Father’s day is just around the corner. As a father and grandfather, I encourage you to go all out. You know the things that tickle his fancy. A festive brunch can be the centerpiece of the day.
The menu should be celebratory but within reach of all the generations who want to help.
I recently cooked my first “Dutch Baby.” It ticks all the Father’s Day boxes. The puffy pancake is made from simple staples but looks spectacular, and it’s easily customized with family-favorite flavors.
Somewhere between a crêpe, popover and pancake, the Dutch Baby turns golden brown as it balloons in the oven. The breakfasty flavor invites toppings. Powdered sugar is traditional as are fresh berries. Maple syrup is always a favorite. A smear of fruit jam or preservers is a winner. I spread some rhubarb compote on mine for a seasonal touch.
The recipe like this one at Taste of Home.com is a simple blend of flour, milk, butter and eggs along with a pinch of salt and a dash of sugar. From there the batter can be flavored with nutmeg (Connecticut is the nutmeg state), cinnamon or vanilla.
The Dutch Baby loses its impressive height quickly as it cools. For maximum effect get everyone to the table, and set the hot pan in the middle. It’s easily cut into wedges of any size.
If the Dutch Baby seems too challenging, French Toast is a good bet to honor dad. There are more jobs for kids and the potential for lots of variation and creativity.
Two schools of thought weigh in on the bread. Some favor a soft sandwich-style loaf. Buttery brioche or challah is a favorite in this camp. Others go more old-school with a crusty European-style country loaf that has a little more chew. I tried both a brioche loaf and a three-grain batard from the award-winning Wave Hill Breads in Norwalk.
The other point of discussion (I hesitate to say controversy) is the egg to milk ratio. Eggs with a little milk, like you would for a scramble, are on one side. Milk with some eggs, as in a custard, is on the other. I’ll confess that I was a mostly-egg guy, but when I was researching I moved to the other camp, settling on three eggs to a cup of milk. There’s an eggcellent discussion of this at Seriouseats.com.
Marsha and I recruited our neighbors Kathy and Marc to help us evaluate French toast options.
The brioche generated considerable nostalgia, recalling the days of squishy-soft sandwich loaves. But the buttery flavor and cloud-like texture of the brioche won over the skeptics. Marsha likened it to a soufflé.
I’m usually a fan of the country-style bread, but I had seconds on the brioche. It was yummy. Marc, on the other hand, found the chewiness and texture of the country loaf new and enjoyable, worth a second helping.
Kathy was glad of the choice in toppings. “I’m not a fan of maple syrup on French toast,” she said but got a kick out of the confectioner sugar shaker. She went back for more rhubarb compote.
Everyone liked the egg mixture. The brioche soaked up a lot, the country loaf, not so much. After their custard bath, both cooked to a tempting golden brown color.
It comes down to personal preference. If you’ve got a big enough group, have fun with a few breads and a range of garnishes.
The Dutch Baby is a showpiece while French toast can make for mix and match fun. Whatever your menu, make it an all-out Father’s Day feast.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.