January 28, 2011


I've been thinking about delving into the world of breakfast more often here. Breakfast foods are some of my favorite foods. Whether or not they're eaten at breakfast is hardly worth mentioning. Typically I prefer a plate of pancakes or waffles drizzled in maple syrup or toast and fried eggs for either a late breakfast or, even better, dinner. There's something sinfully delicious about indulging in a stack of waffles smothered in butter and syrup at night, because you know it's bad for you but you do it any way. Early in the morning, not so much. Before the end of the day, you can work off all of those calories. But really, that much food before ten in the morning is not so appealing. I've never been a morning person and therefore need a bit of time to wake up, appetite included.

For you today, I have a breakfast food that seems to be made for late mornings, a type of pancake-popover monstrosity with a moniker that does not hearken to food at all but still seems appropriate. People, we have a dutch baby on the menu.

Why it's called a dutch baby I have no idea, except maybe for a size reference. The thing fills up a ten inch skillet. In the oven the batter puffs up, looking like an enormous popover, but deflates within seconds as soon as it's pulled from the heat. The crusty bits all across the surface are the best part, kind of like the crusty edges on roasted potatoes but more crumbly and with a salty sweet finish. It's good stuff. It's also best served straight from the oven with your choice of topping. If you're anything like me, pure maple syrup is the only way to go. The darker the grade, the better.

The recipe is from Gourmet magazine, issued a couple of years ago, and it calls for sprinkling the top with a mixture of sugar and lemon zest. It's a good idea, especially if you're into lemon, but I'm a maple syrup enthusiast and relish using that amber goodness whenever possible, which has become more and more scarce these days as the price of maple syrup has skyrocketed, turning it from a common commodity to a once or twice a year treat. Believe me, it's a tragedy. The fake stuff just doesn't cut it for me.

Either way, if you enjoy pancakes, you should enjoy cooking up a dutch baby on a lazy morning. It's rather fun to make: you place a skillet in the oven as it preheats, pour the batter into the hot skillet as soon as both are ready, and then proceed to watch as it puffs up, if your oven door accommodates viewing, that is. It's also a case of instant gratification because it doesn't take long to make and you get to eat right away.

Dutch Baby w/ Lemon Sugar
Adapted from Gourmet, April 2009

If you skip the lemon sugar topping, you may want to add a couple of teaspoons of sugar to the batter as it's pretty much meant to be sweetened by the topping.

¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
⅔ cup whole milk, room temperature
⅔ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp vanilla extract
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed

Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 450° F.

Stir together sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl, really mixing the two together to release the lemon oil into the sugar.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and frothy, then beat in the milk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and continue to beat until smooth, about 1 minute more; the batter will be thin.

Add butter to hot skillet and melt, swirling to coat. Add batter and immediately return skillet to oven. Bake until puffed and golden-brown, 18 - 25 minutes.

Serve immediately, topped with the lemon sugar. Or, if you prefer, serve with pure maple syrup.

Serves 4.

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