Back in late February, when Molly at Orangette posted about her friend's dutch baby pancake, she got me craving a similar breakfast treat from my youth, the David Eyre's Pancake. When Megan at Not Martha posted about her own dutch pancake making experience, it put me over the edge.
For some inexplicable reason, the oven-baked pancake, first popularized in a 1966 New York Times article by Craig Claiborne, was always known in my family as the "John Eyre’s pancake." Only when I searched for the recipe online a few years ago did I discover the misnomer. It turned out the pancake was named for David Eyre, the founding editor of Honolulu Magazine.
Craig Claiborne recalled the storied pancake in a 1985 article in the New York Times:
I discovered the pancake 20 years ago at a holiday brunch given by friends in Hawaii. The host was David Eyre, who has retired from newspaper and public relations work. Along about midday I arrived at his mountainside home in Honolulu. Describing the event soon after, I wrote: ''With Diamond Head in the distance, a brilliant, palm-ringed sea below and this delicately flavored pancake before us, we seemed to have achieved paradise.''
With the description, I printed a recipe for the holiday pancake. It turned out to be perhaps the most popular recipe to appear in this newspaper. I received a letter from Mr. Eyre telling me with mock anger that he wished he had been more discreet. It seems that he was deluged with telephone calls at odd hours of the night, sometimes from thousand of miles away, commenting on the recipe. It was not uncommon, he said, for tourists to knock on his door to tell him how much they enjoyed his contribution to their holiday breakfasts.
I'm not surprised he got this response. The pancake is so good and so incredibly easy to make, he deserved the deluge. Nevertheless, Mr. Eyre claimed that the recipe was not his in the first place, but, in fact, came from a 1919 cookbook.
When I was little, the pancake seemed like one of those truly magical foods. Into the oven goes a pan with a thin pool of batter and out comes a puffy new animal, rising, curling, and lifting up on the sides. The texture and flavor sort of resembles an open-faced popover, if there were such a thing. The traditional embellishment is to give the pancake a sweet-tart finish by dousing it, straight from the oven, with lemon juice and powdered sugar.
Kitchen Notes: (1) In my adaptation of the original recipe, I cut the butter down to three tablespoons from four. However, I did use a non-stick pan. (2) In this instance, the pancake not only puffed out on the sides but all over, rising up in the middle as well, as you can see in the photo. This may have been due to using a slightly smaller pan (a 10-inch ovenproof non-stick pan). (3) When I made the pancake, I got the idea of trying to make individually sized versions, not unlike the dutch babies, only in small gratin dishes that could be served at the table to each person. It's not something I've actually attempted, but it's something I'd like to try.
David Eyre’s Pancake
Adapted from Craig Claiborne
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
confectioner’s sugar (to taste)
fresh lemon juice (to taste)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, flour, and tablespoon of sugar. Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet or ovenproof dish. Pour the batter into the pan or dish and bake for 20 minutes or until the pancake puffs up and turns golden brown (as seen in the photo above). Sprinkle with the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice. Watch it quickly deflate (as seen in the photo below) and serve immediately.
Serves two to four (depending on your will power).
RISE AND FALL The David Eyre's Pancake, in its puffed out state straight from the oven (above) and doused with lemon and sugar before devouring (below).