Menu*Palačinke and Šmoren
Šumska Jagoda (Serbian Strawberry Jam)
When you can't choose between two Slovenian breakfast treats, what do you do? I decided to try both, especially when some recipe browsing convinced me that the same egg-milk-flour batter could work for either one.
It's true that the šmoren recipes in my three vintage Slovenian American cookbooks all called for separating the egg whites and yolks, which is not the usual approach for making palačinke or crêpes. But an Internet search turned up a number of recipes where whole eggs were beaten together. So I decided to use the egg-rich šmoren version below. It turns out to be virtually identical to the crêpe suzette batter in that most iconic of American cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking.
2 T plus 2 t. milk
2 T plus 2 t. flour
1 T sugar
dash of salt
Beat all together.
For 1 petite crêpe: Melt butter in a 7 inch skillet and heat until a drop of water sizzles. Pour in enough batter to coat the bottom in a thin layer when you tilt the pan. When firm, flip over and cook till done. Fill as you wish and roll up. I used my traditional family favorite of butter and brown sugar, with a side of amazing Serbian strawberry jam that my journalist son brought home from the Balkans at Christmas.
For 1 small serving of šmoren: Now I was entering terra incognita. I melted butter in a 7 inch skillet as above and poured the rest of the batter in. I had read directions and looked at pictures. Some say you stir, some say you create little tunnels in the batter as it cooks, so it all gets done. Some suggest you make a sort of omelet, then chop it into bits. The idea is to have little eggy crumbles. Or is it cubes? The eggs were cooking so I didn't have much time to decide. I stirred and scraped and flipped and chopped. I ended up with the eggy crumbles you can see in the photo. I sprinkled them with brown sugar. Good, if slightly dense.
My conclusion: For a party of one, I would be inclined to go with the tried and true palačinke. That is the sentimental favorite, of course. The jelly rolls of my childhood. But for a crowd, I can see the advantage of šmoren. Quick, easy, and tasty. . . and the cook gets to join the family for breakfast.
Of course, it was possible that I hadn't given the šmoren a fair shot, since I hadn't tried the more typical version, with the beaten egg whites folded in.
But that would be for another day, I figured.
Except that day came sooner than I expected. It turns out that my husband, far from being relieved, was disappointed that there was no Slovenian dinner that night! I tried to keep it in the proper spirit, at least: I made cornmeal polenta to go along with a leftover sausage dish.
So, a few days later, I made another batch of šmoren, for our weekend breakfast. This time, I followed the less eggy and more labor intensive recipe for Pancake Crumbles (Šmoren) in Treasured Slovenian & International Recipes, published by the Progressive Slovene Woman of America.
This one appears to be the standard recipe for šmoren, since it shows up in many places.
1 C. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 C. milk
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
butter for the pan
Mix the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks and milk and mix. Fold in egg whites. Melt butter to coat frying pan. They suggest a heavy skillet (a good idea) and 1/4 C. of butter (not so good!) I managed with about a tablespoon of butter.
For the šmoren: Melt butter in a 10 inch skillet. Pour in the batter. The Progressive Slovene Women suggest waiting until the mixture thickens on the bottom before you turn it over. Then you "keep turning and chopping until lightly browned and little balls of crumbles are formed."
It worked for us. Once again, it was a tasty dish, enhanced with a topping of brown sugar or jam, along with some Greek yogurt. I found this version, with the greater proportion of flour to egg, vaguely reminiscent of Jewish matzo brie, one of our breakfast favorites. (My husband, who grew up with matzo brie, didn't quite see the connection, though.)
Which version of šmoren is better? I think I prefer the first one. This second one is higher carb and requires more effort. Even with all that leavening, it still comes out a pretty dense dish.
And besides, it doesn't allow for the jelly roll option!
2022 10th Anniversary Update: For a new version that is the closest so far to the šmoren I tasted in Slovenia, go here.