Getting my Danish On: Ebelskivers

Decades before it became the latest and greatest kitchen gadget at Williams Sonoma, you could find an Ebelskiver pan in our kitchen. Somewhere along the line my parents picked it up as a nod to my Dad's Danish heritage. This traditional cast iron pan with 7 semi-spherical wells has it's origins steeped deep in Danish history. One legend has it that hungry Vikings used their battle worn shields as frying pans and cooked pancakes in the indentations. And although I grew up seeing this pan all the time (for a while it hung as a decoration near our family room fireplace) truth be told, neither of my parents ever actually used it to make ebelskivers.

When my parents died, one of the things I wanted most was that pan. After looking at it for all those years as a kid, I was determined to use it. So one Sunday I broke it out and invited some friends over for breakfast. There is some technique and finesse involved in making an ebelskiver and admittedly, my first attempts were hit and miss. I didn't use enough batter or I used too much. I tried to turn them before they were ready or I waited too long and they burned. But once I hit upon the right combination, I was enthralled by the way they miraculously transformed into golden brown balls of fluffy pancakey goodness and my guests where equally impressed. From that moment on I was hooked.

Marty and I were out in California a few years ago and he drove me up to Solvang which is a traditional Danish settlement founded in 1911 north of Santa Barbara. I remember watching through a storefront window as the woman inside adeptly rolled her pancake puffs with ease. Again I was inspired to conquer the art of the ebelskiver.

Ironically enough, I soon noticed the pans popping up in my local Williams Sonoma. Turned out these little filled pancake balls that could be traced back for hundreds of years were the "new" thing. I had to smile to myself as I found I was filled with pride for my Danish heritage. I didn't need their fancy pan - I already had one but I did break down and buy the ebelskiver cookbook and a set of wooden turning sticks. This morning I put them all to good use and I hope did my Danish relatives proud.


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