Exploring the Culinary Frontier
by Celia Hayes
This last Friday, my daughter took it into her head to bake a deep-dish pizza for supper; she went rootling through the drawer under the oven, where the römertoph clay casseroles, the Spanish clay cazuelas and Dutch ovens are kept, looking for a cast-iron frying pan to bake pizza in – but she unearthed a particular small cooking implement, still in the original plastic wrap.
I had forgotten about it entirely, and can't recall when or where that I bought it; a heavy and well-made Pyrolux iron pan for doing aebleskivers, which are a nice and peculiarly Danish variant on pancakes. The little leaflet with it is in four languages, so that was no clue. I knew what it was, of course. When we were children and staying with our paternal grandparents, Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al, who lived in Camarillo, they would often take us on a drive to Solvang, which was just a hop, skip and a jump up Route 101 – a small town milking the absolute maximum touristic potential of having been founded and/or lived in by ethnic Danish. Abelskivers and sundry Scandinavian specialties were advertised everywhere. Granny Dodie and Grandpa Al never wanted to try them out – so we never ate lunch in Solvang on any of those excursions. I think they had used up their ration of daring adventure in emigrating, so there was none left over for trying out strange and interesting foods. Even in Solvang. Likely this was why I bought the aebleskiver pan – out of mild curiosity about the treats that Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al denied us in those childhood excursions. We try and have something out of the ordinary for breakfast on weekends, so my daughter said, "Hey, instead of pancakes, let's try it out."
I found a recipe on line which did not call for separately beating egg whites – something elaborate for weekend breakfast ought not to involve another bowl and getting out the electric mixer. I heated up the pan on the smallest burner, daubed half a teaspoon of butter in each well, filled each almost to the top with batter, let it bake until lightly browned, and then held my breath. This was the part I was almost certain would fall apart – when you take a small thin bamboo skewer and rotate the part-baked aebelskiver a half-turn, so that the unbaked dough runs into the bottom of the depression, and then when it has "set" you give it another half-turn. Essentially it finishes as a crisp-crusted, golf-ball shaped pancake, tender and fluffy inside, not terribly sweet, and delicately crispy outside. The pan I had must have been already non-stick coated, for they turned like a dream. And the finished product was marvelous – Grandma and Grandpa never knew what they were missing.
For the pancakes, combine 1 egg, 2 tsp. sugar, 1 cup of buttermilk, ½ teasp vanilla, 2 Tbsp. canola oil. In another bowl, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teasp baking soda, 1/8 teasp each of baking powder and salt. Whisk into the liquid, and fill each hollow in the heated aebelskiver pan a little less than full. This will make at least two pans full – remember to dab a bit of butter in each hollow before starting each new batch. It is also customary sometimes to put a teaspoon of jam in the dough as you start to bake them. The jam sinks down a little, as the dough cooks, and the aebelskiver finishes already filled with jam. They are also great just plain, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.