Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year´s Waffles - Neujahrswaffeln

To all my friends and readers of my blog, I wish you health, the love of friends and family and peace within your hearts. I wish you the beauty of nature and the wisdom to choose priorities. I wish you generosity so you may share all good things that come to you. I wish you happiness and joy and blessings for the New Year. I wish you the best of everything for the New Year!

Bring in the New Year in style with simple yet special party food and treats. Or plan a laid-back family dinner for New Year's Day. These New Year´s Waffles (Neujahrswaffeln)  are wickedly addictive and just perfect as a not too sweet dessert at your party big or small. Enjoy just plain, or if feeling a bit more decadent, with lightly whipped cream or a good vanilla ice cream.

The history of these traditional crispy waffles dates back to the 16. century when they were first made by monks in their convent kitchens.

New Year´s Waffles - Neujahrswaffeln

Ingredients for the Waffle Rolls
  • 1/4 l water
  • 250 grams rock candy (white rock candy for a lighter colored waffle, brown rock candy for a darker colored waffle) or regular sugar
  • 200 grams unsalted butter 
  • 2 eggs (L) organic or free range whenever possible
  • 1 pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (from Ceylon if possible)
  • 1 package pure vanilla sugar (2 1/2 tsps) or homemade vanilla sugar. 
  • 250 grams wheat flour
  • This recipe makes about 24 waffle rolls.

Preparation of the Waffle Rolls
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil, add the rock candy (or sugar) and stir carefully until it is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the butter and continue to stir until the butter has melted.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely.
  4. When ready to bake your waffle rolls, preheat your waffle maker according to the manufacturer´s instructions.
  5. Transfer the cooled butter mixture to a mixing bowl.
  6. Add the eggs, salt, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, and flour to th ebowl. Using a a large whisk stir the batter until there are no lumps left.
  7. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter in the center of the iron.
  8. Bake for about a minute or two, then check for proper color.
  9. Quickly remove the waffle from the waffle maker onto a rack. Make a roll or a cone. If the waffle is too hot to handle with your bare hands, use a cloth to help lift and roll the waffle. 
  10. Hold the waffle roll a few seconds to set its shape then place on the wire rack to cool completely. 
  • The batter is meant to be thick but still runny, you are looking for a honey-like consistency here.
  • Do not be tempted to add milk to the batter, as that will result in soft, not crisp waffles.
  • The waffle rolls are meant to be really crispy.
  • Should you have any leftover waffles, make sure to keep them in a cookie tin in a cool place, so that they stay crispy. 
NOTE: Around here, you can find a really good specialty waffle roll maker from Cloer here. In the US and Canada, you can find a similar waffle cone maker from Chef´s Choice here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club - December Recipes

December marks the eight month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, called „River Cottage Everyday Veg“.

The Cottage Cooking Club is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, getting to know less known vegetables, learning new ways to prepare tasty and healthy dishes, and sharing them with family and friends.

All the members of this cooking group will make an effort to use as much local, regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is resonably possible. With that goal in mind, during the month of December, I prepared a nice array of vegetable dishes from the recipe line-up.

Let us start with a picture of these incredibly pretty purple Brussels sprouts ("choux de Bruxelles violet" as the French call it or "lila Rosenkohl" as we call it and which translates as "purple rose cabbage"). This was the first time I came across them and I could not resist their undeniably charming appearance.

Since I prepared nine out of ten recipes, I will write about each dish according to the order in which I prepared them.

My first recipe for this December post was the Curried sweet potato soup (page 166) from the chapter "Hefty Soups". Sweet potatoes are root vegetables that resemble potatoes, although they are different in taste and texture and are not related to the potato. They have a deep-orange, creamy-textured flesh that is much lighter and fluffier than that of the potato and, as their name suggests, they have a slightly sweet flavor which harmonized so well with the spices used in this recipe.

This wonderful warming winter soup is cooked with onions, garlic, grated fresh ginger, red chilies, garam masala, curry powder, cubed sweet potatoes, and vegetable stock (page 130). After the soup is puréed, you add coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste - finish with some lovely yogurt and fresh coriander (I opted for beetroot, alfalfa and leek sprouts instead). 

This is such a wonderful recipe. The soup is rich and creamy, with just the right kick from the spices, and just the right amout of sweetness from the sweet potatoes and the coconut milk - all counter-balanced by the tang from the lime juice. A must try, no doubt! 

The second recipe this month was Brussels sprouts, apple and cheddar (page 108), from the chapter "Raw Assemblies".

