Ten years ago, I was a childless twenty-something, strolling leisurely through the dairy aisle when I spotted something so horrible I’ve never forgotten it. Blue squeezable butter substitute…or maybe blue squeezable butter substitute…or, alternatively, blue squeezable butter substitute. I can’t choose which word to italicize. That’s how appalled I was. I’m not even sure this stuff would qualify as a “food-like substance.” It doesn’t seem food-like at all, though I imagine it is, strictly speaking, edible. If you need proof it existed, click here:
Why? I remember thinking. Is it really necessary to coax kids to eat more butter substitute by making it look even less natural?
Fast-forward ten years and three kids, and I understand a little better. It was marketed, I’m sure, as a tool to help moms convince their persnickety children to eat whatever food was to be underneath the blue goo. Maybe moms would buy it imagining their children gobbling down their (blue) 100%-whole-grain toast or (blue) steamed broccoli?
Just to be clear: I still do not approve of blue squeezable butter substitute. (I assume it’s now extinct, though I could certainly be wrong.) Butter comes in two versions in my house: salted and unsalted. Period. Sometimes it is whiter and sometimes yellower, but it is never, ever, under any circumstances, blue.
Nevertheless, I find myself thinking of the ectoplasmically fluorescent substance sometimes, when my brain sets to work tinkering with some already-delicious but nutritionally neutral (or worse) food in the hopes of making it more appealing to my featherweight children. I tell myself it’s necessary: without nutritionally neutral foods, they might all disappear entirely!
So, from the blue-squeezable-butter-substitute department, I present to you this super cute, crazy yummy, calorically dense, nutritionally neutral creation. If your children seem in danger of disappearing, these should do the trick. (My littlest one, who sometimes picks at a wedge of regular cornbread, ate five of these the first time I made them and six the second time.)
In order to make these little cuties, you will need a pan like this one. It’s called an aebelskiver pan, and it’s theoretically used to make a Danish treat that crosses the delights of pancakes with those of donuts, while also giving you the opportunity to bury a hidden surprise in the middle. I make aebelskivers a few times a year. This recipe helps my pan earn its keep.
Begin with my regular cornbread recipe:
1 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3 cups buttermilk (This is the key ingredient, and, no, making your own out of milk and lemon juice won’t work just as well.)
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
PLUS: about 3 tablespoons of oil, for frying
1. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Combine the contents of those two bowls.
2. Heat your aebelskiver pan over medium-low. (If you know and love cast iron as I do, I’m sure you know how to waltz with your cast iron cookery in order to keep it sizzling -but not scorching-hot. On my stove, this usually requires beginning with medium heat and then scaling back to medium-low and eventually even to low-low…then sometimes up another smidgen. You get the idea.)
3. Add a drizzle of oil to each of your little basins. Then pour a test puppy. I find that a hugely heaping tablespoon does the trick. (In any case, fill almost but not quite to the top.)
It should sizzle and bubble and turn golden brown (but not blackish-brown) within about 90 seconds. If the pan seems ready, go ahead and fill your other wells.
4. After a minute or so, when they look ready, use a knife, a knitting hook, or a bamboo skewer to turn them partway around like this:
See how the uncooked batter trickles out and down into the hot wells of the pan? (By the way, the last time I made these, I had a diabolically wonderful idea. If ever you want to truly amaze the parents at your child’s birthday party, put a little slice of hotdog in the middle at this point in the process. Voila: homemade mini-corndogs. The blue-butter department in my head may be running away with itself, I know…)
5. Flip them one more time when the underside is golden and cook for another minute or so.
6. Then keep them toasty in a warm oven until you’re ready to serve them.
7. Replenish the oil in your wells before you start a new batch and then repeat until you run out of batter.