That Night I *Tried* To Make German Pancakes
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
One common theme you'll see through this blog is the importance of trial and error in plant-based and allergy-friendly kitchens. A lot of the time, especially with multiple/compounding dietary restrictions, you're paving a brand new path and trying a recipe variation that may have not been attempted before. You're not guaranteed any results, and rewiring how you think about baking in particular (I mean, how are you supposed to make desserts without flour, eggs, milk, or butter??) is a huge learning curve.
I say this not to intimidate you, but so you'll go into this giving yourself permission to FAIL.
Yup! Fail *miserably* and entirely to the point where nothing is salvageable and you just have to throw a whole batch of completely inedible cupcakes into the compost. The thing is, none of us really know if something is going to work - or how something is going to taste - until we try it ourselves. Giving yourself permission to just try stuff and see what happens is going to be so important for your cooking and baking - and honestly, your mental health.
So yes, when I tuned into a virtual cooking class hosted by Homemade last night to learn how to make Dutch Babies, I knew the class would be informative -- but I had no expectations for what would happen in my own kitchen. And spoiler alert - the results were, um, *mixed*.
The challenge was that I attempted to bake along with the live online class using my own adjustments to make the recipe vegan, gluten-free, and allergy-friendly on the fly. Live-tweeting while baking was a bit of its own endeavor as it turns out, but I learned a lot! And in the end, I think I figured out what to tweak to make a better Dutch Baby in the future. Which is awesome news, because GOODNESS I used to love to make German Pancakes.
First, for those who may not know, Dutch Babies - a version of German Pancakes - are super puffy, full-pan, baked pancakes. They're traditionally made with LOADS of butter and eggs, and look something like this (with whatever sweet or savory toppings you'd like):
And yes, mine did not look *anything* like that.
If you're curious about the journey, you can see the collection of my tweets from that night over at Wakelet.
And for transparency (and a little chuckle), this is what my Dutch Baby looked like:
Now, if you're just here for the takeaways, I've got you too. ;)
Cast iron pans are so cool and are now on my baking wishlist (I used a square glass baking pan that night instead).
My go-to egg substitutes: Eggcitables (chickpea-based powder), and Just Egg (mung bean-based liquid) Note: I prefer to make and use recipes that just don't call for eggs at all, but if I'm working from an egg-based recipe and need a direct substitute, these two have never failed me.
My go-to butter substitute: Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread (vegan & soy-free) Note: I have not been able to find the Baking Sticks version of this product yet - if/when I do, I'm sure it'll be even better to bake with - if you see it, grab it!
My go-to milk alternative for baking is coconut milk. I have found coconut milk from a carton (it's not as thick as the canned coconut milk) gives me the lightest and fluffiest baked goods because of it's high 'good-fat' content. I have heard similar things about almond milk, but I haven't been able to try it for myself due to my nut allergy.
My go-to flour substitute is a gluten-free mix that I make myself. When I had to go gluten-free I spent (probably too much) time researching GF flours and which types of flours serve which kinds of purposes. The trick is that there is no single GF flour that mimics everything wheat-based flour can do. That is why you'll see GF flour mixes so often - a combo of two to three different GF flours mixed together, each taking care of what they're best at, is your best bet for a successful multi-purpose GF flour. After a lot of research and experimentation, my go-to GF mix is equal parts coconut flour, cassava flour, and tapioca starch, with 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour. This means I buy 3 individual packages of flour, and xanthan gum, and mix it together myself as needed. It's a little extra work, but it evens out to the same price as buying any pre-mixed all-in-1 GF flour, I know exactly what is in my flour (instead of there being a long list of ingredients, there are only 4), and I like the taste and texture of my mix better.
Go with your gut - Chef Ben (who was teaching the class) mentioned a couple times the Dutch Baby batter should be super runny, but mine was very thick. I went off recipe and off-book and added in a bunch of water until the recipe was the consistency I needed, and it paid off. When you're experimenting in the kitchen and trying something new, don't be afraid to keep changing things up until you get what you want!
"Dutch Babies have a mind of their own" - Chef Ben Leonard Goodness was it comforting when our host Chef for the night mentioned this! And even in the virtual class, Chef Ben's two Dutch Babies came out looking completely different. It's also a good reminder for allergy-friendly cooking (especially with GF flours); it's very likely that every single batch you make of the same recipe will come out just a little bit different! My go-to baked goods are my (now semi locally-infamous) Lemon Crinkle Cookies - I've made them dozens of times, and every single batch comes out of the oven tasting great, but looking just a little bit different than the last.
My recipe was not exactly a success - but I wasn't disappointed! I had fun, learned a new recipe to experiment with, and now have a solid jumping-off point for a next attempt at making GF & Vegan Dutch Babies even better! And while my results may not have been that pretty, the true test of allergy-friendly baking is the *taste*! (...which, to be fair, was also not *good* - but the baking lesson stands!)
(Note: The recipe we used for the Dutch Babies is Homemade's, and not mine to share. BUT you can follow Homemade for more online cooking classes and recipes on FB & IG, *and* I promise to keep working on my own recipe for this, and share it with you here when I fully figure it out!)
Want to try something that's plant-based & allergy-friendly, and much more simple? Below is my recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Icing! This can be used to ice cupcakes (it's a little too thick to ice a cake with!) or honestly, eaten as a safe "raw" cookie dough alternative (we don't judge, or yuck anyone's yums, in my corner of the internet).
CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH ICING (V, GF, Soy-free, Nut-free)
- 1/4 cup room-temp butter substitute (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread)
- 1/4 cup room-temp vegetable shortening (I use No Name All-Vegetable Shortening)
- 1/2 cup icing sugar
- 1 tbsp milk (I use coconut milk - feel free to add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time, if needed for a creamier/smoother icing base)
- Vanilla extract to taste (I measure this with my heart)
- At least 1/4 cup of brown sugar (add more as needed until desired taste/texture is achieved)
- 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips (again, measure these with your heart - I use Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Mini Chips)
1) Use a hand or standing mixer to whip equal parts butter substitute and vegetable shortening together until smooth. Try to make sure these two ingredients are as close to room temperature as possible to save yourself mixing time and more easily avoid little balls of shortening.
2) Add in the icing sugar, milk, and vanilla extract, and whip again (slowly at first, and then increase speed as the icing sugar is mixed in) until smooth and combined. Give this mixture a taste and add additional icing sugar (to thicken), milk (to soften), or vanilla (to sweeten) as needed. Ideally, the icing should be firm enough to hold it's shape and taste like good vanilla icing at this stage.
3) With a spoon, fold in the brown sugar until there are no clumps. Add more as needed to achieve desired thickness and sweetness. Yes, you'll have to eat a decent amount of this while you're making it - *oh nooooo*. ;)
4) Finally, fold in the chocolate chips. If your chips are bigger, start with 1/4 and add more as you go. If your chips are truly mini, then you can jump right in with 1/2 cup - and still add more in as you go!
5) You know you're done when the icing is smooth enough that you could use an icing bag (with the largest tip opening) to pipe icing onto a cupcake, *OR* you can scoop it like ice cream on to the top of cupcakes (which is my personal preferred method - I use one of these scoops to do that).
6) Sprinkle any extra chocolate chips on top, or shave some slightly (I use a zester to do this!) to leave a chocolate garnish on top, as desired. (As always, the more chocolate, the better!)
NOTE: This icing freezes beautifully! You can store any extra icing in the freezer and it'll keep 'til you need it again, or you can store it in the fridge if you're going to consume it within a few days.