Why hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, the site ringing in 2019 super slowly, and with great reluctance. I’m your hung-over hunchback, Jon O’Guin, and today’s recipe is perfect for those days where you just want to lay back and follow YOUR hunch…nope, I’ve lost the metaphor. Anyway, today’s recipe is pretty easy, pretty impressive, AND it’s pretty adaptable. So let’s see this pretty little baby in action, as we make a savory Dutch Baby.
Ooh Baby Ba-By. Oooh Baby Ba-By
Before we get into our 90’s house dance-jams, I think it’s necessary to make a point. Well, I actually don’t, but my lawyers assure me that SOMEWHERE In the post I have to say this, so why not start with it? Ahem ‘Despite the potentially confusing name, today’s recipe contains absolutely no human babies, nor were any harmed in the creation of this post.” I would never let a baby be harmed in the work place. Once you start letting your personal life into your business life like that, your work-life balance is shot straight to hell.
If I could make A Modest Proposal to help you sort it out?
The name “Dutch Baby” actually contains TWO lies, since the recipe is, as noted, not for succulently tender baby meat, nor is it Dutch. And the reason for that is, hilariously, the same reason so many great things get names: Because Americans REALLY SUCK at pronouncing other languages.
In this instance, it’s a mistake we’ve actually made before, and that I’ve TALKED ABOUT before: namely (and never has that adverb been more appropriate than now), that the German autonym (which is the fancy word for “what a group calls itself, in its own language) is Deustch. And, to an American, that sounds a lot like ‘Dutch’. This is why there’s a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch who have a strong fondness for sauerkraut and bratwurst.
Also barns, and hating Electricity, for some reason.
At least this time there’s some element of understanding for why there’s a mistake. Supposedly, the “Dutch Baby” was named by a child. Around the year 1900, a Seattle restaurant was serving a variety of pfannkuchen, a German dessert of dough partly fried, partly baked, and topped with sugar and fruit. Figuring that pfannkuchen is a bit of a mouthful for the average American (how do you pronounce “p-F”?) they partially translated the name to Deustch Pancake, since “Pancake” is literally what pfannkuchen means in German. The owners’ daughter, attempting to order a small one for herself, asked for a “Dutch Baby Pancake”, referring to the type of pancake, and the size she wanted. The name was hilarious to the owners, and those listening, and within a year or two, the menu had “Dutch Babies” as well as a “Big Dutch Baby” on it.
This reference is for my own entertainment, but I wrote the words “Big Dutch Baby”, and immediately knew whose picture was going here.
So now that we know what we AREN’T eating (namely, the tender womb-spawn of mankind), I guess it’s time to actually figure out what we ARE eating, isn’t it?
Pop Over to Germany, Knock off Hitler, Be Back in Time for Breakfast
So what is a Dutch Baby? It’s a pop-over. Bit of a Yorkshire Pudding, if you’re formal. A Gougere, if you want to be gauche. And if you’re an average American, none of those words meant anything to you.
SPEAK AMERICAN, DAMN IT!
It’s fascinating to me, sometimes, to see what my country did and did NOT take from their continental and European forebears. Why do we drive on the right side of the road? Because England drove on the left, and fuck them. Why don’t we have a U in Color? Because extra letters are for fancy Europeans. And why don’t we have popovers? Well…we do. Kind of. In New England. Where they were just making pudding poorly.
This is somewhat connected to a real-life argument I had the other week. Some food show or writer referred to Beef Wellington as “A classic New England dish”, and I snapped at the medium “You can’t call that a NEW ENGLAND classic. It’s a fucking OLD ENGLAND classic you’re just copying! New Zealand doesn’t get to claim stroopwaffell because Zeeland is a Dutch territory!”
For years, I joked that I didn’t trust New Zealand, because “you can find York and Jersey on a map, but where’s Old Zealand?” Turns out, someone fucked up the spelling, and I should have been looking in Holland.
So when I mean “I had this argument the other week”, I mean “I yelled at an unheeding book or television in pique, slowly cementing my descent into madness.” And also, a fact check just now reveals that no one knows where Beef Wellington comes from. Sure, the STORY is that it’s British, named for the Duke of Wellington, who beat Napoleon in 1815. But the earliest references anyone can find for it are…American. And, like, from the 1930’s. One cook challenges both these claims with the assertion that it was originally served at a civic ceremony IN Wellington. But not that Wellington. No, they mean ‘the Capital of New Zealand’.
I didn’t expect to be in New Zealand at ALL today, but somehow I ended up here twice.
The point is that pop-overs are a form of “batter pudding” that were only really popular in New England on this side of the pond. The rest of America got really into biscuits instead. (The American Biscuit being a different food than a British biscuit. British biscuits are what Americans call “cookies”, and American biscuits are closest to what the British would call “an unflavored scone”, because, again, we had a big phase where if England did it one way, we were going to do it the other.)
The actual recipe and idea is interesting: A pop-over, or Yorkshire pudding, is made by getting a hot muffin pan, greasing it, and then adding a wet batter to it before adding it to a hot oven. The liquid in the batter steams, inflating the pastry, while the outer edges crisp up in the grease, resulting in a sort of biscuit bubble: crisp outer edges, a big puffed up shape, and a soft inside.
