Don’t you love recipes with a history? Sure, you can make any recipe and be happy with the results. But what a thrill it is to choose a recipe that’s been around for a century or more, knowing that millions of people have prepared and enjoyed this same dish before you.
Recipes with a personal connection can be even more special, like those cinnamon buns you make every weekend. They’re the same recipe your mom made for you on cold winter afternoons when you were just in from sledding and hungry for something warm and filling. Food served with a side of memories is more than just a bite to eat.
Recipes are both a journey into the past and a foray into the future: We take an old recipe, make it our own, and pass it along. The truly memorable recipes, those that travel from one generation to the next, are a treasure.
Take Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor’s Pancake), for instance. This generously sized “cook and tear” Austrian pancake, perfect for a celebratory breakfast, is one of the newer recipes on our site. And it comes with not one, but two stories.
Kaiserschmarrn: the backstory
First, its history: a favorite of 19th-century Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (for whom it’s named), Kaiserschmarrn was enjoyed by the Emperor himself — but less often by his surrounding guards.
According to The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, “Court etiquette demanded that the Emperor be served first and that no one continue eating after His Majesty had put down his fork. Unfortunately, the Kaiser ate very quickly. By the time the large silver platters got to the hungry young officers, the Emperor had put down fork and knife, and the poor fellows had just one tantalizing look at the lovely dishes — or maybe even a brief taste of the excellent Kaiserschmarrn — before their plates were removed.”
Despite some culinary sleuthing, I was unable to determine how Kaiserschmarrn's distinct "torn" style came into being. Personally, I suspect the Emperor (fast eater that he was) simply wanted to dig in quickly and, finding himself with a fork but no knife, grabbed a fellow diner’s fork and started tearing! But the technique of making a big pancake then breaking it up into little pieces is a fun way to literally play with your food before diving in. And what excited child, eager to get on with the family’s holiday activities, won’t enjoy the helter-skelter process of ripping up a pancake?
Food served with a side of memories is more than just a bite to eat.
For many of its devotees, Kaiserschmarrn also has a more personal side. King Arthur’s test kitchen manager, Charlotte Rutledge, has a long-standing love for Kaiserschmarrn and is responsible for its presence on our site.
“I learned about this recipe when I worked in England; we made a version of it at the restaurant where I worked,” says Charlotte. “But I also finally got to try the real dish at a restaurant called Alter Fuchs in Salzburg, on my now-husband and my wedding reconnaissance trip in September 2013. My memories are so vivid! It's such a heart- and soul-warming dish.” Charlotte adds, “I think what I love most about this dish is that it embraces being messy in the kitchen!”
Want to start making your own memories — just in time for the holidays? Give Kaiserschmarrn a try.
Kaiserschmarrn: prep before you start
First, read the recipe directions — then read them again. To make this Emperor’s Pancake, you want to have a good idea of what you’re doing (and when) before you start. Once you take that first step (beating the egg whites), you don’t want to stop until you’ve got the finished pancake on the plate and ready to serve.
Likewise, stage your ingredients and tools. This will ensure that you, the cook, remain serene despite whatever else is happening in your busy holiday kitchen.
- You’ll need one small bowl and two medium-to-large bowls; get them out.
Pull out your King Arthur Buttermilk Pancake Mix. (Yes, this recipe is based on a mix; and even if you’re a dedicated “from scratch” baker, I highly recommend you keep this “just add water” mix on hand; it’s both super-tasty and ridiculously convenient, especially during busy mornings.)
Retrieve two large eggs, butter, and milk from the fridge. Measure out the butter and milk.
You’re going to be beating egg whites into fluffy mounds; ready an electric mixer (with whisk attachment, if possible), or find your hand whisk.
Choose your frying pan, lid, and spatula for cooking the pancake.
Find a plate large enough to hold the pancake when you turn it out of the pan (prior to flipping it back in). Position it near the frying pan.
