Breakfast at my grandparents’ was drab. When I visited as a kid, my usual morning meal of cereal and orange juice was never offered. Instead, there was hum-drum toast and strong coffee for the grownups, soft-cooked eggs and milk for the kids. Sometimes there were some Entenmann’s chocolate donuts or store-bought cinnamon-laced Schnecken, a welcome change of pace, but, because I always slept-in later than my early-bird grandparents, breakfast wasn’t usually a meal we enjoyed together around the table. There was one rare exception to the breakfast boredom: on special occasions, grandma and grandpa teamed up to prepare the much loved “grandma omelet,” not exactly an omelet, but a sweet breakfast/brunch/dessert dish that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
A German treat that they both knew from childhood, these “grandma omelets” actual name must be a German term or name that I can’t quite imagine, because despite my extensive research of Omeletten and Pfannkuchen recipes in various languages, I’ve never discovered another version, nor come up with enough information to explain the true origin of these fluffy delights. Unlike palacsinta, the Hungarian pancakes my other grandmother often made, or other favorite family recipes that my mom also prepared at home, these “grandma omelets” were a specialty enjoyed only on visits to my grandparents. (Update: I've since discovered, thanks to Luisa Weiss's beautiful book, My Berlin Kitchen, that this may indeed be called Omelette Confiture)
Brought out of grandma’s kitchen one at a time, the “grandma omelets” were round and flat like pancakes. They were prepared and served to us by my grandpa. He carefully spread various flavors of jam and honey in sections on the omelet’s face, and then with his trademark surgical precision, he would cut each section from the whole, serve them to us one at a time, and watch with satisfaction as my brother and I enjoyed the special morning treat. Simultaneously tender and toothsome, fluffy and melting, “grandma omelets” have always satisfied the sweet-toothed, carb-lover in me.
As far as I see it, these “grandma omelets” are almost perfect, but they do have one major problem: they need a better name. “Grandma omelets” doesn’t do them justice. Although we called it that, the “grandma omelet” is not really an omelet. Yes, there are eggs, but given that the recipe contains flour and baking powder, you might say they belong to the pancake family. Perhaps you’d call the “grandma omelet” a soufflé because of the whipped egg whites that get folded into the batter, making the finished product airy and light. But these are certainly easier to make than a soufflé. Whatever you want to call them, “grandma omelets” belong in the same sweet category as pancakes, French toast, and waffles, and not on the savory egg and omelet side of the brunch menu. As a diner who usually opts for pancakes, I consider myself something of an expert on the topic of sweet brunch foods, and it’s my expert opinion that those other morning favorites ought to move over and share the spotlight. “Grandma omelets” have just as much star quality as they do.
Now, to come up with a catchier name….
GRANDMA OMELETS (Omelette Confiture or Sweet Souffléed Pancakes with Jam)
4 eggs, separated
¼ cup sugar, divided into two 1/8 cup portions.
scant 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
2/3 cup milk
Butter for the pan.
A selection of jams, preserves, syrups, and honeys of your choice.
Berries or other fresh fruit.