Taking the Flat out of Pancake

These wonderful little things are ebleskivers (say it ableskeevers). They are a Danish tradition, and the best way I can describe them is pancakes minus the flat. Other cooks define them as a cross between pancakes and popovers, or doughnuts minus the fat.

This is my gift to you this week — 3-D pancakes! They’re fun to make, and just saying their awesome name can keep you occupied for at least a day. But please, read on.

According to legend, ebleskivers were invented by some hungry Vikings who decided to make pancakes in their dented shields after a battle. (See, it gets better and better!)

Æbleskiver (the proper spelling) literally means “apple slices.” Traditionally, these guys are made with bits of apples or applesauce inside. Another popular way to serve them is topped with jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Here’s the catch. You need one of these. (Or, as an alternative, you could test the effectiveness of a dented shield over a fire)

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This is a cast iron ebleskiver pan, with seven little hemispheres. Not very big, but heavy enough to defend yourself with if you are attacked in your kitchen. What a fitting dual purpose, considering the fearsome ancestors of this tradition! (any Tangled fans?)

There are more ebleskivers recipes than I care to count. Below, you’ll find my family’s basic recipe. It’s pretty traditional and a great place to start – and return to again and again! (It makes a lot, so you might want to halve it if you’re only feeding a few)

Ebleskivers

  • 3 C flour
  • 4 T sugar
  • 7 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. For lighter ebleskivers: Separate the egg whites, whip them, and fold them in last. (If you want to make these a bit healthier, feel free to experiment! I had success with these modifications: white whole wheat flour, ditch the sugar, and olive oil instead of butter.)

Heat the ebleskiver pan on a medium-low stove. Before pouring batter, spray the pan lightly with cooking oil.

Then fill each of the indentations to the rim with batter. If you have a large cookie scoop, that works perfectly! A small measuring cup is also easier than pouring straight from the bowl.

At this point, you can fill the ebleskivers if you wish. Start with a small amount of batter, then add the filling, and add more batter on top.

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I’ve tried filling ebleskivers with whole berries, jam, lemon curd, ham and cheese… they’re all good, but I’ve also found them a bit frustrating. Because the batter expands as it cooks, it’s difficult to add much filling. You also have to work more quickly.

It’s easier to make plain ebleskivers, then split them open and add some jam (or whatever else you choose) when you eat them. But it’s up to you – how adventurous are you feeling today? (If you’re a beginner, I highly recommend you stick with plain for your first few tries.)

Once you’ve got the batter in the pan, watch and wait for the bottom to set. Bubbles will form in the batter when it’s ready to flip. (If you’ve made many pancakes in your life, you’ll easily recognize the signs.)

Now, some people flip the ebleskivers all the way over at this point. In my experience, this only results in frustration and squashed-looking ebleskivers.

Here’s an easier way to turn them. This method gave me success on my first try—and the satisfaction of beautiful, spherical ebleskivers!

You’ll need a skewer, chopstick, or knitting needle. (I was delighted to read that the Danes use that last one – and it is perfect!) Instead of making a half-turn and flipping the ebleskivers all the way over, you’ll make three quarter-turns.

When the edges are set up and you see bubbles in the middle, stick the pointy object of your choice into the batter at the edge. Grab the edge and pull it upward. You’ll rotate the ebleskiver so this point becomes its North Pole.

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The uncooked batter will flow out to fill the place you’ve emptied. Don’t worry if it looks strange – stick with me!

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When the batter has set on the right side as well, it’s time to make another quarter-turn. Stick the skewer into the corner of the two edges and bring that up.

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Now you’ll have a bunch of little Pac-Man shapes. When the new bottom edge has also cooked, then you’re ready to make the final turn.

Note: As another alternative, you can let the ebleskivers cook all the way without making the final turn, then fill them through the opening that remains.

For the final turn, you must stab your ebleskivers in the back. (Gently.) Poke the skewer into the left side and rotate the last uncooked part down into the pan so it can finish cooking.

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This whole process goes quickly and will only take a couple minutes, but don’t jump the gun in taking them out of the pan. Use the skewer to test the ebleskivers for doneness (like you would test a cake with a toothpick). It’s easy to think they’re completely cooked when they’re not. I’ve often split open perfectly-browned ebleskivers only to be disappointed by a puddle of raw batter in the middle. (They’re still good that way, but we are shooting for perfection here!)

Ebleskivers are best when they’re fresh and hot. If you’re going to make multiple batches before you serve them, don’t let the first ones get cold before you’re done! Wrap them up in a basket, and you’ll have a lovely way to present them on the table as well.

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There are seriously no limits to the fillings and flavors you can give ebleskivers. They can be sweet or savory, for breakfast or for dinner. Try different batters. Fill them with fruit, jam, chocolate, peanut butter, meat, or cheese. Top them with syrup or cinnamon sugar.

I’m itching to try this recipe. I’d also like to experiment with dropping in whole cranberries or small cubes of cheese instead of the fillings that have proved so difficult in the past. Do you have a favorite ebleskiver recipe? Or an amazing traditional food from somewhere else?

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