In general, Brussels sprouts suffer from a dreadful reputation. Like miniature versions of the common cabbage, they grow on large stalks and have a sweet, nutty flavour, which some people can find too pungent. But, prepared according to this recipe and treated with a touch of love and care, these little buds will most certainly become your family´s winter favorite.

Who would have thought that raw Brussels sprouts were this delicious - I should add that these purple ones were very mild tasting, very reminiscent of red cabbage. We loved the preparation of this dish. Other than thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, you will need a crisp eating apple, nuts (I used walnuts) and cheese (I used shaved Parmigiano Reggiano). For the dressing it was lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Such a fresh, beautiful salad with a great balance of flavors - lots of delightful crunchiness from the sprouts, sweetness from the apple and saltiness from the cheese.

Recipe number three was the Corner shop spanakopita (page 54), from the chapter "Comfort Food & Feasts". I served this as part of my Christmas spread, hence the star-shaped cut-outs on top of the dish.

This recipe came about as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s answer to a friend´s challenge to prepare dinner with items available at the average convenient store - therefore you can use frozen spinach in this recipe - although I used fresh one because I simply could not make myself walk past the fresh one to head for the frozen one and because I just love the taste of fresh spinach, although I must admit that it was quite the task to clean this huge bunch that I had carted home for this recipe.

Once you have prepared the spinach and it has cooled off somewhat, ladle half of it into a pretty oven-proof dish, add crumbled feta, then the rest of the spinach, cover with puff pastry, brush with an egg wash and bake - voilà - this is one of the tastiest, easiest, crowd-pleaser of a spinach dish that you are likely to come across!

The Sweetcorn fritters with corinader or mint raita (page 325), from the chapter "Mezze & Tapas" would make a great, spicy addition to your New Year´s spread. 

Corn fritters are always a big hit with the kids - these were a bit more on the spicy side of things - with gram flour, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and spring onions they packed quite a punch. For the cooling raita, I used yogurt, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chives - if you are into spicy foods, these fritters with their lovely dark-golden hue will most certainly please your palate. 

Leek risotto with chestnuts (page 270), from the chapter "Pasta & Rice" was the one recipe that received a lot of raving reviews at our house - sweet leeks, sautéed in butter and oil and mixed with lovely Italian risotto rice as well as some dry Italian white wine and homemade vegetable stock was a huge hit. One of my favorite recipes so far. 

The final touch for the risotto was some fresh thyme and fried thin slices of chestnuts - goodness they are so wonderful as a topping to this risotto, that I decided to add them to one of my other dishes I made from the December line-up, the Salsify purée.

Looking for a wonderful side dish - try the Roasted roots with apple and rosemary (page 361), from the chapter of "Roast, Grill & Barbecue". Such an easy recipe and so versatile. I decided to use red-skinned and purple potatoes (the "Vitelotte" variety) on the day I prepared this recipe. I have prepared it with parsnips and carrots before and we loved that too. 

You can use the root vegetables that you have on hand, roast them for a good 35 minutes with olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add sliced cooking apples (the ones that hold their shape) and fresh rosemary and roast for an additional 15 minutes - hard to find someone who does not enjoy roasted root vegetables with some sweet apples and rosemary.

The next recipe I prepared was the biggest surprise to me this month. For some reason I was not sure that I would enjoy the Quick chickpea pasta (page 246), from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers".

With so few ingredients I made sure to choose a really good-quality variety of orecchiette. There are so many different ones to choose from at my favorite Italian market and I kept thinking that I have an amazing recipe for homemade orecchiette but I resisted the urge to make them myself and bought some wonderful looking ones called "orecchiette strascinati", a type of robust orecchiette from the region of Puglia - they held their shape quite well during cooking and were robust enough to hold their own in this easy dish of pasta, chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, chili peppers and grated hard cheese. Fried sage leaves added a nice bit of color to this incredibly easy and tasty pasta dish.

One of the lesser known root vegetables, salsify is also known as "oyster plant" because it tastes slightly of oysters. Around here we also call it "Schwarzwurzel", which translates into "black roots". This typical winter vegetable is quite popular in Belgium and the Netherlands these days but I remember my grand-mother preparing it and I could not wait to give this recipe a try. The most difficult part was finding it - it took me quite a while - no one seems to ask for it much these days, too bad because it has a wonderful intense flavor and it is very versatile. 

The Salsify purée (page 387), from the chapter "Side Dishes" is a delightful way to prepare this veg with a bit of old-world-charm - I added some fried chestnut slices for garnish and a drizzle of cold-pressed walnut oil - delicious, creamy and a lovely taste that is a bit hard to describe and a winter-white color to boot. Absolutely not the way my grand-mother used to prepare this veg but quite fabulous!.

