February 15, 2010


When I was a kid, my favorite meal, especially on a cold night, was Dutch Babies. Actually, my favorite meal was probably figs with cream cheese and nothing else. Or even Watermelon and nothing else. But for a meal, what my parents would define as a meal, it was dutch babies. My mom would whiz the batter up in our blender while my dad melted hunks of butter, not a teaspoon or even a tablespoon, real hunks of butter, in the heavy cast iron pans that lived in the drawer under our oven. When the butter was almost spitting hot, in would go the batter, bubbling and hissing and pooling with melted butter as it hit the hot sides of the pan. As soon as the pan was in the oven, the next round was begun. We kept a rotation going until we were all stuffed. Beyond stuffed. In fact, I don't ever remember having leftover dutch babies. There may have been leftovers, but I was certainly never privy to them. Probably because I would have eaten myself sick if I had known there was more.

When we lived in Ireland I bought a Jamie Oliver cookbook after seeing him on a program about school food. Will thought he was a little weird but I loved it so the next day I went down to the bookstore in the little village center closest to us and bought what they had. I'd planned on buying his first book but was too impatient for them to get a different one in or take the bus into the center of town to hunt it down. But I'm glad I ended up with the one I did because it had a recipe for Toad in the Hole.

It's one of those British recipes that Americans giggle over, mostly because of the name. Who names something Toad in the Hole. Or Spotted Dick. Or Bubble and Squeak (I've had that one too, it turned me off of brussel sprouts for life I fear). But when I read the recipe for Toad in the Hole, actually when I saw the photo of Toad in the Hole, I realized that it's really just Dutch Babies with sausages tossed in during the pan heating stage. And, if you cook by Jamie's recipe, in a bread pan. In fact, when it comes down to it Yorkshire Pudding is basically little Dutch Babies cooked in beef drippings instead of butter. I'm sure there are more recipes out there that are basically the same thing as well but under different names. And really, eggs, milk, flour, butter, who doesn't like that? It's no wonder it shows up in many different guises.

So all of that is a long way of saying that I, and Briton (Will is not really a dutch baby fan because there is something very wrong with him. I love him, but I'm just saying..) fell in love with Toad in the Hole and ate it often for lunch or tea. And four years on, he still loves it. Evelyn prefers plain Dutch Babies but will pull the sausages out and eat them separately. I'm a little worried that she may be taking my "food must not touch on the plate" obsession to a new level, hopefully she'll grow out of that.

Tonight I had great plans for a rolled pork loin and fresh bread but Will and I got tangled up in another toilet replacement project and by the time I was ready to make the kids their meal (which is a long story but basically, my kids eat "tea" at 4:30 or 5 and then sit down with us for dinner when Will gets home at 6:30 to try some of our dinner and have dessert) it was closing in on 6 and we were all hungry. Briton had requested "Toad" as he calls it and once it was safely in the oven I decided to expand on the meal and make a Dutch Baby as well. I've been reading Molly Wizenberg's book and was intrigued by her recipe which is very different form the one I grew up with.

I think if you had not grown up eating Dutch Babies like my parents, these would be outstanding, they were a little heavy for me though so I think I'll go back to the light and fluffy ones of my youth. The Toad, however, was as good as ever. I've used it as a plain old Dutch Baby recipe, it's closer to The Bentley Family version than what I tried tonight, but the proportions work best, I think, in the thin metal of a bread pan where my parents was best in a heavy cast iron pan (although I often use my Calphalon pan which works great too).

It's got a weird name, I totally get that. But you should give it a try. Especially if it's snowing. Again. And cold. Again. And you have been wrestling with a toilet for which you have only bought one wax ring and therefore have only one chance to install correctly even though you TOLD your husband he should buy a backup. Again.

Toad in the Hole
adapted from Jamie Oliver's Happy Days with the Naked Chef

285 ml milk (that's a little more than a cup, but if you have a scale, this recipe works better with weighed amounts)
4 oz flour
3 eggs
pinch of salt
2 T butter or oil
5-8 sausages (I like good breakfast sausages, the long skinny kind)
sprig of Rosemary (optional, my kids dont like it so I only use this if it's just for me :))

Set your oven at 470. When it's preheated, put the butter (or oil) in a bread pan along with the sausages and pop it in the oven. Keep an eye on this. You want the sausages to get just barely brown and the butter to melt but not get too dark. While it's heating up, beat the eggs and flour together with a whisk. Add half the milk and whisk till smooth before adding the rest of the milk. You can also do this in the blender, I used to before my lovely KitchenAid Blender died after only a few years and I was too pissed off about it to buy another. With the blender you can just dump it all in at once and give it a few seconds on high. The key is to get the batter smooth.

When the pan, butter and sausages are ready, pour the batter over them and put them back into the oven. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR AGAIN until the batter is crispy and poofy golden. This should take about 20 minutes but again, keep the oven light on so you can see what's happening without opening the door.

Jamie calls for an onion gravy but we eat ours straight or with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on it. It's also great with Lemon curd smeared on top. If you've got some, which thankfully tonight, I did.