An Edible Conundrum: The Pancake That’s Not a Pancake

April 5, 2010 · 10 comments

The perfect solution.

It’s a problem that we always face in my house: I want smoked fish in the morning, and Susan would rather have a cinnamon bun. If I yield to pancakes or waffles, I have to have them with bacon, or ham, for salt balance; if Susan had her way, her early food (anything served before 1 pm) would be slathered with honey. Or jam. And possibly sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Assuming she’s not eating a blueberry bagel.

Until fairly recently, this resulted in our eating the same thing on lazy mornings–who likes to cook two separate dishes?–and one of us always wound up feeling shortchanged. If Susan made pancakes, I’d eat pancakes, but then I’d have to have a meat product of some kind to take the edge off the sweetness. If I made poached eggs, or omelets, Susan would need something involving preserves, and if she didn’t get it, there was an inevitable midday yen for a cookie of some sort.

Both Susan and I were at home on Friday, reveling in the fact that we could sleep as late as we wanted to, and move around as slowly as we needed to, and it wasn’t even the weekend yet. By the time we were at the table, drinking tea and reading the paper, it was almost noon. By the time we decided on food, it was almost one. And by that time, Susan had decided on pancakes.

But I didn’t want pancakes. I didn’t want anything sweet first thing, because I never do. I didn’t want any toast, and we didn’t have any bagels, or fish in the house. What to make for a simple meal that could be either sweet or savory and enjoyed any time of the day?

The pancake that’s not a pancake. It takes virtually no time to put together, and when it comes out of the oven, it makes everyone happy: it can be sliced in half, or in quarters, and doused in maple syrup or honey; dolloped with fresh or stewed fruit; sprinkled with cheese and shoved back into the oven for a minute or so; drenched in chile sauce; or topped with an egg; or served with a salad. The possibilities are endless. Even better: it’s cheap as air, since you don’t have to run out to the store to buy a container of buttermilk, which you will use once and then find in the bowels of your refrigerator in eight months. Better still? It contains three ingredients (not including oil for the pan, and pinches of nutmeg and salt), all of which you likely have.

The best news of all? The sweet and savory battle has officially been declared a draw. Peace, at last.

Simple Baked Pancake

Variations of this recipe exist virtually everywhere; in some places, it appears to be Dutch, and in others, German. Some recipes call for the inclusion of butter in the batter, and some don’t. The only caveat: it has to be eaten immediately, and begins to fall the minute it’s removed from the oven. This version, which is one of the easiest I’ve ever seen, comes from Elizabeth Alston’s Pancakes and Waffles (HarperCollins, 1993).

Serves 2

1 tablespoon mild olive oil

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup all purpose flour

pinch salt

pinch ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a nine inch cast iron skillet with the oil, and place in oven for five minutes.

2. Beat together the eggs, milk, flour, salt, and nutmeg. Pour batter into the hot pan, and bake, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes without opening the oven door, until pancake is puffed and crisp. Cut in wedges to serve.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 virginia willis April 5, 2010 at 1:35 pm

YUM! I SERIOUSLY, not kidding, thought about making this yesterday for breakfast. Mama makes one similar that’s more on the sweet side, but I like this more savory version. I, too, like savory (and meat). But, I also like vegetables for breakfast. How good could this be with freshly chopped summer tomato? Yum. Thanks for the idea. Can’t wait to try it!

2 Diane Morgan April 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm

YES!!! A seriously delicious weekend favorite. You can add a 1/2 cup of grated muenster for a savory pancake–my kids called it cheese pie. Or, for the spring–make a quick rhubarb sauce as a topping. I think a smear of lox cream cheese on top would work, too, with a teaspoon of snipped chives added to the batter 🙂

3 Tinky April 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Coming soon to a kitchen near me. Thanks!

4 Sally King April 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I’m with YOU, girl. Savory–not sweet–is my preference. Thanks for the recipe…it sounds fabulous (with a side of bacon or sausage, of course…) PS I worked in Elizabeth Alston’s NY test kitchen (Redbook magazine) for many years….she was a true mentor…Luv ya, ‘Liz!

5 Jacqueline Church April 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

We have the same sweet-savory divide. It doesn’t end with breakfast. Snacks, desserts he’d eat a block of sugar and I’d be happy with a salt lick. We do find compromises.

I’d take a Japanese breakfast any day – grilled fish, rice, miso? Even cold, leftover pizza – elegant to low brow.

Btw what do we call this the “Un-pancake?” – I just wrote about waffles – again the divide. Belgian or standard? You know where I come down.

6 Elissa April 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm

German pancake. Or Dutch pancake. Pankuchen?

7 Holly April 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I’ve been hearing about these pancakes (I’ve heard them referred to as “Dutch babies”), and have been looking for a good recipe to try…although I must admit, mine would probably be topped with something sweet…

8 Deborah Madison April 5, 2010 at 8:06 pm

I love Dutch babies and they way they can go this way or that!
So glad you mentioned this- it’s been way too long.

9 Susan April 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm

RHUBARB SAUCE!!!! Diane, I love you. Our rhubarb is just starting to come up, but I’ll be hovering over it from now until May, knife in hand.

10 Kathy April 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

When I was a kid we regularly made ‘dutch babies’ from a sunset mag recipe. Can’t wait to make some again now that I have a recipe! Thanks for jogging me down such a happy memory lane.

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