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paradigm shift moments

Passport & Plate - Kaiserschmarrn

Austria | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 5 photos

Red Wine Plums (on the side)
200 grams sugar
200 milliliters red wine
30 milliliters rum
1 kilogram halved and pitted plums with skins on
cinnamon powder, to taste
vanilla extract, to taste


For the base:
300 grams Schmand/creme fraiche
70 grams sugar
120 grams egg yolks (approximately 6 egg yolks)
120 grams flour

For the egg whites:
210 grams egg whites (approximately 7 egg whites, although 6 will work as well)
80 g sugar

To serve:
One batch baked cake (above)
48 grams sugar
60 grams butter
Red Wine Plums, warm or cold according to preference (to serve, optional but highly encouraged!)
Powdered sugar (to serve, optional)
Vanilla ice cream (to serve, optional)


How to prepare this recipe
Red Wine Plums
1. Caramelize the sugar in a large pot over medium heat.
2. Carefully stir the caramel with a metal whisk and pour in the red wine and rum. Whisk until caramel is completely dissolved,.
3. Add the plums and stir until they are evenly coated in the sauce. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for twenty minutes, or until the plums are cooked.
4. Transfer the plums to a bowl. Continue cooking the sauce over low heat until it reduces slightly.
5. Remove from heat, add cinnamon and vanilla to taste, and pour the sauce over the plums. Let sit for at least half an hour. Red Wine Plums can be served chilled, or re-warmed in the microwave or in a small pot. They are also good as an ice cream topping, or with plain yogurt.

To make:
1. Preheat an oven to 165ºC and line a 3 quart (13x9x2 inches or 35x25x5 cm) baking dish with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine the schmand, sugar, and egg yolks, and whisk until smooth. Add the flour, and continue whisking until there are no clumps. This base can be held in the refrigerator for up to three days.
3. In another large bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Beat by hand or with a mixer until medium peaks form.
4. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the beaten egg whites into the base.
5. Pour batter into the lined baking dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until done. The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, and the surface is golden brown. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for at least 20 minutes.

To serve:
1. Tear the baked cake into small pieces.
2. Caramelize the sugar in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl pan a little to combine.
3. Add the chunks of cake and toss rapidly, or stir with a spatula, until all of the pieces are slightly browned.
4. Transfer the cake pieces onto a plate and serve with Red Wine Plums, powdered sugar, and vanilla ice cream (optional)


The story behind this recipe
After I graduated high school, I stepped out of my comfort zone and onto a plane that would take me to Germany on a vocational gap year program. I’m currently in Lower Saxony, where I’ve found my way into a local kitchen that specializes in traditional German cooking. Ironically, this is where I learned the recipe I’m submitting. Kaiserschmarrn is a pancake dish that originates from Austria (my self-appointed mentor, a 25 year-old chef named Zed, started his career in an Austrian restaurant).

I could go on forever about Kaiserschmarrn itself - Zed and I made it together on my second day apprenticing at Hotel T - and reminisce over the thin caramelized crust on each piece of fluffy sponge cake, but I’ll talk about what happened afterwards instead, when I gushed over how delicious the Kaiserschmarrn was, and asked Zed if I could pretty please have the recipe.

Of course!, he responded, and pulled out a pen to write down a copy for me, even resizing it from its restaurant quantity to a more modest household portion. When I asked him why he copied it down by hand, rather than just having me take a quick picture of the recipe, Zed looked me straight in the eyes and told me that it was better this way. It was from him to me, he said, his way of welcoming me into this new world of professional cooking.

And since the moment I walked into Hotel T’s stainless steel kitchen, Zed has been nothing but happy and eager to share his immense culinary knowledge with me. He’s especially patient with my basic German, and willing to repeat things twice or three times to make sure I really understand.

So to me, this recipe for Kaiserschmarrn is more than just instructions for making something to eat. It’s a link that connects me to a teacher figure I have a lot of respect for, a physical representation of all the knowledge I’ve inherited from him captured in a sheet of paper covered in blue ink and scrawled handwriting.

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