German Puffs

When I read this recipe for “German Puffs” in (perennially interestingUPenn MS Codex 644, I immediately thought of Dutch Baby pancakes. Custardy sharing pancake-popover hybrids are all over food media these days and the proportions of eggs to cream to flour in this recipe looked really familiar. I had to try it.

The German Puffs were fluffy, rich, custardy, and delicious. Their texture and taste was both familiar and unfamiliar.  I’ve become accustomed to that mixed feeling when testing recipes for this site.

Unsurprisingly, this recipe sent me down an internet rabbit hole investigating various Dutch and German puffs, babies, and pancakes. In Pancake: A Global History, Ken Albala excludes this whole group of eggy-battered preparations from the category of pancakes altogether.

Another distinction must be made with the variety of souffle known as Yorkshire pudding, or in the US, popovers, which is made with a batter very similar to that of the pancake, but usually with a greater proportion of eggs, This is always baked in a mould to achieve supreme puffiness rather than the flatness of a pancake. Yorkshire pudding anointed by drippings, and the perversely named ‘Dutch Baby’ or German pancakes (Dutch here meaning Deutsch) must be set aside. (Albala 10)

The fact that the Dutch Baby, the German pancake, and the Yorkshire pudding all need moulds to rise disqualifies them from Albala’s pancake taxonomy.

All this leads me to ask where did Grandmama Franklin find this recipe? (She is likely the compiler for MS Codex 644 and I wrote about her backstory  here) Did she write it down in England? In South Carolina? Learn of it through her global networks in the East and West Indies? Did she read about German Puffs in a printed source? The Oxford English Dictionary and the database of early print Early English Books Online didn’t offer any conclusive results.  The origin of the German Puffs remains elusive, but the dish is delicious.

The Recipe

German Puffs

4 Eggs, 4 spoonfuls of flour, a pint
of Cream, or good milk. 2 oz of butter
Melted in it: beat them well together
& a little salt & Gratd Nutmeg:
Put them in large Cups well
butterd – bake them a quarter of an hou[r]
in an E oven hot enough to brown them.

Our Recipe

I prepared half of this recipe in a greased six-inch cast-iron skillet and the other half in six greased “cups” of a muffin tin. I greatly preferred the result that I got in a skillet and refer to that in the instructions below, but you could also use this to make somewhere between 12 and 24 small puffs. The full amount would work nicely in a larger skillet. The recipe is also easy to halve.

4 eggs
1/4 c flour
1 pint cream
2 oz butter, melted
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg (A subtle flavor. Increase to taste.)
1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 425F. [edit: optional step. Preheat your skillet in the oven.]

When the oven is hot, grease your skillet with butter. Whisk together ingredients in a mixing bowl or large pitcher. When batter is combined, pour it into the skillet.

Bake 30-35 min, until the puff is puffy and golden brown around the edges.

Serve hot. Sprinkle with sugar or other toppings.

The Results

Somewhere between a Yorkshire pudding and a souffle, German puffs are a rich and satisfying dish. This is a quick and easy historical recipe that makes a tasty breakfast or brunch dish. I’m excited to try them again with fresh berries or a fruit compote on the side. They are even delicious a day later reheated in a toaster oven or oven.

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Carrott Puff.

Carrot pudding was one our early experiments in this project, and it’s a recipe that we consistently mention when asked for our favorites. So when I found this recipe for “Carrott puff” in UPenn Ms. Codex 1038, it seemed like a good candidate for some more carrot experimentation. A go-to for us, this recipe book has also given us the caraway-studded Desart Cakes, the perplexing Artificial Potatoes, the satisfying Herb Soop, and the wonderful maccarony cheese.

Speaking of which: Marissa worked with Carley Storm Photography to make and photograph some of our favorite dishes. As we’ve joked about before, this project features a lot of beige food that can be hard to photograph, but Carley did so wonderfully. Here is the maccarony cheese’s glamor shot, and we’ll be featuring more of Carley’s photographs.

Photo by Carley Storm Photography http://www.carleystormphotography.com

Photo by Carley Storm Photography http://www.carleystormphotography.com

The Recipe

carrott-puff-ed

Carrott Puff.

Boyl some Carots very Tender, Scrape them, then Mash them, and
take good Cream, and Eggs, and the Whites of two–Beat them with a little
Salt and Grated Nutmeg, Mix all with a little Flower to thicken them,
then Fry them in Liquor.

Our Recipe

6 carrots
1/4 c. heavy cream
1 egg + 1 egg white
salt to taste
pinch nutmeg
5 tbsp. flour
oil, for frying

The Results

This was one of those choose-your-own-adventure recipes: with the exception of calling for two egg whites, it lacks specific measurements. I was thinking these would turn out something like fritters or like pancakes made with leftover mashed potatoes, which was … optimistic. But we write about our first attempts with these recipes, successful or less so, and here’s how my attempt at carrot puffs fell into the latter category.

I decided to mash the carrots by hand with a potato masher, which left them just a bit chunky. (Already sounds appealing, right?) I guessed at the cream, eggs, and flour based on general fritter-/pancake-making experience, though I played with flour along the way. The raw mixture was, shall we say, not entirely appetizing. But I maintained hope!

I fried the first few “puffs” and realized as soon as I went to flip them that they were way too soft – they slid and slumped and were generally uncooperative. I added more flour to the next batch and used more oil and a higher temperature for frying them, which helped, but they were still just not very solid. You might think, as I did, well, maybe these would taste better than they looked? Not particularly. I like carrots – carrot cake, carrot sticks, carrot salad – but these just didn’t taste like much. And they were just too fragile. As Marissa said when I told her my carrot puff woes, “I feel like the carrots have failed us this time.” The carrots, or my ingredient guesses, or a bit of both.

img_7573

I still think these sound good, and I’m reasonably sure that additional tinkering with the proportions might help. (I was running low on carrots, though, and didn’t want to waste additional supplies trying right away.) I did a little digging and found this recipe from Nigel Slater for carrot fritters, made with grated carrots and held together not only with egg and flour but with the help of parmesan. This recipe is actually similar to the proportions I used, except with less flour, so I think that additional tinkering might yield successful puffs. I was running low on carrots, though, and didn’t feel like taste-testing any more carrot puffs immediately. When and if I tackle these again, I’ll report back. In the meantime, I’ll be eating carrots as soup for a little while instead.