We were poking around food editor and writer Jane Lear‘s website, when we came across a trove of great articles, including one of her pieces for Gourmet Magazine, where she was its Senior Articles Editor for many years. Called Transformers, the premise is that with 3 eggs and two lemons on hand, you can make 5 terrific desserts. Right up our alley. The recipe that caught our eye was a Dutch Baby with Lemon Sugar, basically a giant popover with pancake overtones cooked in an iron skillet, onto which you sprinkle lemon sugar for a bit of crackle at the last minute. It’s GREAT, easy and made with ordinary ingredients, our favorite combo. (On our second try, we monkeyed with the recipe slightly; see the Note below).
As we were gobbling it, we thought: Couldn’t this also be great savory instead of sweet? We imagined it baked with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to make something akin to a giant gougere, an eggy, crispy cheese puff usually made in bite-size portions. We we tried our idea out then-and-there.
Our plan: to take out the sweet stuff, vanilla and spices from the recipe to leave the essential batter in place. Then add grated Parmigiano and flavorings that complement it: cayenne, nutmeg, black pepper, salt. The first try was a bust: we’d mixed too much cheese into the batter, which then didn’t have enough ballast to rise, and baked into stodgy pancake. So we mulled it a bit and tried a different strategy: Using less cheese and sprinkling it on TOP of the batter before popping it into the oven. The result: a hugely puffed fragrant cheese creation: part crispy, part chewy, part eggy/pancakey delight…We ate the whole thing.
We imagined what a great little lunch or supper it would be for two, OR even better, a dramatic hors d’oeuvres to serve with cocktails or wine AND a perfect midnight snack, after a night of carousing.
And best of all, we found we had a formula:
take the basic batter: 3 eggs + 2/3 cup milk + 2/3 cup flour + salt + 2 tablespoons butter
-turn it sweet, by adding sweet spices and vanilla and sprinkling it at the end with lemon sugar
-turn it savory, by sprinkling 1/2 cup finely grated cheese on top OR stirring a few tablespoons finely snipped chives into the batter
Just follow the steps in the recipe below.
Note: You’ll find Gourmet’s original recipe for Dutch Baby with Lemon Sugar here. We found that using only 2 tablespoons of butter and mixing some of it into the batter worked best. And we like letting each person sprinkle as much Lemon Sugar on their serving as they like. You’ll have way more than you need, but it keeps indefinitely to use on all sorts of things, including French toast and yogurt – or your next Dutch Baby.
Recipe: Giant Parmigiano Popover Pancake
The secret to getting a big PUFF is to have the eggs and milk at room temperature (take them out 30 to 45 minutes before you make it) AND having a really hot pan.
Serves 2 to 4, or 1 crazed person
3 large eggs, broken into a medium bowl and left at room temperature for 30 minutes
2/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2/3 cup all-purpose flour (spooned into a measuring cup and leveled off)
Scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
A pinch of cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper
A few scrapings of nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup loosely-packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Put a 10-inch cast-iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 450′ for about 20 minutes.
While the pan is heating, measure out your ingredients, adding the salt, cayenne, pepper and nutmeg to the flour. At the end of the 20 minutes, mix the batter:
Beat the eggs with a whisk until well blended, then beat in the milk. Add the flour mixture and whisk until blended.
Remove the pan from the oven and add the butter; swirl to coat the bottom and sides completely (if necessary, use a brush to swab the sides.) Pour the melted butter into the batter and whisk a few times to combine. Then scrape the batter into the hot pan. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the batter. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250′ and cook 5 minutes longer.
Serve at once, cutting or tearing the pancake into pieces.
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