Kaiserschmarrn is just about the best Austrian treat you can find. It’s a large, fluffy pancake with raisins, torn into pieces, dusted with powdered sugar and served with plum (my fave!) or apple compote. I swear, if I could have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner (which, by the way, is perfectly acceptable), without having to buy an entire new wardrobe, I would. Believe me, this holiday, I have tried!
Kaiserschmarrn dates back to the 19th century, where, according to one myth (there are several), it was created for the Austrian Empress Elisabeth (Sisi). She was very intent on keeping her unbelievably tiny waistline and refused to eat it. Her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph I, who hated waste, cried, “Gib halt her, den Schmarr’n!”, which roughly translates to “Well then, hand it over, this nonsense!”. He loved it so much, he proceeded to eat both his wife’s serving and his own. And so it was dubbed the “Emporer’s Nonsense”, Kaiserschmarrn.
No matter where the name comes from, this dish is unbelievably delicious. In the small mountain village where we’ve spent part of our summer holiday, there is one restaurant that serves the best Kaiserschmarrn with caramelized, almost crunchy edges, and I recently asked the waiter what the secret was. At first he huffed and puffed and said he didn’t know, but he then changed his mind and told us the secret. Eye opening, let me tell you. The most wonderful Kaiserschmarrn is now mine for the making and can be yours too!
The secret is to let a sugar/water mix caramelize on one side of the pan with the almost done Kaiserschmarrn pushed to the other side of the pan. Then you mix it all up, the pan goes into the oven for an extra little heat love and boom! The. Best. Kaiserschmarrn.
I urge you to give it a try!
1 1/2 cups (200 g) all purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar plus 4 tbsp sugar for caramelization
1 pinch salt
4 eggs at room temperature, separated
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
30 g raisins (optional)
4 tbsp butter for the pan
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
plum compote or apple compote for serving
Make a sugar/water mix with 4 tablespoons sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. Set aside.
Sift the flour.
In a large bowl, mix together egg yolks, sugar and salt until light yellow and fluffy. Add the sifted flour and milk in two alternating batches and mix until just combined.
Let rest for 10 minutes.
In a separate, very clean bowl (and with clean whisks!), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter with a wooden spoon.
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
In a large ovenproof pan over medium to high heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter until the butter starts to foam.
Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the raisins over the top. Cook until one side is a light golden brown, about 7-8 minutes.
Flip the pancake over (it's best to use two spatulas) and cook for another 5-7 minutes. When the other side is lightly golden brown, use two forks to pull the pancake apart into large, but still bite size pieces.
Push the Kaiserschmarrn pieces to one side of the pan.
Mix the sugar/water mixture through once more as the sugar has probably settled to the bottom. Pour the mixture into the pan on the empty side. It will immediately start bubbling away. Be extremely careful with hot sugar! It can cause severe burns. Use oven mitts for the next step if you feel more comfortable. Watch the syrup carefully, it will thicken and the bubbles will take longer to burst. After a few more minutes, you will see the syrup start to take on some color. When that happens, use a rubber spatula to combine your Kaiserschmarrn pieces with the sugar syrup.
Put the pan in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown with crispy edges.
Traditionally, Kaiserschmarrn is served straight out of the pan, but you can, of course, share it up onto plates.
Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with plum or apple compote.
Since it can be hard to flip a pancake of this size, you can also opt to make two batches if you have two pans.