Ask Chef Phyllis:
I need something special that kids (ages eight, ten, and twelve) can help prepare on Mother’s Day for our mom. She loves pancakes, but I don’t think I can manage frying all those pancakes without help. Is there a big pancake that’s easy and special too? Any suggestions? —Mariead Q. from Cambridge, Massachusetts
The memories you make today will last a lifetime, Mairead. A special meal that you and your siblings make together would be a lovely Mother’s Day gift. And you can surely eliminate last-minute fuss when planning brunch since this elegant recipe won’t take longer than a few minutes to prepare. Many hands make light work, my mother always said!
Delicious, easy, and cleverly made in the oven, a large Dutch baby or German pancake puffs like a souffle and makes quite an impression. If you’re comfortable using the oven, I think this recipe may be the answer. The use of a spatula and the perfect timing needed to properly make pancakes in a frying pan or on a griddle is a learned skill. It takes practice, but that’s another post.
Dutch babies are traditionally cooked in a large, heavy cast-iron skillet. But for easier handling, I suggest you use two (9-inch) layer cake pans. They’ll still rise magnificently all by themselves in a moderately hot oven.
The following recipe calls for apples in the batter. But you may choose peaches, ripe pears, or another fruit if your mom prefers.
¾ cup white whole-wheat flour (or ¼ cup whole wheat combined with ½ cup unbleached white flour)
¾ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup butter (half a stick)
2 apples, peaches, or pears, skin on, thinly sliced (I use one each Granny Smith and Gala)
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or maple syrup
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Special equipment: 2 (9-inch) layer cake pans (preferred for kids) or a 12-inch cast-iron skillet
- Heat oven to 400°F. Place cake pans in the oven.
- With wire whisk or hand mixer, beat eggs, flour, milk, salt, and vanilla in a small bowl for 1 minute.
- Protecting your hands with oven mitts, carefully remove pans from the oven. Place 2 tablespoons butter in each pan, rolling it around until it melts and coats the sides of the pans.
- Arrange half of the apples in each pan. Using a spoon, divide half the batter in each pan.
- Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over the batter. Return to oven and bake uncovered 20–25 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately (as they sink rapidly.
Chef’s note: When my children were young (and in my opinion, they’re never too young), two activities took center stage—reading and cooking. Hanging on my hip, they’d chose a book to read with the same enthusiasm that they’d chose a vegetable or fruit in Poppa’s garden. This kind of hands-on, “soil to table” experience contributed to their lifelong desire for knowledge and a health. What an advantage!
Image from iStock/ALLEKO