Do you remember the game Operator? It is now known as the telephone game (so I am told); a silly game that we used to play as kids where everyone sits around in a big circle (usually during a sleep-over or birthday party) and one person whispers something into the person’s ear next to them, and that person in turn, whispers the same thing into the next person’s ear, who then repeats it to the next person, and so on. By the end of the circle, the last person is to repeat what they heard out loud. The original statement might have started out saying, “Hey neighbor, your cat’s on our fence.” But the last person to hear it might have heard, “Hey dummy, your elephant is in our backyard.” or some such nonsense.
The point is, as things get passed down, they get reinterpreted, mis-told or misunderstood. The small details or misconceptions can end up having significant impacts on the final outcome. I thought of that game this morning as I went to make brunch. We were down in Hoodsport three weekends ago (as you already know), and my mother-in-law made a wonderful brunch. It was a German Oven Pancake which came from the oven puffed-up and delicate. We slathered it with a little butter then topped it with maple syrup (except silly Tom, who decided to make it savory by coating his in ground pepper). We also had sausages and a plate of fresh fruit. And mimosas, of course. The pancake seemed almost crepe-like. Oh and I do love a good crepe. This was a good (crepe) pancake!
As we were leaving, Lois ran upstairs and copied the recipe for me, which she had hand-written on a recipe card, copied from Tom’s cousin Karen. I didn’t look at it but thanked her, folded it in half and tucked it into a magazine that I was planning to read on the road (home).
The following weekend, I decided I wanted to make the oven pancake for breakfast. I pulled out the magazine (which I still haven’t read, because it had been in the trunk of our car) and unfolded the recipe. The copy was very faint and difficult to read. Tom sat in the daylight (aging eyes struggling), trying to decipher the writing, reading it off to me, stumbling over some of the words and I typed what he said (sic):
“German Oven Pancake – serves 2-4 (or is that a 6?)
1/2 cup flour, sifted, 3 slightly-beaten eggs, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tsp butter or margarine (what?!), melted, 1/4 tsp salt, something, something, confectioner sugar or lemon juice butter.
- Add flour to eggs, beating with rotary beater. Stir in milk, melted butter and salt. Thoroughly grease bakers joy baking dish pour into mold dish, bake at 450-degrees for 15-17 minutes. It will get puffy. Loosen at wide spatula.
2. Add butter to flour and eggs then add milk and salt. Can pour over canadian bacon.”
Seriously, that looks better than what he said. It mostly made sense, only because I had sat down to brunch with her as she explained that you could sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top, but she didn’t do that. She also mentioned something about pouring it over Canadian bacon to make it savory. Which, again, was not done. If I had just taken the card and tried to follow the recipe, I would have had many more questions. As it were, my only questions were these:
- Does this not use baking powder?
- What kind of dish do I bake it in?
I texted over those questions but was inpatient as I was in the thick of my execution and decided to Google, “German Oven Pancake” instead. The first page that came up was from the Betty Crocker website. Seeing that the only cookbook my husband, Tom, came to me with was a later edition of the original Betty Crocker cookbook that he had in college (and I don’t think ever used, but he claims Pete did), I suspected it was quite possible that Betty was the first person in the circle to kick-off our little game of Operator.
So it might have started out with Betty saying, “Operator, I’d like a German Oven Pancake, please.” And I might have finished it by stating, “Operator, I’m a German with a Pancake to Please.” Finally! I’m ashamed to admit, it has taken me three tries.
German Oven Pancake (or so I am told)
Adapted from Lois (Bender) Casto via Karen (Bender) Lieberman, via Betty Crocker (maybe?)
Needless to say, my first attempt at this a few weekends ago was not a success. I think it was because I used whole wheat flour since I did not have any all-purpose flour. I used almond milk rather than cow’s milk, but it might also have been my choice of pan (Tom says sure, blame it on the pan). I had not waited for my mother-in-law to respond to my email before heading into the kitchen. Betty had told us to heat a cast iron skillet before pouring the batter in. After I did this, I got the email from Lois telling me specifically not to use a hot pan. I also decided to make it savory, using proscuitto. Tom thinks it tasted more like a “real” whole wheat pancake. Not what I had in mind, but edible.
The following weekend, I thought I might borrow a cup of all-purpose flour from my neighbor Piotr (who was away on job assignment; we were tending to his mail and his garbage). Turned out he too was with whole wheat flour only (good boy). So this time I used a cold pan, but still had the wrong flour. Admmitablely, it looked prettier and (sort of) puffed up but it was a bit dense and not that great (BTW Piotr, your flour is stale).
So now this time, I did use all-purpose flour, but had to use Greek yogurt (thinned with water) instead of milk (yup, you guessed it, I had no milk). My cake did not bubble up, nor did it get pouffy, like a soufflé (as Lois’ did), but the flavor was spot on! More eggy than cake-like, fluffy, light and a perfect partner for maple syrup, butter and sausage (and not appropriate for pepper).
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Heat an oven to 450-degrees.
Butter a baking dish (preferably glass).
Whisk the milk, butter and salt into the eggs
Slowly, whisk in the flour being careful not to over-mix
Pour into the prepared baking dish and cook for 15-17 minutes. It should puff up, but even if it doesn’t, it should still taste quite good. Divide amongst four plates, put a dollop of butter on top and pour some warm maple syrup over. Serve with fruit and breakfast sausage if desired. A mimosa washes it down well (as often he case).