Last but not least, another recipe that I could not wait to try. The Bruschetta with cavolo nero or "cabbage on toast" (page 200), from the chapter "Bready Things".

Once you have decided wether you will use the cavolo nero (a kind of dark Italian kale from the Tuscan region), regular kale or savoy cabbage, all you will need to get is some wonderful country style bread, like the Ciabatta Pugliese that I used.

The cavolo nero has a good, strong flavor. It can be used as a substitute in all recipes that require cabbage but it is particularly good in soups such as the classic Tuscan soup, ribolitta. But cavolo nero is equally delicious simply fried in olive oil with garlic and chilies or as a topping for bruschetta - this is my kind of recipe. Loved the earthy flavor of the cabbage together with garlic, olive oil, pepper and salt. 

Another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – we certainly enjoy the recipes from this cookbook. And we are all looking forward to another year of wonderful, family-friendly vegetable dishes.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of the Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure! 

For more information on the participation rules, please go here.

To see which wonderful dishes the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club prepared during the month of December, please go here.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Speculaas Biscotti with Almonds - Spekulatius-Biscotti mit Mandeln

Today I baked these lovely Italian cookies called Biscotti with a German touch.  Traditionally these cookies were baked only with hazelnuts and aniseed but nowadays, they are flavored with a wide variety of nuts, dried fruits, chocolate, lemon or orange rind. They are hard and crunchy because they are twice-baked (‘bis’ is Italian for twice and ‘cotti’ for cooked).
This makes them ideal for dipping into dessert wine or coffee, especially espresso. Recipes for Biscotti date back as far as the 13th century in Italy. Since the flavor of these twice-baked cookies deepens over time, you can make them in advance and store them for a few weeks in cookie tins in a cool and dry place.
Heute gibt es italienische Kekse, auch Biscotti genannt, mit einer deutschen Note. Traditionell wird dieses Gebäck nur mit Haselnüssen und Anis hergestellt, in neueren Rezepten werden Biscotti auch mit einer Vielzahl von Nüssen, getrockneten Früchten, Schokolade, Zitronen- oder Orangenabrieb gebacken. Sie sind so knusprig, weil sie zweimal gebacken sind ("bis" ist italienisch für doppelt und "cotti" für gekocht). Das macht sie ideal für das Eintauchen in Dessertwein oder Kaffee, vor allem Espresso. Rezepte für Biscotti gab es schon im 13. Jahrhundert in Italien. Da der Geschmack dieser zweimal gebacken Kekse während der Lagerung in Keksdosen noch intensiver wird, kann man sie gut auf Vorrat backen, für ein paar Wochen an einem kühlen und trockenen Ort aufbewahren und später genießen.

Biscotti are oblong-shaped almond cookies or biscuits. They are dry and crunchy because after having been baked into loaves, the loaves are then cut into slices while still hot and fresh from the oven. And then baked a second time.

For this recipe, I wanted to add a festive touch and substituted the usual spices with a homemade Speculaas Spice Mix. These Biscotti smell wonderful while baking and are the perfect treat at this time of year as they are not overly sweet and do not contain a lot of butter. They are studded with delicious and healthy almonds and have a delicate Christmassy flavor that pairs incredibly well with an espresso or cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Biscotti sind längliche Mandelkekse, die
so trocken und knusprig werden, weil man sie zunächst in Strängen backt, sie anschließend noch warm in Scheiben schneidet und dann ein zweites Mal backt.

Für dieses Rezept wollte ich gerne eine etwas festliche Note hinzufügen. Deshalb habe ich die üblichen Gewürze mit einer selbstgemachten Spekulatius-Gewürzmischung ersetzt. Diese Biscotti duften beim Backen wunderbar und sie passen unglaublich gut zur Weihnachtszeit. Sie nicht allzu süß, enthalten wenig Butter, sind voller leckerer, gesunder Mandeln und schmecken durch die Gewürzmischung wunderbar nach Spekulatius. Sie passen ganz unglaublich gut zu einer Tasse Espresso, Kaffee, Tee oder heißer Schokolade.

