07 April 2012

RECIPE : It’s ‘UBER-SKUBER’ Time!

 kel_aebleskiver 2011





This delicate Danish treat that was once only served at Easter and Christmas is now prepared throughout the year. But, there are a few things you need to know and understand if this is your first venture with the delightful Danish dessert. This especially holds true for most Americans who somehow would rather describe a foreign food than learn how to pronounce its name. I’m not blasting Americans…heck, I have a strong footing on each shore myself.

THAT’S RIGHT…It’s time to set the record straight. They are called by many a name. Even, friends of mine go out of their way to create new names for them. Matt affectionately calls them ‘uber-skubers’. While my friend Libby giggles as she calls them ‘Evil-skivers’. Either way they are indeed devilishly delicious and oddly, associated with me. If I am in the house, the request for these is never far behind. I’ll make them for anybody…family or friends as long as they don’t call them Danish pancakes or donuts.
That’s right… somehow in an effort to sell the idea to American palette the simple Danish treat of æbleskiver was rebranded to be known as Danish pancakes or donuts. This is where I must put my old Danish clog down (no, it’s not wooden – only the sole) and vehemently, say “no, you are wrong!”  There isn’t a thing about them that implies being a pancake. No really. These are not flat in any way, shape or form. Danes have their own version of a pancake that is closely related to the French crepe. Calling an æbleskiver a Danish pancake is like calling a beignet a French pancake. Each insults the other and in the food world, food fights have been started over less. It is also not a donut since it is not deep fried. But, to imply that this treat is a pancake or donut is simply wrong. That’s right. I mean it. [Standing with arms on my hips]…I’d rather proclaim that assertion ”wrong” than mislead an unknown audience in renaming a traditional treat easier to pronounce and understand.
You see, the Danish name ‘æbleskiver‘ literally translates to ‘apple slices’. Once upon a time these were made only made for special occasions with slices of apples in the dough. Over the years the extra time it took to prepare and makes these was cut in half by eliminating the special little slices of apple. While the name remained the true recipe was replaced by only a simple batter
However, they are rarely prepared today with the original recipe. Let me give you a little back story to this delectable treat.
HISTORY
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Illustration of æbleskiver from “Peters Jul / Peter’s Christmas” (1889), color etching by Petro Krohns.
The oldest known version of these delicate treats was prepared with an apple slice dipped in batter and then, baked. Hence, their name ‘apple slices’ or as Danes call them, æble-skiver. Since the 1600s these were traditionally enjoyed on special occasions served during Christmas and Easter Holidays.
Later versions still contained an apple slice or compote; but, were now fried in a special cast iron pan known as a ‘monks pan’ as in Fru Jensen’s Cookbook (1901):
“When the apple slices are baked on one side, there may, before the reversal of either a little apple porridge, a slice of cooked apple or rhubarb compote in each." 
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
PICT0021
The Pan
While the photo on the lower right is a Norwegian version. There are many versions of the pan with the original being the heavy cast iron version (shown above – lower left). Others followed like the comparable version to the original that had a wooden handle for easier handling of the heated iron. With the advent of various other forms of cooktops, newer pans have come on the market to accommodate the different heating elements used from electric, induction and yes, the stand alone countertop version. Each made with a material with a different base material to conduct the heat properly throughout the pan.
Here is a little video primer on choosing the right pan to match your cooktop:

Call them ‘purists’ or just those who like to prepare them like their ancestors, the ubiquitous cast iron pan is the one that is most prized as these are generally passes down from generation to generation. These heavy hitters require a first time ‘seasoning’ to use accomplished by first cleaning the new pan of the manufacturers special food-safe wax and then, rubbing with a thin light coat of vegetable oil. This is followed by placing the pan upside down in a pre-heat oven over foil at 400 degree for about 30-60 minutes. The foil will collect any excess oil as it drips from the pan. This ‘seasoning process’ allows the oil to coat the inside of  the pan creating a non-stick like surface.  You many have to repeat this is your see patches of none glossy areas within your pan. But, once you have all these areas sealed you are ready to begin. Note this process should be used for pans that also have not been used in a while.
The Pin
Some things…really should not be reinvented. The æbleskiver pin (aka knitting needle) is one of them. I have seen beautiful hand carved wooden ones, bamboo skewers used and simple forks. But, the best implement of flipping mass destruction is accomplished with a very nonconventional over-sized straight pin.
Below are my two cherished pieces of cookware from our Danish mother. They are her ‘pan + pin’…yes, that’s an old knitting needle! Her ‘heavier than sin’ cast iron pan has served many a hungry child and man. While the single odd piece of kitchen equipment has been her No. 2 knitting needle that is the  perfect tool to flip those little bad boys over in the pan. Not only does it not puncture them as you flip them over; they would well to clean the edges of the dough as they cook. These are my two indispensible pieces required to make æbleskiver. I have even brought my magic wand of a knitting needle to the houses of my friends who have wanted to make these. At first they giggle at the sight of such a device in the kitchen. But, once they see how useful it is to flip these in the pan they are whole-heartedly convinced of it’s genius.
 uber pan uber pin   

MAKING ÆBLESKIVER
Though there are premade mixes now available, I still prefer to make these from scratch using my Danish grandmother aka bedstemor’s old recipe. There are really two recipe versions that most Danes make today. One is a heavy dough version using yeast that makes a doughier version and then, there is the lighter one like me. Similar to crepes these are not too flavorful on their own; but, are best enhanced with powdered sugar, syrup and/or homemade marmalade.
There are a couple of this to know if you have never made them. First, my old recipe calls for using basic kitchen implements and the human eye. Think of this as how all cooks used to measure ingredients before pre-measured spoons and cups were invented.

