A Magickal Transformation: Blueberry Baked German Pancake

There are some dishes that seem more to be the work of an alchemist or a sorceress than something a mere cook has whipped together in the kitchen. Baked German pancakes are one such dish: from a simple, runny batter of eggs, milk, flour, salt and butter, poured into a shallow baking dish and popped into a hot oven, emerges a towering, puffy, glorious cumulous cloud of a pancake, golden brown and lighter than air.

When you add a pinch or two of aromatic spices and a tipple of vanilla extract, and perhaps scatter a constellation of freshly plucked blueberries over the batter, the sorcery becomes deeper and more eloquent; the pancake that is drawn from the oven is as fragrant as a field of wildflowers, and as showy as a tiger swallowtail butterfly newly unfurled from her crysalis.

The first time I ever saw and tasted a German pancake was at the home of a friend; her mother made one in her cast-iron skillet from a mixture involving Bisquick, eggs and milk. The resulting runny batter was transmuted in her oven into a cup-shaped blossom of a confection–she served it sprinkled with powdered sugar and filled with freshly sliced strawberries.

She told me it was simple to make, and gave me the recipe, but for whatever reason, at the age of fourteen, I was certain that such a divine creation that was crisp and light as seafoam on the edges, and rich and spongy in the middle, could not be easy. It had to require some trick, some sleight of hand, that I was incapable of performing, so I tucked the recipe away, and eventually, forgot about it.

I did not taste such a thing again for years.

It was not until we moved to Providence, Rhode Island, so that I could attend Johnson & Wales Culinary that I once again beheld the miracle that is called a German pancake, only I found that others called them, Dutch pancakes or “Dutch Babies.”

And I didn’t taste them at school, but instead, at a chain of diners that are ubiquitous in New England: “Bickfords.”

Bickfords is where one goes to eat breakfast all day or all night. It is where one goes for coffee and omelettes at three in the morning after alll the bars are closed, and where one goes for a quick lunch with business collegues the next day. A cross-section of the populace of Providence was in evidence at all hours of the day and night at the local Bickfords, with the human scenery changing from hour to hour. My favorite time to visit was late at night, after Zak was off work at Borders, and I had finished a night class, and was too tired to cook anything to eat at home. At midnight on a weeknight, one saw troops of Goth kids too young for the bar scene, coming for a bite to eat after a long session of role-playing Mage: The Ascention or Vampire: The Masquerade. Dressed in the requisite black fishnet, spikes, lace, leather and chains, with hair in every hue of the rainbow (but with red, black and purple the most popular shades), these folks were great fun to spy upon, as their conversation was dominated by a concatenation of a retelling of the events of their recent gaming sessions, thoughts on the recent anime trends, what was doing on the X-Files, and on ongoing description of who was with who, what and where in their little corner of the high school, early college universe.

These night owls would combine fascinatingly with young couples like ourselves, college students, truck drivers on a long haul, groups of science-fiction geeks, computer programmers and barflies stopping their binge drinking for a little coffee and sustainence before returning to an alcoholic haze.

One of the most popular items on the menu for this disparate group of people to order was the Dutch Pancake, or a smaller version, the “Dutch Baby,” or, if one really needed a jolt of sugar and starch, a “Big Apple Pancake”, which consisted of apples sauteed in butter and sugar that had a quantity of the pancake batter poured over them, and then baked in the oven until a sticky, sugary apple-scented brown cloud of pancake appeared at the table like magic, a feat which never failed to elicit oohs and ahs from the famished late night customers. However, I glancing at their current menu offerings, I see that Bickfords has become “Bickfords Grille” and has removed all versions of the Dutch pancake except the “Big Apple” from their menu, so the puffy, powdered-sugar kissed pancakes served with lemon wedges seem to only live at the Bickfords of my memory, and no longer is a part of current reality.

So, now we come to the recipe. It really is simple, though I do not bother with anything like Bisquick, preferring to not have to use a convenience product that is no more convenient than taking the time to measure flour, salt and baking powder. There is no real alchemy involved, except that which is contained within the eggs, milk, flour and oven themselves: a child could make these cloud-like pancakes with ease, and in fact, it would make a good celebratory breakfast for a future Mother’s or Father’s Day that a youngster of about ten years old could manage.

My variation on the recipe contains some cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla in the batter; just before baking, I scattered a generous handful of fresh blueberries into the batter after it was poured into the pan. I had raspberries, too, but those, I simply served on top of the baked pancake along with more blueberries, powdered sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, from wedges I had ready in a bowl beside the serving plates.


This version would make a good, light, simple dessert for four people; for a light breakfast, it is good for two people.

I have a special Oven Pancake Pan from Chicago Metallic that I use for this recipe, but in truth, you can use a twelve-inch cast iron skillet or a set of four six-inch skillets or miniature pie pans or cake pans to bake this pancake.

I bet it would be good with sweet cherries, strawberries or blackberries baked inside it as well.