Speculaas Biscotti with Almonds

Ingredients for the Cookies
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) whole natural almonds
  • 250 grams ( 8.8 ounces/2 cups) plain/AP flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) super fine white sugar
  • 2 tsps. Speculaas Spice Mix*
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only, OR 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 tbsp Amaretto
  • 25 grams (0.8 ounce/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs (L), free range or organic
Speculaas Biscotti mit Mandeln

Zutaten für die Kekse
  • 200 Gramm ganze Mandeln
  • 250 Gramm Weizenmehl, sowie ein wenig Mehl für die Arbeitsfläche
  • 1 TL Backpulver
  • 200 Gramm feinster Backzucker
  • 2 TL Spekulatius-Gewürzmischung*
  • 1/2 TL Zimt, gemahlen ("Ceylon")
  • 1 ausgekratzte Vanilleschote, ODER 1 1/2 TL Bourbon Vanillezucker 
  • 1 El Amaretto
  • 25 Gramm ungesalzene Butter, Zimmertemperatur
  • 2 Eier (L), Freilandhaltung oder Bio wenn möglich

Speculaas Spice Mix*

Ingredients for the Speculaas Spice Mix
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1/3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) ground white pepper
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) ground cardamom
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) ground coriander seeds
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) gound anise seeds
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) grated nutmeg 
Note: If you only have whole spices at home, you can grind the spices yourself using a coffee grinder, or use a food processor and a fine sieve.

Preparation of the Spice Mix
  1. Carefully measure out spices.
  2. Mix all spices well.
  3. Scoop the mix into a spice jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Label the jar.
  5. And use for baking Christmas cookies.
  6. Discard any leftovers after four months and make a new spice mix.

Zutaten für die Spekulatius-Gewürzmischung
  • 4 EL gemahlener Zimt
  • 1 TL gemahlene Nelken 
  • 1 TL gemahlene Muskatblüte
  • 1/3 TL gemahlener Ingwer 
  • 1/5 TL (Msp) gemahlener weißer Pfeffer
  • 1/5 TL (Msp) gemahlener Kardamom
  • 1/5 TL (Msp) gemahlene Koriandersamen 
  • 1/5 TL (Msp) gemahlene Anissamen 
  • 1/5 TL (Msp) gemahlene Muskatnuss
Tipp: Wenn man nur ungemahlene Gewürze hat, kann man sie selber mahlen, entweder mit einer Kaffeemühle oder in der Küchenmaschine.

Zubereitung der Gewürzmischung
  1. Alle Gewürze genau abmessen.
  2. Gut mischen.
  3. In einem luftdichten Behälter geben.
  4. Mit Etikett versehen.
  5. Für Weihnachtsgebäck verwenden.
  6. Nach vier Monaten ein neue Mischung herstellen.

Preparation of the Cookies
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, Speculaas Spice Mix, cinnamon and vanilla seeds until well combined.
  2. Transfer the dry ingredients to the bowl of your mixer and add the Amaretto, butter and eggs then beat the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until the mixture is well combined and comes together as a dough.
  3. Add the whole almonds and combine well.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal parts.
  5. Wrap each dough piece in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for about thirty minutes and up to a day.
  6. Dust your work surface with the remaining flour. Take the first batch of dough out of the refrigerator and using the palms of your hands, roll the Biscotti dough into a cylinder shape on the dusted surface. Flatten the dough a little to form an oval cylinder if you wish. Repeat with the three remaining parts of the dough.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
  8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (unbleached if possible or use Silpat baking mats).
  9. Transfer two logs of the dough to a baking sheet and bake for about 18 minutes, or until the logs have spread and doubled in size.
  10. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit. Repeat with the remaining two logs of dough.
  11. When the logs have cooled but are still warm, slice each about 0.5 inches thick, you should cut on the diagonal, using a very sharp knife.
  12. Place each Biscotti slice onto a baking sheet or onto cooling racks that you place onto the baking sheets, thereby allowing for the hot air to circulate around each Biscotti cookie slice.
  13. Return the baking sheets to the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes, or until crisp, golden-brown and cooked through.
  14. Transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.
  15. When the Biscotti have completely cooled, place them in cookie tins with well fitting lids. 
Note: If you store the cookie tins in a cool and dry place, they will keep well for a few weeks.
Herstellung der Biscotti
  1. Das Mehl, Backpulver, Zucker, Spekulatius-Gewürzmischung, Zimt und das Vanillemark gut mischen.
  2. Die trockenen Zutaten in die Schüssel ihres Mixers geben und Amaretto, Butter und Eier zufügen. Die gesamten Zutaten mischen bis ein homogener Teig entsteht.
  3. Die Mandeln hinzufügen und gut mischen.
  4. Teilen Sie den Teig in vier gleich große Teile. Man wickelt jedes Stück Teig in Folie und lässt es im Kühlschrank für 30 Minuten (bis zu einem Tag) fest werden.
  5. Die Arbeitsfläche mit dem restlichen Mehl bestäuben. Das erste Teigstück aus dem Kühlschrank nehmen und mit den Handflächen den Teig zu einer Rolle formen. Wenn man möchte, kann man den Teig ein wenig flach drücken, ist aber eigentlich nicht nötig. Die drei verbleibenden Teile des Teiges ebenso rollen.
  6. Den Backofen auf 180° Celsius vorheizen.
  7. Zwei Backbleche mit Backpapier (oder Silpat Backmatten) auslegen.
  8. Jeweils zwei Teigrollen auf ein Backblech legen und für etwa 18 Minuten backen oder bis die Teigrollen doppelt so breit geworden und hellbraun gebacken sind.
  9. Aus dem Ofen nehmen und etwas abkühlen lassen. Mit den verbleibenden zwei Teigrollen ebenso verfahren.
  10. Wenn die Teigrollen etwas abgekühlt aber noch warm sind, sollte man die Rollen in jeweils etwa 1 cm breite Streifen schneiden. Dabei kann man sie entweder in schräge oder gerade Streifen schneiden, aber man sollte auf jeden Fall ein sehr scharfes Messer nehmen.
  11. Man legt jede Biscotti-Scheibe entweder direkt auf das vorbereitete Backblech oder auf ein Kuchenrost, das man auf die Backbleche stellt. So kann die heiße Luft des Ofens besser um die einzelnen Kekse zirkulieren und man braucht die Kekse beim Backen nicht zu wenden.
  12. Die Backbleche nochmals in den Ofen schieben und für weitere 10 bis 15 Minuten backen oder bis die Biscotti knusprig und goldbraun gebacken sind.
  13. Die Biscotti auf den Kuchenrosten vollständig auskühlen lassen.
Tipp: Wenn die Biscotti vollständig abgekühlt sind, lagert man sie am besten in gut schließenden Keksdosen. So gelagert, halten sich mehrere Wochen.

