Austrian torn, fluffy pancake

Written by | Food

A month ago, I made kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake, for my kids for a weekend breakfast at the suggestion of my neighbor (coincidentally the partner of the neighbor who challenged me to make dutch apple pie and thus definitely someone with good taste). It was, as predicted, delicious, I posted a photo in the moments before my children demolished it. It was only then, through an avalanche of DMs, that I learned how deeply beloved it is.

Here’s a small sampling of responses:
“You made Kaiserschmarrn!!!”
“This is Austrian!” “This is German!” “This is Czech!” “We make this in Hungary!”
“Looks spot on, just like the ones I had in Salzburg many years ago!”
“We eat this for dessert!”
“This is Christmas breakfast every year with tart jam and pureed plums!”
“We call this Emporer’s Mess.” [Apparently Franz Joseph I was very fond of it.]
“Besides apple strudel, traditional Kaiserschmarrn is one of the most famous and iconic Austrian dishes.”
“If you order it at any Austrian restaurant, it’s almost guaranteed to come with stewed plums (zwetschkenröster) and/or applesauce.”
“It’s best when cooked in butterschmalz [clarified butter or ghee].”
“I hope you skipped the rum soaked raisins — yuck.” But also: “You forgot the rum-soaked raisins!” [I didn’t but found them distracting.]
“Tip: Kaiserschmarrn is perfect when it’s still a bit creamy inside.”

To try it is to understand why. The batter is simple, close to that of a crepe or dutch baby, but you whip the egg whites separately and fold them in at the end, resulting in a puffy butter-fried mega-pancake. But wait, there’s more! You then shred, tear, or chop it into bite-sized pieces and continue to fry it until each is a glorious golden-edged, custardy-centered nugget. It’s finished with a drift of powdered sugar and served with tart fruit compote (I tried my hand at plum below) or applesauce and is a dream of a weekend breakfast. It could also be dessert. It could also be lunch, which is how my neighbor has been enjoying it. Mostly, I love the way it seems simple but feels a bit festive, just like I hope all of our weekends ahead are.

Last modified: February 19, 2021