Saturday, October 31, 2015

Gingerdead Men for a Happy Halloween!

For Halloween this year, why not bake these lovely little fellows. These cookies are a cinch to prepare and they smell wonderful while baking. Kids will love rolling out the dough, using a fun cookie cutter and icing to decorate these spooky yet cute Gingerdead Men for Halloween.

Gingerdead Men

(Yield: 16-18 cookies)

Ingredients for the gingerbread cookies
  • 380 grams (3 cups) all purpose (plain) wheat flour
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp  ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla sugar or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 170 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 205 grams (3/4 cup) molasses (I used sugar beet syrup from a regional producer called „Grafschafter“)
  • 2 tbsps milk (3.5%)

For the icing
  • some confectioners' sugar
  • a few tbsps milk or half and half
  • a few drops of pure vanilla extract (optional)

  1. In a food processor, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, baking soda, and vanilla until combined
  2. Add butter and mix.
  3. With food processor running, add molasses and milk and mix until dough is evenly moistened.
  4. Divide dough in half and roll each half out to 0.6 cm (¼ inch) thickness between two sheets of parchment paper.
  5. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight) or until the dough is firm.
  6. Once dough has been chilled, preheat your oven to 175 ° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit).
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Remove parchment paper from dough, stamp and cut out cookies using the Gingerdead Men cookie cutter or any other gingerbread men cookie cutter you have on hand. NOTE: while it is easier to cut when the dough is cool, you will get a better impression when the dough has softened slightly. To stamp cookies, dip both sides of the cutter into flour and tap off any excess. Using the stamp side, press it evenly into the dough until it is flush with the dough. Flip over the cutter, center it over the impression and press it down to cut out the shape. If the dough sticks to the cutter, just give it a couple taps.
  9. Place cut-outs on prepared baking sheet, leaving 2.5 cm (1 inch) of space in between cookies.
  10. Bake for about 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown
  11. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to completely cool.
  12. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking with remaining dough until used up
  13. While cookies are cooling, add confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract and milk to a bowl and whisk until you have a piping consistency.
  14. Then use a piping bag and tip to flood the icing into the "bone areas"
  15. Allow icing to harden, then store cookies in an airtight container.

Happy Baking and Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club - October Recipes

The month of October marks the eighteenth 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, entitled „River Cottage Everyday Veg".

One of the declared aims of our cooking group is to make a decided effort to use as much regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is reasonably possible.

This month I prepared seven of the ten designated recipes. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

My first recipe for this October post is the colorful Beetroot with walnut and cumin (page 113) from the chapter "Raw Assemblies“.

Instead of grating the raw beetroot and let it sit in the marinade for a good thirty minutes, I used thin slices and let them macerate for a good two hours before serving - I used two types of beets here - the chioggia beet aka the candy stripe beet as well as the red beets. Although the slices of beets sit in a lovely marinade of freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice, and receive a nice sprinkling of bashed local walnuts and toasted cumin seeds and a topping of fresh chives, they most definitely retain their deep earthy flavor. A very pretty, not-your-everyday-type of side dish or appetizer. Elegant and special.

For the second recipe this month I chose the Orecchiette with chickpeas and cavolo nero (page 261) from the chapter "Pasta & Rice". This recipe has become my go-to recipe for a rather quick and easy pasta dish. It is such a versatile base recipe with but a few good ingredients. 

This dish makes my home crowd extremely happy every time I prepare it. The first time I made this (you can take a look here), I used spring arugula and a fun-shaped pasta called "Ufo pasta". This time a used some Creste di gallo pasta from my Italian market, fresh spinach, chickpeas, banana shallots (this is the largest variety of shallots and slightly milder than other types of shallots). rose garlic (my favorite garlic) and a good pinch of freshly ground cumin. Nice flavors and I must say that pasta mixed with chickpeas and greens is also very satisfying, no additional grating of Parmigiano Reggiano required.

The third recipe that go my attention this month was the Porotos granados (page 146 ), from the chapter „Hefty Soups“. This traditional Chilean squash and bean stew is a rather hearty dish, perfect for this time of year. Other than an onion, garlic, Spanish sweet smoked paprika, fresh oregano, cannellini beans (in my case), homemade vegetable stock (page 130), a bay leaf from my garden, butternut squash, French beans, and corn, all you need is freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and a really good appetite.

Lots of veggies here and lots of color to please the eye - pure comfort-food in a bowl and a nice change from traditional heavy stews. It actually does gain from preparing it well in advance and giving the different flavors a chance to deepen and for the stew to thicken.

The fourth recipe has a very tasty Asian touch - nice for those fall veggies. Grilled aubergines with chili and honey (page 340) from the chapter "Roast, Grill & Barbecue" - this is a recipe that I had been looking forward to preparing for the longest time as the diversity in flavors seemed to be very appealing to me. And I was not disappointed.

