December 25, 2010

Dutch Baby

Merry Christmas! In celebrating the holiday at home in sunny Florida, our dad suggested we make a new breakfast item he recently discovered while watching Cook's Country TV- the video version of Cook's Illustrated, the magazine famous for developing and meticulously testing and tweaking the "perfect" way to make a specific dish- from pork chops to frittata.

On an episode titled "Breakfast Showstoppers," the chefs cooked up a number of treats perfect for the morning meal. One of these was something completely unfamiliar to my dad (and us)- the Dutch baby. After cooking for so many years, a novel dish is always exciting to find. For the next available weekend breakfast, my dad carefully followed the detailed instructions and created his very own Dutch baby. Originating in Germany, the dish is similar to Yorkshire pudding- a thin, eggy batter baked in the oven until puffy and crispy. Of course we wanted to try this as well, making it the easy choice for Christmas Day brunch.


3 T butter
1 cup flour (either bread, pastry or all-purpose)
1/4 cup cornstarch
zest of one lemon + juice from 1/2 lemon
1 t salt
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1 t vanilla extract
3 T confectioners' sugar

Another important "ingredient" is the proper pan: a stainless steel 12 inch skillet (not the nonstick kind... just metal). Something we don't have, so a new kitchen item has been added to our wish list. The first step is to preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with the top shelf being about midlevel. Prep the pan by melting 2 T of butter in the microwave and "brushing" it into the pan, covering the bottom and sides all the way up to the top. Once the oven is hot, place the pan in to preheat for ten minutes.

Next, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt.

Whip the eggs up in a separate bowl- use a whisk to vigorously whip the eggs for about a minute. Add in the last tablespoon of melted butter as well as the vanilla and milk- skim milk is key here- the fat in anything else will decrease the crispy factor of the end product.

Pour about 1/3 of this mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth- add a bit more if it seems too dry to incorporate everything in. Unlike pancake batter, where lumps are a good thing, this batter needs to be completely smooth. My dad had to intervene since my arms just don't move fast enough. Dump in the remaining milk/egg mixture and mix well- the batter should be very thin. To make the next step a bit easier, transfer the batter into a large measuring cup- or anything with a pouring lip.

Once the pan has been in the oven for ten minutes and the butter is browning nicely, open the oven and pull the rack out- do not remove the pan from the oven. Pour the batter into the pan and quickly close the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

Prepare the post-bake topping: a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, confectioners' sugar, and whatever else you might want. Keep it simple though- we opted for blueberries.

Our oven was running a little cool, so we kept it in the oven for a few extra minutes- the batter poofs up along the sides of the pan, creating a crispy crust.

It's surprisingly easy to slide out the pan onto a cutting board- finish it up by sprinkling the top with lemon juice and sugar. A pizza cutter quickly rendered the "baby" into slices, with the crispy edges making it easy to cut and serve. The blueberries as well as sliced pear and apple and a few deliciously salty pieces of bacon helped round out the brunch.

Not knowing quite what to expect, the Dutch baby proved to be a totally new experience- a sort of combination of pancake, french toast, and souffle. Not too sweet (as the only sugar is the sprinkle on top), a hint of lemon; the real interest here is the texture. Fluffy yet crispy, doughy yet airy, just altogether intriguing. I'm still not sure how this is representative of a baby, but the fun name adds to its charm. The one downside is the fact that making multiple batches of this breakfast would be time-consuming and near impossible, so it's only good for a small family or as a component of a bigger meal. A & I are already hoping Santa brings us a new pan (preferably before next Christmas...) .

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