I'm Chinese, born in Hong Kong. My husband, Scott, is Scottish-German, born in Buffalo, N.Y. Boy oh boy, our kids are insanely lucky! Not only do they get red envelopes full of money during Chinese New Year, but they also score big on Halloween, Lunar Festival, Christmas, birthdays, Dragon Festival and Easter.
Neither Scott nor I is overly religious — if I was in deep shit, praying "Dear God" probably wouldn't get past His screener. We decided early on that perhaps we could skirt the religious aspect of holidays and Sundays through special family rituals that we celebrated when we were kids. For example: knitting Christmas stockings, eating long-life noodles for birthdays and baking pumpkin-shaped cookies from a cutter made by PaPa. Family traditions passed on from generation to generation are more meaningful than chocolate Easter bunnies, a Santa who picks the lock or prancing around the neighborhood dressed as Elvis or Elvira.
Our little kids, who are 2 and 4 years old, don't fully understand the meaning of tradition quite yet, but they know that every Sunday morning is reserved for German Oven Pancakes. It's an incredibly easy recipe that even the youngest can help out with.
Instead of cooking individual pancakes on the stovetop, the entire batch of batter bakes in a skillet. Since our kids make the whole thing from beginning to end, we really never know what shape will emerge; sometimes the pancake is flat with a high, curved edge, sometimes it has puffs, valleys and crevices perfect for hiding chocolate chips.
We all gather in front of the oven window and watch the pancake rise and form. The edges are light and crisp, perfectly browned. We usually top it with in-season fruits, slather it with whipped cream and eat it right out of the skillet, tearing off pieces with our hands. My older son, Andrew, loves the golden edges, while Nathan goes straight for the soft pillows in the middle. It's our Sunday morning family tradition; hopefully, our sons will pass it on.
German Oven Pancakes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp of salt
Preheat oven to 450F. If you have a convection oven, set it at 425F — the pancakes rise even higher on the convection setting.
1. Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, melted butter, salt and sugar. Gradually add flour to egg mixture. Have your child help you by spooning the flour in while you whisk by hand. Make sure the flour is well incorporated in the batter with no lumps, but do not over-mix, as you want to keep the pancake light.
2. Lightly spray a 9-to-11-inch oven-safe skillet with cooking spray. Pour batter in the skillet. Bake 12-18 minutes, just until the edges are golden. Check your pancake at the 12-minute mark. It's fun to turn on the oven light and watch the pancake form!
Try experimenting with different pans and skillets — just as long as you use something at least 9 inches wide and oven safe. You could also divide the batter into two smaller pans and have them bake side by side to see which one rises higher. Make sure that your oven rack is in the middle position or lower. Top with fruit, granola, yogurt, powdered sugar, toasted almonds or flavored butters. Drizzle with caramel, chocolate syrup, honey or maple syrup.
Jaden Hair blogs at steamykitchen.com.