We Tried 5 Methods for Sky-High Dutch Baby Pancakes and Didn’t Expect These Results
As the morning person in my household, I am the flipper of pancakes, the griddler of French toast, and the waffler of waffles. But for me, the Dutch baby is queen of breakfast carbs.
The term “Dutch baby” is often attributed to Manca’s, a long-shuttered Seattle diner. The dish is an eggy German pancake, which means that Dutch has more to do with “Deutsch” than it does the Netherlands. Baked in the oven, this “pan cake” is actually nothing like an American-style pancake (or a cake, for that matter). And as anyone who has spent a morning flipping pancakes for a crowd can attest, the Dutch baby is a breakfast game-changer, thanks to its wow factor relative to its ease of preparation.
The batter — a pourable mix of equal parts flour and milk with a few eggs — comes together in moments and bakes to puffy perfection in a hot skillet. When it emerges — tall, golden, and buttery — the batter has curled into a crispy crown with a recessed center that invites toppings both sweet and savory.
Except when it doesn’t. Sometimes Dutch babies fail to rise as high as one hopes. And that’s a bummer. Although most recipes are relatively simple — calling for whisking ingredients either by hand, or in a blender or food processor — a few add in some extra steps, like whipping the eggs first or letting the batter rest. Could any of those variables make a difference between a puffy pancake and one that’s more reluctant to rise? To find out, I put five methods to the test.
A Few Notes About Methodology
Recipe vs. ratio: Most of our Skills Showdowns focus on the preparation of a single ingredient with a laser focus on technique, but comparing entire recipes introduces an unwieldy set of variables. How, for example, could I fairly compare two different cooking methods if one recipe calls for a 12-inch skillet and the other a 10-inch skillet? Or the same measure of flour, but with different amounts of eggs or butter?
In order to truly focus this test on cooking technique instead of a more subjective recipe comparison, I needed to zero in on a single, generally agreed upon, ratio of ingredients. In order to do this, I read as many Dutch baby recipes as I could find, scouring my own cookbook collection and the internet and polling friends for their go-to recipes.
Dutch baby rules: The only absolutely necessary ingredients for a Dutch baby are flour, milk, eggs, and butter. Some call for sugar, some salt, and some additional flavoring ingredients including vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
One rule on proportions, though: Flour and milk quantities appear in equal volumes. No matter how many eggs are in a recipe, no matter what else is going on in there, none of the recipes I read strayed from this ratio.
The only other non-negotiable is that the pan has got to be ripping hot ahead of time. Many recipes call for preheating the skillet inside the oven as it comes up to temperature. The thinking is that the temperature differential between the batter and the fat in the pan causes the explosive reaction that gives a Dutch baby its crown shape rather than, you know, a big flat disk.
With these ratios and rules in mind, I created a master plan for testing: I settled on 3 eggs, 1/2 cup (60 grams) Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup (120 grams) Organic Valley whole milk. I also added 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 4 teaspoons (18 grams) granulated sugar. I measured all ingredients by weight for each test using a kitchen scale. I cooked each batch of batter in 3 tablespoons (40 grams) of unsalted butter swirled in the preheated pan until just melted, foamy, and beginning to brown.
Master mixer: When we first came up with the idea for this story, we planned to compare blender vs. food processor, but lots of Dutch baby recipes (including our own) treat these tools with an either/or approach. For all but the bowl and whisk method, I blended the batter on medium-low in a Vitamix blender in a narrow jar, pausing for a moment to scrape down any dry patches from the sides with a rubber spatula. Why not a food processor? Because they are often such a pain to clean, and because a single batch of the testing batter represents only about 2 cups of liquid, so the blender just seemed easier.
