Après le vert, la rouge.
Or something like that.
Spring hurtles. This always catches me off guard, the reckless. One week: green. The next: pink, red, rose, heliotrope, and all ninety-six shades, in between. It's like someone made a clean sweep of Target's nail polish aisle, de-capped every bottle, and chucked the whole mess, skyward.
It's pretty dazzling. Also, so last year.
Every May, I think: enough. I've done it. You've had it. I won't drag you down this chintz-lined road, again. We've TP'd the screen in magenta and mauve, before. Burned petals and pistils into eyeballs. Binged on gaudy. Overloaded on frill. Been here, done this, several times over.
And then I cave.
It's just that the weather's so excellent, gusty and drippy and mostly not muggy and rolling-average pleasant. I can still wear my winter coat and not look a fool. Except on those days it's pushing eighty, and the kids come in smelling of sky, trailing rocks, double-dipped in dirt.
Either way, I want to get out, to walk, to indulge, to inhale. While I can.
Too, I've always been a sucker for wretched excess. I keep waiting for my minimilast phase to hit. No E.T.A, yet. I think it's arriving with Godot. In the meantime, I remain a card-carrying more-is-more member. Really, Spring's my thing.
Besides, anything that makes my trashed, wintered-over, tomato-cages-everywhere compost corner look respectable is a friend of mine.
Also, I don't know, it feels wrong somehow to turn my back on it all, flick the flowers a been-there, done-that. Who am I to ignore abundance? Diss bounty? Ditch awe? Disregard the egregious outrageous, plastering the everywhere, free for the basking?
Beauty's no box to be checked. Also, I apparently jumped the age-equals-wisdom track, and wound up somehow instead on the maudlin line.
If' it's any consolation, it'll be over quick. Spring always is. Green, pink, crush, gone. Buds, flowers, deluge, done. The waste is incredible. The brevity, stunning. I wasn't kidding about the reckless. My soles are stuccoed with petals and mud.
Now you see it, now you don't. Like that skillet, down there.
We made a Dutch Baby this week, as we have most weeks, this school year. Why I never thought to move these into our morning routine, previously, I know not. (Maybe that aforementioned wisdom abyss?) I only know that it's become a cherished part of our weekday breakfast line-up. And in case you harbor any illusions about said line-up, let me now set the record straight: before eight a.m., I inhabit that liminal zone between ogre and troll. With a dollop of harpie, before the caffeine kicks in.
Breakfast is not my strong suit. Hence, Dutch baby love.
Dutch babies are everything I look for in a breakfast: made from a few staples, sleepwalking-simple, eaten by all three, and quickquickquick. (Delicious and nutritious, also. But those are nice-to-haves; not necessary.)
Dutch babies—you may know them as German pancakes, or pfannkucken, but I'm from Seattle and steeped in the Manca's mythology and so, Dutch babies it is—belong to the same family as popovers and yorkshire pudding. Made of a basic egg-flour-milk batter, the Dutch baby's epic rise (and fall) are one part alchemy, five parts spitting-hot cast iron. The scorching pan is mission-critical, and dead simple. I do it like this: stumble into kitchen; put kettle on to boil; crank oven to 450° (skillet inside); go back to bean-grinding and caffeine-snuffling. (Priorites: Coffee for me. Food for them. In that order. Always.) By the time the skillet's had its' requisite fifteen, I'm well on my way from ogre to Miss Hannigan, capable of cracking two eggs and whisk-pour. I might even slice some apples, for snacking. I'm not actually mean. Just just waking up.
As with cornbread and popovers, when batter meets hot metal, magic happens. Mighty tasty magic. The batter, which pours like heavy cream, hits the hot butter-slicked pan, and transforms. It sizzles, and sears, and seals on impact, forming a fine layer, pan-side. This veneer climbs, onward and upward, inching first up, then over, the pan sides, resilient enough to hold a Shakespearean ruff, tender enough to not need a knife. Meanwhile, the pool of batter within quickly cooks to a wobbly, custard-like consistency, until it is at once dense and light, as only an eggy batter can be.
Fourteen minutes, start to finish. One pan. Universal appeal. Hello.
Like all things that rise to great heights—popovers, soufflés, politicians—a Dutch baby falls, instantly. No matter. It's just puffery. The nutmeggy, butter-rich flavor doesn't suffer, any more than the gentle, crèpe-like texture. We serve it up, straight from the skillet, powdered with sugar and sluiced with lemon. Berries all over the top, if we have them. Nothing at all (or nutella!), if we don't.
Caramelized apples are excellent, alongside. I imagine savory (bacon! asparagus!!) might be, as well. As would any of the next many months' fruits, from the earliest berries to the season's last stone fruits, macerated briefly in lemon and sugar, piled on your slice, high as you dare. But be quick about it, the slice-snitching, that is. Because, in our house, anyway, a Dutch baby disappears in no time. I left this one, here, on the table with my boys for—no joke—twelve minutes. When I came back, I found that empty pan, right up there. Now you see it, now you don't. A minor tragedy, where Spring's concerned. But a major victory, in the breakfast department.
Dutch Baby for Breakfast (+ Beyond)
adapted from AllRecipes.com
Yield: 8 wedges
My major adaptation—and it was revelatory; I am easily amazed—was increasing this from a 2- to a 3-egg dutch baby, and squeezing it into the same skillet. It is deeper, more dramatic, and—most importantly—is enough to fill my three children's bellies, all from one pan. Score. Note that the ratio is simple: 1 egg: 1/4 cup (each) flour + milk, and so can be scaled up or down, as suits appetites and pan sizes.
Also, note the mixing order. Eggs, milk and flour, dumped in all at once, mix up into a pebbled, flour-pocked mess. Lumpy dutch babies = lousy dutch babies. I have the best luck whisking the eggs and flour first, then adding the milk after. No harder; wildly more successful.
3 large eggs
3/4 cup flour
generous pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
3 Tbs. butter
several scrapings of nutmeg (optional)
powdered sugar, lemon slices, and/or fresh berries, for serving
Place rack in lower middle of oven, set a 10" cast iron skillet on rack, and preheat to 450°. Leave to preheat at least 10 minutes while you grind coffee beans, slice apples, and figure out which way is up. 15 minutes is better still.
In a medium wide bowl, whisk eggs, salt and flour until no lumps remain. Add milk, and whisk until creamy.
When skillet is hot and ready, add the butter, and return to the oven until melted, 1 minute. Pour a bit of the melted butter into the batter (a generous Tablespoon; I eyeball it), and whisk to incorporate. Swirl remaining butter around skillet to coat, pour in batter, and place in oven. (Turn on the oven light. Instant entertainment.)
Bake 14 minutes, or until dutch baby has risen well over the sides of the skillet, smells giddy, is golden at the edges, and just-set at the center.
Serve dusted with powdered sugar, doused lemon juice, and buried under any berries or fresh fruit that suits.