Get out the confectioners’ sugar and a sieve, for sifting it atop the cooked pancake.
OK, NOW you’re ready!
How to make Kaiserschmarrn
- 1/4 cup (37g) raisins or dried cranberries, optional
- 2 tablespoons (28g) rum, optional
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 2/3 cup (73g) King Arthur Buttermilk Pancake Mix
- 1/2 cup (113g) milk
- 3 tablespoons (42g) butter, divided
- confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- fruit compote or apple or cranberry sauce, for serving
Combine the raisins (or cranberries) and rum in a small bowl and set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
Don’t want to wait? Microwave the fruit and rum for 30 seconds, covered; set them aside, and they’ll be ready when you are.
In a medium-to-large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites — by hand or mixer — until they form stiff peaks. The whites will appear matte rather than glossy like meringue; it’s meringue’s sugar that gives it its sheen.
In a separate medium-to-large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, pancake mix, and milk until mostly smooth; a few small lumps are OK.
Plop the fluffy egg whites atop the batter and stir or fold gently, just until incorporated.
Don’t worry about small bits of unincorporated fluffy white; it’s better to stop stirring while there are still a few soft lumps rather than risk deflating the batter.
Place a 10” to 11” sauté pan (preferably non-stick with sloped sides and a lid) over medium heat. Let it heat until it’s good and hot. Add 2 tablespoons (28g) of the butter, letting it melt then sizzle and brown slightly; browning the butter adds flavor.
Pour the batter into the hot pan, tilting the pan if necessary to spread it across the bottom.
Drain the raisins or cranberries and sprinkle them onto the pancake. (They’ll partially sink.)
Cover the pan with its lid (or a piece of aluminum foil, if you don’t have a lid) and cook the pancake until the bottom is golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Use a spatula to lift the edge of the pancake to check its color; if it appears to be browning too quickly (e.g., if it’s already pretty brown after 2 minutes), reduce the heat.
Once it’s golden brown, use the spatula to loosen and then slide the whole pancake onto a large plate. The top of the pancake won’t be set so the process may be a bit messy; that’s OK.
Add the remaining tablespoon (14g) of butter to the pan and let it melt, then sizzle.
Flip the pancake from the plate onto its uncooked side in the pan. It’s OK (really!) if the pancake tears or breaks apart during this process; you’re eventually going to tear it into bite-sized pieces anyway. But if you slowly tilt the plate vertically over the edge of the frying pan, then nudge the pancake face-first into the pan, you should be all set.
Cook the second side of the pancake for another minute or two, until it’s just starting to color.
Remove the pan from the heat and use two forks to tear the pancake into 2” to 3” pieces. You can do this right in the pan (and then serve from the pan), or transfer the pancake to a large serving plate and tear it up there.
Generously dust the pancake with confectioners’ sugar before serving it immediately. Offer sauce or compote on the side. While totally untraditional, I like to serve Kaiserschmarrn with fresh blueberry sauce.
You can make this sauce ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it. Warm before serving.
- 1 1/2 cups (227g) fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 tablespoon water (for fresh blueberries; omit if using frozen)
- 1 generous tablespoon (9g) cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (37g) granulated sugar, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
If you’re using fresh berries, place 3/4 cup (113g) plus the water into a small saucepan and bring them to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer for a minute or so, using a spatula or spoon to crush the berries slightly.
If you’re using frozen berries, follow the same process but put all the berries into the saucepan at once, and don’t add water.
Mix the cornstarch, salt, sugar, and cinnamon, and stir into the berries. Simmer for a couple of minutes, or until the mixture thickens a bit.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and lemon juice, stirring until the butter melts. If you’ve used fresh berries, stir in the remaining 3/4 cup berries.
Serve warm with Kaiserschmarrn.
If you’re psyched to try Kaiserschmarrn, you’ll appreciate the “beyond cereal and toast” breakfast inspirations in our Holiday Breakfast recipe collection.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.