Danish Aebleskiver: Take a Bite of Danish Heritage

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Sweet æbleskiver may need only a sprinkle of confectioner's sugar before serving.
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Often called a "monk pan," the cast-iron contraption contains several round indentations, or wells, for the batter to fry.
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A little buttermilk goes a long way towards a delicious breakfast on the farm.
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With this tasty recipe, æbleskiver are rolled in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before serving.

As a child, I looked forward to winter mornings when Mom took the special æbleskiver pan from the cupboard. The kitchen soon filled with the delicious aroma of the sweet, round treats that connected me to my ancestors.

Chocolate Æbleskiver Recipe
Cherry Æbleskiver Recipe

The æbleskiver are a tasty tradition in my family, offering a glimpse into our Danish heritage and a delicious way to discover our immigrant roots. As fun to prepare as they are to eat, æbleskiver give cooks a chance to show off their choicest ingredients and let true personalities shine. While there are no rules dictating how they are prepared or served, the best recipes, a little patience and proper equipment can guarantee fabulous end results.

Æbleskiver, small Danish pancake balls, have been prepared for decades by chefs, bed and breakfast cooks, and many household cooks in the United States. They taste much like a sweetened pancake and are fairly easy to whip up with the proper equipment and a suitable recipe. The allure of the æbleskiver (pronounced AB-el-ski-wyr) <>is that they are easy to eat, and their somewhat cloudy Scandinavian history gives them a whimsical charm that trumps other breakfast fares. Danes traditionally don’t eat æbleskiver for breakfast; they are usually served for special occasions. The beauty of æbleskiver, however, is that it is completely up to you how – and when – you want to serve them.

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact conception of æbleskiver, we accept that they were born in Denmark sometime before the 1600s and remain a traditional delicacy of Danes today. Served in Denmark for many occasions, but most often for the Christmas season, they have become popular in the United States as a delicious treat for most any meal, and an even better dessert. Æbleskiver are a perfect offering to visitors, as they look fancier than they really are and allow guests to customize their experience with any topping they choose. Served with a spread of fresh fruits, cheeses and the traditional glogg (a mulled wine drink similar to hot cider), you can embrace Danish tradition in the warmth of your own home. 

Preparing æbleskiver

Most cooks agree that the æbleskiver pan is the secret to a successful æbleskiver spread. Often called a “monk pan,” the cast-iron contraption contains several round indentations (or wells) for the batter to fry, and in newer pans, the seven or nine wells are also coated with a special nonstick surface for easier preparation. The pans can be ordered from many Scandinavian specialty shops, but it is also possible to find them at thrift stores and antique outlets, where they are often mislabeled as “egg pans.” Special care should be taken when using a monk pan on glass-top cooking surfaces, as it is extremely heavy.

Once the batter of your choice has been mixed, it is spooned into the wells of the æbleskiver pan. Some chefs prefer to prepare each divot with a bit of cooking oil prior to adding the dough. This can prevent sticking on an older pan, and it gives the æbleskiver a bit of extra crispiness that some diners favor.

Keep the heat at medium-high or, for a new pan, check the manufacturer’s directions for recommended temperatures.

After a brief time cooking on one side, usually less than a minute, each æbleskive will need to be adjusted one quarter turn. Many recipes call for them to be pricked with a fork or bamboo skewer and flipped over, but traditionally, this practice was done with a clean knitting needle or hatpin. Continue cooking on all four “sides” of the rounded creation, until it is golden brown all over. You may also prefer to insert the hatpin or knitting needle gently into the center of the æbleskive to check for doneness. Once the æbleskiver have been evenly cooked, they can be removed from the pan and allowed to cool slightly before serving. Æbleskiver are best served warm, but not so hot that they burn mouths. 

