A Dutch Baby is the perfect canvas for all the sweet or savory toppings of your dreams. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

If memory serves me correctly, I introduced you to hygge last winter. May this week’s column serve as a reminder.

This is the time of year when we Mainers may as well embrace the Danish/Norwegian word that is pronounced “hyoo·guh” and means “the mood of coziness and feelings of comfortable conviviality, wellness and contentment.”

We can make the long, cold, dark winter better by planning some outdoor activities and looking forward to all the special snacks in between.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

So what exactly is a Dutch Baby? It’s really a German pancake that was once mispronounced at Manca’s, a historic Seattle café. The owner’s daughter couldn’t quite say “Deutsch” and “Dutch” came out instead. The rest is history.

It’s a similar eggy concoction to its cousins, Yorkshire pudding and popovers  – all of what I refer to as “butter delivery vehicles.”

Fruit, syrup, jam, sugar, cinnamon, shredded cheese – use your imagination – can be piled into and on top of this luscious treat that puffs up so prettily in the pan then slumps into a delicious delight with a squiggy middle and crispy golden edges.

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It’s perfect hygge food, as is Welsh Rarebit. I often fed these to my children during our Bowdoinham winters after they had come in from building forts and pummeling one another with snowballs.

Of course, to hygge properly, we must have a chocolate goodie. These cork-shaped cuties with their rich bolt of fudginess are special enough to be served as the perfect ending for a holiday dinner and easy enough to be made any afternoon.

If you don’t own a Bouchon mold, a mini muffin pan should work just fine. Just adapt the baking time and keep an eye on them. The “corks” won’t be as tall, but they will be just as delicious!

Dutch Baby

3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons butter
Syrup, preserves, powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine eggs, flour, milk and sugar in the jar of a blender and blend until smooth.

Place butter in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet or heavy baking dish and place in the oven. As soon as the butter has melted (watch so it doesn’t burn), add the batter to the pan, return it to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake 5 minutes longer.

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Remove pancake from oven, carefully cut into wedges and serve at once with butter and toppings. Yield: 3-4 servings

Welsh Rarebit

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, plus more for serving
3/4 cups Guinness beer
1 pound aged cheddar cheese, shredded
4-6 thick slices hearty white bread

Melt butter in a saucepan, stir in flour and allow to cook until bubbling a bit. Add mustard and cayenne, stir in Worcestershire sauce and Guinness then add cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat, pour into a shallow bowl and allow to set.

Toast the bread slices under a hot broiler, then allow to cool slightly.

Cover one side of the toast with cheese mixture about 1/2 inch thick, pressing the cheese down with the back of a spoon if needed.

Place on a baking sheet and put under the broiler until cheese is golden and bubbling.

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Remove from the oven and make a shallow criss-cross pattern on the rarebit with a knife, creating divots for more Worcestershire sauce. Yield: 3-6 servings

Chocolate Corks (Bouchons)

5 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/2 cup high-quality chocolate chips
Powdered sugar for dusting

Sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl. Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium-low speed, scraping down sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer running and alternating between the two, add butter and flour, mixing to combine.

Fold in chocolate chips. Allow batter to sit in a cool spot (not the refrigerator) for 2 hours. The batter can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to two days, but make sure to let it stand at room temperature for two hours before filling molds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry bag or spoon, fill the Bouchon molds, stopping just below the rim.

Bake for 16 minutes. Remove molds from the oven and let stand 10 minutes then unmold the Bouchons on a cooling rack, turn right side up and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar. Yield: 1 dozen

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