The combination of peeled and grilled aubergine slices, local runny honey, lemon, chili and fresh thyme is very nice and full of contrasts that pleased my palate - next time I would love to serve this dish as part of an Asian inspired spread.

The fifth recipe was Garlic and caraway (fall) greens (page 372) from the chapter "Side Dishes". Another one of those very versatile and easy recipes that I so enjoy from this book, this time a side dish. And a variation of the Steamed veg with a hint of garlic that I prepared in June of last year using French beans, broccoli, freshly shelled peas, broad beans and green asparagus (you can take a look here).- how seasons can seriously change the appearance and taste of dish!

The greens I chose for my October version were Brussels sprouts and sweetheart cabbage, a seasonal, mild and tender cabbage that is wildly available at this time of year. We really liked both versions and I believe this would be also great with some left-over greens. 

Adding lightly bashed caraway seeds to your greens, especially cabbage, is said to aid digestion - we eat quite a bit of caraway around here (especially in Bavaria) but I do realize that it is somewhat of an acquired taste.

Recipe number six this month was the Basil and mozzarella tart (page 216) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers". If  you really need another argument why you should always make sure to keep some fresh or frozen good-quality ready-made puff pastry at the ready, than this tart is it.

Loaded with the well-known ingredients of an Insalata caprese, this tart really showcases that simple is often best. I have prepraed this recipe smore times than I can count. For the October line-up, I chose some deliciously tangy buffalo mozzarella, beefsteak tomatoes and fresh basil - heaven. And this tart works equally well with goat´s cheese, some type of blue cheese, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. And do not forget to have fun with the different herb options - use thyme or rosemary or even chives here - oh, the possibilities. For my goat´s cheese and thyme version of this tart, please take a look here. And for my mozzarella and thyme version, take a look here. As you probably guessed it, we are seriously addicted to this tart recipe.

Last but not least, the seventh recipe for the month of October was the Cauliflower and chickpea curry (page 27) from the chapter "Comfort Food & Feasts".

For this curry you should go the extra mile and use freshly ground spices, not a ready-made curry powder, although, of course, that is an option for this recipe. Add freshly grated ginger, ground coriander, cumin, dried chili, garam masala (typical ingredients for a garam masala are black peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cloves, brown cardamom, nutmeg, green cardamom). and some star anise and you will delighted with the depth of flavor that all these warm spices lend to this dish.

I decided to serve some basmati rice with yellow and black sesame seeds alongside - to make this a more substantial dish.

Then some oven-roasted chickpeas for some extra crunch and as a little nibble - not bad, if I may say so myself. 

In summary, another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – this month we were delighted to enjoy a number of hearty fall recipes, main courses as well as side dishes or appetizer) for lunch and dinner. What can possibly be better than to cook with seasonal ingredients even at this time of year.

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.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please visit here. They would all appreciate a visit!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Autumn Pear and Frangipane Toffee Tart - Herbstliche Birnen-Mandelcreme-Tarte

My readers often ask me where I get my inspiration from for my blog posts - that is a very good question. I would say that the current season always guides my decision making process but there are also a number of different events that influence me as well. There are those birthday parties, for kids great and small, school functions, invitations or regional agricultural fairs.
Oft werde ich gefragt, woher meine Inspirationen für meine Posts kommen – eine gute Frage. Meistens spielt natürlich die Jahreszeit eine Hauptrolle bei meinen Entscheidungen, aber auch besondere Ereignisse wie Geburtstagsfeiern für Große und Kleine, Schulfeste, Einladungen oder Feste in der Region beeinflussen die Wahl meiner Rezepte.

For example, last weekend we visited the lovely town of "Gelsdorf" and attended the local agricultural fair there. Every third weekend in October, about 20 of the local merchants and farmers present their businesses and farms to the visiting public. This year it was the 20. anniversary of the fair and there were countless visitors who were interested to learn all about the local agricultural businesses, many of them fruit growers.
Wie zum Beispiel letztes Wochenende, als wir in der Grafschaft Gelsdorf zum „Tag der offenen Betriebe und Höfe“ gegangen sind. Am dritten Wochenende im Oktober präsentierten sich etwa 20 Höfe und Betriebe in der Grafschaft-Gelsdorf und stellten sich und ihre Arbeit vor, dieses Jahr zum 20 Mal. In Gelsdorf mit seinen 1423 Einwohnern gibt es viele alte Bauernhöfe, die meisten davon sind Obstbauern.

