giant cheese popover-pancake (eggy, chewy, crispy, swell!) + a sweet lemon-scented version

Parmesan popover pancake

photo: sally schneider

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.

Parmesan popover pancake

photo: sally schneider

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.

Dutch Baby skillet popover with Lemon Sugar

photo: Romulo Yanes/Gourmet

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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11 Responses to giant cheese popover-pancake (eggy, chewy, crispy, swell!) + a sweet lemon-scented version

  1. George Lichte 09.30.2011 at 12:07pm #

    Thank you. Brilliant!
    I have played around with savory bread puddings to great success. Never thought of a dutch baby tho. Can’t wait to serve it like Yorkshire pudding (which it basically is).

  2. Jillian 09.30.2011 at 8:30pm #

    And I thought I was a genious for serving Dutch baby for dessert! I will try this savory take!

  3. Louise 10.01.2011 at 7:50am #

    I grew up with this outstsnding dessert. A few slivered almonds or pine nuts(!) were swirled into the butter before pouring the batter into the skillet. Once cooked before getting to the table; sliced fresh strawberries were tossed on top+ a good squeeze of lemon+powdered sugar=pretty!
    Thanks Sally, for the lovely memory, accurate recipe and great improv.

  4. Sarah Richardson 10.01.2011 at 3:55pm #

    We call this “agkaka” and have made it for years. With a salad, it is a favorite easy dinner for busy nights. We don’t season ours at all – just 3 eggs, 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of flour and a bit of sugar. I love the ideas!

  5. Deb Eisloeffel 10.02.2011 at 11:41am #

    I never knew about the “Dutch Baby” name. It has essentially the same ingredients as the crêpe recipe I inherited from my mother-in-law, but is so much easier to make. So in our house we call it “Fat Crêpe” and we serve it as a “breakfast for dinner” meal, topped with flavored yogurt and sliced fresh fruit.

  6. Jim 10.11.2011 at 2:04pm #

    I made the “Dutch Baby” version for dessert the other night. Do you know how hard it is to get oohs and aaahs out of a very hip 13-yr-old boy? I got them, and thank you for helping!

  7. Sally 10.11.2011 at 6:06pm #

    I am THRILLED to hear that great testimonial. Thanks. And thanks to Jane Lear on whose site I spotted the original recipe.

  8. pippin 03.23.2012 at 1:30pm #

    help me! i am addicted to dutch babies! i suggest them for every meal, “How about a Dutch Baby?” “I know, we could have a Dutch Baby!” With 6 eaters, i usually make two. one savory and one sweet. the savory one i put cheese and crumbled bacon into and then sprinkle fresh chives on near the end of the baking. my next one is going to have asparagus and leeks in it. the sweet one, I have been making with orange zest, sugar, and orange extract. i’ll be adding strawberries to that mix soon.
    they poof wonderfully but then collapse after just a few minutes out of the oven. but i had some slices left over today and so i popped them in the toaster and they returned to that crispy, just-out-of-the-oven texture. wonderful with my morning mocha (my other addiction – HELP ME!)

  9. Sally 03.23.2012 at 4:18pm #

    Honey, you don’t need help. You are living in delight!!!!

  10. kate 11.18.2012 at 3:13pm #

    I am confused….in one place you say the formula is 1/3 cup milk and flour to 3 eggs but in the “official recipe you say 2/3 cup flour and milk….which is it?
    you guys are the best!!

  11. Sally 11.19.2012 at 12:58pm #

    You should be confused: my mistake. I’m really sorry but thank you for the catch. In the basic formula it should be 2/3 cup of milk and flour, as it is in the recipe.

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