Monday, December 14, 2009

Poppy Seed - Marzipan Stollen

Stollen is the typical German "Christmas-Bread", actually it is more like a cake. It is made from a yeast dough and comes in many variations. Usual ingredients are dried fruit, nuts and marzipan. Most famous is the Dresdner Stollen. The stollen I made has a mixture of poppy seeds and marzipan in the middle and some nuts in the dough.

It is usually baked early in December and then let to rest for about two weeks, so all the flavors can infuse. It is perfect for an afternoon tea during Christmas time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Coconut-Almond Macaroons

These little treats are perfect as a small gift to bring to a Christmas party . They are not your average coconut macaroons, since they also have a great almond taste. The roasted nuts give them a crunchy texture, but at the same time, the condensed milk makes them chewy. I made them for the first time and was pleasantly surprised at how good they are. My first batch is almost gone, so I guess I have to make some more soon.

The condensed milk used in the recipe is the sweetened type you get in North America, it is also used to make Dulce de Leche. It is not what we know in Germany as "Kondensmilch". It is a lot thicker and also sweet. The correct translation would be "gezuckerte Kondensmilch".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hazelnut Butter Cookies

As I told you in my last post, we always bake lots and lots of cookies for Christmas in my family. These Hazelnut Cookies are in my Mom's repertoire as long as I can remember. Actually we are making these probably since I was five or six years old. The recipe came from a comic book which I was reading at that time, and since then we only call them Micky Mouse cookies. They are really easy to make and have a wonderful buttery taste.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chocolate-Pear Cake

Today is the First Advent. Advent is celebrated in many European countries. It marks the four Sundays before Christmas. Each Sunday you light up one more candle. In Germany many people will have a wreath with four candles or some other kind of Christmas arrangement. I made my own wreath this year, and since I couldn't find candle holders to stick in the wreath, I used some nails, and it worked perfectly.

Advent is also the time when we usually start our Christmas baking. My Mom always makes endless creations of beautiful Christmas cookies. So for the time until Christmas I have lots of Christmas related baking for you. Make sure you come back often.

I am starting with a cake today. This is a very elegant and tasty chocolate cake which would be perfect for a Christmas dessert or like we usually have it in the afternoon with a cup of tea. It's a chocolate sponge topped with a chocolate cream and poached pears and then covered with chocolate ganache. Yumm! I was first hesitating when I read that it is baked twice, because I thought the cream would harden to much, but it tasted absolutely wonderful. I found the recipe from Lindt, and they certainly know what to do with chocolate.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cannoli

It's Daring Bakers time again. This month, our challenge was the popular Italian classic: Cannoli. I honestly was never a fan of cannoli, even when we were living in Italy. I think it's because the traditional Sicilian cannoli uses candied fruit in the filling, which I don't like. But after making them, I have changed my mind.

The recipe we were given was really great, and also very easy to work with. I was at first afraid if I could roll them out so thin. It was no problem, however, because the dough was very elastic and easy to roll. I was also a little scared of the deep frying part, but my sweetheart helped me with that.

I made the filling out of a mixture of whipped cream and ricotta, with some vanilla sugar. Then I added some chopped pieces of pistachio and chocolate. The cannoli were very yummy and easy to make. This is something I will make again, since I usually have all the ingredients in stock, and I am glad I also bought the cannoli tubes, which were pretty inexpensive.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gâteau Breton

I was looking for something simple and quick to bake, something which didn't require me going to the store. I found exactly what I was looking for in "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which I just borrowed from the library. This is a great and gorgeous book with endless pages of recipes. The book will definitely go on my Christmas wishlist.

