During our recent visits from children, one of the big food hits was making Danish ebelskivers (ebleskivers, æbelskivers, æbleskivers – lots of alternative spellings) with the grandchildren. I took down the heavy cast iron pan hanging on a nail in the garage, cleaned it up, and got it ready for the process. After many years, the pan was in great shape for a ritual that our kids remembered with fondness from their own childhood. Honestly, the procedure is more fun than the finished product, but the little, round pastries are delicious, with a little hollow just begging to be filled with jam or jelly.
Our cast iron ebelskiver pan is at least 40 years old, but new ones are available in cooking shops or online. There are also more “modern” versions made of cast aluminum and lined with no-stick coating. I have never used the modern pan, although it has its adherents. Of course, there are lots of complaints about the traditional version – too heavy, rust, not suitable for use with modern smooth-surfaced kitchen ranges, limited to a single use, special turning tools are too expensive, etc., etc.,
To the critics I offer the following comments:
- Cast iron cooking tools are, by design, heavy. That’s the whole point – to hold the heat and make it consistent so that cooking or baking is even for whatever is inside .
- Any cast iron implement will rust if you don’t take proper care of it. Heating it to dry over an open flame after you wash it (If you need to) and sealing the surface with a thin coating of cooking oil before you put it away will prevent rust. I have 5 cast iron skillets along with a three-legged spider, the combo pan for my Tartine bread and several cornstick pans. None of them is rusted because of that approach.
- Can’t help with the cooking surface. If you choose infra-red or inductive cooking surfaces for their looks, you just have to deal with your cooking options.
- It is true that ebelskiver pans have fairly limited use, but creativity increases their versatility. One of the Iron Chefs on a recent International Iron Chef Showdown used an ebelskiver pan for cooking diver scallops to perfection. You could probably use the pan for a variation of cornsticks or even cupcakes. Besides, if you are a kitchen gadgeteer you probably have lots of other single-use tools that languish in a drawer or a shelf in the garage. (How about deep fryers, truffle slicers, or panini presses?)
- You don’t need an expensive turning tool. A disposable wooden skewer or metal skewer will work. The only concern there is that especially the metal skewer could scratch and ruin any non-stick coating.
If you can get past all of these concerns, you can actually have fun with kids making this special breakfast treat. You can also test your creative streak for party appetizers – ball-shaped blini with a dollop of red caviar, grown-up-suitable fillings, batters made with different flours like spelt, whole wheat, or cornmeal. Just lighten up a bit and have a good time.
The only other instructions that are important before you start are to heat the pan until it is evenly hot and the right temperature. Medium heat will probably work. Too hot and the ebelskivers will burn on the outside before they are done; too cool and the ebelskivers will never get the golden brown color you are looking for. Before each batch, use a paper towel soaked with vegetable oil to wipe each cup before refilling.
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until they form a ribbon. Then stir in the buttermilk to form a smooth batter.
- Stir together the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then stir into the batter and mix thoroughly.
- Fold the stiff egg whites into the batter by thirds. Do this gently so that you have a light batter.
- In the meantime, heat the ebelskiver pan over a medium flame. Oil each cup generously with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
- Spoon into each cup enough batter to fill about 2/3 full (A large tablespoonful is usually about right.)
- After about 20 or 30 seconds turn each ebelskiver a half turn using a wooden or metal skewer. Uncooked batter should run down into the cup. Repeat the process by half turns until you form a baked balls that are golden brown, plump, and hollow with just a tiny opening on one side.
- Adjust the heat so that the ebelskivers are finished baking in about 1 minute, neither too dark nor too light.
- Remove to a serving plate and serve along with your choices of powdered sugar, honey, maple syrup, butter, jelly, jam, or whatever comes to mind.
- Repeat the process until all the batter is used up. The recipe should make at least 5 to 6 batches.