Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When You Don't Have "The Perfect Tool"


This past weekend, I took our scouts out to Huddart Park in Woodside. We were going to go and shoot rockets at Moffett Field, but alas, the field has to be used for something else last minute, meaning, yep, the launches were scrubbed. We're going to go again this weekend, but that's not the point of this particular post.

One of the things that our Troop takes pride in is our tradition of being "backwoods cooks". Usually that means Dutch Oven's and fill in the blank recipes, and this trip was to be no exception. I have a few signature dishes I like to make, and they made their appearance, but I really had my heart set on trying something new... Aebleskiver!

For those not familiar with Aebleskiver, they are Danish Pancakes, round, often stuffed with fruit filling or jam/preserves, and then topped with either powdered sugar or dipped into maple syrup. My hope was to find at my favorite local outfitter a cast iron Aebleskiver pan (yep, Lodge makes one :) ). Alas, when I got there, they did not have it. I asked the proprietors and they said that they'd love to carry it, but it's such a specialty item and so few people ask for it, they don't carry it as part of their regular inventory. They said they'd be happy to order one for me, but of course, that wouldn't help me for this campout.

Hmmm, what to do?

Well, as it turns out, necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, I decided to experiment with a muffin tin. The approach was similar:


  • Fill the cups about a third of the way with batter
  • Put in the fruit filling (in this case, blueberry preserves) 
  • Cover them again with enough batter to seal in the fruit filling, but allow a little room for the dough to expand. 
  • Cover the top of the pan with tin foil and make an A-frame roof of sorts, so the dough can expand and still trap the heat. 
  • Place on coals for about five minutes or until the tops start bubbling. 
  • Take a fork and roll the semi-cooked Aebleskiver so the bottom is now on top, and continue another five minutes.


Was it perfect? Nope, they were a little angular, of course, and they were kind of a cross between pancakes and muffins, with a jelly donut center… but to the scouts that ate all of them without taking a breath, they didn't care. They thought they tasted fabulous, and asked me if we could do them again the next campout.

Testing parallel? Of course!

We often lament the fact that we don't have the "perfect tools" to do our work. Oh, if we only had this item or that item, then we'd be able to really get something accomplished! My Aebleskiver would have been much more nicely formed had I had a proper pan. The texture and appearance would have been much better, instead of being slightly jagged and bumpy, and with the filling slightly off center. At the end of the day, though, no one really cared about that. They had something different to eat and they enjoyed it. End of story.

Likewise, we also sell ourselves short if we think our efforts are not worthwhile without "the proper tools". Sure, the tools make things easier, but the idea is often still the same; sometimes, new discoveries can be made when you have to wing it and do things without the perfect tools. In the future, if I don't have an Aebleskivber pan, two sandwiched muffin tins, with coals on both sides, would do splendidly. Of course, the purist in me wants the right tools, too, and make no mistake about it, by the time we are at a campground again, I will have a proper Aebleskiver pan… but it's nice to know that I can still do a pretty good job without it if I have to.
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