saturday afternoon æbleskiver

æbleskiver 5

I first encountered æbleskiver*, Danish pancake balls, at the annual Yulefest celebration at Seattle’s Nordic Heritage Museum. As you wait in line (there’s always a line – they’re a popular item) you can watch a line of volunteers, each with their own portable burner and æbleskiver pan, as they tend to their batter with long, thin wooden sticks, rotating the balls to form perfect spheres composed of the lightest, fluffiest dough I’ve ever had. Only slightly sweetened, these pancake balls are served topped off with powdered sugar and either applesauce or lingonberries (at the museum, that is – elsewhere you might find them filled with applesauce or jam instead). The word æbleskiver is actually composed of two Danish words: æble, meaning “apple,” and skiver, meaning “slices.” Given the name I can only assume that applesauce is the more traditional of the two toppings, but I’ve always gone for lingonberries. I’ve also had these delicious pancake balls at Broder in Portland, a wonderful Swedish restaurant that’s been a favorite of mine since my first trip to Portland.

My husband and I have been going through our house in preparation for a move to Norway (you can read about that here) – lots to pack, lots to find new homes for, lots to figure out what to do with – but in going through our kitchen I discovered a cast iron æbleskiver pan in the back of a cupboard. I think we must have bought it during the holidays sometime in the past few years, but forgotten about it after it went in the cupboard in the madness of holiday travel and all of that. In any case, I doubt the pan will be coming with us to Norway, so I decided it was high time for me to try making some æbleskiver of my own, before we find a new home for it!

æbleskiver 1

The dough itself is quite simple with relatively few ingredients – simpler than any of the other Nordic pancakes I’ve made, at least. Some of the ingredients need prepping – the milk needs to be heated to lukewarm, the butter needs to be melted, and the egg whites need to be whipped until stiff – but once you’ve done that you’re almost ready to hit the pan, really. I think my technique could probably use some work, though, because most of my pancakes came out shaped much more like macarons than like balls. Still, they were delicious all the same!

æbleskiver 2

Æbleskiver are made with a special pan, with half-sphere indentations in which the pancakes are cooked. When the surface of the first half has cooked, you use a long, thin stick (made of metal or wood) to turn the spheres so that the rest of the dough forms the other half of the ball. I have a feeling it takes some practice to get pancakes that are perfectly round.

æbleskiver 3

æbleskiver 4

I served mine up the way I like them – topped with powdered sugar and some lingonberry compote (homemade, in this case). They were a lovely Saturday afternoon treat!

*Beatrice spells this recipe “aebelskiver,” but I’m more familiar with the common spelling æbleskiver, so that’s what I’ve used here. The second half of the word sometimes gets spelled “shiver” in English, because of how the “sk” sound is pronounced.

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pönnukökur með þeyttum rjóma

Iceland is a tiny country with a lot of mystique that happens to be really, really good at marketing itself. They have totally embraced the Internet and social media as a marketing tool and I’m incredibly fond of the results: through a series of accounts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr, and so on, Iceland makes you want to be its friend. Take the flagship site:

www.icelandwantstobeyourfriend.com

Iceland wants to be your friend. Personifying a tiny island in the north Atlantic with an epic history and an equally epic and beautiful topography? It’s total genius. I encourage you to check out that site as well as many of the spin-offs, such as isanicelandicvolcanoerupting.comeverysinglewordinicelandic.com, or perhaps my favorite, visiticelandinaflyingmachine.com.

Through this family of websites, I discovered a how-to video for Icelandic pancakes, or pönnukökur. Aside from being totally adorable (I wish Margrét was my grandmother), it’s useful, too: the pancakes are delicious. If you watch the video (below), you’ll hear Margrét tell you that pönnukökur are frequently made on Christmas. While flipping through The Great Scandinavian Baking Book this week, I discovered that the book has its own recipe for pönnukökur! I decided to make them for brunch today to test out this new-to-me recipe, and my family was fully in support of this plan.

The recipes are slightly different, and so the results were slightly different as well: the recipe found in The Great Scandinavian Baking Book isn’t as sweet as the one in the video, and so they’re less dessert-like, but this worked out well for a brunch. We still served them with whipped cream (með þeyttum rjóma) and powdered sugar, though. They were delicious, and I think I’ll definitely make them again. If you’d like to try your hand at pönnukökur, here’s that video I talked about:

How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

Gleðileg jól to all of you who celebrate Christmas! I hope it’s a warm and happy one.