Christmas eating is best when steeped in tradition! That’s why I woke up Christmas morning and decided to do what I had fond memories of experiencing as a youngin’: eating aebleskivers! These are tiny Danish pancakes that my family (of Scandinavian heritage) used to make during the holidays. Technically, they should be made with apples (hence, the “aeble” meaning “apple”), but that’s not how Grandma made them. Hers were filled with currants and dipped in sugar like a donut hole. Growing up, the family would all crowd around the kitchen table while Grandma and her sister stood over the stove turning out the tiny, warm pancake balls as fast as we could eat them.
A few years ago, Grandma sent me one of her aebleskiver cast iron pans as a Christmas present. Recreating the tradition always seemed daunting. What if they didn’t turn out right? What if I burned them and ruined the memory?—on Christmas morning, no less! Fear prevented me removing the pan from its box… until this year.
On this Christmas morning, the warmth of the memory and my need to recreate it were stronger than my minor fears. I pulled the heavy box down from storage, confidently scanned the recipe, and began to measure my ingredients.
But wait? Having lived in Denmark for a year, I know that “aeble” means “apple,” but I didn’t recall Grandma’s recipe using any applesauce, which the recipe with the pan required. Was my memory foggy? I seemed to remember bits of raisin in there. I dug in my recipe box, the sacred place where I keep all the hand-written recipes passed down from Mom and Grandma. Her aebleskiver recipe was nowhere to be found.
Puzzled, I grabbed the phone and called Grandma.
“Oh, you’re making fudgins!” she exclaimed. I hadn’t remembered calling them that. It’s funny how memory plays tricks on you.
Grandma confirmed my hunch about raisins in my pastries. However, she explained that they had been currants, not raisins. That actually made more sense, because I remember the pancake being generously studded with them, and I wasn’t sure how many raisins would realistically fit in such a tiny golf ball-sized treat.
Grandma also confirmed that I should use a fondue fork to flip them over, and that they ought to be dipped in sugar before serving. The pan should be “as hot as you would heat a pan for pancakes.” And one final tip from the aebleskiver pro: “Be sure you use plenty of whatever fat you’re going to use, or they’ll stick when you try to flip them.”
With my to-do list now complete, I hung up, promising to report back after my aebleskiver attempt.
As I gathered the ingredients according to the recipe, plus Grandma’s additions, I decided to jazz it up with my own twists. I added cinnamon, ground ginger, and the zest from an orange. Without any currants on hand, I went with my plain raisins.
With my pan hot and my batter mixed, I dropped a dollop of butter into each tiny hole in the cast iron pan, and then gently dropped a large spoonful of batter into each. Just like pancakes, the batter began to bubble, letting me know clearly when these tiny treats were ready to be flipped. Using my fondue fork, I used the technique I learned by watching Grandma in her kitchen all those years ago.
Surprisingly, these donut-hole-like pancakes seemed foolproof! The center hole seemed to bake a lot faster than the outer holes, but other than that, it was a seamless process, and before I knew it, I had a large bowl full of the cute treats.
With our first bite, my husband and I found comfort and delight in my aebleskivers. The orange zest was a bright and welcome addition to an otherwise utterly cozy breakfast treat. When you eat memories, you’re bound to be filled with warmth and satisfaction.
If you want to try making these tasty treats, you’ll need a cast iron aebleskiver pan. Nowadays, they even sell them at Target! (However, Grandma’s was made in Cincinnati, Ohio back in the day–before cheap China knock-offs.) Feel free to dress them up as you please. You can use wheat or white flours, fill them with nuts, fruits, or jams, and roll them in sugar, powdered sugar, or maple syrup to serve. The possibilities are truly endless.
Grandma Betty’s Aebleskiver Recipe
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tablespoon orange zest (or zest from one large orange)
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups dried currants or raisins
1 cup organic granulated sugar in which to roll finished pastries
Heat the aebleskiver pan over medium heat.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Form a well in the center and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk. Add the brown sugar, buttermilk, and orange zest and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
In a second large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the beaten egg whites with a spatula.
Drop a small dollop of butter into the bottom of each aebleskiver hole in your hot pan. Next, add a large spoonful of batter into each hole, filling to 2/3 full. Throw a few currants or raisins into the wet batter in each hole. The batter will begin to bubble. When the bubbles begin to subside, use a fondue fork to gently flip them over so that the unbaked side is in the bottom of the aebleskiver hole and the golden side is facing up. After a few minutes, check to see whether the bottom side has turned golden brown—when this happens, remove the aebleskiver from the pan.
Be sure to check the center hole first; if you are using a gas stove, this will probably finish before the others. You can also use a toothpick inserted into the center of each aebleskiver to check whether it’s done. Sometimes, if your pan is too hot, the outside will heat too quickly, leaving a gooey middle.
Fill a large bowl with a small amount of the granulated sugar. As you remove each aebleskiver, drop it into the sugar and roll to coat. Serve warm.
Servings: Enough for a large, hungry family to eat about five per person! This is a big batch. Cut it in half (at least) if you’re only cooking for two.