These Speculaas Biscotti with Almonds combine an Italian recipe in the most delicious of ways with a German spice mix. They have a wonderful golden color, an out-of-world fabulous taste and make for a very lovely last-minute gift!

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas..." 
(lyrics and score by H. Martin & R. Blane)
Diese Spekulatius Biscotti mit Mandeln verbinden eine italienische Rezeptur auf eine äußerst leckere Weise mit einer deutschen Gewürzmischung. Sie haben eine tolle Farbe, einen wunderbaren Geschmack und sind bestens als Mitbringsel geeignet!

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas..."
 (Worte und Musik von H. Martin & R. Blane)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Little Bethmann - Bethmännchen

Most people I know enjoy Marzipan and almond-based sweets, especially at this time of year. In my humble opinion, Marzipan is an utterly charming ingredient. It comes with a lot of tradition, as a mixture of ground almonds and powdered sugar mixed with rose water was a popular confection in mediaeval times.

Bethmännchen (meaning “little Bethmann”) are little marzipan-based treats that originate from Frankfurt, and wouldn´t you know it, like all the best sweet treats, this is a  cookie with quite an interesting story.
Die meisten meiner Zeitgenossen essen gerne Marzipan und Gebäck, welches Marzipan enthält. Ich finde Marzipan richtig charmant. Es hat eine lange Tradition hinter sich. Schon im Mittelalter wurden Köstlichkeiten aus gemahlenen Mandeln, Puderzucker und Rosenwasser gereicht.

Bethmännchen  sind eine Gebäckspezialität aus Frankfurt am Main. Und wie auch bei anderem Gebäck, gibt es eine ganz wunderbare Legende, die sich um die Entstehung der Bethmännchen rankt.    

Legend has it that Bethmännchen were created by a Parisian pastry chef named Jean Jacques Gautenier who worked as a chef de cuisine for Simon Moritz von Bethmann, a prominent Frankfurt banker and city councillor. These festive cookies were originally decorated with four almond halves to represent his four sons (Moritz, Karl, Alexander and Heinrich). When  his youngest son Heinrich died in 1845, the sweets were made with only three almonds as a mark of respect. A noteworthy aside is the fact that the Bethmann bank is known to have co-financed the Paris Eiffel Tower.
Die Legende besagt, dass Bethmännchen im Jahr 1838 von dem Pariser Konditor Jean Jacques Gautenier erfunden wurden, der Küchenchef im Hause des Bankiers und Ratsherrn Simon Moritz von Bethmann war. Ursprünglich seien die Bethmännchen mit vier Mandelhälften bestückt gewesen, eine für jeden der vier Söhne Bethmanns (Moritz, Karl, Alexander und Heinrich). Nach dem Tode Heinrichs im Jahr 1845 sei fortan eine Mandelhälfte weggelassen worden. Es ist schon interessant, dass das Privatbankhaus Bethmann unter anderem den Bau des Eiffelturms mitfinanzierte.

