We’ve embarked on the SS Pancake Project to travel the world while we’re stuck at home through the marvels of pancakes and flatbreads. There are plenty of kinds of cakeybreads from all over the world that will suffice! One of my friends suggested the Dutch baby, a giant pancake that you bake in the oven and top with either savory or sweet things. OK, great! Dutch! Global! Travel! World! Only…
It’s an American creation.
One thing that can be hard to come by in the history of food is universal acceptance of a food’s origins and yet, it is universally accepted that the Dutch baby, neither Dutch nor small, was created in Manca’s Cafe in Seattle, WA, some time around the turn of the century. The 19th into the 20th century. I guess I have to specify this. Anyway. Based on the traditional German Apfelfannkuchen (which I totally plan to make on this journey), the Dutch baby was so named because restaurateur Victor Manca’s daughter was too young to say “Deutsch”, German, correctly. It’s the same jacked-up speech issue that gave us the term Pennsylvania-Dutch for PA German immigrants, but I digress. As goes the way of all things, Manca’s Cafe has now become a Starbuck’s. Moving on.
Want to just read the recipe with measurements and directions? Click below.
This recipe comes together relatively easily, so be ready to move. Heat your oven to 425°F (220°C) and move racks so that there is nothing over the middle rack. The Dutch baby will rise while it bakes and you don’t want anything to impede it as it cooks. Put a cast-iron/oven-safe pan in the oven (I really recommend cast iron here) and let it heat up too, because you want it to be hot and create lots of steam, which will aid in the Dutch baby’s rise.
Chop the mushrooms, mince the garlic, finely dice the onions, de-stem the thyme and chop your fresh herbs. Hold to the side.
Mix eggs, flour, honey, and milk into a smooth, fairly thick batter. Add half the thyme and fresh herbs, the salt*, and the pepper. Stir together.
*Keep an eye on the salt. Since I’m also adding salty cheese to the batter, and tossing more cheese on at the end, I don’t feel like this needs a bunch of salt in the mix.
Then, when the oven dings its ready hello, take the pan out and swirl two tablespoons of butter around the pan. If you don’t like butter you can use the oil of your choice, but the important thing is to coat the hot pan in cooking fat so it may then receive the Dutch baby batter. Pour it into the hot pan, and then top with about half of the grated cheese.
YUMMMMM. This is the Platonic ideal of “off to a good start”.
Put your Dutch baby back in the oven, and then get the mushrooms going. Heat a large (very large) pan, and the two tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is nice and hot and ready to receive, add the mushrooms.
A few things about mushrooms.
- Yes, this pan is more crowded than I would like. But I also didn’t want to cook the mushrooms in batches because I am impatient. When mushrooms are this crowded they will more steam than caramelize. Which is still OK, since they will still release all the water in their cells and concentrate their mushroomy goodness. They just won’t turn caramelized and get as brown when they cook.
- If you are trying to caramelize the mushrooms, DO NOT TOUCH THEM. Leave them alone for 3, 4, 5 minutes. Don’t stir them. Don’t poke them with a fork. Don’t even breathe at them. Just leave them. If you start to turn them before they caramelize they will, as above, release the water in their cells and not get as brown as you’d like.
- This looks like a butt ton of mushrooms. Don’t worry. They cook down.
Once they have started to cook down, add the onions and garlic and let them all saute together. Then, add wine or broth and let that cook in for a few minutes. You’re almost there when you can’t really smell the alcohol from the wine, and/or the broth is nearly cooked out if you move things around in your pan. Should you need a few more minutes for the Dutch baby to finish baking and you don’t want to take the mushrooms off the heat, then drop the heat in your pan low and add broth or water in very small increments and stir, to prevent sticking.
Right before you are ready to take the baby out of the oven (that sounds alarming), stir in a nice big handful of greens, like spinach or arugula, and let it wilt in the pan. Finish the mushrooms and greens with the final tablespoon of butter and take them off the heat.
Now. Here comes the fun part.
Remove the Dutch baby from the oven. What you should, hopefully, see before you is a glorious shell that climbs upward toward Heaven because it is just that good.
Say hello gorgeous and thank your lucky stars that you have been given the ability to eat magical food like this. Add the mushroom mix in the middle and top with the remaining fresh herb of choice and Parmesan cheese.
Serve quickly, because this is essentially a sort-of flat souffle and it will start to fall as soon as it’s out of the heat. Cut that baby into slices and serve. This would go nicely with a simple green salad; we served ours with slow-roasted tomatoes because we had them in the fridge, and that will be a recipe for another day.
Now, it’s time to eat! Enjoy your food, and go check out what sort of delicious things the world has to offer.