Dutch Baby

My younger son trudges sleepily into the kitchen, still snuggled in a brown minky blanket. “‘Morning, Mama,” he says, as he shuffles over to give me a hug. Up close, he contemplates me for a moment, then apparently decides to go for it, “Can you make us a Dutch baby this morning?”

It’s Tuesday, but COVID19 and closed schools mean there’s no particular rush to get out the door, so it’s easy for me to say yes, even though I made this yesterday. I stretch away from the kitchen island where I was trying to sneak in a little work before the kids woke. Then, I begin a series of actions so familiar that I do them without thinking.

I wash my hands and turn to the oven: preheat to 425. Open the drawer by the stove and pull out the middle-sized bowl. Scoop half a cup of flour – no need to be too precise – and use the same measure for half a cup of milk. Find a fork. Mix – or not. Crack in four eggs and mix again.

Shoot! I forgot – again – to put the pan in the oven. Ah well, there’s still time. My son picks his head up from the counter as he sees me rummaging for a pan. “Can you use the small one?” I produce our smaller cast iron skillet, “Sure.” Lately, he’s liked a denser pancake; for a while we used the bigger skillet to get really airy ones.

Now, butter in the skillet – 1 Tbsp? 2? I don’t know or care: I just eyeball it – and skillet in the oven to preheat while the butter melts.

A few minutes later, I pull the pan out, swirl the melted butter to coat the bottom and sides, and scrape in the eggy mixture. Everything goes into the oven, and I head back to my seat to finish a few final minutes of my own work before the parenting work takes over for the day.

My mind wanders briefly to my high school friend, Julia, whose blog post nearly a decade ago brought this recipe into our house. I regularly think of her while I cook this. It’s funny, I muse, the people who change our lives. So often, I think about the big picture: “Who was your biggest influence? Who is your hero? Which person changed your life?” When I answer, I rarely think of my daily routine, the small things that make up the bulk of my life. But how many times have I made Dutch babies in the last decade? Easily a hundred; probably many more. I bet my boys will grow up to make these for their families. Our lives are better because of Julia. I doubt she even knows. Later today I will make tagine and think of my friend Erin, remember a moment in her mother’s kitchen when she showed me how accessible couscous recipes really are; then, as I add salt, I will think of an ex-boyfriend’s mother who told me once that when she’s cooking soups or stews she usually adds as much salt as she thinks she’ll need and then just a little more. Works like a charm.

My older son straggles into the kitchen, bed-headed and groggy. “Dutch baby? Sweet!” he  plunks himself down in a seat at the table.

The 9-year-old has set up vigil in front of the oven. He loves to watch this simple pancake puff to enormous proportions. Somehow, the flour, milk & egg transform themselves into a glorious airy breakfast concoction in a mere 12 minutes. Soon enough, perfection:

 

Perfection in the form of a puff pancake. What a gift! And who knows? Maybe you will read this post, make a Dutch baby for breakfast someday soon, and find that your life has changed just a little bit, too.

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19 thoughts on “Dutch Baby

  1. This is a very comforting post! Would you be willing to share your Dutch baby recipe? Or, know where I can find one? I bet you are right, your boys will grow up to make Dutch babies for their families! Why are they called that?

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    1. I have no idea why they are called Dutch babies – it’s very odd, isn’t it? I know that you can also call them puff pancakes, but that’s not half as interesting. And here’s the recipe we started with – it’s *extremely* forgiving. I know you can vary the eggs from 2 to 6, for example (though six would be very eggy!); and we leave out the sugar in the recipe.

      Ingredients
      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/ deep skillet 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/skillet.
      Let it bake for 12-15 minutes if you like something more buttery, longer for crispiness.

      Serve with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Baking and cooking with family is the foundation for connection. Food is nourishment for the body, and you have captured a lovely image of nurturing, of the chemical and transformative power that can happen when all the right elements are aligned. Those times are deceptively powerful, just like this post which appears to be about a recipe. Thank you for sharing, Amanda.

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  3. Wow, I so enjoyed the description of your flashback snippets surrounding cooking advice- it is comforting to know others remember sprinkles of conversations from past/present relationships as well. I also enjoyed the sentence about your 9-year-old setting up a vigil- it brought me back to my childhood and being transfixed by an oven’s power! Thank you for your slice- I haven’t made a dutch baby in years but I think I’m going to try it out this weekend!

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    1. It makes me giggle every time he sets himself up in front of the oven. He watches all sorts of things bake. I don’t know if it’s anticipation or watching the way things change (he likes to watch the cookies “flatten”), but it seems almost meditative!

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  4. I love this! I have a recipe for oatmeal cookies that I originally got from a friend about 25 years ago. Miriam’s Oatmeal Cookies are the best! Occasionally I think about using a different recipe, but end up comparing it to Miriam’s and decide it won’t be good enough. 🙂 I think of her every time I make them!

    And now I”m making a Dutch Baby for breakfast tomorrow.

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  5. Mmmm, they sound and look delicious, going to add that to my list of recipes, just wondering, does it taste like a pancake or more like an omelette?
    I have added sourdough pancakes to my breakfast list, making them about once a week. Started making sourdough and yeast bread about five weeks ago and it’s one of the few bonuses of this time so far….! Just wish I had a few little ones to share them with!

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    1. Sourdough pancakes are on my list, but we haven’t done them yet. I find that a Dutch baby is more pancake than omelette – and those who don’t go for the eggy taste can even reduce the number of eggs. It’s such a forgiving recipe – perfect for the mornings!

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  6. Glad to see you back, Amanda! Oh, the solace that these Dutch babies seem to offer … and the plaintive request from a child for the comfort food only mom can provide. Here’s to smoother sailing in the days ahead. 🙂

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  7. Your family brought dutch babies to my family and I have made them 4 times in the past week – brunch, luncher, linner, dinner (our meal schedule has become a bit, um, flexible) – and thought of you guys every time. ❤

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  8. Dutch Babies!! My mom always made them when I was a little girl. I kind of thought it was something she made up. Haha. I, too, used to set up camp in front of the oven to watch it rise. Wow. Wasn’t expecting this trip down memory lane, but I’m so happy I stumbled back on here to experience the loveliness of your post. I definitely need to revisit, but that means I need to buy a new cast iron skillet, doesn’t it? I actually just assigned a recipe-writing activity to my 3rd graders this morning-Quarantine Cookies? Lockdown Lasagna, anyone? Food is such comfort, of course, so I know the special things we make during this time will have extra significance. Did you happen to pair it with some Yunnan? 😉

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  9. Oh, I love this post and have no idea how I missed it last week. This is really a perfect little personal essay–weaving the rich food writing, the family moments, and then that challenge to reframe that typical “who or what changed your life” question to include the small daily routines that really are the stuff of life. I have so much admiration every week for what you manage to pull off in these slices!

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