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Trader Joe's Danish Pancakes (a.k.a. Aebleskiver)

When is an Aebleskiver NOT an Aebleskiver?

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When it comes frozen from Trader Joe's.

What's an Aebleskiver?

Aebleskiver - also spelled "ebelskiver" - are Denmark's hallmark "pancakes." Light and airy inside, these golden spheres are slightly crispy on the outside - a contrasting texture made possible by the cooking method: tablespoons of the batter are spooned into a special, welled pan, then baked and flipped 3 to 4 times during the cooking process until they form perfect spheres.

Their name, aebleskiver, translates as "apple slices," for they are often prepared by inserting a sliced apple into the center of each "pancake" as it bakes. Yet there are multiple variations on this theme: in southern Jutland, cooks typically insert a prune filling instead, in a version called Sønderjyske or "Berliner" æbleskiver (recipe here). Some fill their aebleskiver with raspberry or strawberry jam; others serve the jam alongside the cooked fritter. Aebleskiver also are delightful when prepared with savory fillings, as Kevin Crafts demonstrates in what is possible the best English cookbook on the subject (see my full review of this great cookbook here).

So What's So Bad about the Trader Joe's Brand?

For those uninitiated as to what aebleskiver should taste like, both the picture and the product description of TJ's "Danish Pancakes" looks intriguing. It specifically says, "Made in Denmark" - so you'd think the manufacturer would know what they were doing.

However ... reading on, the package informs us that, "Not that there's anything wrong with American pancakes, mind you. But Danish Pancakes? Wow. Quite a treat. A traditional breakfast in their native Denmark, these pancakes, known as aebleskiver (pronounced ebel-sku-wyr), are round and puffy, unlike the round and flat American "hotcake" version. A bit crispy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside, Danish Pancakes are excellent with powdered sugar and jam, or for a Danish-American cultural exchange, dip Danish Pancakes in maple syrup."

The phrase "soft and doughy on the inside" is the real tip-off. It isn't false advertising: this is exactly what these aebleskiver taste like once they're warmed up - far too undercooked on the inside to ever qualify as an authentic aebleskiver (which should be very light and fluffy inside, almost like a donut hole).

Ingredient List and Nutrition

I won't argue that there's such a thing as a "healthy" aebleskiver. They are, after all, made from basically the same ingredients as pancakes: flour, sugar, and eggs. However, at least the homemade variety is free of the extra preservatives, emulsifiers, and salt that are used in TJ's brand.

Here's the ingredient list for TJ's product:

Wheat flour, water, pasteurized egg white, canola oil, sugar, modified potato starch, yeast, raisingaents (disodium phphate, sodium hydrogen carbonate), salt, emulsiers (mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, soy lecithin), lemon flavor (contains coconut), cardamom.

And here's the nutritional information for a single serving (2 aebleskiver): Calories 170, Calories from Fat 80, Total Fat 9g 14%, Saturated Fat 1g 5%, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol O mg 0%, Sodium 160mg 6%, Total Carbohydate 17g 6%, Dietary Fiber 1g 4%, Sugars 3g, Protein 3g, Vitamin A 0%, Vitamin C 0% Calcium 0%, Iron 2%.

Compare that to the nutritional value of a comparable serving of my basic aebleskiver recipe: Calories 117 , Calories from Fat 25, Total Fat 2.7g 4%, Saturated Fat 1.4g 7%, Trans Fat 0.0g, Cholesterol 29mg 10%, Sodium 49mg 2%, Total Carbohydrates 19.9g 7%, Dietary Fiber 1.3g 5%, Sugars 5.0g, Protein 3.6g, Vitamin A 2%, Vitamin C 2%, Calcium 6%, Iron 6%.

While my recipe, admittedly, is higher in cholesterol and sugar (I'm still tweaking my sugar / milk content as I continue to experiment with creating the "perfect" aebleskiver), it's also far lower in calories and in salt.

Final Verdict

If you enjoy doughy goo-balls for breakfast, by all means go ahead and try out Trader Joe's "Danish Pancakes." They don't really taste that bad - one point in their favor is that they have a very pronounced cardamom flavor. Yet ... they don't taste particular good, either - at least if you're familiar with the texture and taste of a real homemade aebleskiver.

Better yet, invest in an aebleskiver pan (you can order them from my favorite source, Aunt Else's Aebelskiver, or from Nordic Ware), follow my illustrated, step-by-step aebleskiver-making tutorial or watch the great video demonstration of the cooking method on the Aunt Else site, and soon you'll be enjoying fresh, fragrant 'skivers in less time that it takes to drive to Trader Joe's and back.

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