Saturday, December 24, 2011

Amaretto Walnut Coins

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I am doing you a favour today and spare you my usual blabber. It is Christmas Time and there is such a great recipe to share on the final day of my countdown/bake-o-thon! It is nutty and fruity with a nice shot of booze - what better way is there to get merry?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Nuts)

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Christmas Day is coming closer and closer. The tree is up and decorated, half of the presents are bought and the grill assembled. You've heard me. Is said Grill. With a capital G. It's December, it's cold and wet (no snow for me at Christmas this year probably) and my wacky mother is holding up her tradition to invite people in the late morning and have the last barbecue of the year. That's how she rolls. Bless her heart.

And by Christmas Day, I actually mean Christmas Eve, which is the 24th December. Unlike in many other countries where the presents are being unwrapped in the morning of the 25., it is all about Christmas Eve here. The family comes together, (religious people may go to a Christmas mass where children usually re-enact the Nativity), you eat and then it is time for gifts (and other religious people may skip the first mass and go to a later one sans Nativity as the latest is usually held at midnight). That is probably the rough plan for many German families. When I was little, one of my gifts always was a board game that we played after the gift giving.

Oh yeah, and the food! What I am about to write will probably make a few people's heart stop for a second. As long as I can think, the dinner on Christmas Eve always consisted of one thing, and I know it is the same in many German families: Potato-Salad and bangers/wieners.
I do not know what the story behind serving a humble meal like this is, though.
The two days afterwards (the official Christmas Holidays) however, Germans usually step it up a notch and prepare more festive meals like duck, goose or roasts.

Coming to the fourth recipe of my 5 Day Christmas Countdown/Bake-a-thon.
This one has really got the Christmas flavours tingling. With allspice, cardamom and ginger, it is a spice-fest. But the kick (or a certain “je ne sais quoi”) is definitely giving the white pepper. Pepper in a biscuit? Yes. But don't worry, it is not hot and the pepper is not overpowering. This really tastes like Christmas to me.

Pfeffernüsse (Pepper Nuts)
You can find the original here (German).

The dough needs to rest over night so it is easy to whip it up in the evening.

  • 275g (9.7 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 generous pinch of baking soda
  • 75g (2.6 oz) butter (or margarine for a vegan version)
  • 3 tbsp. honey (ca. 50g; replace with maple syrup or more dark beet syrup for a vegan version)
  • 75g (2.6 oz) dark beet syrup/molasses (alternative: simple molasses)
  • 75g (2.6 oz) demerara sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 ts ground white pepper
  • 1/2 ts ground dried ginger
  • 1 generous pinch of cardamom
  • 1 generous pinch of allspice
  • 75 g (2.6 oz) icing/powdered sugar 

  1. Mix together flour and baking soda
  2. In a medium pot, boil up butter, honey, dark beet syrup, demerara along with pepper, ginger, cardamom and allspice.
  3. Add flour and quickly stir it up into a homogeneous mass. Let it cool down completely. Wrap it up in cling film/saran wrap and keep in in the fridge over night (the dough can become rather tough but do not fret, that is alright).
  4. The next day, let dough regain room temperature again. Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F).
  5. Roll dough into hazelnut-sized balls and bake on second rack from the bottom for about 12 minutes (the pepper nuts will not rise a lot, so you do not need to leave too much space between the balls while baking).
  6. Let them cool completely. Stir icing/powdered sugar with about 1 ts of water to icing. Brush on pepper nuts.

On the first day, the pepper nuts will be rather tough and crunchy. But keep them in a jar or box for a couple of days and they will soften, developing their spicy flavour.


How do your traditions on Christmas look like?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Or in my case, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
Or sound. I believe that these two crucially belong together. At least when it's the right kind of music. I want to be honest. The first time I hear 'Last Christmas' some time in Mid-November, I feel like gagging a little. Maybe it's the major case of overexposure the song had to suffer from over the last decades or maybe it's just that it's simply not my kind of tune but I find it utterly annoying.

However, earlier this week, I have had the opportunity to listen to a Michael Bublé record and I really started to catch a bit of the Christmas Spirit. While I did not like all of the tracks per se, it's the classics that get me. Winter Wonderland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and such. And then, the real classics: Silent Night and Ave Maria. I'm just not feeling those poppy 'contemporary' Christmas songs. Uh-uh.
But you really got me, Mr. Mickey Bubbles.

And while I'm in the mood for sharing a bit about me, why not something that makes me look like an oddball. Do you know what my favourite Christmas compilation is? It's the one from Ally McBeal (that TV show). Yes. Really. Just go ahead and give me that “You're a weeeeiiirdo.” look, but I can't help it. Oh, just to be clear, I am not getting paid for mentioning these records.

Coming to the recipe. Again, it's a fairly simple (in fact, it's probably the quickest and easiest of the all) classic recipe for Christmas perfect for last minute baking: Coconut Macaroons! Alright, I bet you know this one as it's not exclusively German with its origins being somewhere else, but they are still pretty Christmas-y. I decided to make the moist, dense kind as opposed to the ones resembling meringues. So there is no beating the eggs necessary. The little thing that makes these ones extra special is that you roast the shredded coconut beforehand to get a bit of a flavour boost.

