Picture: Kaiserschmarrn. Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle
There are few foods I can think of in my life that have gone from complete unknown to outright obsession faster than kaiserschmarrn.
I first encountered it at Kaisy's Delights in Rehoboth Beach, Del., five years ago. The name means "imperial mess" in German. The story goes that a frazzled farmer created the dish in a tizzy when Austria's Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife showed up hungry at his home. As a last-ditch attempt to save face, the farmer shredded his disastrous pancake and topped it with sugar and marmalade.
My family beach trip is not happening this year. I was already hankering for a way to make my own kaiserschmarrn (it can also be spelled kaiserschmarren) to compensate for the loss when I came across baking instructor Nikki Phelps's Instagram account, where she demonstrated how to make it. The dish is also popular in parts of Germany, especially Bavaria, where Nikki is from, and she says it has been a part of her family tradition for as long as she can remember.
Now it will be a part of mine, too. If you're used to making regular buttermilk pancakes, this isn't all that different. Here, the eggs are separated first, so that the whites can be beaten before going into the batter. They're all the leavening this recipe has, so be sure to get them quite firm. Raisins are dropped into the batter once it has been poured into the skillet. They're sometimes soaked in rum, which I left out, though feel free to do it yourself. The recipe makes two very large pancakes. Flipping them over is a fun challenge, but one that ultimately does not require perfection since the whole thing is destined to be torn. If you really find the move too unwieldy, divide the batter into 3 or 4 smaller pancakes.
You absolutely must dust this breakfast (or dessert, or snack, or . . .) with lots of confectioners' sugar and the fruit sauce or compote of your choice. Roasted or stewed plums, as I'm sharing from Nikki here, are traditional, as is applesauce. No matter how you eat it, I'm willing to bet you'll fall in love with kaiserschmarrn as quickly as I did.
Kaiserschmarrn (Fluffy Torn Pancake)
Serving size: 4-6 servings
We call for a nonstick skillet for easy cooking, but feel free to use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, though monitor it closely and adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning.
This makes for a fun, decadent morning meal. You can serve it as dessert, too. In either case, dust with lots of confectioners' sugar and the fruit sauce (such as apple) or compote of your choice. Roasted or stewed plums, which we are sharing an option for here, are traditional.
The recipe doubles easily.
Make Ahead: The roasted plums can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. The batter needs to rest for 20 minutes before the egg whites are folded in. The dish is best served right after it's made.
For the roasted plums
1 pound (455 grams) plums, pitted and quartered
1/3 cup (72 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the pancake
Scant 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (177 milliliters) whole or reduced-fat milk
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
Pinch kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup (42 grams) seedless dark raisins
Make the roasted plums: Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the plums, granulated sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. Transfer the plums and juices to a heatproof baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring several times, until the fruit is soft to the touch but not yet breaking up. Let cool.
Make the pancake: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, egg yolks, 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar and the salt until completely incorporated and smooth. Let rest for about 20 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer with a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Pull off the whisk attachment or the beaters and see how the whites look in the bowl and on the attachment. If they flop over, they need more time; if they hold a point, you're set. In 2 to 3 additions, gently fold the egg whites into the flour mixture using a flexible spatula. Try not to deflate the beaten whites. A few small lumps of whites are okay.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon each of the butter and the oil. Pour about half of the batter into the skillet (it doesn't have to be precise). Sprinkle the batter with half of the raisins. Allow the batter to start to settle, similar to a pancake. The top will be somewhat set, you'll see some bubbles on the surface and the batter may begin to envelop the raisins as it puffs. The bottom should be golden brown as well.
When it's ready, turn the pancake over. This takes some practice - and a large spatula - but if it's not a perfect flip, don't worry, as you're going to immediately shred it. Using your spatula or a wooden spoon, tear the pancake apart into bite-size pieces. Keep turning them to brown the edges some more, but try not to overcook. You still want the pieces to be slightly custardy inside. Transfer the pieces out of the skillet to a large platter or bowl and dust them generously with confectioners' sugar.
Add the remaining butter and oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining batter. If the pancake is getting too dark once the skillet has been over the heat for a while, turn down the heat as needed.
Serve while still warm, with the roasted plums and more confectioners' sugar, if desired.
Adapted from baking instructor Nikki Phelps.
Nutrition: Calories: 310; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 106 mg; Sodium: 81 mg; Carbohydrates: 45 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 27 g; Protein: 7 g.