Traditional dish a holiday favorite
Aebleskiver or ebleskiver is a small round Scandinavian pancake that tastes like a delicate donut – a cross between a pancake and a popover. It is made in a cast-iron pan with seven indented half-circles, one for each cake. It is served in Denmark during Jul, an old Nordic world for Christmas. In my childhood, Jul began at my great aunt Anna’s, my “Beepa’s” sister. Going to Aunt Anna and Uncle Herman’s meant that Christmas had started.
It could be yesterday as I remember donning my coat for the drive across town, the excitement of Christmas yet-to-come building in my belly. Being the youngest, I sat in the middle of the back seat, crouching forward to see the Christmas lights. Anna lived on a small street in West Utica. The bungalow houses were close together and divided by a single driveway. Each one presented its own vision of Christmas with strings of colored bulbs outlining the roof peaks, plastic Santas and lit-up nativity scenes. I knew our destination by the Frosty on the upstairs porch and the lights loosely flung around the side porch railing.
As we entered the crowd of kissers, my mom would remove my coat and quickly straighten the bow on my dress and in my hair. I can still feel her fingers gently pushing me forward to be viewed by some big person. I knew I had to keep my excitement in check around so many adults. The parlor was empty and the doilies untouched, but the dining room was packed with relatives. The table was full of goodies, but I wanted no part of it. I would wait for the star attraction – crusty, sweet, round, golf ball-sized pancakes called aebleskiver.
The real action happened in the kitchen. The grown-up uncles, fathers and granddads crammed around the kitchen table drinking something dark. I learned later that it was glogg, a fermented Danish wine. Aunt Anna was at the old gas stove. I was allowed to watch as she ladled fluffy batter into an aebleskiver pan. When the pancake was browned to her liking, she would take her knitting needle and hook the circle and turn it over, revealing a golden dome. As the ball turned, it spilled the batter into the round well to complete the circle. In no time the golden, crusty ball was delivered onto my Christmas plate.
My mom would then drizzle Karo syrup right out of the bottle onto my prize. Karo syrup? Yup, that’s what she used, and to a kid with limited access to sweets, this was as good as it got. We stood while we ate and if you held your plate out, it got filled with as many refills as you wanted – and I wanted many.
As time passed, so did our aebleskiver tradition, until one day I came upon an aebleskiver pan in an obscure food service catalogue. I called my sisters, and through a Danish friend we were able to obtain an authentic recipe. We presented the pan to my dad for Christmas in 1974, and so the Danish tradition has continued in the Nelson household.
This Christmas morning I will take out my dad’s cast-iron pan and make aebleskiver for my extended family. Even though I now have an aebleskiver cook book from Williams-Sonoma that has recipes for chocolate, spinach, cheese-filled and blackberry aebleskivers, I will use the old authentic recipe with the ground cardamom. I will turn the sphere with a wooden skewer (I don’t knit). It will use real maple syrup and I will give crusty, sweet, round refills to whoever holds out their plate.
Aebleskiver has become very popular lately, plain or with filling. Pans can be purchased almost anywhere, including Walmart, Johnstown Restaurant Supply, Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.com. The price ranges from $15 to $50.
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1 cup all purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt.
2. In another bowl, mix egg yolks and milk. Making a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid and mix only until combined.
3. Beat egg whites until still peaks form.
4. Fold the whites gently into the batter.
5. Brush the pan generously with oil and heat over medium heat.
6. When the oil sizzles, put two tablespoons of batter into the hole.
7. When a thin crust forms, invert each aebleskiver with a toothpick or wooden skewer, allowing the batter to flow into the cup.
8. Turn again if needed, cooking about 2 minutes total.
9. Remove using the tooth pick or skewer
10. Serve with jam, jelly, honey, powered sugar, maple or Karo syrup.