It’s the first weekend of advent and I should be in the woods. More precisely, I should be in the woods freezing my toes off, quite possibly in the dark, most likely in the rain. And I’m feeling nostalgic. We lived near Copenhagen for six years before we moved to California. Each year, on the first advent weekend leading up to Christmas, we traveled to my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in a forest in the middle of Zealand. We would spend the afternoon outdoors foraging holly, twigs, pinecones and moss to make Christmas decorations. The weather was often cold and wet, and the sun would set between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. After a few hours of walking in the forest with darkness descending, we would return to the house cold and hungry. Fires would be stoked in the ovens, gløgg would be heated on the stove, and we would claim a space at the long farmhouse kitchen table. Our harvest would be piled in the center, and adults and children would get busy making wreaths, tree ornaments, candle holders and centerpieces. While we did this, we would take turns making batches of æbleskivers, which we dipped in raspberry preserves and powdered sugar and washed down with mugs of steaming gløgg. It may have been cold and wintry outside, but inside everything was warm and toasty.
Now we live in California, and we continue our family traditions from Europe at Christmastime. We still make many of our holiday decorations, and, of course, gløgg and æbleskivers. In fact, I just finished a batch this afternoon, and as we sat in front of the fire with a glass of gløgg it began to rain outside – and we didn’t mind a bit. It was just like Denmark.
Referred to as pancakes, dumplings or even doughnut holes in English, æbleskivers are served as a treat throughout the month of December, almost always with a glass of gløgg.
Makes about 20.
1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) whole milk
.6 ounce fresh yeast (1 cake)
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 vanilla bean
2 eggs, separated
Raspberry or strawberry preserves
Heat milk in a small saucepan until lukewarm. Remove from heat and pour into a medium bowl. Add yeast and let it dissolve.
Combine flour, sugar, salt and cardamon in a medium bowl. Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into dry ingredients. Whisk the egg yolks into the milk. Add the wet ingredients to the flour. Mix well.
Beat egg whites in bowl of electric mixer until stiff. Fold into batter. Let rest one hour at room temperature.
Melt 1/2 teaspoon butter in each indentation of an aebleskiver pan over medium heat. Pour batter into each indentation, about 2/3 full. Cook until golden brown underneath, 3-4 minutes. Using a knife or skewer, turn aebleskiver over and continue to cook until golden and cooked through, 3-4 minutes.
Remove æbleskivers from pan, and repeat with remaining batter. Serve æbleskivers with powdered sugar and preserves (and gløgg!)
An aebleskiver pan is a stovetop pan with 6-8 holes or indentations. While non-stick is available, choose a cast iron pan for best results.