Coconut Macaroons

  • 200g (7 oz)  shredded dried coconut 
  • 150g (5.3 oz) sugar 
  • 3 egg whites 
  • 1 TS almond liqueur (optional)  

    1.  Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). 
    2. In a small pot, toast shredded dried coconut until light brown on high heat, stirring continuously (be careful not to roast them too much as the macaroons may become dry).
    3. Remove from heat and immediately stir in sugar let cool slightly.
    4. While mass is still very warm yet not hot anymore, stir in egg whites (this step is the only tricky one as the macaroons will not stick properly if mass is either too hot or cool. It should be hot but not painfully hot at about 50°C).
    5. Add almond liquer (optional).
    6. With a teaspoon, form macaroons. Bake on centre rack for 17-20 minutes.

    I have dipped the bottoms of the macaroons in dark couverture but this step is completely optional (but good!).


    Do you have a favourite Christmas song or album?

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

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    Day 2 of my 5-Day Christmas Bake-a-thon and I am starting to feeling it.
    Like I said, I did not have time so far to think about Christmas at all. Well, the only little accomplishment I mastered was to plaster the windows with some lights after switching into Tomb Raider mode when trying to find the ever so mysteriously disappearing boxes full of decorations in the basement. It's never where I could have sworn it was and it's never in the condition I thought I have left it (I am looking at you, weird ravel that is supposed to be Christmas lights! Must be the same effect that applies to headphones or any kind of cable, really...).

    Oh yeah, to stick with the theme of bringing you traditional German Christmas Goodies, here is some random trivia: Did you know that decking the Christmas tree with candles originated in 17th century Germany? It only really became a tradition in the Early Modern Period and was established in the UK during Queen Victoria's reign and spread through emigration to North America and Australia (Wikipedia is so clever, innit?).

    I doubt that Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars) have been around for so long, but who knows. These pretty little things originally come from Swabia, a region in South Germany yet are known in the whole country today. Making them can be quite a sticky business, but laying out the surface with ground hazelnuts like in this recipe really helps. However, you know what I just do? I just flatten the dough with my hands and only use a rolling pin to even it out a little afterwards but for the less barbaric more traditional people among us, I've heard that laying the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper works wonders! And just for stating the obvious, you will need a star-shaped biscuit/cookie cutter, duh. But technically, any shape will do and I can even imagine them looking nice just cut into diamonds.

    Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

    Note: While the recipe is not exactly mine, it has been in my family for quite a while with the source unknown. This is one of those recipes that friends and neighbours pass around on hand-written notes.
    • 190g (6.7 oz) Icing/powdered sugar
    • 100 (3.5 oz) Almonds, finely ground
    • 200g (7 oz) Hazelnuts, finely ground 
    • 2 Egg whites
    • 1 TS of Cinnamon
    • 1 Dash of Lemon Juice

    1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).
    2. Either with a food processor or a hand mixer, beat together egg whites and icing sugar into a nice and firm, sticky glaze (this can take a little while). Set 1/3 of it aside.
    3. Add 100g (3.5 oz) hazelnuts as well as the other ingredients to the remaining 2/3 and knead it in first with a spoon, then with your hands.
    4. Cover a flat surface with remaining hazelnuts and roll out dough (or whatever method floats your boat). It should be about 8-10mm (0.3-0.4 inches) thick.
    5. Cut out biscuits and put them on a baking tray laid out with parchment paper. Generously spread biscuits with egg white glaze.
    6. Bake on centre rack for 10-12 minutes, sticking a wooden spoon between oven door after 8.

    They should still be a bit chewy but speaking from experience, crunchy is not exactly a failure, either. :)


    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

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    Alright, so I'm a big old liar.
    Last post – which was AGES ago – I promised that I would stick around and keep writing. I did not.
    But hey, at least I'm pretty good at lying as I had convinced myself at that moment I could do it. Damn how oblivious I was.
    The reason I was on a hiatus? University. Let's just say there had been complications with my Bachelor's Thesis that had me stuck on the computer rewriting and writing it (or falling into comatose four hour sleeps or lying on the floor in fetus position slowly rocking myself back and forth...whatever) until the last third of November and then trying desperately to catch up on all the academic things I have missed (I had to complete my thesis during the first semester of my master's programme... long story), holding presentations, attending a three-day course over the weekend in between yadda yadda yadda.


    Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

     Good news is, I'm back! It's the middle of December and no thought was given towards Christmas so far. Not one. Meaning: No Christmas shopping yet, no trips to the Christmas market yet and only vague plans of how Christmas is going to be this year.

    Among all those Chrismas-y things I have missed so far naturally is: Christmas Baking!
    With only five days left until Christmas Eve, I hereby announce my 5-Day Christmas Countdown/ Last Minute Bake-athon! Starting today, I will post one recipe daily until Friday! Yay! But not just any kind of recipes. In a little attempt to spread some warm and cosy Old Worldly Christmas lovin', I will share the most traditional German Christmas biscuits and other pastries I could think of.

    Admittedly, Vanillekipferl, sort of translating to Vanilla Crescents – do not ask me what Kipferl is supposed to mean as it is probably some kind of dialect – are more of German-Austrian-Bohemian origin, but as the boarders are rather blurry both geographically and historically, one cannot really pin it down to one particular country, especially not today's.