Today, Bethmännchen are very popular at the Frankfurt Christmas market, which is one of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany, it dates back as far as 1393.

The cookies are glazed with an egg yolk before baking, so they emerge from the oven with a glorious golden color that really stands out among all the other Christmas cookies.
Heutzutage sind Bethmännchen überaus beliebt auf dem Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt, einem der ältesten Weihnachtsmärkte Deutschlands, der erstmals 1393 urkundlich erwähnt wurde.

Das Gebäck wird vor dem Backen mit Eigelb glasiert, was den fertigen Bethmännchen eine wunderbare goldene Farbe verleiht - man könnte meinen, es wäre Safran im Teig.

Making these sweets is actually very easy. You just need to gather all the ingredients, mix them to a smooth paste, then roll into balls, add the almonds and bake.

If you cannot find good almond paste or would like to make it yourself, you can always do so with equal weights of icing sugar and almonds, as well as a dash of rosewater, and honey.
Bethmännchen sind nicht wirklich schwierig herzustellen. Man braucht lediglich die Zutaten zu mischen, dann Kugeln zu formen und Mandelhälften in den Teig zu drücken.

Falls man kein Marzipan zur Hand hat, kann man es auch mal selber machen. Mit Mandeln, Puderzucker, Rosenwasser und Honig lässt sich ein wunderbares Marzipan herstellen.

(makes around 30)

Ingredients for the Cookies
  • 1 egg, (L) separated 
  • 250 grams cold almond paste (Marzipan)* 
  • 60 grams AP (plain) flour
  • 50 grams icing sugar, sieved
  • 50 grams ground almonds
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla sugar
  • a few drop of rosewater **
  • 75 grams whole blanched almonds, split
  • 1 tbsp. milk

* You need to use the right kind of Marzipan, the one with at least 50% almonds, or the cookies will turn out too sweet. Keeping it cold, makes for easier grating.

** You should also get a really good-quality, subtle rosewater from a spice merchant (pharmacies around here carry rosewater as well). Make sure its natural based with no artificial flavors. If you cannot find good rosewater, you should omit it altogether. Real Marzipan is made using rosewater, so adding a touch of this flavor component to the Bethmännchen makes these cookies even more festive.
(für zirka 30 Stück)

Zutaten für das Gebäck
  • 1 Ei (L), getrennt
  • 250 Gramm gekühltes Marzipan*
  • 60 Gramm Weizenmehl
  • 50 Gramm Puderzucker, gesiebt
  • 50 Gramm Mandeln, gemahlen
  • eine Prise feines Meersalz
  • 1 1/2 TL Bourbon-Vanillezucker
  • einige Tropfen Rosenwasser**
  • 75 Gramm Mandelhälften
  • 1 EL Milch

* Man sollte wirklich gutes Marzipan kaufen, mit einem Mandelanteil von mindestens 50%, sonst werden die Bethmännchen zu süß. Wenn man das Marzipan vor Gebrauch kühlt, lässt es sich viel besser reiben.

** Man sollte auch unbedingt ein gutes Rosenwasser erwerben - vielleicht von einem Gewürzhändler oder aus der Apotheke. Wenn man kein qualitativ hochwertiges Rosenwasser findet, sollte man es ganz weglassen. Echtes Marzipan enthält Rosenwasser und einige wenige Tropfen in dem Teig für die Bethmännchen unterstreichen den festlichen Geschmack dieser kleinen Köstlichkeiten umso mehr.

Preparation of the Cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  2. Separate the egg. Reserve the yolk. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg white.
  3. Grate the Marzipan finely using your box grater.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, salt and vanilla sugar.
  5. Add the grated almond paste and the egg white. Work everything to a smooth dough.
  6. Divide the dough into 30 pieces (cherry size), form into balls.
  7. Press 3 almond halves into the sides of each ball. Transfer the Bethmännchen to the baking sheet. 
  8. For the glaze, mix the egg yolk with one tablespoon of milk, and glaze the Bethmännchen.
  9. Bake for around 15 minutes until the cookies look golden and slightly puffed.

