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What is Kaiserschmarrn?

By Janis Adams
Updated May 17, 2024
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Also called smarni, kaiserschmarrn is considered a type of shredded pancake or omelet. It is made with eggs, flour, and sugar and is cooked in butter. Served hot, it is most often presented as a dessert. Of all Austrian desserts, this is one of the most legendary, particularly for its origin story.

The legend of the kaiserchmarrn's origin is still told today, though there are many different versions. It is said that last emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph, wanted something special created for his cook to make him to eat. His cook whipped up this schmarnn, which is sometimes translated as "mess," and so it became known as the kaiser's schmarrn, which evolved over the years to the name it goes by today, kaiserschmarrn.

It is made much in the same way an omelet is made, though the ingredients are different. An omelet only contains eggs, and maybe a splash of milk or water. Kaiserschmarrn has eggs along with flour, sugar, vanilla, and milk.

These ingredients are blended together and poured into a pan filled with melted butter which has been warmed on a stove. The omelet-like pancake is turned during the cooking process so that all sides of it reach a golden brown. Once the cooking process is done, it is torn into shreds. The kaiserschmarrn is served warm with icing sugar on top of it or with warm plum chutney.

Some cooks caramelize the sugar before the cooking process is complete. After the pancake has been shredded, sugar and additional butter are added to the pan. The sugar and butter are then cooked until the sugar has turned to caramel. Before serving, more sugar is sprinkled atop this version, as well.

A popular thing to add to this traditional Austrian dessert is rum-soaked raisins. The raisins are sprinkled liberally over the kaiserschmarrn. The sauce created from soaking the raisins in the rum can also be poured over the dessert for added flavor. Other cooks favor adding a liquor-infused whipped cream to the top of the dessert for an added kick.

Kaiserschmarrn can be quite filling. Although it is most often thought of and served as a dessert, there are those like to serve this dish as a breakfast treat. There are also those who choose, instead of adding sweetness to the omelet-like pancake, to add savory ingredients, creating a heartier dish which can be served throughout the day as a meal. Adding sausage bits and mushrooms can create a delectable and filling main course.

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