I decided to make Gâteau Breton tartelettes, which is a very buttery cake from the French region Brittany (Bretagne). It is flavored with rum and vanilla and has a beautiful golden color. The tartelettes go perfectly with a good cup of tea in the afternoon and will melt in your mouth.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Advocaat (Eggnog) - Cardamom Pound Cake

There used to be a Swedish bakery not far from our place, and they had a signature cardamom bread, which I like very much. So I decided to try this out myself, but instead of bread I wanted to make a pound cake. You can get cardamoms at some supermarkets, but I think you'd find them much cheaper in Indian grocery stores. They come in two kinds, with shell (green) and without (brown). Get the green ones; the shell keeps it fresh and also preserves the flavor.

Another important ingredient in my pound cake is advocaat. In Germany, we call it Eierlikör (literally, egg liquor). It's similar to eggnog, but the taste is quite different, especially that there is no alcohol in eggnog. A very popular thing for us is to drink advocaat served in shot glasses made of dark chocolate. Yum! I have never made or tasted homemade advocaat myself, but here is a recipe if you want to try.

I found a great recipe for my cake in Baking for all occasions by Flo Braker. I changed it a little bit and added cardamom and advocaat instead of eggnog, which makes it a great moist spice cake.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Carrot Muffins

I wasn't really up for baking or eating anything sweet lately, since I had a bad flu. But I also didn't want to abandon my blog for too long, that's why I have an older recipe for you today. I made those carrot muffins this summer. They were featured on the faboulous blog Design Sponge, and are absolutely delicous.

I was in Germany at that time, and my Mom had never eaten carrot cakes before. I was looking for a recipe and remembered that I bookmarked this one earlier. We really liked them, they are perfectly moist and not too sweet.

I think I should make them again soon, since they are also perfect for the fall.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Daring Bakers: French Macarons with Cranberry Curd

French macarons was the October challenge for Daring Bakers! Since I started reading food blogs on a regular basis, about a year ago, this little beauties were popping up everywhere. They are also more and more available in cafes and patisseries all over the place.

My first attempt using the original recipe failed miserably. The macarons looked more like a milano cookie, they were totally flat, had no feet and would stick on the parchment paper. Since I made macarons before, I was surprised that everything went so wrong, but I was not alone, as I could read in the Daring Bakers Forum. After reading the many tips and advises (especially Tartelette and Audax), I switched to Tartlette's recipe, which uses more dry ingredients but the same amount of egg white.

My second batch failed out of different reasons. I oven was way too hot, because I was also roasting a chicken before. They came out a little brown of course, but they still had the feet. They were still yummy, just a little crunchy.

Then came my third and last attempt. I was so happy when I saw they all got little feet and none of them were broken.

For the filling I used cranberry curd, which you can find at my last post. The magenta color of the curd gave a great contrast to the white shells, and the taste from sweet to tart was very good.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s "The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern" as the challenge recipe.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quark Cream with Cranberry Curd

Quark is the one food item from Germany I miss the most, besides Bratwurst, of course. Quark is such a common item in Germany, it's something you always have in your fridge. It can be described as a fresh cheese, a curd, similar to frommage blanc.

Germans eat it for breakfast in muesli, in desserts and also savory on a slice of bread. And of course not to forget, the German style cheesecake is baked with quark. It makes the cheesecake a little more fluffy, but I also like the American cheesecake; they're just two different things.

When I first lived in California, I was hunting all over the place to find quark. Nowadays if you are lucky, you will find it in some stores, but the price is just really expensive. I am talking at least 10 times as much as you  would pay in Germany. So, you can imagine how happy I was when I found Meeta's post on making homemade quark. I make it every few weeks now, so I always have a supply on hand.

The quark cream I made is very versatile and can be used as a base for many desserts. Since I still had cranberries I made cranberry curd as a topping, but any other fruit will be good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Apple Cranberry Pie

Apple pie season has arrived in our home. This is my sweetheart's favorite pie. No matter what other elaborate cakes or tarts I made, in the end he would always request a good old apple pie. I am used to making my pies in a springform, but I just got a beautiful pie dish on the weekend and was eager to try it out.

