Sourdough Dutch Baby.

Continuing on the theme of crazy Springtime weather, I heated my kitchen this morning by turning on the oven. I'm not sure I've ever made a Dutch Baby before, or why it popped into my head this morning. It's possible that the dinner I had with friends last night (in which we declared the burritos to be as big as babies, and jokes circulating about babies, D. stating that he felt so full that there was a baby in his belly...) seeped into my subconscious and I had babies on the brain as soon as my feet hit the floor this morning.

Dutch babies are essentially egg heavy pancakes that are baked instead of griddled. I shouldn't say that I've never eaten them, since I have under the name of oven pancake. I did some summer camp cooking when I was younger, and a staple of the health-minded cook I worked under was the oven pancake. Huge amounts of eggs, unrefrigerated, lest she would cause you to lose your fingers she assured us, flour and enormous baking sheets, and slabs of gelatinous puffy pancake was baked short order for hungry middle-schoolers. About half of the kids didn't like it, but I always did, and I figured a cold morning was just as good a time as any to revisit this taste memory.

I also have this renewed love for my cast iron, and while the home-baked oven pancakes of my past were done in glass, I liked the idea of using a skillet. I also liked the idea of using up some sourdough starter. In short order, I found this amazingly detailed and sound recipe for them that met my desired criteria. By the time the oven was heated, the batter was blended and the dishes already done.

I used a number 5 Wagner skillet, which oddly is about 6 1/2 inches of cooking surface, and nearly 8 inches across the top. I had a thinnish pancake, that didn't puff tremendously... but I think I'll let the skillet get hotter before adding the batter next time. I also have a well-seasoned pan, so I only used about a tablespoon of butter. I had no sticking, the butter was buttery in the surface of the finished pancake.

Sourdough Dutch Babies (from InnerLodge. See the original recipe for pan size/cook time ratios.)
  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c. sourdough starter (mine is 100% hydration)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar (could use honey or maple syrup), optional
  • 2 T. milk
Preheat oven to 425.

Blend eggs, starter, salt, milk and sugar if using. You can use a blender, or do it by hand.

When oven has come up to temperature, place butter in the skillet, and place the skillet in the oven to let the butter melt. (You can also let the brown the butter if you prefer.) When the butter is melted, and the pan hot, remove the pan from oven. Pour in the batter, return to oven, and bake for 10-15 minutes until the pancake is puffy and lightly browned.

Out of the oven, it will start to deflate immediately. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar when it's still hot, and when it cools a bit, it will form (and this is for you, Julia) a "pellicle" of sorts as it melts into any butter that pooled then baked on top...

I will confess that the Boy-O didn't like the Baby. He was excited, in his nearly-5-year-old rational way of thinking he said "WOW. That pancake will be the same size as that pan?" It's possible he thought it would just be a giant sourdough pancake, which he is accustomed to eating. When I cut it into quarters, dispersed the blueberries, drenched it in maple syrup it still didn't appeal to him - but to his credit, and my amazement, he did try it 4 times. What possibly did not appeal to him were the things that did appeal to me: the slightly sour, fermented sourdough flavor, the wiggly mouthfeel, the eggy oven pancake taste that I was after.

I brewed some coffee that I drank hot, I put on another shirt over the long sleeve one I was wearing. After a belly full of sweet breakfast, I have decided to pretend today is late September and not mid-June, and I look forward to a day of indoor organizing, cleaning, and maybe making these before heading across the street to a birthday party this afternoon. Meanwhile, the garden grows, I save my energies for the work I know is coming... the Dutch Baby tucked into my sourdough arsenal for quick, cool morning breakfasts in the future.

Sourdough Pancake Experiment

Because I was so excited with the success of my pretzels the other day, and because I'm certain that my sourdough starter is starting to have the good behavior of a properly maturing adolescent starter, I had to try making another quickbread. Though lately I was passionately in love with the waffle, pancakes are really where it's at for this Midwestern lass. So, branching gingerly out, I chose a sourdough pancake with a long rise - indeed you can leave it up to 24 hours if you wish - and couldn't be more pleased with the result!

I received an encouraging email back from the bakers at King Arthur Flour yesterday. I contacted them wondering if they had any tips for the sourdough starter I've been working on. I am a devoted KAF flour user, and even though I don't typically splurge on their organic flours, I use their AP flour, bread flour and whole wheat flours exclusively. I get my specialty flours from the Outpost bulk bins, since I can get them in small amounts and they are always fresh.

According to a recent catalogue article I read, King Arthur does purchase wheat solely from US farmers who also have good sustainability practices in place. Aside from being the oldest flour company (1790!), they also have demanding standards which ensure that even from crop to crop and year to year, their flours are consistent in composition. I love that they are an enormous company, yet answer every individual question - and have painstaking amazing recipes. I was so happy to hear from Frank, who assured me that sourdoughs are unique to their environments, and that mine probably just needs a bit of rye flour here and there to thrive and do his best.

For about a week now, I've been feeding my starter with one feeding of rye every 4 or 5 feedings (I feed twice a day), depending on if it starts looking sluggish or not. I can't believe how it grows between feedings now, and is deflated when I stir it. I also can't believe how light it makes baked goods.

These pancakes are entirely whole grain, yet they were extremely light. I usually eat 2 (4 inch) pancakes when I make them using AP flour, but ate 4 of these without even blinking. The Boy-O had me beat, he ate 5 for breakfast this morning, and I actually had to tell him that he couldn't eat any more. I also think they were so delicious since I fried them in a cast iron skillet brushed with ghee. I made ghee yesterday for the first time, and am hooked. It's slightly nutty flavor was so great, especially baked onto the outside of a healthy pancake!

I finally found that straining the ghee after 10 minutes of rest through a coffee filter was the best way to strain it...

I found the original recipe for sourdough pancakes at The Nourishing Gourmet. Kimi Harris has a great site, full of great recipes for whole foods, and quite a lot of information on healthy eating. I cut her recipe in half, and even at that, had 8 leftover pancakes. I'm sure they will toast up well tomorrow. I also think these would be excellent as little blini pancakes, topped with caviar or smoked salmon and creme fraiche even cream cheese topped with slices of cucumber, radish and dill. They are pretty amazing just plain with maple syrup, too.

Mix up the starter portion at least 3-4 hours before you want to eat pancakes, or really anywhere between 3-24 hours. I started mine last night before bed, and it was ready to go by 7 this morning, even in a pretty chilly kitchen, since I forgot to close the window last night...

Sourdough Pancakes (adapted from Kimi Harris, The Nourishing Gourmet)
makes 18-20 4 inch pancakes

For the starter:
  • 1/2 c. starter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 3/4 c. multi grain flour (I used 1/2 c. whole wheat, 1/2 c. barley, 3/8 c. (6T.) cornmeal, and 3/8 c. rye flour)
To make the pancakes:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
3-24 hours before you want pancakes, mix the ingredients for the starter in a large bowl. Make sure it's big enough to accommodate some rising action. When pancake making time comes, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir until just mixed. You can adjust the consistency of the batter if you like by adding a bit of water or milk.

Fry in a hot pan, preferably cast iron, as you do with pancakes. Try not to eat them all at once.

Armed with new confidence in my starter, I think I'm going to keep feeding it as I have been for the past week: watching for sluggishness and fortifying with rye for about a month before starting to work on another bread. I think my starter needs to acclimate to me and my kitchen, and gain his own confidence in his rising capabilities. And I hate to say it, but I think that my next loaf of bread may come from a King Arthur Flour recipe and not one from Nancy Silverton. I hope she'll forgive me.