THIS week, I’m cooking a dish I’ve never cooked before, and have only recently heard of!
A friend who adores Scandinavian cooking alerted me to the fact that a certain Cumbria-based kitchen shop was selling its very last æbleskiver pans, and that I shouldn’t miss out on the bargain of the year!
Why yes, of course, I said, and quickly rushed off to look up what an æbleskiver was.
I’m glad she told me, because these little fluffy treats are delicious, and I had to share the recipe with you.
Æbleskiver are Danish in origin, translated as ‘apple slices’, presumably either because of their shape or because that’s what many people serve with them.
They are lovely light and fluffy doughnut-like buns, traditionally made in a special pan, which has hemispherical indentations in it.
The idea is to cook the doughnuts on one side, then pop in a little filling (they can also be left unadorned) and quickly flip them over in their ‘cups’ so they end up perfectly rounded.
This, according to my internet research, is no mean feat, and techniques for flipping are much-discussed by the cognoscenti.
Many chefs have taken the original idea and taken it to extremes.
At Noma in Copenhagen, currently rated by most as the best restaurant on the planet, the genius chef Rene Redzepi makes savoury æbleskiver with tiny fish, which look a bit like sprats, speared through the centre.
Many other chefs, all across Scandinavia, make savoury and dessert versions with all manner of ingredients, especially cheese, fruit and chocolate, and I decided to try the sprat-cakes at some other point.
I decided instead to go traditional and use up some of the remaining red fruit in the freezer, knocking up a quick berry compote.
This was made using berries, a little lemon juice, and a splash of crème de cassis, simmered on the hob until the berries burst, then cooled until the next day.
I then set the pan on the heat, melted my butter and began to make the dough.
With some trepidation I started my very first batch and, surprisingly, they were quite easy to cook and I got the hang of the flipping technique after only a few messy mistakes.
I used a wooden chopstick to press down one side and flipped with a deft finger.
Having hands that have become used to the heat of the professional kitchen for 20 years certainly helps, so I do advise caution when attempting these for the first time.
But the texture and flavour of the resulting puffs is amazing.
The buttermilk adds a lovely light acidic touch, and I immediately began thinking of what other flavours I could use in future experiments.
The garden’s full of gooseberries at the moment, and the hedgerows brimming with creamy white elderflowers, so a combination of those two would work amazingly well.
And many of the recipes I’ve looked up recommend chocolate as a filling; again, it would be smashing, perhaps with a little drizzle of toffee sauce.
Maple syrup also crossed my mind, perhaps with a few pecan pieces inside every pillowy puff. They would make lovely savoury snacks too, if one were to omit the sugar.
A little cheese and crispy bacon might work, or perhaps a dim-sum-influenced bun filled with slow-cooked spicy pork? It’s up to you.
The basic batter is simplicity itself to make, and as I say, once you can flip like a professional, the sky’s the limit. You’ll be an able æbleskiver in no time.
Oh, and don’t feel left out if you can’t get an authentic æbleskiver pan. You can just make filled pancake-like doughnuts in a regular non-stick pan, just like drop scones. Aprons on!
For the dough:
2 large fresh, free-range eggs, separated470ml buttermilk15g unrefined golden caster sugar½ tsp Maldon saltGrated zest of a lemon
A little vanilla extract1 tsp bicarbonate of soda300g plain flour a little melted butter
a little extra sugar for dusting or rolling
For the filling:
Fresh fruit of your choice, or chocolate buttons
An æbleskiver pan (available online)
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until slightly pale, then gradually beat in the buttermilk, salt, vanilla and lemon rind. Sift together the plain flour and the bicarbonate of soda. Whisk the flour into the egg mixture and beat until smooth.
Beat the egg whites until holding a stiff peak, and fold gently into the batter.
To make regular æbleskiver, heat your special pan on top of the stove. I recommend a medium-high heat. Brush each cup with a healthy dollop of melted butter. Pour the batter into the cups until about ¾ full, and heat until golden brown. Quickly turn, using a wooden skewer or chopstick, and brown the other side. They should come out almost perfectly spherical. Roll quickly in caster sugar and serve immediately with warm fruit compote, or apples fried in butter and sugar with a pinch of cinnamon.
To make filled æbleskiver, fill the cups with the batter to about half full, and spoon in a small amount of your filling (chocolate buttons, jam etc.), then cover with a small dab of batter. Cook as normal, being extra careful on the flip!