For the uninitiated, a Dutch baby is a large baked pancake akin to a popover. Read more about them here, then check out the tips below to guarantee success.
• Make sure the milk, eggs and butter are at room temperature.
• It's important to preheat a heavy skillet so it's ready to go as soon as the batter hits the pan. A cold pan, especially something made of cast iron, takes too long to heat up while you're trying to cook the pancake.
• A 10-inch cast iron skillet is my go-to pan for these puffed-up pancakes, but you can also use a pie pan or other ovenproof skillet.
• As time permits, I like to give the oven a good half-hour to heat up and in the meantime allow the batter to rest. While everything warms up, I make coffee and enjoy a cup.
• Many Dutch baby pancake recipes call for using a blender to mix the ingredients. I haven't found this to be necessary, so I keep it low-tech: Just use a big wooden spoon and a large bowl.
• Double the amounts of flour and milk and add an egg for a heartier pancake that will serve three.
• Make it ahead of time for the puffiest, tallest pancake of all: Place batter in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight (or for up to three days), removing from the fridge while the oven preheats for baking. (Thanks to J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab, for this tip.)
• The maximum puff of the pancake is ephemeral, and it begins to deflate seconds after it's out of the oven. Be sure to call over anyone you're brunching with to the oven so they can get the full effect of its grandeur.
• Make it classic: Top finished pancake with fresh berries, maple syrup, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a generous dusting of powdered sugar
• Top finished pancake with slices of avocado, dollops of warmed salsa and a fried egg.
• Take a trip to Spain: Top finished pancake with strips of Serrano ham, chopped marcona almonds and shaved manchego cheese.
• Mix ¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs into the batter.
• Top finished pancake with fried or poached eggs and bacon or sausage crumbles.
• Make a version inspired by French crepes: Replace up to ¼ cup of the all-purpose flour with buckwheat flour. Top finished pancake with thinly sliced ham and slivers of Brie cheese.
• Top finished pancake with apple slices sauteed in cinnamon and butter and finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.
• Drizzle finished pancake with salted caramel syrup.
• Raid the pantry: Replace 1/4 cup of the flour with something other than all-purpose: buckwheat, rye, whole wheat, cornmeal.
• Rub the freshly grated zest of 1 lemon into 1/4 cup of sugar and add to batter. Top finished pancake with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
• Mix in 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water and top finished pancake with fresh orange segments.
• Mix in ½ teaspoon rosewater and top finished pancake with sliced strawberries and edible flowers.
• Add ground spices like cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg to the batter.
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• Mix in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract.
• Add 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream to the batter for a tangy flavor.
• Lightly mash 1/4 cup raspberries or blackberries and swirl them into the batter.
• Make it kid-friendly: Mix 1/4 chocolate chips into the batter.
• Brown the melted butter called for in the recipe and allow to cool before adding to the batter.
• Top finished pancake with yogurt whipped with honey, fresh fruit and clusters of granola.
• For a PB&J version: Swirl a couple tablespoons of smooth peanut butter into the batter and top finished pancake with jam and crushed roasted peanuts.
• Mix in 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate version.
• Toward the end of the baking time, quickly toss ¼ cup chopped candied nuts into the center of the pancake.