Dutch babies 101: What they are and how to cook them, plus recipes

Both savory and sweet complement the pancake, made from a very simple batter.

Published February 20 2017
Updated February 20 2017

When it comes to pancakes, I usually go Dutch.

A Dutch baby — also known as a German pancake, David Eyre's pancake or a Bismarck — is the preferred pancake of weekend mornings in my house, and I'm convinced it should be in everyone's home.

For the uninitiated, a Dutch baby is a large baked pancake akin to a popover. Its shape varies slightly each time. Mine often looks like a swollen, edible sombrero, with a golden dome in the middle and a puffed-up matching rim, until it deflates. The way the golden brown pancake balloons to twice the height of the pan it's baked in before collapsing in on itself is hypnotizing. And then you get to dress it up with toppings.

But I'm not in this for the drama alone. The batter is easy to make and the recipe is a breeze to memorize. The golden brown edges are crisp and the folds within the pancake contain a custardy yellow center that's a soft place for syrup and other toppings. Also, a Dutch baby pancake lets the oven do most of the work. It beats the flipping and babysitting required of old-fashioned pancakes.

As spectacular as Dutch baby pancakes are, I don't see them on a lot of local restaurant menus, so the magic is a little easier to capture at home. I picked the brain of Times food critic Laura Reiley, who said she once spotted them on the menu at Élevage in Tampa, but they're gone now.

Related: Tips for making Dutch baby pancakes, plus topping ideas

A restaurant in Indianapolis has had Dutch baby pancakes on the menu since it opened in fall 2014. At Milktooth, a modern diner focused on brunch that I discovered on Bon Appétit's 2015 Hot 10 restaurant list, sous chef Josh Kline said there are always two versions of Dutch baby available: one sweet, one savory. Flavors change seasonally, four to six times a year.

"The inspiration for just about everything on the menu is to take something familiar and elevate it a bit," Kline said. "Everyone expects a pancake on a brunch menu, but you rarely see something like a Dutch baby because of time constraints."

Seconds after leaving the oven, the baked pancake starts to deflate. That hasn't deterred Kline from baking thousands of them.

One of his favorite versions was a summertime Dutch baby inspired by maque choux, a Cajun corn stew similar to succotash. He coated corn and zucchini in Cajun spices and tossed that with smoked andouille sausage and a drizzle of aioli to brighten it up.

For fall, he has made a pumpkin spice version. Another kind was topped with an oatmeal dukkah streusel and pureed parsnip. On the menu now is one with crab apple curd. One type he hasn't been able to make work? A pad thai version using spaghetti squash in place of noodles — but he's working on it.

That's the best thing about a Dutch baby: its endlessly adaptable nature. It provides a solid base for both savory and sweet additions.

Kline said he likes the sound of my Everything Bagel Dutch Baby, which is the best case I've made for a savory Dutch baby pancake in my own kitchen.

I've included a basic recipe for a Dutch baby, along with a couple dozen ideas for dressing it up. There's also the savory bagel-inspired recipe, as well as a mini version of the pancake so you can brunch by yourself.

Ileana Morales Valentine reviews cookbooks and writes about cooking for the Times. She can be reached at [email protected]

   
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