Monday, August 7, 2017

Dutch Baby with Creme Fraiche and Mixed Berries

When I started this blog almost five years ago I was using my camera phone to take photos. At the time I thought their quality and composition were good. Not great, but good. Over time I came to realize good wasn't really 'good enough', for the blog or me. At some point I began using my Canon, a camera I had used primarily to capture vacation landscapes. In the spirit of full disclosure I had been shooting photos only Full Auto mode (aka the little green box icon). Sometimes these photos were great, sometimes good, but never all good or all great. As I began using my Canon, my food photos were definitely better than some of those early phone ones. Sometimes I got lucky and my photos captured exactly what my eye saw. But experiencing exhilaration due in large part to getting lucky wasn't good enough. At least not for me. What prompted yet another change, was the eight week photography class I enrolled in almost eighteen months ago. A class three steps more advanced than both my camera knowledge and photography experience. However, as a result of that class I learned how to take photos in the AV mode (aperture priority) and added some new words to my vocabulary. Aperture, ISO and shutter speed were words I could pronounce and spell, but didn't really get a really good grasp on. Like the old adage 'a little bit of knowledge is dangerous', I started shooting blog photos in the AV mode, manipulating the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed for the first time. While there was a discernible shift in the quality of my photos, there was still an over reliance on photography luck. Yes, I have a stack of photography books and have watched some online videos. However, for me to truly grasp new or seemingly complex concepts, hands-on learning works best. At least for me. Books and videos are great, but they can't answer my questions or tell my why my choice of exposure settings were or weren't working.

After the random meeting of a photographer over the weekend, I decided I would try to shoot photos in the Manual mode. The mode used by most professional photographers (and many food bloggers). Not only does shooting in the Manual Mode truly optimize the DSLR camera, it gives the photographer complete control over aperture, ISO and shutter speed in order to get the 'best' picture possible. And who wouldn't get a little pleasure out of 'complete control'? Shooting in the Manual Mode with my level of knowledge was like diving into the deep end of a pool after taking only a couple of swimming lessons. Putting common sense and ego aside, I decided to jump in anyway. What's the worst thing that could happen? My photos wouldn't have turned out; a day of taking photos for the food blog would have been wasted; they might not even be as good as those early phone photos; or my fragile ego would have taken a nose dive. Still, I decided if I didn't take this risk, my photos might always just be 'good enough'. That's not such a bad thing. Except I wanted more for the blog and for myself. 

The photos for this Dutch Baby with Creme Fraiche and Mixed Berries are my first attempt at shooting in the Manuel Mode and playing around with aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I don't yet have the kind of grasp on photography I envision I will some day, but I realize there won't be any (personal or professional) rewards if I don't take this risk. For those of you who follow this blog regularly or are here for the first time, thanks for joining me on my new journey. And, if I can convince (or bribe with food) the photographer I serendipitously met to give me a few photography lessons in the weeks or months ahead, I am certain than none of my photos in the future will be anything I consider to be 'just good enough'.

Four years ago I posted a recipe for a 'Dutch Baby, At Last' (and wait to you take a look at those early photos!). I recently came across a slight variation on this Dutch Baby. Almost instantly I knew I had to make it. The ingredient amounts for the eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and vanilla did not change between the earlier and this new recipe. However, in this Dutch Baby with Creme Fraiche and Mixed Berries, a half-teaspoon of salt has been added; the amount of butter used increased from 4 to 5 Tablespoons; and, the oven temperature reduced from 475 degrees (F) to 450 degrees (F). More important than these subtle changes was how the Dutch Baby was finished. The addition of lightly sweetened creme fraiche, mixed berries, and dusting of confectionary sugar were finishing touch game changers. 

Before I talk about the Dutch Baby, I want to spend some time on the lightly sweetened creme fraiche. To be perfectly honest, I had thought about swapping it out for some lightly sweetened whipped cream. But after tasting the creme fraiche lightly beaten with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and confectionary sugar, I was really glad I didn't. Not that freshly whipped cream wouldn't be good on this Dutch Baby. It would. But why have good when you can have great. And this creme fraiche topping makes for an absolutely great Dutch Baby. Like really, really great.

To give the creme fraiche a whipped cream like look, I used my hand mixer to beat everything together until semi-firm peaks formed. A large dollop of creme fraiche melted into the Dutch Baby created a pool of decadent deliciousness underneath the fresh berries. If there was such a thing as Dutch Baby bliss, this would be it.

For any Dutch Babies you need a pan able to withstand a rather high oven temperature. Non-stick pans are not Dutch Baby friendly, but cast iron pans are. 

Using a blender to mix the flour, eggs, milk, salt, vanilla, and sugar together helps to create the perfect Dutch Baby batter frothiness. Poured into the hot, sizzling pan of melted butter, a deeply golden, puffed Dutch Baby is ready in approximately 15-20 minutes. With no additional leavening ingredients used, it will begin to collapse if not served almost immediately.

You can either bring the Dutch Baby directly from the oven to the table before adding the sweetened creme fraiche, topping with fresh berries, and sprinkling with confectionary sugar. Or you can work quickly to finish it before bringing it to the table.  Either way you serve it, there will be oohs and ahhs.

Described as a cross between a crepe, pancake, and popover, Dutch Babies will definitely take your breakfast game from good to great.

The dramatic presentation doesn't last very long (but long enough). And neither will this Dutch Baby with Creme Fraiche and Mixed Berries. 

Make sure to bring some of the lightly sweetened creme fraiche to the table. I am almost tempted to tell you to increase the recipe by half or double it, but will let you decide how much to make after you serve it the first time. This will definitely not be a one-time wonder breakfast item at your table.

If you have never made a Dutch Baby before, I hope these 'shot for the first time in the Manual mode' photos make you hungry enough to want to make one. And in the weeks and months ahead, I hope my blog posts make you feel even hungrier.

Dutch Baby with Creme Fraiche and Mixed Berries (a slight adaptation to Williams-Sonoma's Dutch Baby with Fresh Berries Recipe)
Serves 2 starving people, 4 hungry people, or 6 able to show restraint people

3/4 cup (100g) all-purpose flour
3 large eggs 
3/4 cup (6 ounces) whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 Tablespoons (75 g) unsalted butter, cut into five pieces

1 cup (8 ounces) creme fraiche 
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 Tablespoons confectionary sugar (Note: I used 3 Tablespoons.)

2 cup assorted berries (e.g., blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, pitted cherries)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F).
2. Using a hand held mixer, lightly beat the creme fraiche, lemon juice, and confectionary sugar in a small bowl until semi-firm peaks form. Keep chilled in the refrigerator.
3. In a blender, whip the milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and flour for approximately 30-45 seconds. Note: If not using immediately, cover and store in the refrigerator.
4. Place butter in a 10-11 inch cast iron pan. Place pan in oven for 4-5 minutes or until butter is completely melted.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the batter into the hot pan. Quickly return the pan to the oven and bake until the sides are puffed up and golden brown (approximately 15-20 minutes). Note: My baking time was closer to the 20 minute mark.
6. Remove the Dutch Baby from the oven. 
7. Sprinkle about a cup of the berries over the Dutch Baby. Put a large dollop of the creme fraiche mixture in the center of the Dutch Baby. Lightly dust with confectionary sugar. Add remaining berries. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Note: Bring the remaining creme fraiche mixture to the table.
8. Get ready to swoon.

Notes: (1) I use Vermont Creamery's Creme Fraiche. (2) Batter can be made the night before. Briefly pulse in the blender before pouring into the hot pan. (3) The original recipe called for a 12" pan, however, I used a 10.5" pan with great results. 

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