These big puffy pancakes are as easy as they are spectacular

As soon as the server elbows through the kitchen door and begins to wend her way through the pancake-house rush, you can't take your eyes off what she is ferrying. It is an eggy crater the size of a dinner plate, with tender, fat-tire curves and a sweet aroma the Pied Piper only wishes he could deploy.

It's called a Dutch baby on the menu, and the reason is far from apparent. No matter; it demands immediate, before-it-deflates eating, topped with a compote or a shower of confectioners' sugar at least.

Who could make such a thing? You can, in short order. The batter ingredients are few and come together in a blender. Pour smooth, into a hot buttered pan, and the batter will shimmer and bubble in the oven until the moment of liftoff. Then, the pancake curls at the edges that rise above the rim, accompanied by an occasional mogul at the center.

It is an old recipe, and its history skews sweet. Pancakes in the Dutch Manner as presented in the 1998 cookbook "The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World" resembled spiced (flat) crepes, while the topography gets much closer to Dutch baby territory in recipes for German puffed apple pancakes made hundreds of years ago. The origin of Dutch could be "Deutsch," and the dish's popularity in America is due in part to Sunset magazine articles dating back more than 50 years.

But the Dutch baby is versatile enough to step toward savory. In other words, have your way with it. Spice up the batter. Use the pancake as a vessel for fresh vegetables and greens. Melt thin rafts of cheese on it and cut it into snack wedges. Old World becomes modern.

There are but a few rules to keep in mind: The batter should be well blended; any added bits that have weight, such as diced pancetta or bell pepper pieces, may impede the rise, The pan and its fat must be h-o-t. The puffed Dutch baby needs to sit in the oven for a few minutes after the timer goes off, to improve the odds it will retain its structure longer.

It's as easy as it is spectacular. It can be breakfast, dinner or dessert. Isn't it time you rediscovered the magic or give it a go?

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