    In Germany at least they belong to Christmas like Candy Canes do in the States and while there sure is a plethora of recipes for such a traditional kind of biscuit – with the ingredients varying slightly – this one is simply amazing. They really are delightfully light and almost melt-in-your-mouth airy. I think it is the lack of egg that helps with the consistency and also makes it really easy to veganize! Just replace the butter with margarine and there you go!

    Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

    Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

    As recipes usually ask for vanilla sugar, which is not easily to be found everywhere around the world, I omitted it in my version and rather added the vanilla straight to the dough as opposed to rolling the baked biscuits in a mixture of icing and vanilla sugar.

    • 250 g (8.8 oz) Cake or All-Purpose Flour
    • 200 g (7 oz) Butter (or margarine for a vegan version)
    • 100 g (3.5 oz) Walnuts, finely ground (I quickly did that in a blender)
    • 70 g (2.5 oz) Icing/Powdered Sugar
    • 1 Pinch of salt
    • Seeds of 1 Vanilla Pod (You could go crazy and use two, I dare you!)
    • Extra Icing/Powdered Sugar

    Note: You can also make these using ground almonds or hazelnuts, but increase the amount of butter to 7.8 oz then

    1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F)
    2. Knead together all ingredients but the extra icing sugar. (I did that with my hands and I would recommend you doing that, too)
    3. Let the dough sit for at least half an hour.
    4. Form dough into rolls as thick as a finger. Cut into 3cm (a bit more than an inch) long pieces.
    5. With your hands, shape pieces into little crescents.
    6. Bake on the second rack from the top for 15-20 minutes (they should hardly brown)
    7. Immediately yet carefully remove from tray as they both burn and break easily at this state.
    8. Let cool completely and roll in generous amounts of icing sugar.

    Getting the right shape can be quite a pain in the bum so sometimes I just roll the dough into little balls to bake vanilla buttons. It indeed is even less time consuming that way.

    Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)


    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Apple Walnut Brownie Cake

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    Chirr chirr. Chiiirrrrrrr. Chirr chirr. What's that noise? Oh yes, it's the SILENCE that nested in here over the last days.

    It has gotten a bit quiet around here, hasn't it? That is because I am really busy these days, having only little time for la dolce Vita. But don't fret, I'm here to stay. A weekly post is still something you can count on. Bare with me until mid-November, when life is hopefully a bit less stress-laden. That is when I am (hopefully) done with my bachelor's thesis. Keep your fingers crossed for me, would ya?

    Apple Walnut Brownie Cake

    Alright, I have to admit...that's not all. Last week, I allowed myself a teensy weensy time off from everything. I was in London! How I LONG for that city! I have expressed my love for London before when I did that seven things about me post, and it's oh so true. Maybe one day I'll manage to live there. Especially after a friend of mine who is living there now has proven to me that it is basically just as EXPENSIVE to live right in the centre as it is in any other part of LDN. How I envy her...Sigh. I realize that I only lived there for the shortest time and I still kind of see things through rose-coloured glasses, but lets wait what time will bring.

    Apple Walnut Brownie Cake

    While three days is not long (I did not go alone and we only managed to do the touristy things), it meant that I had to catch up on all the work that waited for me back home. Uhhhgh. Je ne regrette rien. Maybe a bit. No. Nothing.

    Alright, this week I am back on the apple track, after last week's short break. The recipe combines one of my favourite combinations - chocolate and walnuts – with the sweet tartness that bring the apples. Alas, while the apples were supposed to stay at the top, the batter 'ate them up' just a bit too much in the baking process (maybe I should not have eyeballed the amount of baking powder...) so that they were hardly visible anymore in the final cake that was so wonderfully ooey-gooey, it was difficult to cut a piece without making a mess. Still, it's a texture and flavour paradise. It's juicy, a bit crunchy and creamy.

    Apple Walnut Brownie Cake

    Apple Walnut Brownie Cake
    Adapted from here (German).

    • 100 g (3.5 oz.) butter
    • 100 g (3.5 oz.) dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
    • 100 g (3.5 oz.) walnuts
    • 75 g (2.65 oz.) flour
    • 225 g (8 oz.) brown sugar
    • 50 g (1.75 oz.) + 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 package of vanilla sugar (can be substituted with 1 tsp vanilla extract)
    • 3 eggs (size M)
    • 125 g (4.4 oz.) crème fraîche
    • 4 apples (each ca. 175 g or 6.2 oz.)
    • 75 g (2.65 oz.) apricot jam
    • 1 tsp powdered sugar
    • Butter for the pan

    1. Melt butter and let cool slightly.
    2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and walnuts.
    3. Whisk together flour, sugar, 50g cocoa, baking powder and vanilla sugar in a bowl.
    4. Add eggs to a mixing bowl, beat with a handmixer (or food processor) until creamy. Stir in butter. With a spoon, stir in the flour mixture well.
    5. Fold in crème fraîche, chocolate and nuts in portions.
    6. Pour batter into a greased springform pan (26 cm diameter or 9'') and smooth out.
    7. Peel the apples into quarters, remove seeds and cut in several times with a knife.
    8. Lay them out tightly onto batter.
    9. Bake in a preheated oven (electric oven: 175°C or 350°F / fan 150°C or 300°F / gas mark 2) on middle rack for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, heat up jam.
    10. After 25 minutes, remove cake from oven. Brush apples with jam and put the cake back into the oven for the remaining 20 minutes.
    11. Remove from oven, place on a wire rack, loosen edge of springform pan and let cool in the pan.
    12. Mix together 1/2 tsp powdered sugar and cocoa.
    13. Loosen cake from the springform pan, set on a cake plate and sprinkle the sides with powdered sugar and cocoa mixture.


