From the start I will admit to having never made or eaten these, nor to having heard of them until a few reads ago. But they look and sound so desirable that it can only be a short time before I have achieved the making and the eating. So, why did these catch my eye. Well, I subscribe to a weekly Japanese blog Just One Cookbook, which, much as I love it, is hard to read because it has so very many adverts on it. But one of these adverts was for a pan, called an Æbleskiver Pan – well for a curious foodie follower you know the next step, what is an Æbleskiver, it certainly does not sound Japanese? And so the searching begins.
Now, it may be that all of you know what an Æbleskiver is and I am just lacking in a good education, but I had never heard of them. Turns out they are Danish, and they are variously described as, ‘like pancakes crossed with Yorkshire pudding’ (The Great British Bakeoff), ‘a cross between a doughnut hole and a pancake’ (Favourite Family Recipes), or ‘like a waffle pancake formed like a tennis ball’ (House of Nash and Slovang). The LA Times, quoting The History of the Ableskiver, say that,
‘Aebleskivers are a type of pancake (whose) center is soft and fluffy, almost creamy. The crust is crisp and browned. In Denmark, aebleskivers are traditionally plated in threes, dusted with powdered sugar, topped or filled with tart jams of Nordic berries and served with mellow Scandinavian coffee.’
The pancake batter is leavened by either yeast, which makes a more expandable ball, or with baking soda, which does just fine too. Traditionally, apple (aeble) slices (skivers) were included in the batter, but these days Æbleskiver come in all sorts of flavours, from savoury to sweet and back again. As well as the traditional tart jam and sugar, maple syrup, whipped cream and butter make popular accompaniments.
Generally these are a family or street food, often served in winter with coffee for breakfast or with glögg if eating on the go streetside. They are most often served during the Christmas season, are said to be a symbol of community and hospitality and are often seen at charity events.
Their origins are unknown but, of course, there are lots of stories about Vikings who, after a hard day marauding and plundering the east coast of England and Europe, returned to base hungry for pancakes but finding no pans on which to cook them, resorted to pouring the batter into their oiled but pockmarked and dented shields, putting them over the fire and so the Æbleskiver was invented. Karl Jorgensen, former owner and publisher of Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Magazine, adds to this possible history by proposing the following: ‘Suppose this little band of Vikings could have been Leif Ericsen and his men and they were fighting the “braves” at Vinland!! Then aebleskiver were served here in this country over a thousand years ago for the first time.’ Perhaps, perhaps not.
In fact (fact) the earliest known Æbleskiver pans are only 300 years old. They were initially made from beaten copper and then from cast iron. Today cast iron pans are still available as are the newer aluminium which has a non-stick coating. Arne Hansen, former Solvang Restaurant owner and present mini-empire owner of all things Æbleskiver says that, ‘If you don’t want any hassle, if you want perfect results every time, if you are cooking on an electric stove, coated aluminum pans are your best choice,” Hansen says. “But if you are cooking on gas and if you do not mind the special care involved with cast iron, a heavy iron pan will work for you.’
So this brings us almost full circle to the cooking pan. Here is an example of the Æbleskiver pan, it is cast iron:
So, tell me, what are these? No peeking!
It turns out that there are many cultures with a tradition of little pancake balls!
Ashley from Practical Self Reliance has written a brilliant article called ‘8 Things to cook in an Aebleskiver Pan’. I feel the need of a new pan coming on – all it has to have are an indeterminate number of depressions and then the world is my oyster! However, you really don’t need a pan when, if you live in Denmark or the US, you can buy your Æbleskiver frozen and just in need of thawing before being ready for use.
Meantime, if you have such a pan, then here is a recipe for Æbleskiver. Enjoy.