Æbleskiver is one of the oldest Danish foods that is still being eaten today. Æbleskiver has mostly been eaten as a dessert, but can also be served a dinner course in their own right and as a supplement to soup. Æbleskiver are made from a dough often made with buttermilk raised with yeast, egg or baking powder and are fried in butter. The dough can also be spiced with cardamom and lemon zest.
Originally a little piece of apple or a little applesauce, prunes or raisins were put inside the æbleskiver. They are served warm with marmalade made from fruit or berries (most often strawberry, raspberry or black currant) and sugar. Well-made æbleskiver are round with a crisp surface. The inside has a bread-like texture and should be soft, sweet, appropriately salty and with the apple giving a surprising, fresh, acidic aroma. In the southwestern part of Denmark, prunes sometimes are used instead of apple.
Æbleskiver has spread to the northern part of Germany where they are called Förtchen or Ballbäuchen. Here, they are often served with applesauce or prune sauce and often iced with icing sugar and cinnamon.
Æbleskiver are made in a special pan with individual hollows in which the doughnuts are cooked. The dough is placed into these hollows with melted butter, and individually flipped with wooden skewers while cooking. This takes about 6-8 minutes.
Æbleskiver have been made since at least the 18th century, and were common in certain southern parts of Denmark (Ærø and Southern Jutland). On Lolland and Falster Islands a local tradition is to pour schnapps in an opened æbleskiver - this is called a svupsak.
The æbleskiver name could have originated from an 18th century dish where slices of apples dipped in dough are fried in lard. The oldest known recipe for æbleskiver in print is from 1703 in the cookbook En højfordemme Madames Kaagebog. Here the dish is presented in two variations: a yeast-dough apple cake and slices of apple dippedin dough and then fried in a pan. This book also mentions the existence of the special æbleskiver pan.
The æbleskiver pan was originally designed for use over the open fire, but today is used with electric stoves. As the availability of convenience food has increased, pre-made frozen versions and mixes began to appear on supermarket shelves. Often these versions did not include fruit (fresh apples or marmalade) and substituted margarine for butter.
Today, æbleskiver has become a seasonal item, served mostly around the Christmas holidays. Homemade recipes can be divided into two categories: those using yeast and those using eggs and cream. Knowledge of how to make these traditional treats has decreased, especially among younger generations. The majority of those eaten today are the low quality, industrial brands. The tradition of making fresh æbleskiver with apple filling, dough with yeast and baked in butter deserves to be kept alive.