    There is still that document open that I have to focus on... so back to work!

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Five Spice Snickerdoodles

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    Five. Spice. Baby. Dudun dududun dudu dun dun. I bet Vanilla Ice never saw that one coming.

    You know what? Before I got sucked into the fast-paced and capturing world of food blogs, I have never heard of the miraculous concoction that is five spice powder. Then I read about it on several blogs, featured in both sweet and savory dishes. I was intrigued, yes, but never imagined ever getting my hands on it because I thought I would not be able to get where I live. I was wrong.

    Five Spice Snickerdoodles

    One day I was just sort of meandering through my go-to self-proclaimed 'international' shop – and with 'international' they mean mostly Asian and Oriental food with a bit of African thrown in – when I found a semi-transparent little plastic bag tightly stuffed between a plethora of other semi-transparent plastic bags filled with spices. This one, however had the unexpected printed on it in bold black letters on a baby blue background: 5 Spice. Jackpot.

    Curiously, I sniffed the package – quickly checking whether anybody else is in sight because, you know, I don't want to be the weird person sniffing stuff in public except fruits maybe – and fell in love with what I was smelling. Usually, five spice powder consists of a combination of cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, sichuan pepper and ginger, each representing one element of the five element theory (Wu Xing). 
    Probably one of the most famous dishes it is used in is peking duck.

    So, as I have never used this spice mix before, I wanted to try something basic with the powder providing most of the flavour. I found this amazing quick recipe over at Dispatches From Whitcomb Street for snickerdoodles. Can it get more basic than that? I don't think so.

    They turned out amazing. Crispy and airy on the outside but nice and chewy in the centre. Scrumptious.
    My family liked them so much that I had to make them again two days later.

    Five Spice Snickerdoodles

    Five Spice Snickerdoodles
    Adapted from here.

    • 1 cup (225g) of butter
    • 1.5 cups (340g) of sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2.75 (345g) cups flour
    • 2 ts of baking powder
    • 1/2 ts salt
    • 1/2 ts five spice powder

    1. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
    2. Beat in eggs.
    3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and five spice and fold into wet ingredients until just incorporated.
    4. Roll dough into 1'' (about 2,5 cm) balls and roll in a mixture of sugar and five spice powder (the original recipe said 3 tbsp of each was enough but I almost used 6 tbsp of each)
    5. Put on lined or greased baking sheets at least 2'' (5cm) apart and bake at 400°F (about 200°C) for 8-10 minutes.


    Five Spice Snickerdoodles

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus (Potato Pancakes with Chunky Apple Sauce)

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    I wish I wish I wish. I wish I could cook and bake and enjoy life as much as I want. But unfortunately, there's stuff do to. Smart people stuff. Whether I'm up for the task has yet to be proven. I am working on my bachelor's thesis right now and am kind of in the crucial initial phase. Naturally, that means that it is taking up most of my time, leaving a little less for cooking and blogging. So today's main theme is: Keeping it simple.

    German Potato Pancakes with Chunky Apple Sauce

    You know what I have noticed? While I'm German, I have not posted any traditional German recipes so far. That is because I don't really know what “German Cuisine” is. I just heard some people yell “SAUERKRAUT!!”. Well, yes and no. Sauerkraut is eaten everywhere in Germany today, but traditionally, you would not find it in the northern parts. And then, every region would traditionally prepare and serve it differently along with different dishes.

    See, historically, the area now known as Germany consisted of many small kingdoms and dukedoms each differing culturally, linguistically and culinary which one still notices today. I would not be able to understand people from the deepest parts of Bavaria. So even if a dish is prepared in a similar way in more than just one place, the name can still be different.

    Those where a lot of differences in one post.

    German Potato Pancakes with Chunky Apple Sauce
    This is basically all you need.

    These bad boys here for example, while basically known all over Central Europe, are called “Kartoffelpuffer” where I live. Other names would be “Erdäpfelpuffer“, „Reibekuchen“, „Reiberdatschi“, „Reibeplätzchen“, „Kartoffelpfannkuchen“ „Baggers“ and „Flinsen“ . See what I mean? Internationally, they are better known as latkes or simply potato pancakes.