During the two-day event, the visitors were treated to a number of different attractions such as the vintage tractor show or a carriage drive. The particpants are always fruit growers, cattle breeders and craftsmen from the region that display their talents and wares in barns, stables, farms and halls. They organize rustic restaurants, tasting tables, and sales points. The participants always include a well-known producer of molasses and syrups (Grafschafter Krautfabrik), a basket weaver from a a small Eifel town (Hans-Jürgen Held), a cloth weaver from the city of Bonn (Gertrud Ring), a restaurant that specializes in game (Jagdhaus Rech), and a goat cheese maker (Hofkäserei aus Peppenhoven). There were also beautiful handcrafted autumn wreaths and plants for sale as well as seasonal jam, jellies, and fresh fruit juices. You could also visit a local beekeeper or shop for freshly baked breads.
Während der zwei Tage konnten die zahlreichen Besucher wieder Traktor-Oldtimer bei ihren Touren durch die Straßen bewundern, oder an Kutschfahrten teilnehmen. Die Veranstalter sind immer die Obstbauern, Viehzüchtern, Handwerkern aus der Gegend, die in Scheunen, Ställen, Höfen und Hallen rustikale Restaurants, Probierstände und Verkaufsstellen errichteten. Stände etwa mit Produkten der Grafschafter Krautfabrik in Meckenheim, des Korbflechters Hans-Jürgen Held aus der Eifel,  den Webarbeiten der Bonnerin Gertrud Ring, des Jagdhaus Rech mit seinen Wildspezialitäten oder der Hofkäserei aus Peppenhoven. Es gab herbstliche Blumenkränze, ein Landfrauen-Café, Marmeladen, Säfte und Honig, Stockbrot-Rösten, oder man konnte den Chicorée-Treibbetrieb besuchen.

During our visit I paid particular attention to the displays of the fruit growers and their wooden crates that were filled to the brim with ripe fruits - such as incredibly delicious pears and apples. I happily taste tested my way through a number of different varieties of pears and decided to buy a big bag of the so-called "Conference pears" that are very fragrant yet firm enough for baking. Back at home I baked a wonderful tart, the Autumn Pear and Frangipane Toffee Tart that was inspired by a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall´s „River Cottage Fruit Everyday!“ This tart has a crumbly shortcrust pastry, a wonderful fragipane filling (almond cream) and some lovely slices of pear that are pre-cooked in good butter, vanilla and cinnamon. To top things off, almond slivers are added  for additional texture and natural sweet flavor. A true dream of a dessert!

You could not ask for better or more delicious inspirations than those lovely regional and seasonal pears and Hugh´s recipe!
Aber mein Augenmerk während meines Besuchs galt hauptsächlich den prall gefüllten Obstkisten bei den Obstbauern und insbesondere den verschiedenen Sorten von Birnen, durch die ich mich genüsslich probiert habe. Ich habe mich dann für die leckere Backbirne "Conference" entschieden und mich zu Hause direkt ans Werk gemacht. Dabei ist eine wunderbar herbstliche Birnen-Mandelcreme-Tarte zu entstanden. Inspiriert von einem Rezept aus Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall´s „River Cottage Fruit Everyday!“ – mit einem rustikalen Mürbeteig, der mit einer wunderbaren Mandelcreme und in Butter, Vanille und Zimt angedünsteten Birnenspalten gefüllt ist und zum Schluß mit süßen Mandelsplittern abgerundet wird – ein wahrer Traum. Wer möchte, kann die Butter, in denen die Birnen gedünstet werden zu einer warmen Karamell-Sauce einkochen und zu der Tarte servieren.

Mehr wunderbare Inspirationen als diese regionalen und saisonalen Birnen und Hugh´s Rezept geht nicht!

Pear and Frangipane Toffee Tart
(inspired by a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s "River Cottage Fruit Everyday!")


For the sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 250 grams plain wheat (AP) flour
  • 25 grams icing sugar
  • a pinch of fine sea salt (1/2 tsp)
  • 150 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk (L), free reange or organic, beaten
  • about 50ml cold milk or cold water
For the pears
  • 4 barely-ripe pears, firm, baking pears, preferably a regional variety
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbs demerara sugar
  • slithered almonds
For the frangipane
  • 75 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 75 grams caster sugar (super fine baking sugar)
  • 1 egg (L), free range or organic,  lightly beaten
  • 20 grams plain wheat (AP) flour
  • 75 grams natural ground almonds
  • a dash of vanilla extract or 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla sugar
Birnen-Mandelcreme Tarte
(inspiriert von einem Rezept aus Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall`s "River Cottage Fruit Everyday!")


