Memories of Denmark and Ebelskivers

Do your favourite travel memories revolve around food? Now of course there are the places that you wander between meals—the museums, the artisan markets, or the ancient burial grounds. But does your mind always drift back to that incredible triple cream brie that oozed perfectly over your baguette or that rum and raisin scone with the to-die-for clotted cream that made you believe you were a member of the royal family? Am I all alone on this one?

It’s been more than five, ten, okay, 20 years, but I vividly remember the day I was greeted by a family friend’s sister at the Aalborg train station waiving her little red and white Danish flag so that I’d recognize her. Thanks to my warm and welcoming host and her family, I learned a lot about the Danish culture during my five-day stop-over and I saw a lot of the local sights and sounds, including the Aalborg Tower and Zoo. But what really stands out in my mind? (No, not the aquavit.) I clearly remember the celebratory family dinner with the entire Christensen clan, where I was introduced to the Danish tradition of eating ebelskivers on special occasions.  (Okay, and maybe I remember  a cute Danish boy as well.)

I’ve been thinking about ebelskivers for all these years and finally decided to buy myself the special pan required to make them. Allow me to introduce you to ebelskivers if you’re not familiar with them.

Apparently, Denmark is famous for its apples, which are known as “ebler.”  The literal translation of ebelskiver (pronounced “able-skeevers”) is “sliced apples” although most ebelskivers do not include apple slices. Abelskivers are in fact little pancake balls (called “pancake puffs” in the US) that according to Wikipedia are “solid like a pancake but light and fluffy like a popover.”

While one of the traditional ways to serve ebelskivers is with strawberry or raspberry jam and icing sugar (especially on special occasions and during the Christmas season), these versatile little round spheres can be served anytime of day—as desserts, savory snacks or at breakfast, depending on which fillings or toppings you choose.

This is my new ebelskiver pan

The abelskiver pan itself is a real conversation piece. There’s one story that tells of Vikings returning fiercely hungry from a battle and placing their damaged shields over a hot fire and cooking the pancakes in the indentations. (This is the image that was floating through my mind as I used my cast iron pan.) The special pans are often passed down from generation to generation. For example, when my mom’s best friend immigrated to Canada from Denmark more than 50 years ago, she didn’t bring much with her—but she did bring her grandmother’s ebelskiver pan.

I made these ebelskivers a second time this weekend, as we had an early Mother’s Day brunch with my mom (since we won’t be able to see her next weekend.) The girls just love pancakes, and these little “pancake balls” didn’t disappoint. Although I think it had something to do with all that dipping in jam and icing sugar!

We served the ebelskivers on my grandmother’s platter,
which was just perfect for a mother’s day brunch (Note the hotel for dolls on the couch behind!)

Classic Ebelskivers

From Ebelskivers, by Kevin Crafts

Basic Batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½   teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract (omit for savory ebelskivers)

For Preparing and Serving

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for dusting
  • Strawberry/Raspberry Jam

Preparing the batter

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, melted butter and vanilla extract (if using). Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.

In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Using a spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain. Use the batter right away.

Cooking Ebelskivers

Make batter.

Here’s my mom taking a turn flipping these little jewels.

Brush the wells of the ebelskiver pan with some of the melted butter and place over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add about 3 tablespoons batter to each well. (I used an ice cream scoop for this and it worked well.)

Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Use 2 short wooden skewers to turn all the pancakes and cook until lightly browned on the second side, about 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the finished pancakes to a platter and keep warm in the oven while you repeat to make 2 more batches. Dust the warm pancakes with the confectioners’ sugar and serve right away.

Makes 21 pancakes.

