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This piece was given to me a few years back by someone who picked it up at an estate sale. At the time I cleaned it up, re-seasoned it, and promptly forgot about it.

At first blush I thought maybe it was an escargot pan, but on further attention the divots seemed too shallow; each of the 19 holds approximately 1/2 t to 3/4 tbs (7-11 ml). There are no discernible markings on the reverse nor the ears to give me anything to work with.

Someone said it might be an Æbleskiver pan, or a drop muffin pan, but in comparison with the samples I have on hand I don't believe it to be so. The divots on this pan are shallower and the bottoms are relatively flat (disc-shaped rather than hemispherical).

Does anyone one know what the purpose of this cast iron piece? Is it even a piece of cookware?

mystery cast iron peice

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I've been trying to find a cast iron one for years. (I have a thin aluminum one, which I can't use with my induction burner). My brother thought he found one, and gave it to me for Christmas, but the holes were actually half-spherical (like the one Catija linked to ... which is closer to a takoyaki pan ... the holes were smaller than an aebleskiver pan) – Joe Jan 24 at 13:07
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Oh ...and if you're going to try making them ... I highly recommend that you get a large squeeze bottle. You might have to cut the tip to make the nozzle wider. – Joe Jan 24 at 13:08
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If you need a recipe, I've had good luck with dutchfood.about.com/od/pancakes/r/ClassicPoffertjes.htm – Joe Jan 24 at 13:15
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That picture is devious. I first thoughts those were bumps, not moulds. – Wrzlprmft Jan 24 at 23:34
up vote 58 down vote accepted

They look like the Dutch "mini pancake" pans... they're used to make poffertjes.

There are nearly identical pans on sale here.

The Wikipedia article talks about them more specifically:

Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch batter treat. Resembling small, fluffy pancakes, they are made with yeast and buckwheat flour. Unlike American pancakes, they have a light, spongy texture. Typically, poffertjes are served with powdered sugar and butter, and sometimes syrup or advocaat.

And an image from a recipe page:

Dutch poffertjes

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+1 Exactly. Highly recommended! – Cerberus Jan 24 at 6:13

That pan is identical to the one used to make a Thai dessert that is made out of a coconut mixture. I live in Thailand and see them almost every day. It is called Kanom Krok and is very popular throughout Thailand.

Kanom Krok - Thai Coconut Dessert

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Beyond making poffertjes as outlined in another answer it looks like, from reading up on the web, that Kanom Krok is another valid use for the pan. – rheone Jan 25 at 15:10
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To me it looks like your picture has half-sphere shaped holes, while the picture in the question has flat bottoms and much shallower depressions. – hyde Jan 25 at 18:09

This kind of pan seems to be used in many cuisines. In addition to the Dutch poffertjes, and the thai desert mentioned in another answer, an identical pan is used to make a south Indian dish called Puddu or Paniyaram. From the Wikipedia article:

Paddu or Kuzhi paniyaram is an Indian dish made by steaming batter using a mould. The batter is made of black lentils and rice and is similar in composition to the batter used to make idli and dosa.2 The dish can be made sweet or spicy depending on the ingredients jaggery and chillies respectively.

Kuzhi paniyaram

There is also a Japanese dish made in a similar pan. Again, from Wikipedia:

Takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion

Takoyaki

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The examples linked aren't as convincing as the others, since the cavities are more semi-spherical instead of being flat. – March Ho Jan 25 at 2:36

In Norway this would be used to make munker, although a smaller 7 hole variant is vastly more common.

munkejern

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The pan you pictured for minker looks more in line with what I know as a Danish Æbleskiver. The cavities are much larger and half spherical unlike the pan in the original question. See my comparison photo between the two. – rheone Jan 25 at 15:07
    
@rheone Until I saw your side by side comparison I couldn't really tell the difference either. – kasperd Jan 25 at 16:50

Being from the Netherlands I'd say a poffertjes pan (mini pancakes indeed).

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In light of the accepted answer, what does this answer add? – Jolenealaska Jan 26 at 14:13

Although the others answers do look convincing, I suppose it could also be used to produce a varient of Blinis, which I just learned is a bad translation from Russian for other markets. But they look like

enter image description here

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But what evidence do you have that small blinis are produced in a special pan, as opposed to a wide griddle? – rumtscho Jan 26 at 15:00
    
Not much indeed. I barely mentioned that it could be used for that. Like, for example that pan. – bilbo_pingouin Jan 26 at 15:11

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