FARGO — If you're looking at the above picture and thinking, ''Hmmm, what the heck are those things?" you're not alone.
We Americans are familiar enough with ball-shaped food. Think cheese balls, Tootsie Pops and fruit (if you're into that kind of thing). But these spherical treats don't seem to fit any of those categories.
This Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Scandinavian Hjemkomst & Midwest Viking Festival in Moorhead, hundreds of people will stand in line to get a bite of them. What is it? The Danish treat aebleskiver.
"It's basically a pancake dough baked in the round. It's a fun thing to eat," says Jenny Mackenzie, one member of the Red River Danes who will make and serve aebleskiver at the festival.
It's interesting to note that aebleskiver in Denmark these days is not a big deal. It's seen as an old-time food. But Americans of Danish descent continue to serve and celebrate the treat because it's something their grandparents brought from the old country.
Watch her teach me how to make aebleskiver on this week's episode of "The Scoop with Tracy Briggs" and learn how to make them yourself.
Why so popular?
"People do seem to like them," she says about this treat. "They don't even mind the wait. I just wish we could make them faster."
So exactly what is causing all of the commotion?
Aebleskiver (pronounced "able-sky-ver" by Danes, but "ebel-" or "able-skee-ver" by Americans) literally translated in Danish means "apple slices." While the apple slices might have been cooked into the spheres many years ago, these days most aebleskiver does not contain apples.
It's made from a buttermilk batter and poured into a special pan with cutout orbs. For our demonstration, Mackenzie used an electric aebleskiver maker. You can find aebleskiver pans at Scandinavian specialty stores or online.
Mackenzie, who was born in Denmark but moved to Wyndmere, N.D., when she was 11 years old, says one of the keys for successful aebleskiver is to properly grease the wells of the pan with oil or a nonstick spray so the batter doesn't stick. I think this was probably the biggest mistake I made when I tried to make aebleskiver for my Danish husband after we first got married. I had a huge mess as batter stuck to the pan. I gave up trying to make little spheres and turned the remaining batter into regular good old 'Merican pancakes. I'm not sure if the Danish in-laws were upset about it or not. It's hard to tell with Scandinavians.
Mackenzie likes to put the batter into a squeeze bottle to make it even easier and less messy. Once the batter is in the pan, she eyeballs how long to cook the aebleskiver.
"I remember which one I poured first, then just gently turn them slightly with this," she says while holding an aebleskiver turning stick. "My mother used a knitting needle, and there's a guy in our club that uses a turkey skewer."
The aebleskiver will require at least one or two more turns to fully cook. To test doneness, Mackenzie holds the aebleskiver with the turning stick and lets it fall off. It there's still batter on the stick, cook it further.
Mackenzie prefers to eat the aebleskiver the traditional way — by breaking it open and adding jam, then dipping it in sugar.
"I like to think of them as finger food, but I know others like them with maple syrup," she says.
She says her mother usually made aebleskiver at Christmas, and she only makes them about once a year for her family. But she says it's something her grandchildren seem to enjoy because it just tastes like home.
Makes: 3 dozen
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tablespoon lemon extract
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
Beat eggs and buttermilk together until cream-colored, then add lemon extract. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar and mix.
Prepare aebleskiver pan by spraying the wells with nonstick spray or coat with oil. Heat the pan until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Fill the wells 3/4 full of batter and turn 2-3 times with an aebleskiver stick as they cook to form the ball. The aebleskiver is done when a stick poked in the middle comes out clean.
Serve with sugar, jam or jelly.
Recipe provided by Red River Danes.