My old friend Janet filled me in on a Danish secret; "flat as a pancake" does not apply to Aebleskiver. She has an impressive collection of cast iron cookware, and among them is an aebleskiver pan, essential for making golden, round pancake spheres filled with jam or fruit and traditionally served as a winter dessert. We are great fans of pancakes in our house, and Sunday breakfast often features griddle cakes. Now they vie for our affection with Aebleskiver.
My ancestry is decidedly WASP of the British Isles persuasion, and though my Great-grandmother Ottilie Hubschmidt added a strong Germanic strain, she left us no legacy of spherical pancakes. The Danes lay claim to Aebleskiver, which takes its name from
the sliced apples commonly used as filling the apple shape of the pancake. The Dutch, no slouches themselves when it comes to pancakes, call their version "Poffertjes". I suspect the origin of round pancakes predates the invention of the Aebleskiver pan, for when we lived in southern Africa it was hard to resist larding ourselves with Afrikaner vetkoek: dough deep fried in oil.
Aebleskiver are lighter, not too tart or sweet, but these are certainly not the sort of food one can gobble to one's heart's content without giving a thought to long term cardiovascular health. So don't eat them every Sunday, but by all means do treat yourself to an Aebleskiver pan and expand your pancake horizons.
The Aebleskiver pan, dimpled with seven 3-inch wells, eliminates the full immersion grease bath and allows for filling to be added. Ours is a small version and was quite inexpensive. If it turns out you start making Aebleskiver frequently, I would opt for a larger, high sided version which will spare you some of the radiant heat from the burner.
The technique of making Aebleskiver is unusual and ingenious. The batter and filling lend themselves to variation. As a non-Danish practitioner of the art of the round pancake, I use a basic buttermilk pancake recipe modified as follows:
1/2 cup all purpose whole wheat flour
1/2 cup pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp melted butter
2 eggs (room temp)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (room temp)
I combine the wet and dry ingredients in a lumpy batter and grease the skillet. A dab of butter in each well gives them a golden finish and helps prevent sticking. I pour the batter into each well about 3/4 full and let it bubble and rise. At this point, I reach for that indispensable kitchen utensil which no Aebleskiver chef should be without; I mean, of course, a wooden chopstick.
Yes, to make Aebleskiver requires rotating the underside of the pancake by 90°, and while others may be able to do this with a spatula, Janet convinced me that the end of a chopstick is ideal for loosening the edges and pushing down through the uncooked mixture to the crisper side and tilting it forward until the pancake stands on edge. The batter will slide over and start to cook, and this is the moment to add a dab of filling. I chose homemake apple butter yesterday, but also did a few plain ones and others filled with blueberries. Once more I used my chopstick to turn each pancake over on itself and now they assumed their luscious rounded form.
Then it was out of the pan and on to the plate, with a dusting of powdered sugar above and a pool of amber maple syrup beneath. My recipe makes approximately 30 Aebleskiver, and there were no leftovers. We may one day experiment with a more savory batter and a meat or vegetable filling, but for use there is no finer treat on a cold winter morning than pancake balls and bacon.