Mia – March 25, 2019
There was one good thing about this interminable winter—it extended pancake season. Pancake season begins in my house with the first frosty morning and ends when cold cereal is ushered in by warm spring mornings. While we mostly eat pancakes for breakfast on weekends and holidays, I’ve been known to serve the occasional pancake supper, usually when I’ve been worn down by my family’s picky eaters or am facing an empty fridge.
Of course, these aren’t just any pancakes and certainly not out of a box. With parents of Scandinavian extraction, my kids have rarely tasted classic American buttermilk pancakes. My husband, John, introduced them as infants to silver-dollar-sized pancakes from his Swedish grandmother’s well-seasoned cast iron pan, and I’ve been thrilling them with the pancakes to end all pancakes—Danish aebleskiver—ever since.
While I love John’s delicate little Swedish pancakes, especially with butter and lingonberry jam, nothing compares to aebleskivers. These are the three-dimensional version of flat, round pancakes—delightfully crispy on the outside, filled with a dollop of jam and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. In Denmark, they’re traditionally served three to a plate with gløgg (mulled wine) during the Christmas season, but I make them for the kids at least a couple of times a month through the winter. They usually return the favor on Mother’s Day, when they fill them with jam or apple slices sautéed in cinnamon and butter.
In fact, the name aebleskiver (also spelled ebelskiver) means “apple slices” in Danish because that was the original filling. We also love them filled with lemon curd, cherry pie filling or strawberry jam. Actually, anything works—even savory fillings like lox and cream cheese or tomato, spinach and feta, which I’ve sometimes served for our aebleskiver dinners or adult cocktail parties. Want more ideas? Check out the dozens of Pinterest boards devoted to this Danish delight.
The key to making perfect aebleskivers is the correct pan. It looks a bit like my husband’s Swedish pancake pan, but with seven hollows for batter. There are two basic recipes: one that calls for baking powder and one that uses yeast. I always opt for baking powder, which is the version my mother always makes. Sometimes, especially during the Christmas season, we’ll add a pinch of cardamom to add a little extra flavor.
These delicious pancake balls take some work, but they are so worth it. You begin by filling each hollow half full of batter, add a teaspoon of jam and top it off with more batter. This is the recipe I use, but some cooks prefer to add the filling after cooking with a pastry bag.
The trickiest part of making aebleskivers is turning the dough balls so they are uniformly crisp and golden. Once upon a time, Danish cooks supposedly used knitting needles to do the job, but I find bamboo skewers work just fine.
If there’s anything better than making a batch of warm, delicious aebleskivers, it’s being served a lovely plate of them. Which is why I’ll be joining our Danish-born friend Farfar at The Danish Home on Friday for afternoon aebleskivers. He very sweetly invited me earlier this month when we were discussing our favorite fillings. “Did you ever hear the story behind aebleskivers?” Farfar asked.
Despite eating them all my life, I’d never considered they were anything but a happy culinary discovery lost to the mists of time. But Farfar had the scoop. “They go all the way back to the Vikings,” he said. “After one difficult battle, the Norsemen returned to their ship, hungry and hurting. They wanted pancakes but didn’t have the equipment to make them. So, they poured the batter in the dents of their shields and cooked it over an open fire. And those were the first aebleskivers.” I smiled in anticipation of Friday’s feast. “But not the last, thank goodness!” I said.
Now that spring is officially here and whiffs of the new season are stirring hope in the air, I’m also excited to attend The Danish Home’s 61st annual Women’s Auxiliary spring luncheon this Saturday. Held at Villa Brunetti in Franklin Park, the lunch will feature yummy soup, a spring salad, chicken lemon with mashed potatoes, green beans, and an ice cream dessert. We’ll also have musical entertainment from Stevie Swing. I told Farfar that he could join me because gentlemen are welcome, but he said he’d pass.
“You go have fun with the ladies,” he said. “In the meantime, I look forward to the next time we have aebleskivers together.”