There are five more weeks until Christmas but I started to be uneasy because there are plenty of work to do but there is little time to figure out what would be the most ideal dessert for example on Boxing Day afternoon. While I was walking in the woods in the unusually warm November afternoon (today) suddenly a childhood favorite dessert crossed my mind. It was none another than the Emperor’s mess.
It is easy to make yet it’s delicious. So those who haven’t heard of it yet here is a short explanation: The Emperor’s mess is a shredded pancake, which has its name from the Austrian emperor Frances Joseph I of Austria, who was very fond of this kind of fluffy shredded pancake. It became a popular meal or dessert in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, and in northern Croatia.
The name Kaiserschmarren comes from the German word Schmarren (shredded pancake) and Kaiser (emperor). Schmarren is a colloquialism used in Austria and Bavaria to mean “trifle, mishmash, mess, nonsense or folly”. Franz Joseph’s love for this dish was referred to humorously as his “folly”. The word “Schmarren” is related to scharren (to scrape) and schmieren (to smear).
The history behind the Emperor mess
It is generally agreed that the dish was first prepared for the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I(1830–1916). There are several stories. One apochryphal story involves the Emperor and his wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria, of the House of Wittelsbach-Sisi. Obsessed with maintaining a minimal waistline, the Empress directed the royal chef to prepare only light desserts for her, much to the consternation and annoyance of her notoriously austere husband. Upon being presented with the chef’s confection, she found it too rich and refused to eat it. The exasperated Francis Joseph quipped, “Now let me see what ‘Schmarren’ our chef has cooked up.” It apparently met his approval as he finished his and even his wife’s serving.
Kaiserschmarren is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter using flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and milk, baked in butter. It can be prepared in many, different ways. The pancake is split with two forks into pieces while frying and usually sprinkled with powdered sugar then served hot with apple or plum sauce or various fruit compotes, including plum, lingonberry, strawberry, or apple. In the original recipe there are only raisins (before cooking they are soaked in rum). When making Kaiserschmarren the egg whites are usually separated from the yolk and beaten until stiff; then the flour and the yolks are mixed with sugar, and the other ingredients are added, including: nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, caramelized raisins and slivered almonds. The last mentioned ingredients (nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and chopped almonds) aren’t in the original recipe and just additions made by some cooks based on their personal preferences.
Kaiserschmarren is eaten like a dessert, or it can also be eaten for lunch at tourist places like mountainside restaurants and taverns in the Austrian Alps or in Bavaria, as a quite filling meal. Traditionally Kaiserschmarren is accompanied with Zwetschkenröster, a fruit compote made out of plums or other fruits (see on the picture, I prepared with peach mousse and compote).