Find out how to make Amanda Hesser's "David Eyre's Pancake," from her cookbook: The Essential New York Times Cookbook.
David Eyre’s Pancake
Craig Claiborne described making the acquaintance of this oven-baked pancake, “in the handsome, Japanese-style home of the David Eyres in Honolulu,” as if he had met Grace Kelly. “With Diamond Head in the distance, a brilliant, palm-ringed sea below, and this delicately flavored pancake before us, we seemed to have achieved paradise.”
Life was good if you were a food writer in the 1960s. Mistakes (Claiborne doubled the butter in his recipe) passed without a public shaming in the paper’s corrections column or the blogosphere. A few weeks later, he simply mentioned airily, “The food editor was in such reverie on his return from Hawaii he did not notice the gremlins in his measuring spoons.”
Forty years later, readers are still making the pancake with no less bliss. It appears on a dozen blogs, embellished with family stories and photos and new-and-improved versions of the recipe. (Eyre, by the way, said he got his from the St. Francis Hotel Cookbook, published in 1919, but his calls for more flour and egg. Both belong to a family of oven-baked pancakes called German pancakes or Dutch babies.)
What keeps cooks faithful to one recipe is often some confluence of ease and surprise. Eyre’s pancake possesses both. A batter of flour, milk, eggs, and nutmeg is blended together, then poured into a hot skillet filled with butter and baked. Anyone confused? I didn’t think so.
The surprise comes at the end, when you open the oven door to find a poufy, toasted, utterly delectable-looking pancake. It soon collapses as you shower it with confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, slice it up and devour it. It’s sweet and tart, not quite a pancake and not quite a crepe. But lovable all the same.
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, milk, eggs, and nutmeg in a bowl. Beat lightly. Leave the batter a little lumpy.
2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet with a heatproof handle. When it is very hot, pour in the batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is golden brown.
3. Sprinkle with the sugar and return briefly to the oven. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and serve with jelly, jam, or marmalade.
Serves 2 to 4
Don’t overmix the batter, or the pancake will be tough—a few lumps are fine.
This is the moment to call your well-seasoned cast-iron skillet into service.
In 1881, the Times ran a recipe for a lemon-scented baked “omelet soufflé,” a kindred spirit to the oven-baked pancake, and, for that matter, the soufflé. It’s clear we like lemons, eggs, and puffy things fresh from a hot oven.
“So many of us eat essentially the same foods, over and over, each day for breakfast. It was for me, a young man in my first apartment, a revelation when Craig Claiborne introduced a Breakfast Pancake on April 10, 1966. I still have the page out of the magazine I tore out and saved. I have prepared his recipe at least 500 times since, first in a cast-iron skillet and in recent years in a paella pan. Being impatient, 20 minutes was too long to wait for it to bake, so I have inched up the temperature over the years and enjoy a pancake that creeps up over the edge of the pan and browns along the edges in less than 10 minutes of baking. His original recipe calls for sprinkling lemon juice and powdered sugar on the baked pancake, but up here in the north woods, maple syrup is the finishing touch. Sometimes I sauté thin apple slices sprinkled with a bit of sugar before pouring the batter in the pan for a variation on the original recipe.”
Roland Krause, Harbor Springs, MI, letter
“Surely a golden thread through my life. . . . My memory is of jumping up and making it then and there. Once I passed through Honolulu and phoned David Eyre, the address blazed from the directory: No. 1 Diamond Head Drive. When I thanked him for all the lovely Sunday mornings, he remarked that I wasn’t the first to call, either. Later I moved to Indonesia, where Sundays were so different from L.A.; without even noticing, I forgot both pancake and recipe. Years later, a friend sent me a copy of a cooking magazine with recipes from readers. A woman from the Midwest sent an “oven pancake,” which she said had a man’s name but she never learned it. There it was and I felt that golden thread connecting my two lives, then (L.A.) and now (Jakarta).”
Loura White, letter
April 10, 1966: “Pancake Nonpareil,” by Craig
Claiborne. Recipe adapted from David Eyre.
Reprinted from THE ESSENTIAL NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK by Amanda Hesser. Compilation copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company and Amanda Hesser. Recipes and reprinted text copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.