NOTES

  • When you want advice on something, you ask the experts. So, I asked Elly (my mom’s best friend from Denmark) and my Danish colleague Maria, and they both recommended the cast iron version of the abelskiver pan. There were enough comments on amazon.com about scratches on the non-stick version that I decided cast-iron would be best.
  • There are quite a number of abelskiver pans available through amazon.com. Here’s a  pan similar to the one that I have, which I absolutely love so far. I bought mine at Placewares at St. Lawrence market for $35. While I wanted a solid cast iron pan (without a wooden handle), I decided not to bother going through the effort of shipping.
  • Apparently you need to make sure that the cast iron pan will work on your gas stove. The pan doesn’t have a flat bottom; it rests on the bottom of the pan’s skirt, so this needs to work with the metal grate on your stove. The grate on our stove is flat and so the pan works just fine.
  • I made a second batch of abelskiver this weekend and filled them with strawberry jam during the cooking process. This added a level of complexity that I wasn’t ready for. The directions called for one teaspoon of jam, but I found this to be too much and the jam stuck to the wells in the pan. I don’t think I’ll try this again for quite a while. Next time I make them, I’m going to try adding chocolate chips and serve them as dessert at a brunch.

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38 Comments on “Memories of Denmark and Ebelskivers”

  1. I have never seen anything like this before, but I am intrigued. It looks delicious!

  2. I love associating memories and food – I loved these little pancakes and have eaten them from a Danish stall before – god you are all do talented with batter 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  3. Sissi says:

    Barb, these pancakes look gorgeous and as you said it’s so funny we both write about pancakes today! My mum also used to make apple pancakes but in a normal pan. I loved them, so I’m sure these taste even better (the cute shape and look always improve the taste, don’t they?). You would never guess but you can use this pan to make the Japanese dish called takoyaki (usually made with octopus, but apparently some other fillings exist too). I have been dreaming of buying exactly the same pan and making takoyaki (which must taste heavenly). Now I see I only need to go to Denmark, not as far as Japan!
    I have never been to Denmark but I would love to go. I have heard it’s a beautiful country.

    • Thanks for this great tip about the takoyaki Sissi. Who would have guessed that? I’m going to have to research this dish since now I’m equipped to make it (and you describe it as heavenly!) Denmark is definitely a little closer for you than Japan! I always forget how close everything is in Europe — it is so different than North America! I envy how close you are to so many different cultures!

  4. Norma Chang says:

    Did not know about abelskiver, learnt a bit of about Danish culture today, thanks.
    Could use the abelskiver pan to make mini egg foo yung and they would be low fat too.
    Got to tell Eva about this. I can picture her going to St. Lawrence Market to get one.

  5. Oh, Barb, I saw the word “Ebelskiver” and had to come read your post before work! These are such fun to make and fun to eat, and I love them. I can imagine you and the ponytails had such a good time in the kitchen with these, and the turning sticks are a must have. A friend gave me an ebelskiver pan for Christmas some years back…I’d never heard of such a thing at the time…and we made them for Christmas breakfast. I love just the look of the pan which is hanging on my pot rack, but haven’t made these since then. Now that you’ve reminded me about them again, I will have to get to it one weekend soon! 🙂 Ours were filled with a cinnamon-nut mixture, but I love jam and apples would be great, too.

    • How special that a friend gave you the pan and that you’ve made these! (You have great friend, as I recall a friend gave you that great ma’amoul mould.) A cinnamon-nut mixture sounds amazing, and less likely to burn than the jam that I tried in my second batch. I purchased that ebelskiver book, so if you ever want another way to prepare them, just say the word….there’s everything from sticky toffee ebelskiver to cheese souffle versions in it!

  6. Tandy says:

    Oh yum! Thanks for the memory sharing and the history – it makes recipes taste better 🙂

  7. Yes it is the food memories from travels. A few people think that is wierd but I know there is a complete understanding when it comes to food bloggers.
    I always think of amazing pastries and breads when I think of Denmark. I have been toying with the idea of getting that pan, but I have yet to make the plunge. Your ebelskivers do look tasty and this is a great choice to bring you back to Denmark! Enjoy the day.

    • Nice to know that there is complete understanding with fellow food bloggers! Sounds like the pan could be used for a couple other dishes too (egg foo yung and takoyaki). I really enjoyed cooking these, so you might have a bit of fun with it if you do take the plunge!