Look at it, POPPING OVER the edges of the pan!
Now take that 2 inch-wide popped muffin, and put it in a 10 inch skillet, and you’re really cooking, baby. Sorry “You’re really cooking Babies.” Because that’s how you make a Dutch Baby.
Blend it Up Baby
I’ve made a Dutch Pancake before, but it’s not referenced on the site, because it was, in my early opinion, TOO EASY to write about. Because here’s how you make a standard Dutch Baby: Put a skillet in your hot oven. Add 5 ingredients to a blender, and turn it on. Take the skillet out of the oven, and melt butter in it. Pour in the batter, put it all in the oven, and walk away for 15 minutes.
Few great recipes have THIS chunky mess as the half-way point.
The first time I made it, I was AMAZED. It’s easy than scrambled eggs! Also, it’s really hard to take pictures of, since the steps are 2 seconds of action, and 20 minutes of nothing. So I resolved it would be too difficult to make it work for the site, and moved on.
Then I learned you can just add whatever the fuck you want to these things.
CHEESE. ALL OF THE CHEESE.
Really, I should have thought about it. This is, after all, a form of pancake. And there have been successful international houses built SOLELY on the backbone of “shit, you can put just about anything into pancakes and it’ll be good.” So while a traditional Dutch Baby comes with powdered sugar, lemon juice, or cinnamon apples, you can add blueberries, strawberries, any kind of sweet treat you want.
Or, you can walk a darker path. The path of Umami. The Savory Side. That’s what I did.
The recipe is still PRETTY easy, but one step complicates it. Which I should have expected, since my source is the ever-bougie New York Times. See, it’s a constant refrain in the recipes for Dutch Babies that you need to have the skillet hot and greased before you add the batter. Otherwise you don’t get enough “puff”, or a sufficiently set crispy outer edge. So, this recipe says, why not ensure your pan is both hot AND well-greased, by cooking it in browned butter?
It’s very hard to take pictures of shade change in butter, as it turns out.
Browned Butter, for those without slowly hardening arteries, is…butter…that has been melted, and then cooked at a medium heat until it ‘browns’, meaning that the milk solids in the butter caramelize. It’s a rather fascinating ingredient/sauce, and a delicate one: due to the small size of the solids, they can burn easily. It tastes like slightly nutty butter.
And THAT adds a whole new dimension of hassle to making this. Because it means you either have to completely mix the batter before you start even HEATING the pan (not generally a great idea, as batters develop more gluten the longer they’re left to integrate) or you have to mix a bowl of eggs, flour, herbs and milk while ALSO making sure a delicate butter sauce on the stove doesn’t over-cook, or you’ll have to start again.
And this dish was actually being prepared as a starch option to go along with our Maafe of last month, so I had just spent 25 minutes putting together a soup that was bubbling away, while also trying to make a delicate and cheesy (spoilers) side for it. Because, as I’ve noted before, it’s pretty hard for more than one person to work in our kitchen due to the layout and walkways. But I did prevail, and batter was dumped into the pan, and a healthy handful or two of grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled on top. Within 20 minutes, something magical had formed.
And that’s the million-dollar shot of the Dutch Baby: those high sides. They’re not sustainable in a pancake-sized variety, sadly. Within 5 minutes, they’ll droop down to a more reasonable looking mass not unlike a quiche. Speaking of which, that’s really the closest I can get to describing how this tastes: while it’s certainly a bread-product, the amount of egg in the batter comes through in the final taste. It’s a strange middle ground. It tastes…fine. Not mind-blowing, but not bad in any way. And if you skip browning the butter, a perfectly fine result that only takes 5 minutes of effort isn’t a catastrophe at all. ESPECIALLY since, as I noted earlier, the recipe is so mutable: if you find that Parmesan isn’t doing it for your, change the cheese. Or add a meat! Heck, take out the savory components and make it a sweet Dutch Baby! There’s tons of options to explore. Between the time when I cooked this recipe, and when I wrote this post, for instance, YouTube Channel Binging with Babish made a recipe for a Cinnamon Dutch Baby for the holidays. They’re fast, easy, and visually impressive, and that’s a heck of a bang for your buck.
IT also kind of looks like pizza.
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THURSDAY: JON UNVEILS A DARK SECRET OF HIS FAMILY, WHILE VISITING A LOCAL ETHNIC FOOD FESTIVAL. THINGS ARE ARGUABLY LIGHTER, AND DARKER THAN THAT SENTENCE IMPLIES.
NEXT MONDAY: JON MAKES EITHER SOUP OR DIP. THE DIP’S A LITTLE WEIRD, BUT THE SOUP HASN’T BEEN MADE YET, SO IT’S A TOSS-UP WHICH IS THE BETTER CALL
Savory Dutch Baby
1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
8 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk
2 tbsps finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsps minced chives, parsley or tarragon
6 tbsps unsalted butter
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère
Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Sriracha, for serving (optional)
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until just combined. Stir in thyme and the other herbs.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Let it cook until it smells nutty and browns, about 5 to 7 minutes, then swirl skillet so that butter coats bottom of pan.
3. Pour batter into pan and scatter cheese and flaky salt over the top. Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with sriracha and lemon wedges on the side.