When you need comfort and you’ve got some extra eggs, here are two recipes that will lift your spirits: a pan-sized puffed pancake known as a “Dutch baby” and baked custard, which my grandmother often made for me if I was feeling a little down or a tad under the weather. This week, because my spirits needed extra lifting, I decided to make both. One recipe turned out great and the other turned out not necessarily as planned but still scrumptious enough for seconds.
The important thing is, I used up a half-dozen of the eggs that had been in my fridge for a few weeks, slowly easing past their viability as comestibles. It actually takes an egg a long time to go bad. The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers eggs safe to eat for 45 days after processing — that is, approximately five weeks after the pack date, assuming they’ve been refrigerated the whole time. The pack date is on the right side of the carton, next to the “sell by” date. (It might look like a serial number, but it’s actually something called a Julian date, which marks the days of the year from 001 to 365.) If you think your eggs might be too old to eat, it’s far better to be safe than to become unwittingly familiar with salmonella.
Now that we’ve gotten food poisoning out of the way, we can move on to the yummy stuff. I used to make baked custard a lot when my daughter was younger, because she wasn’t (and still isn’t) much of a meat eater and I was always looking for ways to feed her extra protein. I like this recipe because it uses honey in place of sugar and isn’t too sweet, so I suppose it’s relatively healthy. I mean, it’s not a pile of broccoli, but it’s not a deep-fried Snickers bar, either. It does, however, have a luscious, velvety texture that makes me think of crème brulee or flan.
Heat 2 cups of milk on the stovetop until scalded but not boiling. (I scalded mine a bit too much because the bottom of the pan was blackened, but it didn’t affect the flavor, so I guess I beat the Law of Kitchen Mishaps at least in this small regard.) Mix ¼ cup honey to the hot milk. For a sweeter custard, add 1/3 cup honey. Beat 3 eggs with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg. Slowly add the hot milk to the beaten eggs. Pour the mixture into six ramekins or small cups and arrange them in a pan containing about half an inch of hot water. (This is called a bain-marie, a French term that I imagine means “Mary’s bathwater.”) Sprinkle more nutmeg onto each ramekin and top with a tiny pat of butter. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. The custard can be enjoyed warm or chilled.
I was not introduced the wonders of a fluffy, warm Dutch baby pancake until my 40s, when our family first visited The Original Pancake House in Portland. I saw these massive, buttery yellow and golden brown creations being borne across the dining room to widely smiling diners. It looked like a big upside-down mushroom. I was skeptical, but I was also curious, and curiosity won out.
I’m so glad I was curious, because a Dutch baby pancake is mighty delicious when eaten warm, right out of the oven. It puffs up like a pair of bloomers as it’s cooking, but then collapses in on itself. Like crepes and souffles, it can be enjoyed with sweet or savory components. I’m open to savory interpretations but when I think about a Dutch baby, I automatically think butter and syrup, berries, powdered sugar, lemon curd and other breakfast adornments.
I’ve made these puffy pancakes many times before, but because I hate to do things the same way every time, I decided to experiment. Most Dutch baby recipes call for two or three eggs, but I wanted to know what would happen if I used six eggs. What happened is that I made kind of a spongy egg pie. It didn’t really reduce after expanding in the oven. However, when covered in powdered sugar and slathered in jam and strawberry compote, it was a hit. If you must know my “eggstra” puffed pancake recipe, here it is: Put an iron skillet in the oven and heat it to 475 degrees. Remove the skillet, drop in a half-stick of butter and put it back in the hot oven to melt. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix 6 eggs with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon vanilla, ¼ teaspoon each salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Take the skillet out of the oven and pour the batter straight into pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and cut into wedges.
If you’ve still got extra eggs, check out Donna Ferguson’s Columbian blog, Home Made, where she offers an array of egg-citing ideas for eggs and a fantastic recipe for an egg salad sandwich.
2 cups milk
¼ to ⅓ cup honey
¼ teaspoon each salt and nutmeg
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Scald two cups milk then mix in honey. Beat eggs with salt and nutmeg. Pour hot milk slowly into eggs, then pour entire mixture into 6 ramekins arranged in a pan with a half-inch of hot water. Sprinkle more nutmeg on top. Bake for 40 minutes.
Eggstra Puffed Pancake
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon each salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg
Heat an ovenproof skillet to 375 degrees. Remove skillet and add ½ stick of butter (4 tablespoons), then return skillet to oven to melt butter. Meanwhile, blend eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, salt and spices. Pour directly into melted butter in the skillet. Bake for 25 minutes.