I don’t have any proper pre-Christmas recipe to display here. Yet I hope this one would fill some of your comfort food needs until celebration time comes, and perhaps also once it will be gone. Indeed, smarni as it is called by much Hungarians, seems like an ultimate comfort food to me, that homey dish you typically make when it’s cold outside and you have little time to cook or are in a lazy mood.
Though humble looking, it has quite a majestic story – which explains why it’s still served in well-established Hungarian restaurants. I do hope Kaiser Franz Joseph did not turn in his grave as I twisted the traditional recipe which had been handed down from my mother, who herself got it from her mother, who, from what she says, had a granddaughter of a female companion of Sissi’s as bestfriend. Well.
Anyway, eating smarni is much like eating pillowy and slightly crispy on the outside chunks of pancake, a change which as trifling as it seems, makes pancake eating much more interesting, believe me. Plus, it has the priceless advantage of being a lot less time-consuming since all the batter gets fried at once !
As I said, I have made a twist in the recipe, since I swapped the milk for a non-dairy one. I won’t go on about my reasons here, I broached the subject already here. Apropos, I used that raw chestnut milk this time, but it could have been oat milk, which I already experienced successfully, or any nut milk. Not only does it change nothing to the consistency of the stuff, but it also makes it lighter. But as for chestnut milk, I find its natural sweetness once cooked matches perfectly with the slightly charred taste of the pancake pieces (hey hot chestnut lovers).
Besides being a memory trigger for me, smarni is at any rate a very versatile dish, suitable in many circumstances and easily adaptable to changing tastes by using different flours, milks or toppings/sides (see serving recommandations below). Also, raisins are featured in the original “emperor’s crumbs” recipe ; this doesn’t suit my taste, but it’s up to you to throw a handful to the batter.
Smarni or scrambled pancake (aka császármorzsa or Kaiserschmarrn, meaning “Emperor’s crumbs”) with non-dairy milk
- 1 egg, whole
- 1 egg, divided
- 1 heaping tsp sugar (I used light brown cane sugar)
- 1 pinch of salt
- 100 gr. AP flour (white preferred: it helps making the milk’s taste more noticeable)
- 100 ml non-dairy milk (of course whole cow’s milk can be used too !)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil (optional, it makes for a softer pancake but I usually skip it)
- vegetable cooking oil for the pan (I use peanut or sunflower for their neutral taste and high smoking point)
Whisk together the whole egg, the other’s yolk, the sugar and the salt in a mixing bowl as for making an omelet. Work in 25 gr. of flour and 2 tbsp of milk so as to get a creamy smooth batter, and repeat until no flour and milk remain (adding the flour and milk gradually is to prevent lumps). Whip up the egg white and stir it gently into the batter (along with the vegetable oil, if using).
In the meantime, add oil in a small shallow frying pan to cover the bottom and preheat it over low to medium heat. I typically use a 16cm enamelled cast iron pan which fits well a rather small volume of batter (like half of the one here). However if you only have larger pans I recommend making more batter or the pancake would be cooked through before you have the time to scramble it ! Or, adjust the cooking time (don’t wait for the pancake to have its underside set before scrambling).
Once the oil is hot enough (when you see its surface rippled, sort of) pour the whole batter as quickly as possible into the pan. Wait half to one minute, until the bottom has set enough and started to brown – a bit less than what you see on the pictures above. You should see the sides loosening from the pan and bubbles forming on the upper side, but you may also check it by lifting carefully one side of the pancake with a spatula. Then you can start breaking up the pancake with a spatula, forming chunks of your desired size and turning them over as often as needed to allow them to be evenly cooked through. Some people put it in a hot oven at the end of pan-frying to finish off cooking. I don’t find it necessary, but if you’re aiming for a crispier feeling, go through with it !
Serve smarni hot, dusted with confectioner’s sugar (or powdered caster sugar), fresh fruits or fruit compote, jams (plum and cherry are the most traditional), honey, maple or agave syrup or any other syrup, nuts and seeds… Or a mix of these options, or everyone of them : it’s all to your liking. Preserved ribizliszörp and toasted slivered almonds make a nice combo.
You can have smarni as a breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack, a dessert or even as a light main (with a yoghurt on the side for example) for brunch or TV dinner… Anyway, enjoy it !