Kaiserschmarrn is a sweet fluffy pancake, torn into small pieces, covered with powdered sugar and served with a fruit compote. This is typically served as a dessert or even lunch, but not so much as breakfast.
Although technically Austrian, this dessert is often served in south-eastern Switzerland (near Austria) as well as Christmas markets all over Switzerland. Since Covid-19 is closing all the markets, we are cooking this festive food at home to make our spirits bright.
The Swiss have their own version of Kaiserschmarrn, called Tasch, which skips the whipped egg whites and is therefore denser. Simpler to make, but not as nice in my opinion. Here are recipes for Tasch from Cuisine Helvetica and Helvetic Kitchen.
I have tried many recipes for Kaiserschmarrn, not all great. Happily I finally have a recipe I love that I share below. But first let’s see how I got there to help you avoid the mistakes I made in the beginning.
Flour : Egg : Milk ratios
Every Kaiserschmarrn recipe uses the same base ingredients: flour, milk, eggs, sugar. The difference is in the ratios. Too much flour and the pancake is heavy and dense. Too much liquid and it barely holds together.
So like any normal person, I made a spreadsheet, comparing the ratios of a dozen recipes and cooked a bunch of versions to see what we prefer. We discovered that we overwhelmingly prefer a batter with very little flour, lots of eggs and a lot of milk, which cooks up very light and fluffy.
Many Kaiserschmarrn recipes add a bit of lemon zest, vanilla and/or rum. I like vanilla but not the others. Feel free to experiment. It’s also common to sprinkle raisins over the top when you first put the batter in the pan. I don’t like that all. In fact, at restaurants, I’ll ask if it has raisins and not order it if it does.
Whipping the eggs
Almost all versions of Kaiserschmarrn have you whip the egg whites to soft peaks and fold them into the batter. This creates a very light batter and end product. It’s important not to overwhip or it’s a little difficult to incorporate them into the batter.
I found one recipe from Wolfgang Puck that has you slowly pour the sugar into the egg whites while whipping, as you would do with meringue. I love this method. The whipped egg whites have a smoother texture and are hard to overwhip. If this extra step annoys you, just stir the sugar into the flour/milk mixture and move on.
Some recipes have you pour the batter into a hot pan on the stovetop, then bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then you bring it back to the stovetop, where you tear up the pancake and brown the pieces before serving.
The advantage of this method is that the batter gets fully cooked in the middle without any stirring. If you cook it only on the stovetop, sometimes you can have trouble getting all the inner bits fully cooked.
The disadvantage is that the top remains quite pale. You can remedy this a bit after tearing it by stirring the pieces around in the hot pan, but the texture suffers a bit. In the oven, the pancake also tends to get a bit dry, while Kaiserschmarrn cooked on the stovetop is more moist. Also, my oven-safe pan is not non-stick, so the Kaiserschmarrn sticks to the pan and is hard to flip.
I suggest you try the oven method at least once just to see what happens. But I really prefer the stovetop.
Cooking Method: fry, flip & tear
I cook Kaiserschmarrn in a large non-stick pan (about 26cm diameter). I typically make a 6 egg batter, which needs to be cooked in two batches. If you put too much batter in the pan at the same time, the pancake is too tall and the insides don’t cook through.
When your batter is ready, put a large non-stick pan on medium heat. If the heat is too high, the Kaiserschmarrn will burn before the insides cook. If the heat is too low, the batter will cook through without browning at all and will taste a little flat and rubbery. After the first time, you’ll figure out the right heat for your stovetop.
Melt about 1 TB butter in the pan. Then pour enough batter to fill the base of the pan to about 2cm tall. With my recipe below, that’s about half the batter.
Wait about 5-7 mins and check underneath the pancake to see if it’s golden brown. Usually it’s ready earlier than you think. If you can smell it, it’s probably already too dark. The top will still look completely uncooked and raw.
Once you are ready to flip, shimmy a large spatula under the Kaiserschmarrn, take a deep breath and do your best to quickly flip the entire pancake over. I only get a perfect flip about 25% of time. The rest of the time, only a portion flips (exhibit A below) and batter sprays all over the stovetop. It’s totally fine. Just flip the other parts until you don’t have raw batter on top anymore.
Wait a couple minutes, then start cutting and tearing the pancake into bite-sized bits. You can stir and flip so all sides get some caramelization and all raw batter is cooked. This might take about 5 minutes.
Toppings for the Kaiserschmarrn
You can serve Kaiserschmarrn on individual plates or in a big serving dish to be passed around the table. Either way, dust it generously with powdered sugar and serve with a side of fruit compote. I’ve had it most often with plum compote, including at the famous Cafe Landtmann in Vienna. But applesauce and other fruits like cherry, apricot, raspberry or strawberry would be welcome.
My American kids dip Kaiserschmarrn in maple syrup, which is tasty if untraditional. You could also serve it with jam, but I find jam a bit dense and too sweet for this dessert.
If you make Kaiserschmarrn in winter, you can easily use frozen fruit. Simply place about 500g frozen fruit in a small pot with about 1/2 cup of sugar (or more to taste). Don’t add water as the fruit will release a lot of liquid as soon as it warms up. Heat it until the fruit is soft. Then mash the fruit with a fork or puree if you prefer. Cool the fruit compote to room temperature before serving.
How much Kaiserschmarrn to make
This recipe easily scales to serve a group. You can also hold the finished Kaiserschmarrn in a warm oven so everyone can eat at once.
In general, I scale the recipe to 2 eggs per person. However, when I served it to my son’s Austrian friend, he scoffed at what he viewed as a criminally small portion and said that in his house, each person gets a complete pan each (about 3 eggs worth). Better to make a bit more and have leftovers.
For the pancake
- 6 eggs, separated
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 350 ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- 130 g flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons butter for frying the pancake (not the batter)
- Powdered sugar
- Fruit compote, applesauce, jam or maple syrup
- In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and sugar to soft peaks. Best to slowly pour sugar in while whipping.
- In another large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk and vanilla extract until combined. Add flour and salt and whisk gently until no lumps are left.
- Gently fold in egg whites into yolk/milk/flour mixture until no white lumps are visible.
- Heat large non-stick pan on medium heat.
- Melt 1 TB of butter in pan.
- Pour half of the batter into the pan. Wait about 5-7 mins until the bottom is golden brown. Flip the pancake over and brown the other side for 2-4 mins. Cut and tear the pancake into bite sized pieces and stir to brown on all sides, making sure the batter is cooked through.
- Remove cooked pieces to a serving dish and repeat step 5-6 with the remaining batter.
- Serve Kaiserschmarren pieces on platter or individual plates, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a side of fruit compote or other sweet accompaniment.
The cooked Kaiserschmarrn may be held in a warm oven before serving.
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