Danish Pancake Balls “Aebleskiver”
Danish Aebleskiver, also known as Danish pancake balls, are a traditional Danish food served during Christmas. The center of these Danish pastries are soft and fluffy, almost creamy. The crust is crisp and slightly browned and the apple filling is sweet and tangy. In Danish “Aebleskiver” simply means apple slices which is the most traditional fillings for this well-known Nordic specialty. Popular during the Christmas holiday season, Aebleskiver are commonly found in almost every Danish supermarket from November until well after Christmas. I fell hard and fast for Aebleskiver when I traveled to Denmark a few years ago.
Unlike the American pancake, Aebleskiver (pronounced as “eb-el-ski-ver) are commonly served for afternoon coffee breaks or as a dessert on a cold Nordic winter night, along side glögg, a popular drink which is similar to American mulled wine.
There are numerous recipes for making the Aebleskiver batter itself, but they generally fall into two categories: those made with baking powder/soda as a leavening agent (as is the case in my recipe), or those made with yeast. The batters vary in texture and flavor. Yeasted batters take patience to prepare and will expand more in the pan. But both versions are delicious, it’s just a matter of personal taste.
Traditional Aebleskiver were most often filled with small pieces of apples or sometimes applesauce (hence their name). In the modern Danish kitchens however, various fruit jam or chocolate fillings have become increasingly more common.
THE AEBLESKIVER FRYING PAN
The cooking of Aebleskiver are done in a special Aebleskiver frying pan with half-spherical molds. The earliest known Aebleskiver pans are more than 300 years old and were made from hammered copper. But copper proved less than ideal. Soon copper got replaced by cast iron, which distributes heat more evenly and forms a natural nonstick surface.
Today, pans are also made from aluminum with nonstick coating. In Denmark these pans can be found just about everywhere in the winter months. Here in the states, these pans can be easily purchase online or sometimes at a local kitchen store.
The Aebleskiver pan has a legend attached to it. It is believed that during the Viking age, one band of Vikings got hit very hard in battle. They returned to their ship with dented horn helmets and shields and they made pancakes to regain their strength. But because they didn’t have proper cookware, they greased their dented shields, poured the batter in them and placed over a fire. And thus the first Aebleskiver’s were born (or so they say…).
To me, Aebleskiver’s are a cross between a pancake and a donut, although they are slightly airier and lighter than either of those. And although the Danes consider them more of a Christmas dessert, I enjoy them year-round, for breakfast, lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar alongside a cup of of coffee.
Recipe: Danish Pancake Balls--Aebleskiver
- For the Apple Filling:
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup cold water
- For the Pancake Batter:
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus additional for cooking
- Confectioners's sugar, for dusting
- Step 1 For the Apples: In a medium saucepan add the apples, sugar, cinnamon and water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook the apples, covered, until tender, about 15. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, cut the apples into a small dice and set aside.
- Step 2 For the Batter: Separate the egg whites and yolks in separate bowls.
- Step 3 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid, fitted with a whisk attachment, add the egg whites and beat on high until fluffy. As the whites become stiff, slowly add the sugar. Mix to incorporate. Place the whipped egg whites into a small bowl and set aside.
- Step 4 Clean out the mixer bowl and add the egg yolks, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract. Using the whisk attachment, mix to blend.
- Step 5 With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk and mix until smooth. Next, add the butter and mix until incorporated.
- Step 6 Using a large rubber tip spatula, gently fold in the egg whites, be careful not to over-mix.
- Step 7 Stuffing and Cooking the Pancakes. Place your special Danish pancake pan over medium heat. Add a small piece of butter in each hole. Use a pastry brush to cover the holes evenly with butter.
- Step 8 Fill the holes about halfway full with batter, about 1 tablespoon. Place about 1 teaspoon of apples in the center of each pancake. Place an additional 1/2 tablespoon of batter on top of the apples and allow to cook until the batter starts to firm up. Using a butter knife, carefully turn the pancakes over and cook a light-brown crust has formed on both sides, about 2-3 minutes.
- Step 9 Carefully transfer the stuffed pancakes to a plater or cutting board. Repeat the above process with the remaining batter. Dust generously with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm or room temperature.