Dear Mr. Gold,
When I was growing up in the Midwest, I was very fond of what they used to call German pancakes or Dutch babies, puffy pancakes, as big as Mylar balloons, that were usually served with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. It's probably counterintuitive to yearn for Michigan food in the midst of California's plenty, but I do miss those pancakes.
Dutch babies always make me think of my old friend Marion Cunningham, who has such a good recipe for them in The Breakfast Book, probably the most-abused cookbook in my kitchen. She didn't originate the recipe, of course — the oven-baked pancakes, close to popovers, have been a staple for decades — but Marion is a breakfast genius, stripping away the accretions and encrustations recipes tend to pick up over the years, and reducing them to their delicious basics. It's almost a miracle, the way that the thin, meager batter puddled on the bottom of a cast-iron pan inflates into an early-morning Astrodome. The chemistry of egg proteins is rich and complex.
Anyway, you could either pick up a copy of The Breakfast Book — I've also reprinted Marion's recipe below — or try a slightly more detailed recipe, “Dutch Baby With Lemon Sugar,” from the current Gourmet.
And there's always Dinah's, the pancake house on that stretch of South Sepulveda right where it begins to climb toward the airport. The Dutch babies there, extravagantly buttered and powder sugared, are the size of satellite dishes.
6521 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 645-0456.
(Baked German Pancake)
Makes 1 (12-inch) Baked German Pancake or 4 (6-inch) Dutch Babies
Here is the recipe introduction from Marion's book: This is not a griddled pancake at all, but an eggy batter baked in the oven, like Yorkshire pudding or popovers. A baked German pancake (small ones are called Dutch babies for some reason) is dramatic and captivating for children. You wouldn't believe what three eggs can do when beaten with milk and flour — this mixture billows up to unbelievable heights and turns golden. The pancake should be sprinkled with lemon juice and confectioners' sugar and served quickly while hot and high and mighty.
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Confectioners' (powdered) sugar
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Butter one 12-inch skillet or four 6-inch small skillets (with ovenproof handles) or pans (you can use small pie pans or cake pans).
Break the eggs into a small mixing bowl and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add the milk and blend well.
Sift the flour and salt onto a square of waxed paper. Lift the waxed paper up by two corners and let the flour slowly drift into the egg and milk, whisking steadily. Or slowly sift the flour and salt directly into the egg mixture, while whisking to blend and smooth. Add the melted butter and mix briskly so the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. If you are baking small pancakes, they will be done after 15 minutes. If you are baking just one big pancake, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake another 10 minutes.
Sprinkle lemon juice over the pancake (or pancakes) and dust the top(s) with confectioners' sugar. Serve at once.