The Bethmännchen are really not that sweet, but have an delightful intense almond flavor. Flavors can evoke so many wonderful memories and the flavor of Marzipan and these cookies takes me right back to my childhood and the magic of the season. Marzipan is one of the most festive flavors of all. While these cookies bake, the kitchen smells like an old-fashioned sweet shop.

The outside of these cookies is a bit firm, while the interior is soft and marzipan-like. The are so lovely with small cups of strong coffee or your favorite tea.
Zubereitung des Gebäcks
  1. Den Ofen auf 160° Celsius vorheizen. Ein Backblech mit Backpapier auslegen.
  2. Das Ei trennen. Das Eigelb zur Seite stellen. Das Eiweiß mit einer Gabel kurz verquirlen.
  3. Das Marzipan auf der Küchenreibe fein reiben.
  4. In einer großen Schüssel das Mehl, den Puderzucker, die gemahlenen Mandeln, das Salz und den Vanillezucker mischen.
  5. Das geriebene Marzipan und Eiweiß hinzufügen. Zu einer glatten Masse vermengen.
  6. Den Teig in zirka 30 Portionen teilen (Kirschgröße) und zu Kugeln formen.
  7. Bethmännchen mit je drei Mandelhälften verzieren und auf das Backblech geben.
  8. Eigelb mit der Milch verquirlen und die Bethmännchen damit einpinseln.
  9. Ungefähr 15 Minuten backen oder bis das Gebäck goldbraun ist.

Bethmännchen sind nicht sehr süß und schmecken angenehm intensiv nach Mandeln. Aromen können jede Menge wunderbarer Gefühle und Erinnerungen wachrufen. Mich versetzt der Geschmack von Marzipan immer zurück in die Weihnachtszeit meiner eigenen Kindheit. Es ist eben ein sehr festliches Aroma. Schon während die Bethmännchen im Ofen backen, duftet es in der Küche wie in einem urigen Süßigkeiten-Geschäft.

Das Äußere der Bethmännchen ist ein wenig fest, das Innere weich und ähnelt Marzipan. Ich finde, Bethmännchen passen unwiderstehlich gut zu einer Tasse starkem Kaffee.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Café and Gift Shop "Café de Kiekoet" Maastricht (NL)

It is always such a joy to find these types of wonderful places by chance. Like the „Café de Kiekoet“ in Maastricht (NL), that we basically stumbled upon when we visited Maastricht a few weeks back. This is an utterly charming café and gift shop, perfect not only for finding a gift for that someone special but also for enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and some waffles on the outside terrace at the back of the store.

The shop owners (Michelle Smeets and Truus Cobben) have a wonderful concept for their lovely store. They carry regional products and gifts from the area of Maastricht (Maastrichte Producten), as well as vintage collectors items (brocante). Personally, I find this particular mix utterly delightful.

The Regular Collection of the store includes must-haves such as handmade Maastricht mustards (Limburgse mosterd) and specialty jams and jellies from Adriaan de Smaakmaker (for more info, please look here), as well as Apostelhoeve wine from a vineyard in Limburg (for more info, please go here) and those famous Maastricht Chocolate Stars (Chocolade sterretjes) in white, milk or dark chocolate.

Then there is the Changing Collection, whith different offerings every couple of months. You could find Maastricht Legos, kitchen-towels, tea-towels, bath-towels, baby onesies, kitchen posters, coffee and tea cups, mugs, notebooks, key chains, all with that famous Maastricht star logo.

And then there is the Vintage Collection, which includes all those lovely things that make a blogger`s heart do somersaults. It varies also depending on the season and whet the owners were able to find at antique sales and flea markets. You might find tea-pots, cups, plates, spice jars, and soup tureens with delicate flowery designs. Or coffeetables, tins, glasses, jewellry and even childrens´ furniture.

The official flag of Maastricht, the capital city of the province of Limburg, in the Netherlands is a red vertical surface with a five-pointed star. So it comes as no surprise that the star of Maastricht (or as the locals call it "Mestreech") is proudly displayed throughout the store on a number of different products and can also be found on the lovely tables that grace the outside terrace - inviting you to enjoy a local apple juice...

...or enjoy a steaming cup of coffee that is served in these or other adorable vintage cups, that are placed on vintage serving platters and accentuated with adorable spoons, all of which you can also buy at the store.

Of course, a coffee break from all that that shopping would not be complete without those delicious crunchy Maastricht butter cookies that are shaped like the Maastricht coat of arms (Mestreechter keukskes or koekjes) produced by the Pâtisserie Royale also located in the city (you can take a look here for more information on these fabulous cookies).

