I have an aunt who can pull off a multi-course dinner for a crowd without breaking a sweat (or letting her Michelob Ultra get warm). It’s my life goal to achieve that kind of effortless hosting: the ability to breezily pull an impressive dish from the oven, still warm and ready to serve just as people settle down to eat.
I am far, far from achieving this. But I am officially one step closer, thanks to a newly discovered bake: the savory Dutch baby.
Dutch babies — or puff pancakes, as they’re sometimes called — are large, fluffy pancakes baked in a skillet that rise dramatically in the oven before collapsing after baking. This process results in a custardy interior and puffed, slightly crunchy edges. It’s like a cross between a soufflé and a crêpe.
Dutch babies are also typically sweet affairs. A breakfast or brunch treat, they’re topped with things like fresh fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream, and a shower of confectioners’ sugar. But cookbook author Emma Laperruque takes a different, more versatile approach: She goes savory with her recipe for Rye Puff Pancake with Greens and Eggs. She makes her batter with rye flour, which adds a hearty, nutty flavor that complements the sautéed kale and fried egg toppings. “My family is Jewish, so I grew up eating a lot of rye bread,” says Emma. “I love its hearty, nutty flavor.”
Recipe developer Melissa Clark takes a similar course with her Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby, which is topped by a salty, frico-like layer of baked Parmesan that gives way to a soft, cheesy interior. “The original inspiration was gougères — those savory choux pastry cheese puffs,” Melissa explains. “I thought, what would happen if I crossed gougères with a Dutch baby? Turns out, very good things!”
What’s great about these pancakes is that they’re inherently designed for communal eating. While you can make individual servings in a mini cast iron pan or eat an entire pancake yourself (I’ve done it), they’re ideal for eating among friends since they’re baked and served all in one pan. “No one wants to stand at the stove flipping pancake after pancake after pancake for a crowd,” says Emma. “Throwing it in the oven and setting a timer means you get to leave the kitchen and hang out with whoever you invited over.” And nothing can top the admiring exclamations when you serve the towering, steaming Dutch baby straight from the oven. It’s very gratifying.
What your dining companions don’t need to know, of course, is how little effort it took to pull off such an impressive dish. Basically, all you need to do is whisk together an eggy batter, then pour it straight into a hot skillet before shuffling it off to the oven. This simple method means you have plenty of time to prepare any other dishes or sip a mimosa with friends.
Another great aspect of the savory puff pancake is its versatility. While it’s perfect for brunch, it can just as easily be served for another meal. “Savory [Dutch babies] are great to serve as a super easy dinner, or as an hors d’oeuvre with cocktails,” says Melissa. Plus, “You can usually make them from pantry staples, meaning they're great to whip up when you think there's nothing in the house for dinner.”
Whether you opt for a savory or sweet Dutch baby, it's all puff, no fuss: Try one for your next brunch, or even for a simple weeknight meal.
Cover photo (Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby) by Kristin Teig.