  8. Beth says:

    These look delicious, and your daughters are adorable!
    When I think of my travels, I always remember the food I’ve eaten. It’s such an important part of the experience for me.

  9. Eva Taylor says:

    What a great post, Barb, I love how they look! Are they a bit hollow on the inside? I wonder if you could fill them post with a cake decorating tool (with a long nib). I can see whipped cream, or pastry cream filling these babies up. Or even a salmon mousse for a special occasion.
    I’ve gotta get to the market this weekend and get myself one of those pans. I’ll tell JT it’s your fault! 😉

    • Yes you can blame me!!!! And, now you know there are other uses for the pans (see Sissi and Norma’s comments). They aren’t really hollow in the middle — they are solid, but light. I think the process of whipping the egg whites makes them slightly similar to a souffle but not as delicate. You can add different fillings while they cook — nutella, jam, goat cheese, ham/cheese and that sort of thing. To do so, you add half the batter, then the filling, then the remaining half of the batter and wait until they are almost cooked…then flip them. I quite enjoyed the process and found them easier than pancakes because they don’t move around from the little well/hole in the pan. I hope you get one!

  10. Karista says:

    Love Ebelskivers! I’ve wanted to get the pan to make these, and I love the idea of stuffing them too. And absolutely adorable little Ebelskivers taste tester!

  11. Kristy says:

    Your girls are just adorable Barbara! And I love the doll hotel on the couch. That’s usually about how my couch looks as well. 🙂 These ebelskivers (which I had never heard of) look fantastic! I’m sure they were amazing with the icing sugar. I’m going to have to remember these when we pick Denmark. Plus any excuse to buy a cool pan like that…

    • Thanks Kristy. I figured other moms with girls would relate to the doll hotel. I’m always rushing to clean up the background for the candid photos. Is it the same for you? I thought of you when I was cleaning up the icing sugar — it was everywhere! At least it is a sign that the day’s efforts in the kitchen went over well. Have a great evening.

  12. Charles says:

    “friend’s sister at the Aalborg train station waiving her little red and white Danish flag”

    lol! I can picture it now 😀 Of course nowadays if you’re meeting someone you hop on your smartphone and look them up using Google Latitude or something and geo-locate them to 5 metres… sigh, oh for simpler times!

    These look wonderful Barb – I’ve been curious about how the round shape was actually created since you mentioned them a while ago – lovely to see them. The question is, what does one do if one doesn’t have an ebelskiver pan? Can you make them in a muffin tray, or is that a crime against Denmark? 😀

    • I hadn’t thought about it Charles, but you are right — in today’s world you’d be using technology to assist with the meeting. I didn’t even have a credit card that summer and returned home with about 40 Euros in my pocket. Very different times!

      You know I don’t really think there is an option without the pan. A muffin pan wouldn’t be small enough for them to hold shape. It is the little wells in the pan that keep the batter together and form their shape. I don’t even think an egg poacher would work. However, there are other uses for the pan as noted by Norma and Sissi. I laughed out loud when I read your comment about that being a crime against Denmark. Now if we were talking about France….

  13. These look absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing how to make them!

  14. […] than a swear word. It’s actually a little spherical pancake! I know you’ve seen this over at my friend Barb’s when she posted about it last May but I just had to write about my […]

  15. Hello Barb 🙂
    I came here from Eva’s post because I missed these beauties when you posted them
    I have a Danish friend who lives here and I can’t wait to send her this link 🙂
    P.S. loved the doll hotel! My kids do this all the time 🙂

  16. […] with much success! Norma kindly suggested that next time I try it in the ebelskiver pan that Barb posted about. As you know, this Christmas Santa Barb generously bought me very own Ebelskiver pan and even […]

  17. […] is not exact, but ebelskivers have been a popular Danish breakfast food for centuries. Their name  literally translates to “sliced apples” because many Danish recipes fill these treats with an apple filling, making them an apple-filled […]


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