Für den Mürbeteig
  • 250 g Weizenmehl Type 405
  • 25 g Puderzucker
  • eine gute Prise feines Meersalz (1/2 TL)
  • 150 g sehr kalte Butter, in kleine Würfel geschnitten
  • 1 Eigelb (L), Freiland oder Bio wenn möglich
  • zirka 50 ml kalte Milch oder kaltes Wasser
Für die Birnen
  • 4 Birnen, zum Backen geeignet, fest aber reif (wie z.Bsp. „Conference“)
  • 50 g ungesalzene Butter
  • 2 EL brauner Zucker
  • 1 EL Demerara Zucker
  • Mandelstifte
Für die Mandelcreme („Fragipane“)
  • 75 g ungesalzene Butter, Zimmertemperatur
  • 75 g feinster Backzucker
  • 1 Ei (L),  Freiland oder Bio, gerührt
  • 20 g Weizenmehl Type 405
  • 75 g Mandeln, gemahlen
  • einige Tropfen natürliche Vaniile oder 1 ½ TL Bourbon-Vanillezucker

  1. To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and blitz briefly to combine. Add the butter and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Or you can rub the butter into the flour/icing sugar in a bowl, using your fingertips.
  2. Add the egg yolk and enough milk to bring the dough together in large clumps. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly into a disk. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. For the pears, peel, quarter and core the pears, then slice each quarter lengthways in two. Heat the butter and brown sugar together in a frying pan over a medium heat and, when bubbling, add the pears. Cook gently for a few minutes, until the pears are just tender and bubbling in a toffeeish sauce. Drain the pears in a sieve over a bowl, retaining all the sauce. Allow to cool. Set the sauce aside.
  4. For the frangipane mixture, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until fluffy. Add the egg, flour, ground almonds and vanilla and beat well until evenly combined.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (380° F) and grease and flour your tart pan or line with baking parchment.
  6. Roll out the pastry and place in the prepared tart pan.
  7. Spread the frangipane mixture over the pastry. Arrange the cooked pears over the frangipane, then sprinkle with the demerara sugar and slithered almonds.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown at the edges. Check afetr about 25 minutes, if the tart is browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  9. Allow the tart to cool for 10 minutes or so before serving. Meanwhile, warm the toffee sauce through, stirring well to re-emulsify if it has separated slightly.
  10. Serve slices of the warm tart, with a generous trickle of the warm toffee sauce.
  1. Für den Mürbeteig Mehl, Puderzucker, Salz abmessen und in die Küchenmaschine geben. Die Butter hinzufügen und kurz durchmixen. Oder die Butter mit den Fingerspitzen grob ins Mehlgemisch einarbeiten.
  2. Das Eigelb und ausreichend kalte Milch zu dem Teig gegen und kurz mischen bis alles so eben vermengt ist. Den Teig auf eine leicht bemehlte Arbeitsfläche geben und schnell – damit die Butter nicht weich wird – zu einer Scheibe formen. In Klarsichtfolie wickeln und für mindestens 30 Minuten in den Kühlschrank legen. Der Teig muss gut durchgekühlt sein, damit er sich gut ausrollen lässt.
  3. Für die Birnen die Birnen schälen, vierteln, dann Kerngehäuse entfernen und in Achtel schneiden. Die Butter und den braunen Zucker in einem mittleren Stielpfanne erwärmen und sobald die Butter schäumt, die Birnenspalten hinein geben. Die Birnen bei mittlerer Temperatur nur solange erwärmen, bis die Butter eine karamellartige Konsistenz hat. Dann die Birnen durch ein Sieb geben und dabei die Sauce auffangen. Abkühlen lassen und beiseite stellen.
  4. Für die Mandelcreme alle Zutaten abmessen. Die Butter und den Zucker und Vanillezucker cremig schlagen. Das Ei hinzufügen und gut durchschlagen. Dann erst die gemahlenen Mandeln. Wenn alles gut vermengt ist, vorsichtig das Mehl unterrühren.
  5. Nachdem der Teig gekühlt wurde, den Backofen auf 200°C (Umluft: 180°C) vorheizen und die Tarteform einfetten und melieren oder mit Backpapier auslegen.
  6. Den Teig auf der leicht bemehlten Arbeitsfläche ausrollen.
  7. Die Mandelcreme einfüllen und mit Birnenspalten belegen, mit dem Demerara Zucker und den Mandelstiften bestreuen.
  8. 35-40 Minuten backen. Nach 25 Minuten die Farbe überprüfen. Wenn die Kruste oder die Füllung zu dunkel werden, die Tarte für die restliche Backzeit mit etwas Alufolie abdecken. Die Tarte ist fertig, wenn sie goldbraun sind.
  9. Die Tarte 10 Minuten erkalten lassen. Und in der Zwischenzeit die Karamell-Sauce leicht erwärmen und zu der Tarte servieren.

NOTE: in order to get a really flaky and delicious shortcrust pastry, make sure that your  cut your butter into small cubes and that your milk (or water) are icy cold.
TIPP: Um einen richtig schönen mürben Boden zu bekommen, schneide ich die Butter immer in kleine Würfel und versichere mich, dass sowohl die Butter als auch die Milch (oder das Wasser) eiskalt sind.