Blueberry Baked German Pancake

Ingredients:

3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup fresh blueberries, stemmed, washed and thoroughly drained
lemon wedges for serving
powdered sugar for serving
mixed fresh berries for serving

Method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Butter one 12-inch skillet or pan or four 6-inch skillets or pans.

Break eggs into a medium sized mixing bowl, and beat well until thoroughly combined. Beat in milk and vanilla extract.

Put all dry ingredients into a sifter. Sift over the milk and egg mixture, whisking to combine dry ingredients thorougly with the liquid. The batter should be thin and pale colored.

Whisk in melted butter until the batter is smooth and slightly thicker.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan or pans and scatter the blueberries evenly over the batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F. (If you have a convection oven, as I do, bake only for ten minutes.) If you are making baby pancakes, they will be done after this amount of time–remove from oven, and proceed with serving instructions.

If you are making a large pancake, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes (if you have a convection oven, as I do, bake for only 2 more minutes.)

To serve, dust with powdered sugar, and cut into wedges. Sprinkle each serving with additional berries and give each person a lemon wedge or two to squeeze over thier pancake pieces.

22 Comments

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  1. Hi there just stumbled upon your site. Your first pie reminds me of my grandma :). I used to spend summers with her in upstate NY. We would go out and pick berries and she would make us a pie that looks just like that :)

    Teddy

    Comment by Teddy — June 26, 2006 #

  2. I’m a lurker who absolutely loves your writings on food and cooking. It’s entrancing.

    But.. I am wondering where the name “Dutch pancake” comes from. I live in the Netherlands and I have not seen anything like those! (I also used to live in NY, but have never been to Bickfords, so I can’t say anything about that). It’s possible that it might be eastern German (haven’t seen all of their baked goods) but hearing Dutch makes me curious. Do you know where the name may have come from?

    Comment by Tric — June 26, 2006 #

  3. Oh, Barbara – this is one of my most favorite pancakes. I make it often for supper on those nights I come home late and am too tired to get out other ingredients. While I love blueberries I never thought of using blueberries with this pancake – have used peaches, apples, nectarines – but never blueberries. duh! I use my Le Creuset large frying pan which is perfect in size and shape. Like you, I make mine from scratch (no mix is as good). Thanks for the entry.

    Comment by Maureen — June 26, 2006 #

  4. Tric –

    I bet it’s like how people from Western Pennsylvania are often refered to as “Pennsylvania Dutch” even though they are of German descent. Earlier settlers, unfamiliar with this strange new language, misunderstood “Deutsch” and thought these new German settlers must be “Dutch.” The name persists, even among those who know better. I’ve always known these as German pancakes (and IHOP used to have a more crepe-like version that was divine to me as a child, but they have been phased off any menu I’ve seen recently. Pity).

    Comment by Tammy — June 26, 2006 #

  5. Thanks, Teddy! I am glad to know that I could remind you of your Grandma!

    Tric–Tammy got it exactly right. It likely comes from the habit of calling the Amish/Mennonites “Pennsylvania Dutch” which did indeed come from a misunderstanding of the word, “Deutsch.”

    These pancakes are not Dutch at all–now that I think of it–my friend’s Mom had told me that she had first had them at the home of a Mennonite friend of hers.

    Maureen–the pancake is a good light meal. I wonder if it could be done savory style? Rather like Yorkshire Pudding at that point, though….

    Tammy–Thaks for the comment–I should have thought of that being why they were called “Dutch” pancakes in parts of the US.

    And it is a shame to know that they are being phased out of most restaurant menus–they are very tasty. Luckily, they really aren’t that hard to make.

    Comment by Barbara — June 26, 2006 #

  6. “Original Pancake House” still has the Dutch Baby and Apple Pancake. Some locations have some variations on the Dutch Baby (I have especially fond memories of one filled with bananas and strawberries)

    Comment by Sue — June 26, 2006 #

  7. Thank you so much for this post, Barbara. As you described, until now German Pancakes seemed unaccesable to me, and I was sure there was a trick to getting them to rise. I will be trying this out very, very soon.

    Comment by Kathleen — June 26, 2006 #

  8. Yum, this looks amazing. I’ve never had that type of pancake before – I think I know what I will prepare for breakfast tomorrow morning!

    Comment by Stephanie — June 26, 2006 #

  9. [...] Tigers & Strawberries: Blueberry Baked German Pancake [...]

    Pingback by Tigers at Couteau Bonswan — June 26, 2006 #

  10. Dang it. My Pennsylvania Dutch-trained tastebuds are telling me that I now cannot possibly live without this dish…. mmmmmm…. it sounds fabulous.

    Comment by Kate — June 27, 2006 #

  11. made this last night and it was scrumptious — this recipe is a keeper!

    Comment by nancy — June 27, 2006 #

  12. I am glad that everyone is enjoying this recipe–Nancy–welcome! I am glad you made the pancake and it turned out beautifully. It does every time. It is foolproof, really. So long as you have the basic ingredients in the right proportion and a very hot oven, you will have a puffy, pretty cloudlike pancake as a result.

    Kate–It is easy. Make it for supper for yourself and have a treat!

