I have a feeling no one noticed we did not post an Ethnic Exploration at the end of June. It slipped through the cracks as we both found ourselves wrapped up with individual, Duo and group related projects and events. We’ve do try to maintain a regular posting schedule, especially when it comes to the monthly Guest Test Kitchen and Ethnic Exploration features. Last week I sent an text to Amir that said “Um, did I ever write the Austrian EE?” There were at least 17 question marks and exclamation points, but I’ll spare you the overkill. I accept full responsibility for dropping the ball! You guys are always so forgiving and understanding, so we know that you’ll let it slide. When you see the Austrian sweet treat that landed on our plates, you’ll let it slide with a smile.
Say this word: kaiserschmarren. The first half may not be too bad, as we’ve all perhaps had a kaiser roll before. It’s the second half that may be tricky. I love saying this word. I could say it all day. If only I had come across this word years ago. I would have said it all day just for fun, and I would have definitely made it by now as well. One day, I was watching Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, and there were fluffy pieces of pancake covered with strawberry compote. It was called a kaiserschmarren, and Spago’s pastry chef, Sherry Yard, was the one responsible for bringing this Austrian delight to life. It was a recipe originally introduced to her by the restaurant king and renowned chef Wolfgang Puck. I knew I had to have it be the highlight of our most recent Ethnic Exploration. Amir loves anything with pancakes, so he agreed wholeheartedly.
I suggested Amir and I grab lunch one day at Spago, so we could have this dessert in real life before whipping one up at home. Our schedules do not always fall into line, which is why I went with another friend. After a light meal, our server asked if dessert was on our minds, and I quickly announced my plan to end with the kaiserschmarren. “Oh, we only serve the kaiserschmarren at night during dinner service”, she told me. I think my heart fell to the ground. It must’ve been the dejected look on my face that sent her to the kitchen to consult with the pastry chef. Minutes later I was informed that kaiserschmarren was on the way. We literally gobbled it up–each bite of the soft, crème fraiche-based souffle pancake soaked up the thick, warm strawberry sauce pooled on the plate. I spied Pastry Chef Sherry Yard walking through the restaurant, and I politely waved her over with a genuine thanks for pretty much stopping half of the kitchen’s production to make kaiserschmarren for two greedy girls. She politely said it was no problem. Now that is the way to make two greedy girls happy.
With my first kaiserschmarren experience under belt, Amir and I were ready to go to work. I had a book, Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna, by Kurt Gutenbrunner. According to Gutenbrunner, kaiserschmarren was named in honor of Kaiser Franz Joseph. He happened to be traveling through town, starving of course. A local woman went through her cupboards and pulled out the bare minimum ingredients that would serve as the basis for a meal–flour, eggs and raisins. Somehow she came up with a baked pancake dish. The Kaiser absolutely loved it! Her disbelief was apparent when she said, “What, this schmarren (nothing)?” Kaiser Joseph then said, “But it’s the Kaiser’s Schmarren.” The treat is now one eaten for dessert but also as a simple daytime treat.
The making of the kaiserschmarren is fairly simple. Spago’s recipe is easy to find on its website, so you can make it just the way they do at the restaurant. Our version is inspired by both Spago and Kurt Gutenbrunner’s recipes to create our own kaiserschmarren. It was served with cooked strawberries and a sweetened mix of topfen. Topfen, also known as quark, is a farmers cheese often eaten in Austria and Germany. It as easy to make as it is to buy, so if you can’t find it, here is a very simple recipe courtesy of the L.A. Times. Enjoy your kaiserschmarren for breakfast, lunch or a late night snack. It is surely fit for a king!
Kaiserschmarren (Austrian Emperor’s Pancake) – Serves 4
1/8 cup raisins
2 teaspoons amaretto
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/8 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon water
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cups milk
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces creme fraiche, at room temperature
1/4 cup quark
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch of fine sea salt
1. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in amaretto for at least 15 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a medium pan, add the strawberries, 1/8 cup sugar and water over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken slightly, approximately 15 minutes. Halfway through drain any amaretto from the raisins and pour the liquid into the strawberries. Reduce the heat if necessary. Set aside once done.
3. In a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks with the flour and half of the milk. Slowly incorporate the remaining milk. Set aside.
4. Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they begin to look frothy. Slowly shake in 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt until the egg whites form soft peaks, approximately 2-3 minutes. Stir half of the thickened egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the rest of the egg whites. Be careful not to deflate all of the air.
5. Melt the butter in a 9″ skillet over medium heat, and coat all sides of the pan with the butter. Sprinkle the last tablespoons of sugar over the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter into the pan, scatter the raisins on top and cook for 2-3 minutes. Slide into an oven preheated to 325 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.
6. While the pancake bakes, mix all of the topping ingredients until fully incorporated. Set aside.
7. Plate a heat-resistant plate over the pan and flip the pancake onto the platter, using a spatula if necessary to loosen the sides. Cut the pancake into small pieces, dust with powdered sugar if desired and serve with the strawberries and quark topping.
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