Food + Recipes

What’s an Æbleskiver? Popover Meets Pancake Meets Fritter Meets Donut

By Sidsel Overgaard

The quintessential scene of Danish hygge looks something like this: a fireplace, a few friends, a warm glass of mulled wine, and a plate of freshly made æbleskiver—golden balls of pancakey goodness accompanied by a festive dollop of strawberry jam and powdered sugar. This, friends, is Christmas in Denmark.

Æbleskiver, which translates literally as ”apple slices,” originated as rudimentary apple fritters served in winter—a way to get one last hurrah from the dwindling apple barrel. As they evolved into more of a delicacy, æbleskiver became the go-to holiday gift for farmworkers, the equivalent of today’s employee fruit basket.

No one seems to know just how or when the unique dimpled æbleskiver pan came into existence. There is one (wishful) legend involving hungry Vikings and a dented shield. The more likely scenario is that the pan was invented by some enterprising Dane around 1700. In any case, that is about the time the apple started to vanish from these ”apple slices.” Today you’d be hard-pressed to find Christmas market æbleskiver with any trace of fruit—although some home cooks still include apple, or even prune, in their recipe.

Making æbleskiver takes a little practice but is well worth the effort. With the heat on medium-high, place a bit of butter in each of the pan’s indentations, let it melt and then fill with batter. Once a golden shell has formed, use a toothpick, fork or (if you want to channel my grandmother) knitting needle to give the æbleskiver a careful quarter-turn. Cook a little longer, and turn one more time so you’ve created a lovely little golden-brown sphere. Velbekomme!

Æbleskiver recipe courtesy of The Old Town Living History Museum in Aarhus

187 g (1½ cups) flour
½ tsp baking powder
1½ tbsp sugar
½ tsp cardamom, preferably fresh-ground
3 dl (1¼ cups) buttermilk
2½ tbsp melted butter
1.5 egg yolks
2 egg whites

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cardamom and half the buttermilk and mix to a smooth consistency. Whisk together the melted butter, egg yolks and remaining buttermilk and add to the flour mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Use at once.