As this is an Advent calendar, today we visit the place in Europe that loves Advent calendars the most, Denmark.
Marking the religious season of Advent began with candles. Advent, by the way, is shortened Latin for “coming” or the coming of the baby Christ. The religious season is marked by lighting a candle each of the four Sundays prior to Christmas, usually beginning at the very end of November, to count down to Christmas Day.
Advent calendars as we use them today were originally invented by the Germans in the 19th century, but actually are not specifically religious. They are a fun way to count down to Christmas, but don’t have a religious use in a church, per se. The original calendars were simply cardboard doors with an image or saying behind each door, later evolving into the childhood favorite- cardboard door with a little chocolate behind. The chocolate was terrible but that’s not the point!
The Danish have taken the Advent calendar to more creative lengths, and seem to be the most enthusiastic in their devotion to Christmas countdowns.They have candle calendars, food calendars, message or treat calendars. A popular style of Advent calendar is the pakkekalender, a rope that has little gifts, packets, attached to it for each day of the month. Each gift leads up to one big gift on Christmas day. I don’t think I could get my kids to buy in to that idea, but enjoying each present one at a time seems like a great idea!
The Advent calendar madness extends to their televisions as well. In 1962, a Danish TV station started broadcasting a mini series during Advent with 24 episodes. It was so popular that they have continued it as a yearly tradition. Danish TV these days also broadcasts a Christmas calendar theme of programming, such as 24 movies by a single actor.
Danish culture, to me, excells in one specific area- sweets. I am a huge fan of Danish Kringle, a pastry stuffed with marzipan. On my last visit to Copenhagen, I spent my days mostly looking for the perfect Kringle and coffee. Kringle is a typical pastry that is eaten on Christmas morning. I thought I would give you a fun recipe to try today to celebrate Advent in Europe, but even for a skilled baker, Kringle is a challenge. I like to bake but I am far too lazy for this one, so I buy it from a real Danish bakery near my house. If you are nowhere near a Danish bakery, you can get a good one here. They are a great gift to send to relatives, one that will certainly be appreciated. They are huge and can feed a family…or me alone.
The recipe that I have decided to give you today is for Aebleskivers (AY-bell-skee-vers), a Danish treat that I enjoyed very much in my childhood. I’m from Ventura, California, not Denmark, but we had a little fake-Danish village an hour’s drive away. My mom used to take us there to buy veal sausages and we’d enjoy eating a plate full of these yummy little puff pancakes on our walk among the fake-Scandinavian souvenir shops. I loved that. Maybe that will lessen my Euro-cred, but it’s a happy memory.
These little puff pancakes had apples in them in the past, which the name would suggest. You can add apples, but the typical recipe doesn’t use them anymore. They are a typical delight at festivals and Christmas markets, and would be great as a Christmas breakfast.
You should have a specialized pan for making Aebleskivers, but if you’re creative, you could probably do it in a small omelette pan. I like to serve them with jam and powdered sugar on top, more advanced cooks will put the jam on the insides and cook it in, jelly doughnut-style. My mom and son, Lucca, assisted in the preparation of this recipe. If a 12 year-old can do it, so can you.
1 cup Flour
2 tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Eggs, separated
1 cup Milk
2 tbsp Butter, melted and cooled,
Jam, Lingonberry is good
Mix all dry ingredients together. Add egg yolks, milk and butter. Stir until just combined.
Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. Scoop batter into greased pan and cook according to the pan’s directions, carefully turning the puffs with skewers to maintain the spherical shape. Fancy cooks will add a tsp of jam and a dollop of batter before turning to create filled balls of yummy-ness.
Top with a dusting of powdered sugar and enjoy with a mug of hot wine.