Dressing æbleskiver

The beauty of these little “pancake balls” is that they are as versatile as the cook who creates them, offering an opportunity to pair them with most any fruit, cream, sugar or spice. Traditional recipes from Danish immigrants suggest that apples were the favorite ingredient for households with a limited supply of fresher or more exotic elements (such as lemon zest or the popular cardamom). In fact, the name æbleskiver literally means “apple slices” in the Danish language, and, in addition to the accepted technique of spooning fresh apples and applesauce onto the dough before they are cooked, they also are often served with fresh fruit strewn over the final product.

These little blank canvases take on nicely the flavor of most any preserve or jelly, as well. Common variations include topping with applesauce, dusting with powdered sugar, dipping in marmalade, or baking the fruit directly into the batter itself. Honey, maple and white corn syrups can also provide a more “American” experience, giving them a taste similar to today’s waffles or pancakes.

Linsey Knerl writes about simple living from her rural Nebraska home as she homeschools her brood of four children. 

Gær Æbleskiver (Pancake Balls with Yeast)

1 yeast cake or 1 envelope dry active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups rich milk
2 cups flour
4 eggs 

Combine yeast, sugar and salt. Heat milk to lukewarm over low heat, then add to flour.

Add yeast mixture, then eggs one at a time. Mix well and allow dough to rise for about 2 hours before baking in æbleskiver pan, using the following method: 

Fill holes about 3/4 full of batter and bake. When half baked, turn with sharp fork or clean knitting needle. Serve with jam or jelly.

Flødeæbleskiver (Pancake Balls with Cream)

4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sweet cream
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon cardamom 

Beat egg whites separately. Beat eggs yolks with sugar and salt. Add cream, flour, cardamom and beaten egg whites. Bake in æbleskiver pan.

Note: Sour cream may be used in place of sweet cream, but 1/2 teaspoon baking soda will need to be added.

Kærnemælks Æbleskiver (Buttermilk Pancake Balls)

3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat egg yolks, and add sugar, salt, buttermilk, and flour mixed with soda and baking powder. Beat egg whites until stiff and add last. Bake in butter or shortening in æbleskiver pan, putting 1 teaspoonful applesauce on top of dough before turning halfway through. Serve with jam. 

Sweetest Æbleskiver

2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup cinnamon
1/2 cup white granulated sugar 

Combine eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, sugar and butter. Prepare æbleskiver pan with additional melted butter in each well; bake. When finished cooking, remove æbleskiver, and roll each in mixture of cinnamon and sugar before serving.

Healthier Æbleskiver 

2 cups lowfat buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs equivalent of egg substitute
2 tablespoons Splenda or non-sugar baking sweetener 

Combine all ingredients to form batter. Prepare æbleskiver pan by lightly spraying nonfat cooking spray in each well before heating. Bake æbleskiver as recommended, and remove when evenly cooked. Serve with choice of lowfat or sugar-free toppings, such as natural applesauce, fresh blueberries or sugar-free jam.

Additional Cooking Tips

? Many of the recipes for æbleskiver suggest that eggs be separated before being beaten and added to the mix. While this is certainly preferred to create a lighter and fluffier æbleskiver, those who are pressed for time may skip this step and add both yolk and white to the batter.

? If you are using a cast-iron monk pan without nonstick coating for the first time, it is recommended that you follow the directions included with your pan to “season” it. A basic method of “seasoning” requires that you coat the inside of the clean, dry pan with cooking oil or lard before baking it upside down in a 350°F oven. The entire process should take no more than 1 hour, and it will leave your cast-iron pan with a natural nonstick surface perfect for cooking æbleskiver.

? If you choose to add a filling or a bit of fresh fruit to your æbleskiver, it is appropriate to do so immediately after filling each well with the batter. Your special ingredient may be placed directly on top of the batter – just be sure the batter doesn’t overflow the batter well.

? Leftover æbleskiver may be kept frozen for up to 3 months. Allow them to cool completely and seal them tightly in a marked freezer bag. Some cooks prefer to separate layers of æbleskiver with parchment paper for easy removal in batches. Frozen æbleskiver can be reheated in an oven or microwave for easy serving.


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