    For sticking with the 'simple' theme, I kept mine vegan, keeping it as simple as possible. The apple sauce however as a bit of an autumn like twist with roasted almonds and raisins. Onions along with a rather sweet dish? Yes. Trust me when I say that you won't taste them. Yet they are essential for having a lot of that roasted flavour!
    German Potato Pancakes with Chunky Apple Sauce

    Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmus (Potato Pancakes with Chunky Apple Sauce)

    Potato Pancakes

    • 1 kg (35.3 oz.) potatoes
    • 2 medium sized onions
    • 2 tbsp starch flour
    • 1/4 ts ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of salt
    • oil for frying

    1. Peel and grate potatoes and onions. With your hands, tightly squeeze out as much liquid as possible (I am sure there are more sophisticated methods, but I am not that fancy and stick to the 'simple' theme here).
    2. Add starch flour, nutmeg and salt. Stir well and set aside and start preparing apple sauce. Your batter might get a grayish tone that, while it will not be visible when prepared anymore, does not look too appetizing. To prevent the colour change, add about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
    3. When apple sauce is cooking, heat up a pan. Cover bottom of pan with oil. You will need quite a bit or the potato pancakes will stick. 
    4. When oil is hot, stir potato mass again and place a heaping tablespoon of it it the pan, pressing it down with a spatula immediately, forming a patty (it is better to use a bit more batter than too little). I would recommend only placing up to three patties in the pan. Slightly shake pan to prevent patties from sticking to the bottom. After about three minutes or when you see that the patties are starting to brown, carefully flip them over. 
    5. If the potato pancakes are not browned enough to you liking, turn them over and over again until they are. The crucial part for them to stick together and not on the bottom really is the first turn. 
    6. Lay them out on paper towels to soak up some of the fat.

    Chunky Apple Sauce

    • About 1kg (35.3 oz.) apples (preferably tart)
    • A splash of lemon juice
    • 1 ts cinnamon
    • 150-200g (5.3-7 oz.) almond slivers
    • 100g (3.5 oz.) raisins
    • Sugar to taste

    1. Remove core from apples and dice them in cubes of about 1''. You can peel them if you would like to. I did not. Throw them in a large pot heated up on low heat along with a splash of lemon juice. Stir well.
    2. In a small pot, dry roast the almond slivers until they browned to your liking, add to the apples.
    3. Once the apples start to soften, add all other ingredients. Stir occasionally until most apples have cooked into a sauce, yet still with some chunks remaining.
    4. Add sugar to your liking. I found my apple sauce to be sweet enough because of the raisins.

    Serve along with potato pancakes and enjoy!

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Hasselback Potatoes with Apple Chutney

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    Apples. I know I have already posted a picture of the apple tree from our garden. But just in case, here is a reminder:
    Hasselback Potatoes with Apple Chutney
    Yup. A different one.
    In fact, there are THREE apple trees back there taunting me with their heavily loaded branches. They know exactly that I should spent my time on something else than picking them all and I could swear there is a hushed giggle following each thud caused by another apple dropping down. You complained about a bad "apple year" last autumn? You want apples? We give you apples! Mean apple trees those are!

    Actually, I should be happy about the plethora of tart, juicy fruits they are carrying this year. However, the only thing you cannot have too much of is money happiness, right?

    Hasselback Potatoes with Apple Chutney

    So, as I am trying to use (and/or give away) as many of them as possible, there are going to be lots of apple recipes showing up on here, as I have mentioned before. Don't say I did not warn you.

    This combination has a bit of a fusion cuisine touch to it with the hasselback potatoes originating from Sweden and chutney being associated with India and Pakistan. Hasselback potatoes are less of a recipe than they are a way of preparation. Make thin cuts (about 3-4 mm) into a (preferably waxy and broad for better hold) potato without actually slicing through. I put a few pieces of onion into mine, salted and topped it with a dab of butter and paprika powder. They were then baked in the oven on 220°C (425°C) for about 40 minutes, with pepper added afterwards.

    Hasselback Potatoes with Apple Chutney

    The actual recipe is the chutney. I really like the combination of sweet, sour and savory. However, the recipe calls for a whopping 500g of sugar for 1kg apples! I sticked strictly to the recipe and found it to be overly sweet so I halved the amount the next time and it was just sweet enough this way. It works great with potatoes and pork like I served it. Chicken works just as well so does cheese or a fondue.

    Hasselback Potatoes with Apple Chutney

    Apple Chutney
    The original can be found here (German).
    Makes a lot! But you can store left-overs in jars.

    • 1kg (35.3 oz.) apples (preferably sour), peeled and cut in thin slices.
    • 250g (8.8 oz.) onions, finely chopped.
    • 1 clove of garlic (I used 3), finely chopped.
    • 375ml (12.7 fl. oz.) vinegar (while the original recipe suggests wine vinegar, I used cider vinegar)
    • 500g (17.6 oz.) sugar (I would suggest 250-300g)
    • 3 tbsp ground mustard seeds (I used freshly ground brown mustard seeds which are milder in taste)
    • 2 tbsp of freshly grated ginger
    • 1 ts cayenne pepper
    • 250g (8.8 oz.) raisins

    1. In a large pot, combine all ingredients but the raisins and let simmer for an hour, stirring it from time to time.
    2. Add raisins and let cook for another 15 minutes (I always add the raisins right away and never found anything to complain about this way.)

    The chutney is done when it does not run off a spoon anymore.
    You can store it in jars like jam if you want to right away, or heat up any left-overs and store those. Here is a great instruction on sterilizing jars. 


    Hasselback Potatoes with Apple Chutney

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake

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    Sooo, Monday was my one month mensiversary. Yes. That's a word. I looked it up.

    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake 
    Anyway, I was just minding my own business not really thinking about it, when I saw that Alyssa from Mom de Cuisine was awarded with a 'Versatile Blogger Award'. “Good for her!”, I thought. It's a great blog she has there with almost daily updates from sweet to savory. So she truly deserves it.

