Cooking from Scratch: The simply huge German pancake

I had never heard of a German pancake until the first Christmas that Sweet Husband and I spent alone together. I was contemplating our holiday menu — which of our family traditions we would incorporate and which ones to let go — when he chimed in with a recipe from his childhood, “We should definitely have German pancakes for Christmas morning.”

I dutifully consulted my sister-in-law for the recipe, expecting some manner of complicated Bavarian pastry, but I was pleasantly surprised when the instructions she read to me were easier than making regular pancakes.

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One German pancake is big enough to serve a small family.

Also known as a “Dutch baby,” a German pancake is rich, egg-y breakfast concoction that puffs up impressively in the oven. While the dramatic presentation is certain to get you a few “ohhs” and “ahhs,” a German pancake only takes five common ingredients to make: butter, flour, milk, a pinch of salt and eggs. It’s typically topped with something sweet — we like jam, lemon juice and powdered sugar — but even that is pretty amenable to what you have on hand.

This simplicity and flexibility makes German pancakes a delicious breakfast option not only for the holidays but for any cold winter morning when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the cupboard is bare.

The only remotely tricky bit is that a German pancake needs to be served and eaten immediately, as it will quickly begin to fall once it’s pulled out of the oven. I like to prepare a little buffet of toppings, gather the troops ‘round the table, and then theatrically pop the pancake in the middle where we can all break off pieces, family-style. We’re always plenty full after just one, but if your family is big enough to need more than one pancake, definitely start eating the first one as the next is cooking.

Recently, I’ve seen food bloggers making “mini” German pancakes by following the directions below but putting small dollops of batter in the cups of a muffin tin instead of using a skillet. It takes a little more butter to do it that way — you have to make sure every spot in the muffin tin is well-greased or the pancakes will stick — but otherwise it’s an easy modification to make.

German Pancakes

Ingredients

Makes one, 10-inch pancake, which is filling enough to easily serve 2 and probably more.

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

Toppings of your choice

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Put the butter in a 10-inch skillet with an oven-proof handle. Place the pan in the oven until the butter melts.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt and milk. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each egg. Don’t worry if the batter looks thin — that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Carefully pull the hot skillet out of the oven and give it a swirl to distribute the butter up the edges. Then, pour in the batter and quickly swirl the pan again to get it to distribute to the edges. You’re just trying to evenly coat the pan, not mix the batter with the butter.

Bake your German pancake for about 15 minutes or until the sides puff up and the center is set. Slide it onto a plate, and serve it immediately with jam, sugar, lemon juice, maple syrup or whatever other sweet toppings you may have on hand.

— Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in Lawrence and writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day at mybitofearth.net.

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