For more information about some of the participating businesses:
Grafschafter Krautfabrik Josef Schmitz KG
Theo Münch, Chicorée-Treibbetrieb
Obsthof und Safterei Sonntag
Obsthof Peter Schöneseiffen
Thomas und Franz-Josef Gerharz mit Limousin-Fleischrinderzucht
Bio-Obsthof Johannes Nachtwey
Obsthof Schweinheim-Brünagel
Für mehr Informationen über einige der ausstellenden Betriebe:
Grafschafter Krautfabrik Josef Schmitz KG
Theo Münch, Chicorée-Treibbetrieb
Obsthof und Safterei Sonntag
Obsthof Peter Schöneseiffen;
Thomas und Franz-Josef Gerharz mit Limousin-Fleischrinderzucht
Bio-Obsthof Johannes Nachtwey
Obsthof Schweinheim-Brünagel

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Traditional Cinnamon-Sugar Pastries from Hamburg - Hamburger "Franzbrötchen"

The so-called  "Franzbrötchen" can be found in just about every bakery in the incredibly picturesque city of Hamburg that we visited last week for a few days. Traditionally, lots of good butter, cinnamon and sugar are the main ingredients of this popular pastry. During our stay in Hamburg we happily tasted our way through many not so traditional varieties of these Franzbrötchen - there were some with Styrian pumkin seeds, rum-soaked raisins, buttery streusel, dark chocolate, nuts and even apples. As much as we enjoyed different varieties, we fell head over heels in love with the traditional cinnamon-sugar variety
Das sogenannte Franzbrötchen darf im Sortiment keiner Hamburger Bäckerei fehlen. Reichlich Zimt und Zucker sind die wichtigsten Zutaten des beliebten Gebäcks, das traditionell aus Plunderteig gebacken wird und das wir während unseres Besuchs letzte Woche aber auch in Variationen mit Kürbiskernen, Rosinen, Butterstreuseln, dunkler Schokolade, gehackten Nüssen oder auch Apfelstückchen gesehen und auch probiert haben. Ein Plunderteig ist ja bekanntlich ein kalt bearbeiteter Hefeteig, der mit Butterschichten, ähnlich wie ein Blätterteig vor dem Verarbeiten mehrmals gefaltet wird.

The Franzbrötchen is a speciality from the city of Hamburg. And as such it is a rather well-loved treat there for breakfast as well as an afternoon snack. Generally, you will not be able to find it in bakeries in other parts of Germany.

The typical twisted shape of the Franzbrötchen was developed only a few decades ago - those lovely cinnamon-sugar pastries used to be of a rather crumpled-up shape of sorts. 
Das Franzbrötchen ist eine typisch Hamburger Spezialität, in anderen Regionen Deutschlands ist das süße Gebäck, das den Hanseaten zum Frühstück oder als Snack für zwischendurch fast unverzichtbar erscheint, fast unbekannt.

Die typische gedrehte Form hat sich beim Franzbrötchen erst seit einigen Jahrzehnten durchgesetzt denn traditionell besaß der Zimtplunder eine knautschige, gedrückte Form.

The origins of the Franzbrötchen are not really known. Hailing from Hamburg, these spiralled breads are the German cousins of the French croissant, literally.  The name “franzbrötchen” translates to “little French breads”, and the parallels are obvious.  Both are flaky Viennoiserie, made with dough laminated with butter, and shaped by rolling up the dough into a spiral. However, where the French are perfectly content to let their pastry speak for itself, we prefer to add a bit of warm spice to ours, namely cinnamon.

Be that as it may, when you bite into one of these pastries, you are sure to forget all about the historic roots. It is said that the Franzbrötchen cause serious "pastry cravings" amongst ex-citizens of the city of Hamburg. Upon their return to their hometown, the first thing that they will do, is visit a Hamburg bakery and enjoy fresh Franzbrötchen there. Talk about an iconic pastry!
Der Ursprung des Franzbrötchens ist bis heute nicht geklärt. Eine Theorie besagt, dass die Hamburger Bäcker während der französischen Besatzungszeit im 19. Jahrhundert anfingen, nach französischer Art weißes Baguettebrot zu backen, sogenanntes „Franzbrot“. Einer kam auf die Idee, das Brot in der Pfanne mit Zimt und Zucker zu braten und erfand so das Franzbrötchen. Einer anderen These zufolge ist das Gebäck eine Erfindung einer Bäckerei, die um 1825 im damals noch zu Dänemark gehörenden Altona ansässig war - ihr Name: "Franz'scher Bäcker". Wieder andere vermuten, dass sich die Hamburger Bäcker von den skandinavischen Zimtschnecken inspirieren ließen.

