like a custard. I have an 8 and 10 inch skillets, so if I am making these for a crowd, I use both at the same time and triple the recipe, dividing the batter roughly 40 – 60 between the two. They always come out perfectly, no matter how I do it.