I found the recipe on the website of the Gourmet Book Club, which always had great recommendations on beautiful and useful cookbooks. This recipe is from the book Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson and is originally for an Apple Blackberry Pie.

I still had a lot of cranberries from our recent visit to the cranberry festival, and decided to use those instead of the blackberries. The cranberries gave the pie a great tartness and it was really delicious. After reading all the good reviews of the book and the great tasting pie I ordered the book today and anxiously waiting for its arrival.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cranberry Poppy Seed Muffins

Last weekend we went to the annual Cranberry Festival in Fort Langley, BC. It is a perfect little village for this kind of events, it always reminds me of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. They sell all kinds of things cranberry from food related items to decoration and cosmetic products. And of course cranberries.

British Columbia is one of the biggest producers for cranberries and if you are lucky you can see them getting harvested. It is very interesting to see, since the fields are getting flooded and all the cranberries coming to the top and building up a huge carpet of red. Very beautiful.

I bought a huge bag of cranberries, and after making some cranberry sauce, I was looking for some recipes to bake something. I found the following muffin recipe in a German magazine, and they turned out really good. I remember a couple of years ago cranberries where almost unknown in Germany and I would bring some packages when I visit. Now, you can find them everywhere. I think what started the trend was the urge to make a real cosmopolitan as seen on "Sex and the City". Cranberry juice was a really exotic item and my girlfriends and I were browsing every supermarket to get it. Another reason for being so popular is that cranberries are really healthy and also have a good amount of vitamin C.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Plum-Almond Cake

Before it is to late, and the season is over, I had to make another plum cake. Plum cakes in all variations are my favorite treats in fall. The alignment of the plums makes the cake look really elegant and perfect for a special occasion. It is really delicious with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Vols-au-Vent with Pastry Cream and Raspberries

I MADE IT! Here is my first Daring Bakers challenge. For this month, it was Vols-au-Vent with homemade puff pastry. Even though I have never consider making my own puff pastry before, I knew I could do it, but I also needed a little push. The anxiety was there, as I didn't know how it would turn out, but I was very happy with the results. It took some time to make it, but it was well worth it.

Vols-au-Vent brings back childhood memories, since we would always eat it for New Years Eve. My Mom would fill  them with Ragout Fin, which is a ragout made with veal and some chicken meat in a cream sauce. Traditionally it is made with veal and its innards. For the challenge, however, I decided for a sweet filling with vanilla pastry cream, topped with fresh raspberries.

Making puff pastry took a lot of patience. Between each layer, I had to allow time for the butter to cool, or the butter would penetrate through the layers of dough (which would ruin the whole thing altogether). I found the first couple folds more difficult because of it. So I had to be very careful. Just cool, wait, and repeat the process. After finishing the required six folds, I decided to cool it overnight. It made the dough very easy to roll. I cut it in three portions, and put two in the freezer for later use.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apricot-Nectarine-Peach and Almond Galette

Stone fruits are still at the markets, and lots of those fruits are grown locally, which makes them extra sweet. I got the idea of making this galette from Williams-Sonoma: New Flavors for Desserts, where it is just made with apricots. I added nectarines and peaches to the recipe. The combination of the three fruits gave the galette a good mix of sweet and tartness.

The recipes in the book are categorized by season, and are inspired by what you will find on farmers' markets. The majority of the recipes are fruit desserts, often with a new twist, like adding an unusual herb or spice. Each recipe has a beautiful photograph, and you will also find information about the ingredients.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Plum-Streusel Cake

Fall is approaching fast and, as one of the last summer fruits, plums are hitting the market stands. My favorite kind of plums are the dark, small ones, also called Italian plums. In Germany they are called Zwetschgen. They are more tart then the normal yellow or red plums and their flesh is usually firm. These qualities make them perfect for baking. The Zwetschgenkuchen is a traditional fall cake in Germany. You will find it in any bakery and family gathering at this time of year.