Doch egal, wer das Franzbrötchen wirklich erfand: Für so manchen Exil-Hamburger ist es ein wahres Sehnsuchtsgebäck. Kehren sie zurück in die Hansestadt, führt sie ihr erstes Gang zum Bäcker um Franzbrötchen zu genießen..


Ingredients for the Dough
  • 500 grams wheat flour
  • 42 grams fresh yeast (yeast cake)
  • 70 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 70 grams superfine (caster) sugar
  • a good pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (organic, please)
  • 1/4 l milk (3.5%)
Ingredients for the Filling
  • 200 grams unsalted butter (cold) to laminate the dough
  • 200 grams superfine (caster) sugar
  • 2 tsps Ceylon cinnamon
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla sugar
In addition
  • some flour for your work surface
  • 2 cookie/baking sheets
  • 2 sheets baking parchment 

Zutaten für den Teig
  • 500 g Weizenmehl, Type 550
  • 1 Paket Frischhefe (42 g)
  • 70 g Butter (weich)
  • 70 g feinster Zucker
  • eine gute Prise feines Meersalz
  • 1 Tl abgeriebene Zitronenschale (unbehandelt)
  • 1/4 l Milch, warm (3,5% Fett)
Zutaten für die Füllung
  • 200 g Butter (gekühlt) zum Tourieren
  • 200 g feinster  Zucker
  • 2 TL Ceylon Zimt
  • 2 TL Bourbon Vanille-Zucker
  • Mehl zum Bearbeiten des Plunderteigs
  • 2 Backbleche
  • 2 Bogen Backpapier 

  1. To a large bowl add the flour, form a well in the middle of the flour, add the crumbled up fresh yeast to the well.
  2. Add the soft butter, sugar, salt and grated lemon zest to the flour at the rim of the bowl and pour the warmed milk over the crumbled yeast.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together using either a stand or hand mixer with a dough hook attachment.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl and be slightly shiny but not sticky. Dust with a bit of flour, cover and leave in a warm place for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a recatangle about 30 x 25 cm. Using a sharp knife, cut the chilled butter into thin slices and arrange them on one side of the rolled-out dough, then fold the other half over the dough and tuck the corners under the dough.
  5. Now roll the dough out to a rectangle again, this time about 50 x 30 cm. Then tri-fold the dough, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.
  6. Now roll the dough out to a rectangle about 80 x 40 cm in size, brush the entire surface with water. Mix together the sugar, cinnamon and the vanilla sugar and sprinkle evenly over the surface of the dough. Starting with one long edge, roll the dough up tightly, jelly-roll style, into a log. Pinch the seam to seal the edge and turn the log so the seam-side is down, then cut the log into 4 cm wide pieces.
  7. Press the floured handle of a wooden spoon firmly into the top of each piece, all the way down to the counter, so that the spiralled sides flare out on either side of the handle.
  8. Transfer each piece to the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pieces. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 15 -20 minutes, or until puffy and slightly risen. Keep one baking sheet in a warm spot, the other in a colder spot. First bake the risen pastry and once they are baked, bake the ones you kept in the cooler spot. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) in the middle of the oven, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until well-browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
  1. Mehl in eine Schüssel geben, in die Mitte eine Mulde drücken und die Hefe hineinkrümeln. 
  2. Weiche Butter, Zucker, 1 Prise Salz und Zitronenschale auf dem Mehlrand verteilen. Milch erwärmen und über die Hefe gießen. 
  3. Alle Zutaten von der Mitte aus mit den Händen oder mit den Knethaken des Handrührers verkneten und so lange durcharbeiten, bis sich der Teig vom Schlüsselrand löst. Mit Mehl bestäuben und zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort 15-20 Minuten gehen lassen.
  4. Den Teig auf einer bemehlten Arbeitsfläche zu einem Rechteck von 30 x 25 cm ausrollen. Mit einem scharfen Messer die kalte Butter in dünne Scheiben schneiden und eine Teighälfte damit belegen. Die andere Teighälfte darüberschlagen, die Kanten zusammendrücken und unter das Teigstück schieben.
  5. Jetzt das Teigstück zu einem Rechteck von 50 x 30 cm ausrollen. Von der Schmalseite her ein Drittel zur Mitte hin einschlagen und das letzte Drittel darüberklappen, so dass drei Teigschichten übereinanderliegen. 15 Minuten kühl stellen.
  6. Zucker, Zimt und Vanille-Zucker mischen. Das Teigstück zu einem Rechteck von 80 x 40 cm ausrollen, mit etwas Wasser bestreichen und mit dem Zimt-Vanille-Zucker bestreuen. Das Teigstück von der Längsseite her zu einer ca. 6 cm breiten abgeflachten Rolle aufrollen und in ca. 4 cm breite Stücke schneiden (dabei soll die Nahtstelle unten liegen).
  7. Mit einem Kochlöffelstiel Stücke in der Mitte parallel zu den Schnittflächen kräftig eindrücken.
  8. Franzbrötchen auf zwei Backbleche setzen, zudecken und 15-20 Minuten gehen lassen (ein Blech an einem warmen, das andere an einem kühlen Ort). Zuerst die Brötchen auf dem ersten, dann die auf dem zweiten Blech im vorgeheizten Backofen auf der 2. Einschubleiste von unten 20-25 Minuten bei 200 Grad backen. Auf einem Kuchenrost erkalten lassen.

