Can’t believe December is already there. We have already lit our Christmas countdown candle and taken the opportunity to taste a few specialities, which in my opinion and in general terms give its full meaning to this holiday season. So, this is how I had the idea of making homemade gløgg and æbleskiver. I must say that we drank and ate pretty good ones the other night at Tivoli, this old and famous amusement park within the city in Copenhagen. And we even had a ride (before having æbleskiver – we’re not crazy.)
Have a mug of hot gløgg (pronounce « glug ») with some æbleskiver (pronounce « eble skiwa’ », something like that…), pancakes shaped like little balls to eat dipped in jam, and you’ll have a taste of Danish Christmas. They’re being sold everywhere across the city for a few weeks. So, what are they exactly?
It’s a kind of mulled wine famous all over Scandinavia and commonly served for St. Lucy’s Day on December 13th and all over Christmas time. The gløgg is made of hot wine in which we infuse different spices with a bit of Port wine. It is served very hot with sliced almonds and raisins soaking at the bottom of the mug, and perhaps a drop of strong alcohol – brandy, rum, vodka, or aquavit (the Danish schnapps) depending on the recipes… or the local temperature, I assume.
The longest the gløgg marinates, the better it tastes (even if one generally never manages to let it marinate very long…). So, you can make it the day before and leave the spices to infuse to get a more aromatic result. I’ve read many different recipes to finally make up my own, and it tasted pretty good (also according to others!). Contrary to what most of the recipes said, I insist you should choose a nice mid-priced wine: not among the cheapest ones nor a cheap Port. I’m not saying that you should use a 10-year-old bottle of wine but we can’t make a tasty gløgg with vinegar. And life is too short to drink bad wine. Don’t you think?
Serves 4-5 mugs • Preparation time: 10 min • Cooking time: 20 min
- 1 bottle red wine (choose a nice fruity wine)
- 8 pods cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 4 cm (3 inch.) fresh ginger
- the peel of half a lemon, sliced in thin strips *
- the peel of an orange, sliced in thin strips *
- 4 tbsp brown or whole sugar
- 235 ml (1 cup) red Port (I chose Taylor’s that I found in a wine shop round the corner)
- 73 g (1/2 cup) sliced blanched almonds
- 100 g (2/3 cup) raisins
- A drop of Brandy, rum, vodka or aquavit (optional)
* I peel large strips of skin with a peeling knife and then cut them into very thin strips with a sharp knife. You can leave them to marinate in some port beforehand for even more taste.
- Coarsely break/crush the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods with a pestle. In a frying pan, dry-roast them together with the cloves for 8-10 min at medium heat to enhance the aroma. (Best home fragrance diffuser!)
- In a saucepan, pour the wine and the Port. Add the roasted spices, the slices of lemon and orange skins, and the sugar.
- Low heat the mixture until it simmers and keep it at this temperature for a few minutes before turning it off. Be careful not to boil the mixture. Ideally, let it infuse for a few hours.
- Reheat before serving. Put a teaspoon of blanched sliced almonds and a teaspoon of raisins in a mug, then pour some hot gløgg onto it. Add a drop of strong alcohol (cf. Ingredients) if you wish to. Serve immediately.
You can store it in the fridge for a few days.
Æbleskiver (with apples!)
It looks like light fluffy ball shaped pancakes. Voilà! OK. And? What about the apples? Yes, it’s true that æbleskiver means “apple slices”… But nope. There’s no apple in there most of the time. You too feel like you got cheated, uh? Yes, I know. I had the same feeling the first time I had some! But yeah, apparently the apples somehow disappeared because there used to be some, hence their name. Nowadays, it is mostly pancakes with no apples. So, as you can imagine, I did put some… :-)
First of all, to make æbleskiver, you need a special utensil: an æbleskiver pan. That’s a pan with a few hollows to give the pancakes their spherical shape (or at least try to). To find one, I simply went to one of the second-hand goods dealers next door, down the corner of Ravnsborgade and Sankt Hans Gade in Nørrebro district. It’s a common thing here. And you will also need two wooden sticks (like wooden skewers) to flip them over easily – or knitting needles like back in the old days. If you don’t have any æbleskiver pan (it’s OK, you know!), I’ll give you an option further down to cook them without – and not let your mouth water forever.
Serves 35-40 æbleskiver • Preparation time: 20 min • Cooking time: 20-30 min
- 240 g (1.9 cup) flour
- 2 big pinches of salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 4 dl buttermilk (alternative: mix 4 dl dairy or non-dairy milk with 1 tsp lemon juice or apple vinegar, and let it rest for 10 min.)
- 1 tsp ground lemon zest
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or 2 tsp vanilla sugar)
- 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
- 1 apple
- Clarified butter or coconut oil for cooking
- Icing sugar or ground cinnamon to spread over after cooking (optional)
- Jam (strawberry, raspberry, orange, etc.)
- Separate the yolks from the whites.
- Put the whites and the sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
- Put the rest of the ingredients in another bowl and stir well to a homogenous and smooth consistency.
- Whip the whites with the sugar until stiff.
- Gently incorporate the whites into the mixture. You can use a spatula while stirring to make the batter lighter and avoid ruining the egg whites.
- Peel and cut the apple into 0.4-inch/1-cm dice.
- Heat up the æbleskiver pan. When hot, put a knob of clarified butter or coconut oil in each hollow and spread with a pastry brush. Fill in ¾ of each hollow with batter and put an apple cube in the middle. Let it cook for a few minutes and flip the æbleskiver over with two wooden sticks (they should easily come off the pan when cooked on one side) and allow to cook the other side. The æbleskiver should be lightly brown on each side.
- Spread with icing sugar or ground cinnamon, and serve with jam.
Alternative WITHOUT any æbleskiver pan:
In this case, rather make blinis (small pancakes). In a large greased hot frying pan, pour the equivalent of a tablespoon batter to form 2.5-inch blinis and push an apple cube in the middle. Repeat the operation to make several ones in the pan. Flip the pancakes over quickly to cook the other side.
Why æbleskiver have that ball shape?
And if you’ve been brave enough to get to the end of this long post, you’ve won this little story, which could be the real legend of the æbleskiver… or not.
When after a hard battle, a group of Vikings got back on their ship with their horn helmets and shields all dented and banged up, they decided that they deserved their favourite dish to help regain their strength – pancakes! As they didn’t have any frying pans and modern utensils at that time, they took their shields, greased them and pour the batter on them over the fire. And guess what? Æbleskiver were born. (…)
What are your favourite Christmas specialities? Where do they come from?
Other Danish recipes? This way.