What is it that turns four ordinary ingredients — butter, eggs, milk and flour — into such a regal creation as the Dutch Baby...

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What is it that turns four ordinary ingredients — butter, eggs, milk and flour — into such a regal creation as the Dutch Baby pancake? Is it magic? A culinary sleight of hand that only the gifted cook can pull off?

The Dutch Baby, its golden bowl shape ripe for filling with the freshest seasonal fruit, is indeed a showstopper dish. But it’s one that brings even the most unlucky cook success. Just follow a few simple rules.

The first: Begin with a very hot oven, set at 425 degrees.

The second: Choose the right size pan; if too big, the pancake will remain flat, but if too small, the center will rise more than the sides. (Check our recipe in related links for just the right balance of pan size to batter.)

Once the pan size is determined, just about any type will do. A heavy, cast-iron skillet is perfect, as it conducts heat well. (And because it also retains heat, the pancake can be filled and served right from the pan.)

A round or rectangular cake pan can also be used, but place it in the center of the oven to prevent the bottom of the pancake from browning too much.

The third rule: Put butter in the pan, and place in the preheated oven. It’s the combination of high heat and hot fat that pushes the batter along the sides of the pan into a bowl shape.

Now quickly put together the simple batter of eggs, milk and flour in a food processor or blender. You can also use a whisk and bowl, but make sure that all of the lumps have disappeared before using. If you’re not sure, strain the batter first.

Once the butter is foamy and beginning to turn golden, carefully pour the batter into the center of the hot pan, shaking it just a bit so that it’s evenly distributed.

The fourth rule: Don’t open the oven door until a few minutes before you think it may be ready, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of pan. If cooler air hits the pancake before it has a chance to form and stabilize, it could deflate.

Each Dutch Baby is a little unique, but here are some characteristics to look for: The sides should have risen higher than the bottom, and they’ll be quite brown. The bottom of the pancake should be golden brown.

The Dutch Baby makes a beautiful brunch or light lunch dish and can be filled, depending on the season and mood, with berries, peaches or sautéed apples. A dusting of powdered sugar or puff of whipped cream provides the final touch. Now taste. It is magical, after all.