How to…MEASURE
I will use the terminology of ‘Demi and Large Spoon‘ for measuring ingredients. I prefer this old way of measuring as it does not to alter what is already a good recipe. So, get your flatware out and let’s learn how to eyeball the amounts.
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Top: Demitasse Spoon (teaspoon), Middle: Individual Soup Spoon (Do Not Use), Bottom: Place Spoon (tablespoon)

How to…FLIP YOUR ÆBLESKIVER!
Though it may sound odd to be using a knitting needle to turn your æbleskiver , this is a simple technique to learn. There are generally few rules you need to remember.
Rule One: Never poke into your batter to turn them.
Rule Two: Keep your needle clean.
Rule Three: This is the most important rule. Flip your æbleskiver by placing your needle along side the edge of the batter and the pan by placing the needle below the browned batter and flipping it along the outside of the cooked round.
A little practice and you will be a seasoned pro!
My Danish bedstemor’s recipe…written by our mother
bedstemor_aebleskiver
BEDSTEMOR’S ÆBLESKIVER
yield: 24-30

INGREDIENTS
4 Large Spoon Flour (heaping amount with extra shaken off with light tap of spoon)
1 Demi Spoon Baking Soda/Natron (level amount)
½ Demi Spoon Sugar (fill to small peak)
4 Eggs
1c Buttermilk (more or less)
Butter
Oil
 IMG_0976
METHOD
1: Add all dry ingredients to the medium bowl and mix together. Set aside.
2: Separate the yokes from the egg whites.
Place whites in the smaller bowl and add the yokes to a smaller bowl.
Scramble the four yokes into one mass.
3: Take the dry ingredients and add a teacup full of buttermilk.
Then, add the scrambled yokes to the mixture. Blend well.
Depending on the amount of blended yokes you might need to add a little more buttermilk as you need to have a light pancake like batter.IMG_0981 
4: Beat egg whites until stiff with light peaks.
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5: Fold beaten eggs whites into buttermilk mixture with a whisk until evenly distributed. The final batter should look well mixed; but, light.
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6: Preheat pan on medium high and prepare your oil and butter. Add vegetable oil to a small milk pourer and pre-cut your butter into small squares…make these small enough to add one to each round of the pan.
 IMG_0979 
7: Add one dab of butter and a little bit of oil to each round. Test the melted butter-oil with a toothpick. If it bubbles, it is ready to receive batter. Do not allow it to become so hot that the oil and butter begin to smoke as it will burn your batter.
:: Always use CAUTION around the pan as the oil may splatter and burn::
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8: With a large serving spoon [i use an old salad spoon], fill each area with batter to about level in the pan. Remember that the batter has egg whites in it and will fluff up as they begin to cook.
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Special note: If you spill any outside of the rounds, simply take your pin from underneath and scoop back into the round without piercing the batter.
kel_aebleskiver 2011
9: Check the undersides of the æbleskiver by taking your pin around the outside of the batter and flipping them from underneath. The goal is not to poke your pin into them and flip them. This will only cause these light fluffy ones to deflate like a soufflé.
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10: These can be made in whole batches and left in a low heat oven to serve all at once…or you can make individual batches for each person as they become ready. Just remember that with the former you can sit down and enjoy them with your friends and family as the latter will make you the line cook.
I have to say that making individual batches for each serving adds an additional personal touch to your final product. This is even made more enjoyable when a newbie is standing over your shoulder in bewilderment at the whole cooking process.
HOW TO SERVEIMG_0994
The traditional way is to serve them with a little powdered sugar and homemade marmalade. Adding syrup being the added treat as it was only readily available from the grocer.Today, I enjoy them served like our grandmother and mother used to serve them to us as kid - the old fashioned traditional way, especially with my favorite black currant (solbær) marmalade.
Depending on whether you like just a little sprinkle of powdered sugar on it or all three condiments added to it, each batch of æbleskiver will be appreciated and enjoyed by all. Eat them fast as they deflate like a soufflé and lose their fluff.
Leftover cold ones make easy to eat on the run snacks. Our bedstemor would leave a bowl full of these for us to grab and go along with a small dish of granulated sugar to dab them in.
Remember anything goes with these wonderful morsels. I only ask since æbleskiver is  unpronounceable to most Americans to invent a creative name like my friends. Just please don’t call them Danish pancakes.
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   velbekomme!
Enjoy these delicious Danish ‘æbleskiver for a Sunday Easter Brunch, Christmas, New Years or as wonderful weekend treat.
VARIATIONS
Add lemon or orange zest to dry ingredients.
Heavier recipe batter types can also be used for making savory æbleskiver that include a variety of ingredients that can almost serve up as small rounded soufflé-like mounds. In these types of æbleskiver, the added ingredients of chopped sun-dried tomato, feta and various herbs take this traditional dessert to a whole new level.
RESOURCES
http://www.natmus.dk/sw34972.asp (recipe from 1710 – using yeast)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to write the 'whole story' down. I love my Æbleskiver, and in fact will be making some soon, and writing about my adventures. I'm the proud owner of two pans, one which my husband's grandmother gifted me, as well as the one I got shortly after getting married. Both are well seasoned and used. And now I've found you, I'll be checking back in.

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