December 29, 2009
Posted by Michelle
My family loves the Original Pancake House. There is one in Charlotte that we all go to every time we’re home. It is our Sunday morning tradition. The Pancake House has two star items on their menu — the apple pancake (ordered regularly by many in my family) and the Dutch baby pancake. Everything at the Pancake House is big and buttery and slathered in any number of sauces and toppings, but then there is the Dutch baby. It looks simple. Like a big empty bowl made out of dough. No sauce on top. No berries or chocolate chips. It is just itself and it is clearly happy with that. I have never tasted it, but it is always appealing.
Last week I spotted a recipe for a Dutch baby pancake on The Kitchn and took it as a sign that I needed to attempt to make it. Also appealing about this recipe was the fact that it involved a cast iron pan, something that is a recent addition to my kitchen.
(You can easily make this recipe in any sort of baking dish or pie dish. If you have a cast iron skillet, I encourage you to use it.)
First… Cast Iron. There are some things that I recently learned that you need to know too .
Cast iron is great because it is relatively inexpensive (my 12 inch pan was $30), it heats evenly, is heavy-duty so it can stand up to very high heat, and, if properly cared for, is non-stick. Cast iron skillets are one of those things that are frequently passed down through generations — it is no debate that a well used cast iron skillet makes food taste better than a brand new one. So get cooking!
The Rules of Cast Iron
#1 The most important thing to know about loving and using your cast iron is that it needs to be seasoned. No, do not sprinkle some salt and pepper on it. Not that kind of seasoned. Seasoning your cast iron means coating it with oil and baking it so ensure that it remains non-stick and that it doesn’t rust. The oil fills in all of the little craters of the cast iron. You will know when it is time to reseason your skillet when food starts to stick.
To season your cast iron:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening to the entire surface of the skillet — the top, the bottom, the handle, the whole thing
- Put the skillet upside down on the top rack of your oven (you might want to put some foil on the rack underneath to catch the dripping oil)
- Bake it for at least an hour
- Turn the oven off but leave the skillet inside. Let it completely cool inside the oven.
#2 Do not use soap on your cast iron. You will wash off all that great seasoning that you just worked so hard to apply. Use steel wool or equivalent to scrub the bits off. If you have a tough job, boil some water and pour it into the skillet. That should basically deglaze the pan for you. Towel dry the skillet immediately — do not let it air dry or it can rust.
#3 Make sure your skillet is good and hot before you start to cook in it. It should always be preheated. And don’t add cold food to a hot pan — that promotes sticking.
#4 The entire pan is made out of iron! The entire pan gets really really hot! Don’t touch the handle!
Dutch Baby Pancake recipe
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
(I used my 12 inch skillet for this, but as I mentioned before, any sort of baking dish or pie dish will work fine.)
Whisk all of the ingredients EXCEPT for the butter together in a bowl. Let it sit and come to room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 425.
Put the butter in the skillet and put in the oven to melt. Once it is melted, take the pan out and swirl the butter around.
Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake it on the lowest rack of your oven until it is nice and golden. Then move it to the center rack to allow it to rise a little bit. It should take about 12-15 minutes total.
Once it is done, you can eat it plain — it is soft and eggy. It really has a very nice delicate, creamy flavor all by itself. And the edge gets a nice crust that adds a completely contrasting texture to the center bites. Mmm… I want one now, please.
You could also add some powdered sugar, maple syrup, a squeeze of lemon… I chose to make an apple pecan topping for mine.
Apple Pecan Topping
This wasn’t an exact science, so there really isn’t a recipe and you can’t screw this up.
I diced three golden delicious apples that I had sitting around and chopped some pecans that were leftover from a pie. I put the apples in a pan with a tablespoon of butter to saute. Once they started to cook a little, I added a spoon-full of brown sugar. I let that cook a little. Then I added the pecans. They started to smell warm and toasty almost immediately. To that, another spoon of brown sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup. I didn’t want it to be too sweet, so I stopped there. I sauteed all of that until the apples were soft.
I let the pancake cook for 10 minutes on the bottom rack. When it was time to move it up to the center, I added the apple pecan topping. Baking it with the topping didn’t add much and I suspect it kept the edges of the pancake from rising. You could easily add the topping after the pancake is all done.
My husband LOVED the topping. He could’ve eaten that alone. I thought it was good, definitely. But that Dutch baby pancake was so good on its own that I think I’ll leave my pieces plain next time.