The outside terrace of the Café is very lovingly decorated - you can find a dark green old window frame like this one...

...or the wonderful flower arangements (of course, being the keen observer that you are, you noticed the colors of the flowers, red and white, these are also the colors of the city)...

...more flowers. This delicate white and yellow variety of the potato plant is flowering and was planted in an old enamel bowl...

...a trumpet-playing seraph was hiding in these shrubs.

Look at these adorable coffee and tea pots as well as tea cups monuted on one on the walls.

A well-used bicycle (love it, it is so Dutch) and a goose that seems to contemplate its fate.

A well-used bird bath certainly also adds to the charm of the outside terrace.

Once you have finished your visit to the terrace, it is time to take a look inside - this is a picture of my very favorite display in the whole store - in October of this year you could find dolls like this one wearing a hand-knitted dress, table linens, napkins, gift boxes, milk jugs, cups and saucers, spoons, glasses and much more, all color-coordinated and waiting for you to take them home and to find that perfect spot to display them at.

There were also these powder-blue earrings and satin gloves that graced a soup tureen...

..leather baby booties, enamel soup ladles, candles and gift ribbons of different colors.

Another one of my favorite displays - the vintage cups and the Maastricht cookies again - love the idea of placing them in the earthenware Gugelhupf (Kougelhopf) baking mold.

These paper bags are placed on the outside window sills of the store...

...inviting you to go inside and take a closer look.

Christmas has arrived at the store - when we went back for more pictures this month, these bright red paper bags graced the entrance doorstep.

And this lovely off-white and silver Chritsmas wreath decorated with glass ball ornaments and feathers was mounted on one of the doors. It looked like an invitation to go inside and find some lovely gifts...

...and admire these adorable baby toys and onesies - baby and toddler bodysuits - with the Maastricht star, of course.

A crucifix and a rosary made for a very serene display too.

Those red and white linen kitchen towels (potdook) with the name of the city are a popular souvenir with customers such as myself... are apparently these t-shirts with the inscription "How to date in Meestrecht in the native language".

Mestreechter Geis - these wooden souvenirs are fashioned after a bronze sculpture by the artist Mari Andriessen. The original sculpture was inspired by the character of the people of Masstricht who are said to be charming, humorous and have quite the zest for life. And I can attest to the truth of that statement. In 1962, the bronze sculpture was installed in Maastricht in a prominent place of the Stokstraat.

The star logo and the name of the city also graces these bright red aprons - always such a welcome gift for all those foodies in your life.

Here are those lovely leather baby booties again. And a gift, all wrapped up in that fabulous red and white paper.

These glass bottles used to be part of the inventory of a pharamcy. Now they make for a wonderful display with flowers and all.

This looks like a watercolor of the city and would also make for a fabulous souvenir or gift.

More bright red Meestreech aprons - this time fashionably diplayed next to vintage cake plates, tea pots, doilies and cookie tins.

Limburgse Mergelblökskes, these are small white chocolate bricks that are meant to resemble the flint from the Sint-Pietersberg quarry outside the city. The boxes of chocolates are embellished with photos from the quarry (for more info on this amazing place, go here). Together with the Maastricht cookies (koekjes), some lovely tea bags (thee) and the famous Maastricht chocolate stars (sterretjes), they are part of this Christmas present package. While this was a ready-made gift package, the friendly owners will gladly wrap gifts and souvenirs according to your personal prefences and specifications.

A bright-red wooden Maastricht star which will certainly double as your Christmas decoration this time of year.

You can also buy copies of the Maastricht anthem (Mestreechs Volksleed). The lyrics of what has since 2002 become the official anthem of the city, were written in 1910 by Alphonse Olterdissen to the music composed by his brother Guus Olterdissen. It was originally the final chorus to the comic opera Trijn den Beguine.  

This place is a charming shop with a wonderful concept behind it. Combining the new, regional items with the traditional, vintage items is rather unique and makes this a must-see. No doubt.

Visiting different places and shopping at a variety of stores will provide you with the opportunity to gift the loved ones around you with true treasures - like these vintage Christmas glass ball ornaments that I bought a while back and used as props for my Elise Gingerbread Post (here).

So next time you happen to visit the fabulous city of Maastricht in the Netherlands, do make sure to drop by this incredibly lovely café and giftshop called "De Kiekoet" and, of course, you should not forget to tell the friendly owners that The Kitchen Lioness send you.

Kadowinkel in Maastricht
De Kiekoet
Heggestraat 5
6211 GW, Maastricht
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 43 325 3026