A long-held tradition in Germany has been the afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen, or Coffee and Cake, aka Kaffeeklatsch. Inserted between the late afternoon and early evening hours it gives a breather to the busyness of the day, a time to get together with friends or family to relax, socialize and nosh on cake, pastries and coffee. In the past this social custom took place in the home, mostly on Sunday afternoons; it allowed the hostess to show off her baking as well as other, Martha Stewart-like skills such as “dress to impress” table setting. These days the flour-dust sweat of creating sweet delights is often left to the professionals.
On a recent Sunday my friend Linda and I received a long-awaited lesson. Our mutual friend Cindy, a spry octogenarian originally from Austria, taught us how to make Kaiserschmarrn. Fluffy pancakes are not your typical offerings found on a German hostess’ table. Nevertheless, for us it was a special treat.
Kaiserschmarrn is most often found in the southern German region of Bavaria, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia and northern Croatia, each with slight differences. Legend has it that Austrian Kaiser (Emperor) Franz Joseph I, (1830-1916) was very fond of it. It’s a puffy, shredded pancake. (Click for a brief history of Kaiserschmarren)
Cindy is petite, elegant, kind and soft-spoken. Yet when it comes to a correct or not-so-right version of Kaiserschmarren she’s adamant. A few years ago her son Tony cooked this dish for her. “It was good” she said. “But he didn’t make it the right way.” (Apparently he made a more rustic version, one attributed to burly woodsmen or loggers who roam the forests of Austria).
It really doesn’t matter which version you choose: Cindy’s, or the type made by a friendly, pancake-making guy in the woods of Austria who (as luck should have it) you stumble upon and he happens to invite you to dine with him al fresco. If you like pancakes, try making Kaischerschmarren.
And, if you add whipped cream and strawberries on top you too might think you’ve died and come back as royalty.