Oven and skillet: A few recipes call for a two-stage cooking process, starting hot and then lowering the temperature, but the majority of the recipes I read stick to a single and relatively hot temperature. I settled on 425°F. And although it’s definitely possible to bake a Dutch baby in a ceramic or tempered glass casserole dish, I sought out recipes written to be made in an oven-safe frying pan. Some recipes call for 12-inch and others 8-inch, so we split the difference. I tested all five Dutch babies in a preheated Lodge 10.25-inch cast iron skillet and baked them for 15 minutes, except in one case where I removed it after 11 minutes because I was worried it would singe to a blackened crisp and my whole house would smell like eggs on fire.
Tests: I tested each method once, measuring for height as soon as I removed the pan from the oven and set it on a trivet. I tasted the Dutch baby immediately and also after it sat at room temperature for 10 minutes and scored each on a scale from one to 10. I factored in height, but also texture, and I considered ease of assembly and cleanup, too.
A caveat: The goal of this test wasn’t to decide whose Dutch baby recipe is the best, but rather to determine whether a certain method yields a measurably different result in terms of explosive puffiness.
Dutch Baby Method: Blender, Eggs First
About this method: The idea behind this one, espoused by a few recipes including The Faux Martha’s Blender Dutch Baby, is that by blending the eggs before adding the remaining ingredients, you’ll incorporate more air and that air will give the pancake the boost it needs for a lofty result.
Results: I noticed that when I added the dry ingredients to the frothy eggs in the blender, the batter got a little lumpy, a bit like an American pancake batter. I figured this was fine since pancake recipes always tell you not to overmix, so I forged ahead. Unfortunately, the results were considerably, noticeably shorter, barely cresting the edge of the skillet. The very highest point was 2.75 inches and that’s a little bit optimistic. This Dutch baby definitely still puffed and curled, but it lacked the lift I was looking for.
Takeways: While this method produced an edible breakfast, it was a let down in the height department.
Dutch Baby Method: Blender, Long Rest
About this method: Something that gets mentioned anecdotally in conversations about Dutch babies is that, like crepes, one can make the batter ahead of time and then let it hang out in the fridge overnight and cook it the next day. Mixing up Dutch baby batter is pretty simple, but I can see how it might be nice to just get the prep out of the way ahead of time if you were cooking for a crowd. That said, the only recipe I found that specifically called for an overnight rest of a blender batter was Leite’s Culinaria Dutch Baby. The method specifies that the batter needs to rest in the fridge for at least six hours, a step that “will let the batter develop gluten that helps to trap that all-important steam” to help the pancake puff.
Results: I had such high hopes for this one. I crouched by the oven door, watching it climb higher and higher in a crescendo that seemed destined to take the height record. As the timer beeped and I pulled the pan from the oven, she looked as though the gold medal was hers. But in the slow-motion hair toss of a moment it took me to transfer the skillet to its waiting trivet I watched her crown fall, a slow deflation of defeat. Even crumpled from its former heights, this Dutch baby cleared 3 inches, but that’s easily an inch less than when it emerged from the oven.
Takeaways: While the final height of this Dutch baby was disappointing, it wasn’t a disappointment overall. It was eggy and tender and soft, and the crown wasn’t overcooked. Plus, it’s pretty darn easy. It’s nice to be able to pour a jar of batter into a hot pan and there’s breakfast.
Dutch Baby Method: Blender, All at Once
- Rating: 7/10
About this method: When asked about their go-to Dutch baby recipe, person after person cited Florence Fabricant’s recipe from the New York Times. The method calls for chucking all of the ingredients into the blender and giving them a whirl until just combined. A bonus, especially if you’re measuring ingredients by weight directly into the blender jug, is that you you will dirty very few dishes using this method.
Results: It’s definitely fast. It took longer for my oven to heat up than it took to assemble the batter. The color on this one was very similar to that of the bowl-and-whisk method, but it rose in a very even, almost uniform way all the way around the pan. At 3.5 inches, it wasn’t quite as tall as the first-place finisher. The top edge curved in slightly, like a wave cresting, which gave the pancake two distinct textures: crispy edge and tender bottom. This one is great for holding a filling — especially something sloppy like berry compote or whipped cream. After 10 minutes, it settled slightly, but maintained its bowl-like shape.