    Kathleen–there is no trick to it. I used to think the same. It is simple. Go for it!

    Sue–unfortunately, we are sans Original Pancake House here. We go to the one in Miami every time we visit my inlaws, and when I am there, I get it, but now that I know how easily these pancakes are made–I will just make them at home.

    In fact, I made a second one last night for a midnight snack for Zak, Morganna and I, and it was so simple. It was no trouble at all….

    Comment by Barbara — June 27, 2006 #

  13. I first had German pancakes my freshman year of college. The morning after SCA post-revels, one of my friends would make German pancakes. We just had them with lemon and powdered sugar–they are so good! I shall definitely try adding cardamom next time I make them (cardamom seems to improve almost everything).

    It took me months to pry the recipe out of him. :)

    Comment by Mel — June 27, 2006 #

  14. We are so lucky there are a few winners around like this one: show and tasty and easy.
    Love your: as showy as a tiger swallowtail butterfly newly unfurled from her crysalis.

    Comment by tanna — June 28, 2006 #

  15. Mel–some people like to keep secret recipes! I am not really one of them–I like giving them all away.

    Tanna–thank you! But that is really what it made me think of when I took it out–all puffy and wing-like, like it was going to fly out of the pan, and with those lovely spots and splotches where the blueberries baked in–so pretty!

    Comment by Barbara — June 29, 2006 #

  16. Hello, my name is Sus and I am German. Your pancakes look delicious! But I really wonder how everybody agrees to baking them in the oven. I never heard of it before. (But I’m going to try baking them your way :-) )

    The pancakes I know are made of the more or less same batter but they are not put into the oven. A pan is put on the stove with some oil (e.g. sunflower oil). When the oil is hot enough (put a piece of wood in it and watch for bubbles) the batter is poured in. The tricky part is turning the pan cake around to bake the upper side too. Before serving they are sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. When there are no fresh fruits in the batter, usually some preserved fruits are added.

    These pan cakes are not as fluffy as yours although they rise at least one or two centimeters. As a raising agent some sparkling mineral water is usually added directly before baking.
    As it is a main dish hereabouts, each person gets one (or two, if really hungry) pan cakes to eat.

    Greetings, Sus
    (Looking forward to reading more of your intersting articles and recipes.)

    Comment by Sus — June 30, 2006 #

  17. [...] Blueberry Baked German Pancake YUM. (tags: pancakes recipes cooking blueberries blueberry) [...]

    Pingback by Erin S. O’Connor » Blog Archive » links for 2006-06-30 — June 30, 2006 #

  18. This looks sooo good! Is there a way to make them not in the oven? we don’t have a cast iron skillet. is there a way to make them like regular pancakes?

    Comment by Ana — July 4, 2006 #

  19. Sus–my guess about why these pancakes are baked in the US is because of an innovation from the Amish and Mennonite farmers wives who popularized them in the US. Why bake them? I am not sure, except that it might have relieved the cooktop for making other foods at the same time? Or, they could have been made in the fireplace in Dutch ovens–cast iron pots with flat lids that can be buried in the coals to act like small portable ovens?

    I think I will have to do more research.

    Ana–if you look at Sus’ comment above, you can see a method for frying them on the stovetop. I have not done it myself, but apparently, folks in Germany do it all the time. They do not rise as high or as dramatically, however.

    On the other hand–do you have a pie pan? Or a cake pan? A pie pan with sloped sides is better than a cake pan, but I have seen these made in pie pans in the oven before. Give that a shot before trying to cook them on the stovetop. Just follow the recipe as written and see what happens. The pan doesn’t have to be cast iron–a glass or aluminum pie pan would work just fine.

    Good luck!

    Comment by Barbara — July 4, 2006 #

  20. I love this recipe but by panckae edges start to burn after the 15 mins-so i never do the 10 at 350. I have regular over???

    Comment by Allison — April 17, 2007 #

  21. Try twelve minutes at 450, Allison.

    Are they cooked through after the first baking?

    Comment by Barbara — April 17, 2007 #

  22. Hi! Worked as a manager in the pre-grille Bickford’s days 10 years. Though we had our own dry mix shipped in,key was not overmixing. After all other wet/dry ingredients add your slightly beaten eggs. We also heated our skillet with margerine blend on the stove top, placing cooked apples (no cin) liberally throughout not bunched in middle. We cooked it on the range until it just starts to firm, then into a 475 oven for about 8 minutes..you will see the edges begin to rise. Making sure you have an ov glove, take out. Make sure bottom is firm and cooked, shake cin/sugar blend to taste on top and carefully remove and flip like an omelette. Press down on cake gingerally with spatula and replace in oven for another 6-8 minutes or until it is fully risen on the edges and golden to dark brown. Immediatly remove with ov glove and flip onto a wqiting properly sized plate so it looks like a bundt cake. Take care of heated liquid margerine hitting your hands or arm. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediatly for the ooh and ahh effect of the once great (pre Sandy Milley ownership) of Bickford’s. Will someone please rescue this once great chain that Milley has ruined?

    Comment by Manny — July 10, 2008 #

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