Moist, sweet and utterly addictive, with a heavenly crunch and still soft and buttery with a distinct cinnamony taste - Hamburg franzbrötchen are truly sublime!

One thing is for sure, travelling 862 kilometers from Bonn where we live (BN) to Hamburg (HH) and back is certainly worth the ride, if you get to taste those lovely Northern German pastries during your travels!
Saftig, süß und süchtig machend, herrlich knusprig, zart-buttrig in der Krume und ein feines Zimtaroma- Hamburger Franzbrötchen - Einfach nur grandios!

Und auf jeden Fall machen die leckeren Franzbrötchen die 862 Kilometer weite Reise von Bonn (BN) nach Hamburg (HH) und wieder zurück noch lohnenswerter, als sie ohnehin schon ist.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BBQ Competition - Die Grill-Giganten

After having mastered the semi-finals in the city of Essen at the end of July (see my blog post HERE) – the women´s team took part in the finals of the bbq cooking competition in the city of Hamburg last Saturday. The competition took place as part of the eat&STYLE food fair and we are rather proud to have won the title of best bbq grilling team in Germany.
Nach dem Halb-Finale am 31. Juli in Essen (siehe auch meinen Blog Eintrag HIER) – ging es am letzten Samstag im Finale der Grill-Giganten in Hamburg, welches im Rahmen der eat&STYLE stattfand, ums Ganze. Unser Damen-Team hat sich erfolgreich als Sieger-Team mit einem festlichen Weihnachtsmenü vom Grill an die Spitze gegrillt. 

Our seasonal winning menu was created around the theme for the competition, „festive grilling“. As a first course we prepared „Marinated salmon steaks with winter ratatouille“ (which included turnip, parsnip, carrots, sweet potato, and butternut squash) and a "Jerusalem artichoke soup with hazelnut-arugula pesto" (using the hazelnut oil from my favorite local oil mill in Bonn). The main course was „Saddle of venison with an orange-rosehip sauce and a side of potato towers with mushroom ragout“ and the crowning finale was our dessertBrownies with vanilla ice cream and stewed plums“.

Many thanks to all those who participated in the competition with such dedication and enthusiasm!
So gab es als VorspeiseMarinierte Lachskoteletts an Winter-Ratatouille“ (mit Steckrübe, Pastinake, Möhre, Süßkartoffel und Butternut-Kürbis) und ein „Topinambursüppchen mit Haselnuss-Rauken-Pesto“ (natürlich mit dem unvergleichlichen Haselnuss-Öl aus der Bonner Oelmanufaktur), als Hauptgang dann „Gratinierter Rehrücken mit Orangen-Hagebutten-Sauce und Kartoffeltürmchen mit Pilzragout“ (mit einer Mandel-Honig-Kruste und zum krönenden Abschluss als NachtischBrownies mit Blitzvanilleeis an Zwetschgenkompott mit Zimt“.

Herzlichen Dank an alle Beteiligten – es hat unglaublich viel Spaß gemacht und war eine unvergessliche Erfahrung!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Poffert" - A Dutch Coffee Cake

The Dutch poffert is a bread-like coffee cake often in the shape of a turban. It should not to be confused with poffertjes, the mini Dutch pancakes (take a look at my poffertjes post here). The original recipe hails from the Dutch province of Groningen. Groningen boasts an extremely rich culinary tradition that features a large range of typical regional products and recipes, often with catchy names, such as this "poffert".

A traditional poffert is prepared from self-raising flour, currants, raisins, candied peel, whole milk, eggs, butter and little sugar and cooked in a special poffert trommel (poffert drum) in a water bath or bain marie. It is usually eaten in fall and winter with good-quality butter and either applestroop (Dutch apple syrup - spreadable like a thick molasses, made from reducing apple juice with other sugars) or so-called keukenstroop (a sweet sugar syrup that the Dutch eat instead of maple syrup). A delicious tradition with definite retro charm.

A hot-water bath, classically called a bain-marie, is a simple and effective way to protect delicate foods–puddings, custards, some cakes–from the hot, dry heat of the stovetop or oven. This ensures they will emerge moist, tender and, in the case of custards, uncracked. The poffert trommelpudding mold or other container holding the food is simply placed in a larger container, and boiling water is poured into the larger container to come halfway up the sides of the mold, creating an insulating layer of water to moderate the heat.