Takeway: I can absolutely see why this method is such a favorite. It’s easy to make and delivers consistent, delicious results. It’s not the tallest contender, but it’s overall evenness was appealing.
Dutch Baby Method: Bowl and Whisk
- Rating: 8/10
About this method: The simplest, most analog method calls for beating eggs with a whisk (or even a fork), adding in the other ingredients, and whisking until smooth. Pour the batter into the hot butter in the pan and bada bing, bada boom: Dutch baby.
This is the method Smitten Kitchen blogger Deb Perleman calls for in her recipe for Extra Billowy Dutch Baby Pancake, and it’s hard to argue with it — especially in cases where a) you don’t have a blender or a food processor or b) are cooking with the help of small children.
Results: This method yielded a Dutch baby that measured 4 inches tall at its highest point. It had a pleasantly undulating edge, but the tallest edge had begun to split. In addition to considerable rise on the edges, the center also bubbled up. The edges were just beginning to get that dry texture and slightly overcooked egg flavor, but the portion at the bottom remained pleasantly juicy, like a fat crepe.
Takeaway: For ease and speed and cleanup considerations, this method is solid. It’s satisfying to know that even with zero prep and zero waiting, a tasty Dutch baby is only about 20 minutes (plus oven preheating) away.
Dutch Baby Method: Blender, Short Rest
About this method: I snagged this method from Emma Christensen’s Dutch Baby recipe. The thinking here is that allowing the batter to rest in the blender after mixing gives the flour a chance to absorb the liquid, giving the pancake “a better texture and less flour-y flavor.”
Results: This sassy baby nearly spilled out of the skillet! Definitely the tallest of the bunch, it maxed out at nearly 4.25 inches. The one drawback to this method is that a good portion of that upper crown was pretty dry and very dark. It was craggy in a wild and carefree way. I also made the executive decision to pull it out of the oven after only 11 minutes, rather than the full 15. I decided that I wasn’t willing to deal with the whole house smelling like burnt egg, even for science. Despite the short bake time, the top edge and sides still got very dark and noticeably dry and leathery. It felt wild and rustic and maybe I’m a little afraid of it? After 10 minutes at room temperature, it had definitely fallen a little, but hadn’t lost its cragginess entirely. Despite the darkness of the upper edge, the belly was still tender, eggy, and soft.
Takeaway: This Dutch baby definitely wins on height, but I do feel like the height came with the cost of an overcooked upper edge.
Just because a Dutch baby is taller doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. As the testing showed, tall sides can get a dry, overcooked egg texture and flavor, even if they do look very impressive.
While we may have crowned a winner in terms of height, I don’t know that it’s the only method I’ll use. This test reminded me that the best part of the Dutch baby is the tender belly, not the sometimes dry crown. So why on earth would I start trading the best-tasting part for the less delicious but impressive-looking part? Instagram be damned; I don’t deserve that, and neither do you. The good news is 4 out of 5 of the methods I tested yielded Dutch babies with high sides, attractive center caverns, and jiggly middles, so it’s hard to go wrong here.
The decision about which method to use, in my house anyway, is going to come down to convenience. If I want to plan ahead to host a brunch (when I can do that kind of thing again), I’ll make the long-rest version, likely doubling or tripling the batch and sticking it into the fridge in the blender jug. If it’s a regular weekend, it’ll probably be a game-time decision — either the bowl-and-whisk or short-rest blender method — based on whichever tools feel like less of a hassle to wash. Maybe I’ll rest the batter a bit, take a little coffee break, or just let it hang out for as long as it takes me to prep whatever else I’m making to go with it. Or maybe I’ll just pour it in the pan straightaway. As the morning person and official Dutch baby babe of my house, these results give me confidence to go with whatever feels right in the moment.
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