Kaiserschmarrn is a treat from the glorious past of the Austrian Empire
By Nick Malgieri
Linguistic quibbles aside, Kaiserschmarrn is a member of one of the most beloved Viennese food categories, Mehlspeisen, or flour dishes. Viennese cuisine boasts dozens of different dumplings, dense souffle-like dishes and puddings that originated hundreds of years ago in far outposts of the empire, and the real Viennese still consume them on a regular basis. And although Kaisershmarrn is sweetened, that doesn't prevent anyone in Vienna from enjoying it for any meal of the day they choose.
To get the goods on Kaiserschmarrn, I visited Chef Rupert Schnait when he was still executive chef at the Hotel Bristol, one of Vienna's grandest properties. Since then he has moved to the Bristol's sister hotel, the Imperial. Chef Scnait prepared the batter and then showed me the "secret" technique for making light and delicious Kaiserschmarrn: breaking the partially baked batter into pieces before finishing it in the oven. Most places just bake a fluffy pancake and then break it apart and reheat it in butter and sugar -- which isn't bad, but neither as elegant nor as flavorful as Chef Schnait's version.
Kaiserschmarrn starts out with a mixture similar to that for a souffle omelet, and when it's partially cooked, it's attacked with the end of a spatula and broken into pieces. After a quick trip to the oven to finish baking through, it's further broken into smaller pieces while being cooked in more butter and a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar to make a delicious caramelized crust all around. Traditionally served with a compote of late-season plums beloved by the Viennese, it may also be served with applesauce or a strawberry compote as in the recipe below.
Mom might not have much in common with the Franz Joseph's beautiful wife, Empress Elisabeth, but she can certainly enjoy one of the couple's favorite dishes on her day.
KAISERSCHMARRN (Emperor's Scramble)
Adapted from Executive Chef Rupert Schnait, Hotel Imperial, Vienna, Austria
MAKES: 3 generous or 4 smaller servings
1. Several hours or the day before you intend to serve the Kaiserschmarrn, make the strawberry compote: combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan and place on medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. For advance preparation, cool, place in a bowl or container with a cover, cover, and refrigerate until needed. If using soon after, leave in the pan off heat.
2. Several hours or the day before, place the raisins in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, drain, and place in a small bowl. Stir in the rum, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature until needed.
3. When you intend to serve the Kaiserschmarrn, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yolks by hand until lightened. Whisk in the sugar, vanilla and lemon zest, and continue whisking until lighter, about another minute.
5. Sift one-third of the flour over the yolk mixture and whisk it in smoothly. Whisk in half the milk.
6. Repeat step 5.
7. Sift over and whisk in the remaining flour and set aside.
8. Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Use the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites on medium speed until white, opaque, risen in volume, and beginning to hold their shape. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar a little at a time, continuing to whip until the egg whites hold a soft peak.
9. Quickly but gently fold the egg whites into the yolk and flour mixture.
10. Melt one-third of the butter in the saute pan over medium heat; wait until the butter's foam has begun to subside, then pour in the batter. Scatter the rum and raisins over the top of the batter.
11. Let the batter cook undisturbed until it starts to set on the bottom, about a minute.
12. Use a pancake turner or other spatula to cut the batter vertically into 6 pieces. Wipe the end of the spatula and slide it under one for the pieces and turn it over. Don't worry if it falls apart (turn it over anyway), just wait a few more seconds before attempting to turn the rest of the pieces. If the batter isn't set enough on the bottom to turn entirely over, just lift spatula-sized mounds of batter and keep turning them over -- in a couple of minutes, most of the batter will have solidified.
13. Off heat, use the end of the spatula to quickly chop the batter into 1/2-inch pieces.
14. Place the pan in the oven to finish baking the batter through, about a minute or so.
15. Return the pan to medium-low heat, push the pieces of baked batter to one side and half add the remaining butter and sprinkle with a tablespoon of the confectioners' sugar. Use the spatula to chop the batter vertically into smaller pieces, turning portions of the pieces over at the same time. Continue to chop and turn for a minute.
16. Repeat step 15, using the remaining butter and confectioners' sugar.
17. At the same time, reheat the strawberry compote if necessary.
18. Pour the Kaiserschmarrn into the prepared serving dish, dust with confectioners' sugar, and pour the compote into a bowl. Serve immediately by spooning some of the Kaiserschmarrn onto plates with some of the strawberry compote alongside.
Note: Don't attempt this in a smaller pan; if you only have a 10- or 11-inch pan, cook half the batter at a time in succession, using only half the amount of butter called for in each step where it's used. Keep the first batch warm in the serving dish loosely covered with aluminum foil while cooking the second batch.
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To comment, please click here. Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor for free? Let us know by clicking here. Nick Malgieri is the award-winning author of "Perfect Cakes," HarperCollins, 2002; "A Baker's Tour," HarperCollins, 2005; and "Perfect Light Desserts" Morrow, 2006.
To comment, please click here.
Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor for free? Let us know by clicking here.
Nick Malgieri is the award-winning author of "Perfect Cakes," HarperCollins, 2002; "A Baker's Tour," HarperCollins, 2005; and "Perfect Light Desserts" Morrow, 2006.