    As I went through the list of bloggers she passed the award on to, I noticed something. There was one name I thought I misread. Could that be... MY name I saw there? WHOA! Yes? YES! How was that possible? I feel genuinely honoured, I do. As I said, I have only been a blogger for one month yet feel very passionate about it and hope to one day find my style and voice as one and develop my cooking and baking skills.

    It's been a great month and hope for many more to come!

    Thank you, Alyssa!

    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake

    So, coming with this award are certain rules. I did a search about it and saw that there seem to be different ones. As I am so new to blogging, I chose the following:

    1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
    2. Tell 7 random things about yourself.
    3. Pass the award on to 10 bloggers you've recently discovered and you think are fantastic!

    Here we go:

    Seven random things about me:

    1. The only two Disney films that I like are the old Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins. I just don't get me to like Disney because I always felt like they ripped off other films and ideas (most of it was based on books and fairy tales to begin with, anyway) and many of the old ones had obvious racist implications. I could do a whole post about this so I'll leave it to that for now.

    2. I hate spiders. Alright, that's not very creative. Many people hate spiders. It went so far with me that when I was a child, even the tiniest of those eight-legged monsters made me freeze and stare at it, fearing it would disappear once I manage to get the vacuum cleaner. It got better, though. Last year (pretty much exactly one year ago from today), there was an incident with a HUGE spider sitting right next to my pillow the moment I wanted to go to bed. Let's just say it was the first and last panic attack I've ever had with cold sweat and everything. After that kind of 'shock therapy', I'm a little more relaxed but still could not sleep in a room where I KNOW there is one.

    3. I did an internship in London and fell in love with that city. The people, the mentality, the variety, the culture, the vibe. It comes so far that when the desire to get back becomes too strong, I go to that kind of strange tiny shop in a completely different part of the city I live in just to buy me a Crunchie for like 1€. You don't get those here. Oh, and while I'm German, my accent is British when I speak English. Apparently, I sound like a “posh British schoolboy”, so I've been told. Go figure....

    4. If I was a girl, my name would be Julia. True story. My mother got the idea of calling me Tobias because of a football (soccer) match my brother had when he was 13. One boy who played in THE OTHER team was called Tobias and his friends where cheering him on yelling “TO-BY! TO-BY!”. She liked that so much that she gave me that name. Bless her heart.

    5. I love animals but decided for me that I can never have a pet (anymore). I used to have a cat until she died about 3,5 years ago and it crushed my soul so deeply I still can hardly look at pictures of her. It's better for my own sake.

    6. My very most favourite leaf vegetable was arugula... until I developed an allergy from one day to another. If I eat it now, my whole mouth and throat turn sore for a couple of days. Not worth it.

    7. About two months ago, I bought a Joan Baez vinyl record. I don't even have a player. I just saw it when I passed a music store that also sells old vinyls and felt like it. I like her, yes, but am not obsessing over her or anything. These facts are supposed to be random and that is one of the most random things I bought, I guess.

    About the bloggers...that really is a difficult task for me. I mean, I have only been a blogger for a month and being an active part of the blogging community is very new to me. Many of the blogs I would consider have already received the award, some may not really care. Because of those factors coming together here, I chose to pick 10 blogs I have recently discovered and think are great as opposed to 15 blogs in general. The rules vary and I found these to suit me better.
    To be honest, I am a bit overwhelmed and feel like I am not quite up to the task. ;)

    So here we go (in no particular order):

    I am going to contact all of them as soon as possible although I have never spoken to some of them before. Awkward.

    Now, there is still a recipe to post! I actually meant to post something completely different today, but because there is always cake when there is something to celebrate, I decided to bake one right this morning, especially for this occasion!

    Autumn is right around the corner. That also means that harvest time is here. Do you want to see a picture of our apple trees? No Tobias, why should we? I knew you do! So here it is:

    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake

    That means that I am going to post quite few apple recipes in near future because that is basically what I'll be baking with. Apples Apples Apples. Good thing I like them.

    I am in love with this cake. It has an old timey sentiment to it and not only because both my grandmother and mother used to bake it. I leafed through my grandmother's old folder of recipes she “passed on” to me and tracked down the original. It was in a promotional calendar by “Dr. Oetker” from 1954! For the month of March, strangely. Not really a month I'd associate with apples. Dr. Oetker is a well-established food processing company which also publishes cookbooks and has many other things in its portfolio. Their book “Schulkochbuch” had an impact on German cooking similar to Julia Child's in the US.

    Anyway, I changed the recipe quite a bit to give it a more seasonal touch and because I simply adore the combination of apples and cinnamon. I prefer this version to the original. However, I leave it up to you to decide which one you like better.

