Dutch Babies for Papa
The kitchen was his domain; a towel thrown over his shoulder, ingredients on the counter, and pots simmering on the stove. His corner of the world, where even the adobe bricks, kitchen cabinets and tiles were created, designed and installed, by him.
As kids we learned early to stay out of his way when he was cooking, the L-shaped space was a cock-pit for one and he didn’t have time nor patience to divy out instructions for would be sous-chefs. That would just slow him down. So mostly, we learned by example, by taste and texture of the meals put before us. Both my brother and I learned quite a bit that way, and over time we could be assigned to make the salads, a side dish, bread or even a dessert as long as it didn’t interfere with his schedule and process. As adults the fun really began when we could share recipes and tips more as peers in the kitchen, his eyes twinkling when he would talk about a new dessert or entree he just made. He became appreciative and generous in praising our attempts and would occasionally reward us with the gold star phrase, “You got a good fix!” when the bite met his exacting standards. Rare praise, once uttered held deeply in our hearts.
Of the many meals we enjoyed together, I think our most favorite were breakfasts. Served morning or night there never seemed to be a wrong time for eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon and ham scrambles or whatever struck his fancy. These were mostly reserved for weekends, when we were afforded a more leisurely time together at the table, but sometimes breakfast became dinner, which suited us just fine.
When we talk about breakfast, we end up talking about meals cooked in cast iron. Those well loved and seasoned, blackened treasures in varying sizes and shapes that still hang on his brick kitchen wall. Held and heated, his touch resonates throughout the dark iron. In the middle, a twelve incher converted into a clock measuring time with each click of the second hand. Five years and counting.
The small six inch one was just right for those eggs over easy, sliding out onto the plate without sticking. We didn’t dare scrub them with detergent and steel wool in our youthful ignorance. Proper handling is critical to retain the seasoning and patina of his precious skillets, which took decades to achieve. So much so, he would often do his own washing up as he went along so we wouldn’t inflict damage. I am lucky enough that my own darling takes care of mine, seasoning, re-seasoning and making sure they are just right for my cooking whims. Even refurbishing two found at a antique shop half off sale.
These little skillets, one just six inches and the other eight and a half, begged me to make small sized Dutch Babies which I filled with mixed citrus curd and topped with fresh blueberry compote and a sprinkly of fresh basil. A Sunday night breakfast for two, satisfying a sweet tooth and a memory.
Mini Dutch Babies Adapted from Alton Brown’s Good Eats
- 5 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons orange infused granulated sugar,
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup 2% milk (whole milk may also be used)
- 2 large eggs (I used extra-large)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Pour 1½-2 tablespoons melted butter in each of 2 -3 six inch skillets (I used one 6″ and one 8½”) and place in middle rack of heated oven. Make sure the butter coats the bottom of the pan evenly.
- Bake for 10 minutes then
- Combine flour, sugar, salt milk and eggs with 1 tablespoon cooled melted butter in a blender or food processor.
- Blend untili smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Pour batter carefully into hot skillets.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until edges are puffed up and browned.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar and fill with your favorite fruit. I used citrus curd and blueberries.
- Juice and zest of:
- 1 orange
- 2 tangerines
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1½ cups sugar
- ¼ pound unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 extra-large eggs
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Remove the zest of citrus fruit (I used a zester that creates thin strips and then chopped fine)
- Juice the fruit into a bowl and strain. You will need ½ cup of juice. Reserve any leftover for drinking or juice cubes for another time.
- In a food processor or blender add sugar and chopped zest.
- Pulse until the zest is micro sized.
- Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and zest mixture.
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then pour in the citrus juice and salt.
- Mix until combined.
- Cook mixture in a 2 quart saucepan over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly until thick (easily coats the back of your spoon and will not run.)
- Remove from the heat and pour into clean jars with lids to cool and refrigerate.