I’m thinking that I may have a serious pancake addiction.
When I tried the Walker Bros. apple pancake three years ago, it sparked an epiphany ”“ but I didn’t know it then. After all, I had just one bite of that pancake and I don’t recall any bells or whistles or the sounds of angels playing harps on high. It was just a pancake, for crying out loud; and it wasn’t even my dish.
Fast forward to the present, and I find myself thinking more and more about that baked pancake. I can’t pinpoint what sets it off, but my incessant pancake reveries load the gun, and an onslaught of baked pancake recipes pulls the trigger. I make one baked pancake in 2007, two in 2008, and NINE in 2009, and this year’s only half over!
This isn’t just your average, Pancake House, stack o’ flapjacks pancakes that I’m talking about here, but baked pancakes. Also known as Dutch babies, Dutch Bunny, German Apple Pancake, or oven pancake, this doughy disc is a spectacular result of the lifting power of eggs and heat. The batter is simple: milk, flour, butter, salt and two to three eggs. Mixed in a blender for better aeration, it’s then poured over a shallow pan (usually 10-inches wide) in which some fruit (usually apples) has been caramelized with brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. It’s baked quickly in the oven at high heat and it comes out like the diva that it is; dramatic sloped sides, a golden exterior pocked with burnished bits of molten sugar, and the now-translucent slices of fruit scintillating in juice, heady with the scent of melted butter.
Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.
Because an oven pancake has no leavening (baking powder, baking soda), its texture is a cross between crepe, popover, and pancake. It’s quite dense, definitely not your typical fluffy buttermilk pancake. But it makes for a stunning breakfast or brunch centerpiece. It’s also impossible to stop eating. Most people blanch at its size, managing only a quarter portion, at most, half.Â I, on the other hand, can polish off the whole thing by myself.
My goal in making all these pancakes is to recreate the baked pancake that I had at Walker Bros. in Chicago three years ago. Though a return trip there would be ideal, it’s not possible at present, so I make do tweaking and trimming, refining and revising in order to achieve that slightly cakey, sticky-sweet Walker Bros. wonder that is my Holy Grail of Pancakes.