Aebleskiver – Danish Pancakes with Rose Petal Jam.
The following recipe started out simply enough.
It’s intention was to describe the æbleskiver (aebleskive being the singular) – which are traditional Danish pancakes, distinctive by their spherical shape, that Brunyfire and partner had stumbled upon a few years ago. As an aside, a ’round pancake’ seems like an oxymoronic kind of a product, considering that the definition of a ‘pancake’ is described as a ‘thin, flat cake of batter, usually fried and turned or flipped in a pan’.
Round, light and airy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside – the æbleskive texture is made possible partly by its ingredients (that include buttermilk and a raising agent) but more importantly, by the design of the pan and its cooking method. Batter is spooned into a special cast-iron pan that has semi-spherical indentations, and the batter is baked by rotating them. Traditionally this was done with a knitting needle.
What is intriguing about æbleskiver is that there are many versions around the world, but each claiming their own nationality, and each cooked in a similar kind of pan and in the same way. To date, I’ve found versions from Denmark, Holland, Japan, India, the UK and Thailand.
The Danish version has recently acquired international gastronomical status as they have been featured on the menu of noma in Copenhagen, voted the world’s best restaurant for the past few years. On the menu are Æbleskiver and muuiko – a Nordic-style pancake wrapped around preserved fish. This doesn’t sound (or look) too appealing in my opinion, and it was the traditional version that was of greater interest. A buttermilk and egg batter recipe, better reflects Brunyfire’s international family – we have Danish relatives who live in Zug in Switzerland and make æbleskiver most Christmases – the recipe that follows is from Liz and Klaus……………. we also have family in the UK who love their Roast Beef and Yorkshire puds………..……….and then I was told about Tasmanian gem cakes! Only recently discovered thanks to Margaret who recognized Brunyfire’s latest Vinnie’s op shop purchase as a gem cake pan – for gem scones or jelly cakes as far as I can make out. But it was in Bornholm, a unique little island situated in the Baltic Sea, to the east of its parent, mainland Denmark and south of Sweden, that Brunyfire first came across this interesting little culinary gem. The inclusion of the rose petal jam (check out More Rose Petal Jam) was inspired by our visit to Bornholm in the summer of ’07 where quaint cottages by the sea boasted the last of the seasons roses.During our tour around the island, we came across a farmer’s market, and it was here that we tasted our first æbleskive…………….sporting copious amounts of strawberry jam and icing sugar. Traditionally, these little morsels were served with apple (æbleskiver means ‘apple slices’ in Danish).
Nobody seems to know the true origin of the æbleskiver, but Brunyfire came across this rather quaint story. According to local lore, returning Viking warriors that had been sorely defeated in battle, managed to get back to their long boats with their pride and their battle shields well and truly dented. Needing to eat, they mixed their rations of flour and milk, making a batter that they supposedly poured into the dents of their shields and cooked over an open fire. The resulting ‘bumpy pancakes’ became the round æbleskiver that we know now, that are cooked in a special pan.
Having visited the Hjorths Fabrik ceramics museum in Rønne – I was excited to find an early aebleskiver pan made of earthenware for using on the open fireplace in the museum collection – its contemporary cousin are nowadays cast iron. Later still, I got hold of this little recipe book obtained from the Bornholms Museum book shop where the above clay pan is featured…….……..only it is described as an ‘earthenware pan with pastry hollows’. Hjorths Fabrik, was the leading producer of ceramics (mainly functional ware) of Bornholm dating back to 1859 – they still run workshops and artist in residence programmes in the old studios.
On researching still further on my return, I discovered an antique version (for sale online) – decorated as illustrated so I’m not sure whether this was just as a decorative piece, or was actually functional. The pan did feature a round unglazed base, indicating that the pan was hollow and given its shape, could have been used on an open fire – most likely gas?
Back from Bornholm to Bruny Island!
Having acquired the cast aluminium gem cake pan, I was able to put it to use last week, with surprisingly good results.
Aebleskiver with Rose Petal Jam.
Firstly – find your aebleskiver pan – good hunting, they’re hard to find. The following ingredients make about 30-35 aebleskiver.
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (plus extra for greasing pan)
- 2 eggs (separated)
- 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 large teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Grated zest of ½ lemon
- Pinch salt
Place the pan on a hot fire and let it get really hot. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Add the sieved flour with the bicarb added, and part of the buttermilk alternatively in small amounts to the egg mixture and mix until it becomes a thick stretchy dough, even and smooth in texture, using a wooden spoon. Add lemon peel, melted butter, salt and remaining buttermilk. The dough should now be a pourable batter (like a pancake mix). Whisk the egg whites to form peaks and fold them into the batter. This must be done just before the cooking starts.
Melt the butter in each of the hollows in the pan, and brush it around………………..then add about a teaspoon of batter to each hollow.Carefully add a dob of rose petal jam……….……and then pour a little more batter on top. Cook for half a minute before carefully turning them with a skewer. Continue turning them until they are brown all over.Serve up with a good cup of bush billy tea!