A month ago, I made kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake, for my kids for a weekend breakfast at the suggestion of my neighbor (coincidentally the partner of the neighbor who challenged me to make dutch apple pie, and thus definitely someone with good taste). It was, as predicted, delicious, and as it’s the year 2019, I posted a photo of it on Instagram Stories in the moments before my children demolished it. It was only then, through an avalanche of DMs, that I learned how deeply beloved it is.
Here’s a small sampling of responses:
“You made Kaiserschmarrn!!!”
“This is Austrian!” “This is German!” “This is Czech!” “We make this in Hungary!”
“Looks spot on, just like the ones I had in Salzburg many years ago!”
“We eat this for dessert!”
“This is Christmas breakfast every year with tart jam and pureed plums!”
“We call this Emporer’s Mess.” [Apparently Franz Joseph I was very fond of it.]“Besides apple strudel, traditional Kaiserschmarrn is one of the most famous and iconic Austrian dishes.”
“If you order it at any Austrian restaurant, it’s almost guaranteed to come with stewed plums (zwetschkenröster) and/or applesauce.”
“It’s best when cooked in butterschmalz [clarified butter or ghee].”
“I hope you skipped the rum soaked raisins — yuck.” But also: “You forgot the rum-soaked raisins!” [I didn’t but found them distracting.]“Tip: Kaiserschmarrn is perfect when it’s still a bit creamy inside.”
To try it is to understand why. The batter is simple, close to that of a crepe or dutch baby, but you whip the egg whites separately and fold them in at the end, resulting in a puffy butter-fried mega-pancake. But wait, there’s more! You then shred, tear, or chop it into bite-sized pieces and continue to fry it until each is a glorious golden-edged, custardy-centered nugget. It’s finished with a drift of powdered sugar and served with tart fruit compote (I tried my hand at plum below) or applesauce and is a dream of a weekend breakfast. It could also be dessert. It could also be lunch, which is how my neighbor has been enjoying it. Mostly, I love the way it seems simple but feels a bit festive, just like I hope all of our weekends ahead are.
One year ago: Chilaquiles Brunch Casserole
Two years ago: Rhubarb Upside-Down Spice Cake
Three years ago: Perfect Garlic Bread, Shaved Asparagus Frittata and Palm Springs Date Shake
Four years ago: Potato Scallion and Kale Cakes, Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
Five years ago: Blue Sky Bran Muffins and Fresh Spinach Pasta
Six years ago: Spring Vegetable Potstickers and Essential Raised Waffles
Seven years ago: Bacon, Egg and Leek Risotto
Eight years ago: Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo and Ribboned Asparagus Salad with Lemon
Nine years ago: Radicchio, Apple, and Pear Salad, New York Cheesecake and Shakshuka
Ten years ago: Black Bread and Ranch Rugelach
Eleven years ago: Chocolate Walnut Cookies + More Flourless Dessert, Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
Twelve years ago: Corniest Corn Muffins and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Roberta’s Roasted Garlic Caesar Salad
1.5 Years Ago: Endive Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Walnuts
2.5 Years Ago: Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu and Roasted Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds and Brown Butter
3.5 Years Ago: Baked Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Ragu, Twinkie Bundt and Oven Fries
4.5 Years Ago: Cauliflower Cheese, Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar, and Smoked Whitefish Dip with Horseradish
Austrian Shredded Pancake (Kaiserschmarrn)
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins (optional)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fruit juice or rum (only if using raisins)
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup (100 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, any kind
- 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 40 grams) unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter)
- Powdered sugar
- Jam, applesauce or another fruit sauce, or stewed plums/plum compote (recipe below) to serve
Make batter: In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in milk, then flour, whisking just until mostly smooth. (A few tiny lumps proved inconsequential.) Let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a second (medium-large) bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Fold into egg yolk mixture, trying not to deflate the egg whites. Gently fold in raisins, if using.
Cook pancake: Heat a medium-large skillet (10″ to 12″) over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter or ghee and let warm. Pour batter into pan and spread smooth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, lifting an edge to peek occasionally, until it’s a deep golden brown underneath; reduce the heat if it’s browning very quickly. If you feel like you can pull off flipping it in one piece, go for it. I cannot and loosen the edges to slide it onto a large plate. With a potholder on each hand, invert empty frying pan over pancake and plate, grab both together tightly, and quickly flip the pancake back into the pan. Continue cooking until deeply golden underneath on the second side, about 3 minutes.
Shred/tear pancake: There are two ways to do this: You can use two forks or the edge of a sharp spatula to tear/chop the pancake into 1″ to 2″ pieces right in the skillet. However, I prefer to slide it back onto the plate I just used to flip the pancake and chop it there. This allows me to melt another tablespoon of butter in the pan for extra-buttery and lightly crisp edges in the final pancake. Return pancake shreds and any batter that has spilled out — it’s supposed to still be very runny in the center at this point — to the skillet and cook, stirring, until pancake shreds are mostly but not fully cooked through. A custardy center in each bite is ideal.
To serve: Scrape pancake shreds onto plate and sprinkle generously — and I mean generously — with powdered sugar. Serve with lemon wedges, jam, a fruit sauce (applesauce is a popular accompaniment), fresh berries or as shown, with stewed plums/plum compote (zwetschgenröster), directions below. Eat right away.
A quick plum compote (zwetschgenröster): Combine 1 pound fresh black or prune plums* (unpeeled, pitted, and cut into quarters or eighths), 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup water, 1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon (or more to taste) ground cloves over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until fruit is saucy and tender enough that you can break a piece in half with the side of you spoon, about 20 minutes (and up to 25 minute for fruit that’s more broken down). Stir in juice of half a lemon and set aside to cool until needed.