There’s nothing that makes me want to drop everything and hightail it to the country like summer. It’s not quite here yet, but it’s on its way, and the evidence is showing up everywhere at the markets.
Summer is a crazy time on a farm. Everything starts to pop up and ripen all at once. At the absolute worst time for it, the kitchen swings into action with bubbling pots of boiling water filling the already sweltering kitchen with steam and the gentle thudding sound of glass jars full of preserves clunking together.
Canning isn’t just for the country. City dwellers who are dedicated to living as much in season as possible can make good use of the practice, as well. Instead of buying imported cherries shipped over on planes in December, it’s nicer to pop open a jar of preserves and remember that stroll through the market in May. To remember, while the snow falls outside, that May will come again.
That having been said, I’ve canned a lot of summer fruit in my life, but hardly any of it has ever made it to see winter.
These crazy good looking Dutch baby pancakes are one of the sexiest vessels for compotes, preserves or even fresh berries. They’re deceptively simple to make, as long as you follow a few rules (very hot oven, room temperature ingredients, lots of butter and don’t open the oven!), and they’re dazzling to watch in process. They puff up like giant eggy clouds in the oven and then slowly deflate when you take them out.
You can have your way with them after that. This weekend I got so excited to see that the cherries were out that I grabbed a giant tub and dropped it in my basket without really thinking about it. I had been at the store originally to grab a cheap bottle of brandy for another cooking project, so I just put the two together with a little sugar and made a compote.
The whipped cream, to compensate, is unsweetened. I actually prefer unsweetened cream. Unless I need to fortify it to hold its shape, I hardly ever add a sweetening agent, as I find it interrupts the flavor more than it aids it. With the sharp, sweet bite of the brandy and sugar in the compote already offsetting the cherries’ bitterness, I just didn’t feel the need.
Summer can be a miserable time in the city, especially in Korea, with the monsoon season. But that time is not here yet. We’re in the sweet spot, and I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.
Puffy, oven-baked pancakes topped with warm cherry compote.
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 cup milk, room temperature
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- Take your milk and eggs out of the refrigerator to warm to room temperature at least an hour before you start cooking. If the milk and eggs are not warm enough, the pancakes will not puff.
- Preheat the oven to 415 degrees F (about 213 C).
- Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stove and set it aside to cool.
- Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, salt and sugar until well combined. Add the milk and whisk again. Slowly add the flour and whisk until all clumps are removed.
- Divide the melted butter in half and pour it into 2 9" cake pans (as nonstick as possible) or cast iron skillets. Swirl the pans around until the butter covers the bottom. Gently ladle half of the pancake batter into each pan. As carefully as possible (in order not to mix the butter in with the batter too much) transfer the pans to the hot oven. Bake until the pancake is puffed and well browned in places, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the oven, but do not open it. If you open the oven at the wrong time, your pancakes will fall.
- In the meantime, heat the pitted cherries, brandy and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Continue gently stirring until the cherries release their liquid and the syrup reduces slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the compote from the stove and allow to cool slightly.
- Remove the pancakes from the oven and allow them to cool for about five minutes. Gently prod the edges loose from the pan using a spatula and transfer to a plate. Top with warm compote and whipped cream, powdered sugar or honey.