    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake

    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake

    • 1 package vanilla pudding mix (not instant, the kind you need to cook. Can be substituted with 45g or 1.6 oz. starch flour and 1 ts vanilla essence)
    • 4 tbsp milk
    • 150g (5.3 oz.) butter
    • 150g (5.3 oz.) sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • A pinch of salt
    • 250g (8.8 oz.) all-purpose flour
    • 9g (0.3 oz. or about 1 1/2 ts) baking powder
    • 500g (17.6 oz.) apples, peeled and sliced

    My personal changes and additions:
    • I only used 150g all-purpose flour and substituted 100g (3.5 oz.) with ground hazelnuts
    • 1 1/2 ts of cinnamon for the batter (because apples and cinnamon are HEAVEN)
    • 2 handfuls of slightly crushed hazelnuts (I did that in a mortar but a freezer bag or even just cloth and anything heavy works just as well)
    • Mixture of about 5 ts of demerara sugar and 1 ts of cinnamon

    1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F)
    2. Stir pudding mix with milk.
    3. Beat butter until creamy, add sugar, eggs and salt little by little.
    4. Mix flour and baking powder (substitute 100g flour with ground hazelnuts and add cinnamon if you want to try my version), add to the batter alternately with pudding mix.
    5. Spread half the batter into a greased 24cm (about 9'') spring form pan. Lay out half of the sliced apples.
    6. Sprinkle with half of the demerara/cinnamon mix and a handful of slightly crushed hazelnuts (all optional)
    7. Spread remaining batter onto apples, lay out remaining apples. Add rest of demerara and hazelnuts (optional again).
    8. Bake on centre rack for about 55 minutes (my version took about 60 minutes).


    Oh right. This is what the calendar looks like:
    Hazelnut Apple Sheet Cake

    Wow, this post took so long to write I had to push it back a day.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Zucchini Pan Stew

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    Ok, so it has not even been a month since I have started blogging but I have managed to post at least twice a week so there are 10 entries by now. Browsing through those 10 recipes coming with the posts, do you notice something? No? They are all terrific Four of them have zucchini. And you know why that is so? Because I LOVE them! Zucchini and tomatoes are two vegetables (well technically, they are both fruits) I pretty much live on during the warmer months of the year. There is just nothing not to love about them. Don't believe me? I give you 5 reasons why you should love them, too:

    Zucchini Pan Stew

    1. They are tremendously healthy.
    With 15 teensy-weensy calories per 100g (that's 3.5 oz. for you jolly people over the pond) one does not even really have to think about calories. And them containing potassium, folate, vitamin A and manganese (does the term “free radicals” tell you something? Mangenese helps to detoxify them and already 100g is enough to cover 19% of what is recommended daily.) only adds up to their goodness! But enough with the boring health blabber.

    2. They are versatile!
    Alright, zucchini are a bit bland have a very mild flavour. I'll give you that, zucchini haters (and I KNOW you are out there, I just don't know WHY!). But that is not a bad thing at all. That just means that they soak in the flavours of the other ingredients well like in the recipe that is at the bottom of this post. Want a bit of a crunch? You can eat them raw or lightly blanched like here. Enjoy soups? Blended zucchini give them an almost starchy creaminess like potatoes would but low-carb and calorie (Oh suprise! There is this awesome summery soup I have posted a few weeks ago.). So, you don't feel like eating something savory, now. How about something to satisfy your sweet tooth? Grated zucchini makes cakes and muffins perfectly moist. However, not even them can make this recipe healthy...

    You can even stuff, grill and bake and fry them!

    3. They are not bound to one particular cuisine.
    Ok, I am aware that this also applies to a plethora of other veggies but it was not that clear to me when it comes to zucchini. When I think about them, my first thought is Italian or maybe also just western.

    Here is a(n totally incomplete) list of links to recipes from different countries that contain zucchini:

    Italian: Pasta Con Zucchine & Menta from Apron and Sneakers

    Japanese: Chicken Curry from Just one Cookbook
    They also work great as Tempura!

    Lebanese: Keshké Salad  from Taste of Beirut

    Indian: Zucchini Curry  from Simple Indian Recipes

    French: Ratatouille  from Burghilicious

    Chinese: Mushroom Chicken from Rasa Malaysia

    4. They freeze well.
    Although they lose in texture, I find they generally freeze pretty well. I would recommend to already prepare them in the way you intend to use them later (chopping, slicing, grating) because that part could be tricky after thawing but apart from them: Put them in a freezer bag and they are good to go.

    5. They are easy to grow in your garden (given you have one).
    Alright, I am a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to this point because the last person who grew zucchini in our garden was my grandfather but still, it IS fuzz free! The soil does not need to be particularly good and as long as you keep it moist I cannot imagine anything that could go wrong. Oh, and did I mention that two plants are more than enough to get you and your loved ones well fed through summer? And as a plus, you get to enjoy their blossoms that are not only beautiful, but also edible.

    Zucchini Pan Stew

    Still not convinced? Here is my grandmother's quick-fix week-night low-carb super-tasty zucchini dish that does not require lots of ingredients and is low in price yet a real comfort food. I don't know exactly how to name it because it's not really a soup, nor a stew. Maybe a soupy stir-fry or a light summery pan stew at best. But what's in a name, anyway. All those juices come directly from the vegetables as there is no adding of water involved. 

