Earlier in December I met Ester, my new 93 year old Danish friend who showed me how to make Æbleskiver. Or rather brought out her cast iron pan and recipe and watched as I made it, offering tips and encouragement and told stories as I folded the whipped egg white into buttermilk batter and turned the dough balls in the pan as they puffed and turned golden. I kind of grew up with Æbleskiver – my best friend Sue’s mom would make them sometimes when we had sleepovers at her house in our teenage years, and I’ve been on the hunt for an Æbleskiver pan ever since. Pierre found one for me at a second hand store in BC around the same time I was making them with Ester, and so yay – I am now officially a person who makes Æbleskiver on weekend mornings. Particularly after sleepovers.
If you’re not familiar with Æbleskiver, they’re most often described as pancake balls, often spiked with cardamom because of their Danish heritage, and not usually made with apple despite their name. (You could, of course, tuck bits of apple into the middle of the balls as they cook.) I’ve most often eaten them warm, with jam and sometimes whipped cream, but Ester’s mother, who had 12 kids and turned her Æbleskiver with the tip of a knitting needle, served hers with a dish of sugar for each person to roll their pancake ball around in, like a warm doughnut. With jars of jam and preserves for spreading once you split them open.
I’m usually against any breakfast bread formula that requires the whipping of egg whites – I avoid it at all costs when making waffles, but made an exception here. They’re worth a bit of extra effort. Cardamom is common in Danish sweets – you’ll likely recognize its aroma, but if you don’t have any in your cupboard, cinnamon makes a perfectly fine substitute.
If you don’t have an Æbleskiver pan, you won’t be able to make these – the round holes are what make them what they are, but if you come across a pan, now you’ll know what it’s for, and if you find one in your relatives’ basement, you may be able to borrow it indefinitely. Lodge cast iron still makes them, so there is the option to order one online for about the same amount as it would cost to go for brunch with a bunch of pals – just invite them over for Æbleskiver instead.