Friday, November 18, 2011

Puff Pancakes

Do you ever make German Pancakes?* When we were children we loved them extravagantly, but in my fickle teenage years I moved on to other food favorites, like chocolate malted milk shakes, soft shell crabs, shrimp of all variety. Apparently there is a gene for puffed pancake adoration though, because when I introduced one to the family at dinner this week something amazing happened.

Silence settled over the table. Peace reigned. And everyone ate their food.

All of it.

After we finished, there was a reverent pause, and then Caroline asked if we could have pancakes every Monday from now on.

This was all very satisfying to a cook who might please one or even two people at the table but rarely manages to slip anything fancier than an egg by the third. The moment was marred only briefly after C asked what made it taste so good, and how did I make one? When she found out the ingredients, and how easy it is to do, she stomped her foot and said "You fooled me, that's not fair!"

To show her the benefits of simplicity, I decided we’d bake one together. Today’s the second day of school holidays for the children, and they were home with their babysitter, Lucie, while I worked. When I took a break for lunch we stirred together our pancake. Caroline measured, James cut the butter, and they both handled the important task of watching their dinner grow.

There are many pleasures to be found in food this simple: it takes minutes to make, and uses the most basic of ingredients. It’s the type of dish that turns lemon juice and powdered sugar into magic, and it melts in your mouth when you eat it. But perhaps best of all, you get to watch your pancake grow as it bakes, in a sequence usually seen only in time-lapse video. We held our breath while it inched its way up to full height, and then, suddenly, sagged down again with a sigh.

After we ate, the children swarmed me and pelted kisses all over before I headed back to work. Lucie and I laughed, and I decided that I might be persuaded to make another one come Monday.

*A German pancake is also known as a Dutch Baby in the States.

2 TB butter
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
2 TB sugar
1 glug of vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425F/215C. Add butter to dutch oven and place in oven.
Meanwhile, use a fork to mix flour and milk together well, removing all lumps. Once mixed together, add 4 eggs and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar, salt and vanilla, open oven and swiftly pour batter into the dutch oven.
Let it bake for 20 minutes if you like something more buttery, longer for crispiness.

Serve with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Kelly said...

In my family these are a Christmas Eve staple :) We call them Yorkshire Pudding...and now I'm craving one.

lizardek said...

In Skåne, they're called Åggakaka and Anders makes GREAT ones...we eat them with lingonberry jam and bacon. YUM!!

lizardek said...

Oops! I spelled that wrong. should have been Äggakaka

Anonymous said...

Note to self: acquire Dutch Oven...

Julia said...

Kelly - this is Yorkshire Pudding? I never knew!

Liz - Next time we go to Ikea, I'll have to grab a jar and try it out. Only question - do you add the bacon afterwards?

GG - you don't need a dutch oven, you can use round cake pans too. I just saw a slightly different recipe over at SmittenKitchen that shows how. (The only real difference is that she doesn't heat up her pans ahead of time, which might mean the pancakes don't rise as high).

Roderick Robinson said...

Conjurors never reveal how they do their tricks; the same should now be said about cooks. While all this was going on in Prague Mrs BB was making what I can only describe as the definitive macaroni cheese. I happened to be in the kitchen as she took it out of the Neff, and there it stood gorgeous, glowing, cheese-crusty and alive in its le Creuset (we're very brand conscious here at BB Manor). There was silence broken finally by Mrs BB who said "I'm not sure I want to break into that." Seems like you had a similar moment. A transcendental Yorkshire pudding, far far from Yorkshire for which you can be truly grateful.

Julia said...

BB - You're right, all the mystery disappeared for Caroline. A sad moment, but now she does like to help make them which is handy for me.

Lucy said...

I thought to myself it's a bit like a Yorkshire pud, which my mum used sometimes to make with hot jam as a sweet thing, though really it's a savoury one with meat. Outsiders think this must be something heavy, stodgy and unpalatable (ie British), but evidently the practice of making a pancake batter and baking instead of cooking it on a skillet is quite widespread.

Dutch baby does sound a mite disturbing though...

Amanda P said...

Just made this tonight in honor of the first snow - both kids "helped" stir and Thomas (Mr. why would I try anything even remotely close to new) had a second helping. I see us making these again, possibly as a Christmas Eve phenomenon. Thanks for reminding me that they existed!