    Zucchini Pan Stew

     Zucchini Pan Stew
    Serves 4

    • 300-500g (10.5–17.5 oz.) ground meat, half beef, half pork
    • 3 medium sized zucchini
    • 3-4 tomatoes, depending on size
    • 3 eggs
    • 4-5 splashes of soy sauce
    • pepper to taste

    1. Cut zucchini and tomatoes into slices of about 5mm (about 0.2''), set aside
    2. In a pan, roast meat without additional fat until it gets crumbly. You still want some bigger chunks, though.
    3. Spread zucchini slices evenly on meat, do the same with tomatoes afterwards.
    4. Add a few splashes of soy sauce and close with a lit letting it simmer on low heat until zucchini are tender (the tomatoes will pretty much dissolve).
    5. Remove lid, stir and add more soy sauce to taste. In a cup or a small bowl, crack open the eggs and stir them just slightly so that yolk and egg white are not completely combined. Pour evenly over pan. Turn heat up to medium.
    6. When eggs begin to set, stir for the last time and keep the heat on until they are completely done.
    7. Add some pepper and enjoy!

    This really is a simple, down-home dish that my grandmother especially used to cook on particularly hot days in summer when she would rather do anything else but cooking. The soy sauce goes so well with the juices of the vegetables and if you still feel like you need your carb fix, serve with some bread to soak them up!

    Still need some inspiration? Well, you know where get that!

    Zucchini Pan Stew

    Do you have a zucchini dish that you are particularly fond of? Feel free to post them in the comments. :)

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Mexican Chocolate Tart

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    Sometimes, to create something beautiful, you have to do evil.

    Mexican Chocolate Tart

    There were five of them. I tore off all covers, leaving them bare-naked on the cold wooden surface. The first one was strategically placed right in the centre. I knew what was about to happen. Gazing at its shiny, smooth outer, my mouth could not be detained from smirking a little. Then I ran the knife through it for the first time. Easier than imagined. Chop chop chop it continued. Chop chop chop. Bits and pieces flew everywhere, covering the others that were silently sitting right next to it. Chop Chop Chop. First one done. Four to follow. Let's see if I can do three at once, I thought. The knife went down with three dull thuds each time. What a peculiar rhythm. Still one to go.

    Mexican Chocolate Tart

    As I said. Sometimes, to create something beautiful, you have to do evil.

    Chopping chocolate really is not the most delicate activity in the kitchen. In fact, I thought it always creates a scenario reminding of the intro of Dexter. You know, where that whole procedure of preparing breakfast somehow has a murderous touch to it. Coming to the beautiful part, now.

    This tart is insanely rich. The filling consists solely of a ganache made of chocolate and cream while the crust has a nice flaky crunch with hardly any sugar giving just the right level of sweetness. I would stick with the official version that I only had a small piece but the picture unfortunately outs me as a big old liar.

    Mexican Chocolate Tart
    Pants on fire.

    Depending on what chocolate you use, it can be a bit pricey. However, you know what I did? I did a quick search online looking for reviews of chocolates and found a reliable source that told me how good they actually are. I have found one that was rather low in price, yet high in quality and it still tasted great (I tried it, of course).

    As the recipe told me, I sifted a bit of cocoa over the tart which I actually would not do next time as the flavour overpowered the rest quite a bit. I kind of ate a thin layer off of the top first so I could indulge in the rest sans dutch-processed cocoa powder.

    It's fairly easy to prepare yet decadent and just too good. I guess I have found myself another monster to munch on. ;)
    The hardest part is to really keep it in the fridge for four hours before cutting it!

    The magazine I found this in calls it 'Mexican Tarte', although I am not quite sure what is so Mexican about it.

    Mexican Chocolate Tart

    Mexican Chocolate Tart
    Adapted from: Frau von Heute, 9th issue, 25.02.2011: Mexikanische Tarte

    • 160g (5.6 oz.) AP Flour
    • 100g (3.5 oz.) Butter
    • 50g (1.8 oz.) sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 egg yolk (size M)
    • 1 tbsp dutch-processed cocoa powder
    • 500g (17.6 oz.) dark milk chocolate (I was not too sure what exactly that was supposed to mean so I used 4 bars of 50% dark chocolate and 1 bar 30% so my ganache was generally rather on the milky side)
    • 400ml (13.5 fl. oz.) cream
    • 1 pack of vanilla sugar (this is lesser known in the US, I think you could either omit it or replace 1 ts cream with 1 ts vanilla extract)
    • Cocoa for dusting the cake (I recommend skipping this)

    In addition:
    • Dry peas, beans or cherry stones for baking the crust blind.
    • Parchment paper for the same purpose.

    1. Preheat oven to 200°C (390°F).
    2. Combine flour, sugar, salt, egg yolk, cocoa and butter and knead until smooth (I did that with my hands). Put in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
    3. Grease a 24cm (about 9'') spring form pan and and lay out dough, forming a crust. Prick it with a fork several times and lay out with parchment paper. Fill with dried peas.
    4. Bake for 15 minutes, remove peas and parchment paper and bake for further 10 to 15 minutes.
    5. Chop up chocolate and heat up cream in a small pot. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate along with vanilla sugar to the heated cream and stir until smooth. Let it cool off for 30 minutes. (I added the chocolate to the cold cream and heated everything on low heat just enough to let it melt. It worked fine for me and there was hardly any time needed to let it cool down.)
    6. Pour mass into crust and put in refrigerator for 4 hours. Dust with cocoa powder.

    Forget about those damn calories and indulge!
    Mexican Chocolate Tart