Plum cakes are traditionally made with either a shortcrust or a yeast dough, often with streusel on top. The following recipe is a very easy one, using a basic shortcrust, which is also used for the streusel. I made a smaller cake as in the recipe and just froze the leftover dough. Leftover dough is great to have for making up something fast. For example I often use it to make some small fruit tartlets.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Berry Pavlovas

This is my first official blog entry. I have a few postings before, but I needed some time to practice and see how everything works. Well, there is still a lot to learn, but I get a lot of inspiration from all those wonderful food blogs out there. So, welcome to my blog and thanks for stopping by.

Since I call this blog berry lovely, I definitely want to start off with a berry recipe. Since I had some leftover egg whites, pavlovas came to mind. They are a great way to use up your egg whites and can be topped with any fruit combination you might desire. Berry season is slowly coming to an end, but I still managed to pick some wild blackberries. Together with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, they made great toppings for my little pavlovas.

Instead of normal cake-sized pavlovas, I prefer to make them small. So they can be served in single portions, because I just have no idea how you would cut a big one into nice looking pieces. We always make a huge mess on our plates eating them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lemon Tartlets

Before I came to North America I have never tasted lemon tarts or lemon meringue pie. We have great lemon desserts in Germany, too, but those were just not among them. I really love them now, the tartness of the lemon filling in a nice pastry crust is just really good.

The recipe I made today is adapted from "Luscious Lemon Desserts" by Lori Longbotham. Like her other dessert books, it has a wide variety of recipes and information on the subject. You will find among other things recipes for pies, cakes, tarts, creamy desserts, cookies and ice creams.

The tartlets are pre-baked before you put in the filling and bake them some more. Then, before serving you add a nice little brûlée top and some berries.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Valrhona Chocolate Mousse

On the quest for the perfect chocolate, I finally discovered Valrhona. This chocolate is widely recommended in various cookbooks and blogs. So, when I saw it in my favorite gourmet store lately I picked up a 200g block of the 70% bittersweet Valrhona chocolate called Guanaja.

The taste is really superb, it has a really nice bitter note. But honestly, I probably wouldn't buy it as a regular chocolate bar, as the price is really steep. Buying it as a block is definitely more economical.

I have to admit though that my favorite chocolate for baking and desserts comes from a German discount store. Don't get me wrong, I am not cheap when it comes to chocolate, but this brand is really good. It even won several awards for its excellent quality. It is called Moser-Roth and their bittersweet variety comes in 70% and 85%. It is available at the discount store Aldi. I always bring back a bunch of them when I go back to Germany. Aldi is expanding and even has several stores in the US now, so you might even get the chocolate there.

I didn't just eat my whole block of Valrhona though. Thinking what I could use it for, I went through the book "Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme" by Dorie Greenspan. This book is a chocolate lovers paradise with a wide range of recipes from the famous Parisian pâtissier. You will find cakes, cookies, tarts, custards and mousses, truffles, frozen desserts and chocolate drinks. Dorie Greenpan also gives great advice of how to do variations of different recipes.

I decided to make the Simple Chocolate Mousse. Usually when I made chocolate mousse I had always added whipped cream. This recipe doesn't call for any whipped cream, but it was very light and creamy.

If you don't have the book, you can also find the recipe at Serious Eats.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble

Rhubarb and strawberry is a classic and always yummy combination. At home in Germany, we have a lot of rhubarb plants in our garden. When I was over there this spring I couldn't wait for them to be ready. I have just rediscovered my taste for rhubarb in recent years. I wasn't a big fan of it when I was younger, probably because of the tartness and also that your teeth feel funny after eating it. But nevertheless I love it even more now. In Germany the rhubarb season traditionally ends on June 24th, which is the same day as the white asparagus's. The reason is that the plants should be able to recuperate better until the next year.

The rhubarb season in Canada is longer and I made this crumble with some self-picked strawberries. The hazelnuts on top give a nice touch. I served it with some fresh whipped cream, but it will also be great with some vanilla ice-cream.

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