Dutch Coffee Cake - "Poffert"

Ingredients for the Poffert
  • 60 grams raisins 
  • 60 grams currants
  • 100 ml warm apple juice OR strong, freshly-brewed tea (preferably loose leaf)
  • 250 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, self-rising, plus some for flouring the mold
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the mold, at room temperature
  • 100 grams superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 1 1/1 tsps. pure vanilla sugar 
  • 3 eggs (M), organic or free range
  • 1 red skinned apple (M), preferably a regional baking apple
  • boiling water, as needed

  1. Generously butter the inside of your poffert or steamed pudding mold (1000 ml), including the lid. Make sure that the bottom of the mold is especially well buttered. Dust the mold and lid with either flour or fine bread crumbs, shaking out the excess.
  2. In a medium glass bowl, combine the raisins and currants, add warmed apple cider OR freshly brewed black tea and let stand while preparing the batter or, better, let soak for about 30 minutes prior to getting started.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, and vanilla sugar.
  5. To the butter mixture, add the eggs, one at a time.
  6. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  7. Drain the soaked dried fruits and keep the soaking liquid.
  8. Add the apple juice OR tea soaking liquid (start with about 50 ml and add more as needed) to the batter and stir. NOTE: You should have a batter with a good dropping consistency. If not, stir in a little more liquid to loosen it.
  9. Fold in the raisins and currants. Then grate the apple (with skin on) and fold into the batter as well.
  10. Spoon the mixture into the prepared mold and cover with the lid.
  11. Place the mold on a wire rack inside a large, heavy pot and add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the mold, creating a hot-water bath. Place the pot over medium-low heat, cover the pot and cook, adding more boiling water as needed to maintain the original level, until the poffert pulls away from the sides of the mold and a knife inserted at the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
  12. Transfer the mold to a wire rack. Uncover and let the pudding rest in the mold for 15 minutes. Invert onto a pretty plate. 
  13. Cut into wedges and serve warm, accompanied with the best butter you can get your hands on (how about that fresh butter from the farm) and homemade jam, local honey or go Dutch with apple stroop and keukenstroop (available in the Netherlands AND online, of course) or even some cinnamon sugar!

In the Netherlands, the poffert is also referred to as trommelkoek (tin cake) or ketelkoek (kettle cake) and is often enjoyed as a meal in itself rather than dessert or a cake.

Apparently, the first mention of a poffert is a Frisian cookbook, called "De Welkokende Vriesche Keukenmeid", which dates back all the way to 1772. The poffert is said to be "very suitable for travelling", meaning that the original recipe certainly travelled well and kept well for a number of days.

There is quite the range of recipes out there for poffert, some calling for the addition of rosewater, some call for yeast, some call for lining the pudding mold with strips of bacon (that would be rib-sticking goodness) - other recipes call for dried apricots or dried figs - but no matter which recipe you decide to follow, they all have an idea in common - namely that the poffert is meant to be served as a meal, especially since the recipe does not involve a lot of sugar.Therefore, you can liberally add syrup, butter or cinnamon sugar to dip your heavenly slice of poffert into.

And if you do not own a poffert baking mold or poffert trommel, you can always use a steamed pudding mold with lid, a bundt or angel food pan and cover the top with parchment paper-lined aluminium foil.

For a spicier, richer poffert, soak the currants and raisins in four tablespoons of rum or cider brandy for several hours or overnight, and stir these into the mixture before you transfer it to the baking mold. Or, do as I did and "go local" with this Dutch treat: I brewed a very strong tea with my favorite autumn tea from my local tea merchant and soaked the dried fruits for 30 minutes in the warm tea. Then instead of adding juice to the batter, I added some of the tea soaking liquid to the batter.

If the autumn weather is getting you down or you are feeling grey or sad, I am certain this poffert or steamed raisin cake will put you right in no time at all.  It takes moments to prepare, will steam away happily all by itself without needing attention, and is the ultimate in comfort foods.

Soaking the dried fruits (raisins and currants) in a good, loose-leaf tea and adding some of that soaking liquid to the cake batter, will not only impart a wonderful slightly spicy flavor to your poffert, but also add a nice bit of color to the steamed cake - very fall like, albeit not traditional.

The tea I used goes by the very catchy name of "Karl-Heinz, der Herbsttee®" ( Karl-Heinz, the Autumn Tea™). It is a mix of black teas from Ceylon, China and India as well as cinnamon, orange peel, lemon peel, star anise, anis, fennel and cloves. For more information, in German go here  and in English please go here - my favorite tea merchant "Tee Gschwendner" will ship worldwide.

And while you enjoy another Dutch treat, please remember to let me know how much you liked it!