When I was in Fort Worth doing research for my story “Where to Eat Now,” in the February 2002 issue, I asked everybody I knew what place I should recommend for breakfast. Everybody, to a person, said, “Go to the Ol’ South Pancake House and have the Dutch babies.’” So I did. I had no idea what a Dutch baby was, but I took their word that it would be good. As my article grew too long and unwieldy, I had to jettison parts of it. But I liked the Dutch babies so much that I thought I would share them with you on our Web site.
The Ol’ South is a local establishment, much homier and less institutional than the IHOP chain. It’s also rather well-worn, but that doesn’t really seem to matter to anyone. On Sunday morning, the line was out the door. I sat in a booth and when my waitress showed up, she stood in the aisle between my table and that of other recent arrivals and took our orders simultaneously. I don’t remember that she said a word. She just nodded at me, and I told her what I wanted. Then she nodded at the other people. They ordered. Then she was off like a flash.
In about fifteen minutes, my order appeared, two or three smallish pancakes sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, with cooked, cinnamon-tinged apples tucked under them. (The apples are optional, and you can order as many Dutch babies as you think you can eat.) All of my friends had promised me that the waitress would put butter on the pancakes and give them a squeeze of lemon at the table, but this didn’t happen. I guess the Ol’ South is too busy to do this on the weekends. In any case, I wished that some lemon wedges had been placed on the table so I could do it myself.
With or without powdered sugar and lemon, the Dutch babies were wonderful. Small versions of buttery, eggy, baked German pancakes, they struck me as almost a cross between a pancake and a very moist omelet. They were exceptionally light and were best when they were fresh, hot out of the oven. They were also quite rich, not something that you would have except for special occasions. But when you do want to impress your friends or family with something special for breakfast, give these babies a try.
The Ol’ South refuses to give out its recipe, but there are plenty of standard recipes around. We’ve provided one for you. I also found some interesting variations and comments on other Web sites that you might want to check out. Oh, by the way, I would guess that since these pancakes are defined as German pancakes, the word “Dutch” is a corruption of “Deutsche.” But I don’t know that for sure.