Everything starts with breakfast. Eating breakfast is one of the first things we do - one of the first decisions we make - and every breakfast offers new chances and opportunities. A chance to do better than the day before, to eat healthier or to be more conscious about what our body needs and what we put in our mouth in response. We are told over and over again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while I do believe that a balanced and nutritious breakfast is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, breakfast to me is more about a moment than it is about a meal.
Breakfast is that moment when everything feels calm and possible. That half hour in the early morning when I sit down in a quiet house and worry about nothing except the temperature of my coffee, taking slow sips while staring out the window, focused on nothing at all. It's that half hour when I reflect on the day before and consider the one ahead, wondering what I'll accomplish or learn. It's only 30 minutes, but it's 30 minutes that I savor. If I'm honest, it's those 30 minutes before I even eat anything that are most essential to me.
Over the years, I've built this time into my routine. I get up at least an hour before I have to leave for work and take that time to ease into the day. When I struggle to get out of bed, I consider the consequences of ignoring the alarm: a few extra minutes of hazy, restless sleep and a full day of feeling rushed, unfocused, unproductive and out of sync. It's crazy how much the start of my day dictates the rest of it, but the prospect is a pretty good motivator.
Strange enough, it's during the weekends that I struggle to find the time that I crave so much. Outside of the predetermined timeline of the day-to-day, outside of the regular routines, I get lost in the many plans I make and goals I set for each weekend. From the moment I wake up, I am thinking about how I'll fit everything into those two short days and I start to rush. There is coffee, but no moment of reflection. Food, but little chance to savor it. There is time, but I am unaware of it. It is high time that I learn to incorporate the stillness of the early morning into my weekends.
Here's to more quiet moments, more slow coffee, more thoughtful conversations with the boy beside me and more pancake breakfasts.
• Dutch babies are a thing of beauty. Delicious, custardy pancakes that require no flipping and puff up magically while baking (only to quickly deflate when you remove it from the oven). The 'puff' depends largely on how long you beat your eggs. You want them to be pale and frothy, but not yet in the thick, ribbon stage. I should probably note that I took them a little bit too far for this one, which is why it ended up a little thicker and more 'cakey' than I would've liked. This one looks a lot better.
• I added a little cornmeal to the batter because I love the texture it brings to the pancake - it's almost like a chess pie. If you don't have any on hand, just replace it with the same amount of all-purpose flour.
• You can add whatever you want to the Dutch baby, from a plain dusting of icing sugar to poached pears or sweetened whipped cream. I love my Dutch babies best when they're lemon-scented and topped with tart berries, so I made a quick compote of blackberries, blue honeysuckle and lemon verbena. Use whatever berries you like.
Lemon Cornmeal Dutch Baby w/ Blackberry & Lemon Verbena Compote
for a 24 cm/9 inch Dutch baby
50 gr unsalted butter
30 gr sugar zest of 1 lemon
50 gr all-purpose flour
30 gr fine cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
160 ml whole milk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
for ca. 1 cup blackberry compote
200 gr blackberries (or a mixture of blackberries and other berries)
2 tsp honey
5-10 lemon verbena leaves, finely chopped
for the Dutch baby
1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 210˚C. Add butter to a 24 cm/9 inch cast iron skillet and put it in the oven while it preheats.
2. In a small bowl, rub together sugar and lemon zest, until sugar is fragrant and clumpy. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal and salt.
3. In an electric mixer fit with the whisk attachment or using a handheld mixer, beat the eggs on high speed until pale and frothy, about 1 minute. Add lemon sugar, flour mixture, milk and vanilla extract and beat to combine, about 30 seconds.
4. When the oven has reached its temperature and the butter in the skillet is slightly browned, remove the pan from the oven and pour in the pancake batter. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until Dutch baby is golden brown and puffed.
While you're waiting for the Dutch baby to bake, prepare the blackberry compote.
for the blackberry compote
1. In a small saucepan, combine berries, honey and lemon verbena. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until berries have mostly broken down but some large bits still remain, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
2. When the Dutch baby is ready, top it with the compote. Serve immediately.