Sunday Snapshots: Feast Mode

Franconia, 2013

How many Krapfen is an acceptable amount to eat during the tastiest season of the year? I’ll let you know if I reach it…

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Amateur Hour Baking: Plätzchen Bonanza

The pre-Christmas weeks were the usual blur of finishing up classes for the year, meeting with friends at various Christmas markets in the area, and of course, baking. I wound up making no less than five sort of Plätzchen from Classic German Baking over the holiday weeks. As such, this post gets long… click on!

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50 Recipe Challenge: Part 5/5

~41. Roasted Garlic & Sweet Potato Polenta

I was eager for more polenta after the success and ease of the mushroom recipe, but this was was not as good. The sweet potato flavor was very mild, it was somewhat fiddly to do, and would benefit from pumping up the amount of garlic. By a lot (at least in this house).

~42. Rosinenschnecken (my recap post)

~43. Creamy Garlic Mushrooms

A fast and easy recipe, if not terribly exciting. An okay side dish though.

~44. Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I cannot believe I made these and ate them without a single picture. They were ridiculously good though, so I shall be making them again. The recipe calls for pumpkin puree, either canned or homemade, and my roasted Hokkaido I had in reserve did the job perfectly.

~45. Skillet Brownie with Chocolate Ganache

Look at that shine! Another hard YES, YES you should make this. I was slightly short on bitter chocolate, but had a bar of chili chocolate laying around so threw that in. The chili gave it a great little kick, plus the crunch of sea salt on top was to die for. The only flaw to this recipe was that since it’s a skillet brownie, it tied up my favorite and most-used pan for a day or two until I could get all of it out and onto another dish. Other than that, I cannot recommend it enough.

~46. Sausage Gravy

Sometimes Twitter is super useful. Like, when you ask for suggestions on what to make for your BV when he wants biscuits but doesn’t feel like Cauliflower Chowder to go with them. Thanks to the lovely Regensbloggers, who suggested that I give these two recipes a go. Definite winners (as were their biscuits, which I tried another day).

~47. Homemade Sausage Patties

Per the directions above, we just used this for the gravy rather than patties. But if I get a breakfast sausage craving, I’m going for it.

~48. Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

I don’t know when galettes became such a big thing, but I have pinned several of them lately. It’s possible that I just started noticing them after the lovely Cafe d’Azur in Nürnberg closed, meaning that I no longer could get a galette whenever the mood struck me. However, their galettes were more along the lines of a savory crepe, not a rustic tart like this one. Either way, I’m glad I’m no longer intimidated by crusts and pastries, because I’m never going back to not making my own galettes. Make this, and toss in some crushed garlic with the squash while it’s roasting. Win.

~49. German Pumpkin Soup

If a Sausage Has Two tells you to make something, you make it. End of story.

~50. Biberle (from Classic German Baking, recap to come)

These tiny gems were part of our annual Christmas cookie baking extravaganza this year and have been so popular that they will be going into the yearly rotation. A full Amateur Hour Baking: Plätzchen Edition will be coming soon…

 

Which brings us to the end. Almost. A few more new Plätzchen were tested out this year, so like I said, there will be a recap to come.

I’m quite pleased that I did make it to 50+ new recipes tested out. I’m debating if I want to try to do the same thing next year… since it seems that every day I come across at least one new recipe that sounds interesting or like something worth trying.

Meat is still a definite weak spot for me, and if you read through all 50 entries, you may have noticed it was a lot more vegetarian and baking-focused. I’m not a huge meat eater in general so I never feel confident that I’m doing something correctly, or that it tastes how it “should” taste. If I don’t think pork roast tastes good generally, how can I know if it’s right? Riddle me that.

So next year’s project is still TBD. I was lucky enough to receive Samin Nosrat’s gorgeous Salt Fat Acid Heat for Christmas this year, so I daresay that will give me some ideas as I make my way through it over the coming days.

And you? What was your favorite new food this year? 

50 Recipe Challenge: Part 4/5

Post-dating because I’m dumb at scheduling things sometimes…

~31. Spicy Peanut Stew with Ginger and Tomato

You can see a picture of this one in the ‘Brötchen’ post below. Stews are not the most photogenic things in the world, but it was fairly tasty. We would amp up the ginger on the next attempt,, but other than that the main flaw of this stew was that it made approximately one million dishes dirty. But lots of leftovers!

~32. Garlic Naan

Further comments on this one also in the Brötchen post…

~33. Brötchen (my recap post)

~34. Franzbrötchen (my recap post)

Nothing makes you feel more like a culinary genius than making something like this semi-successfully.

~35. “I Want Chocolate Cake” Cake

We didn’t have any buttermilk so I subbed in red wine per the suggestions in the recipe. I had a bit of trouble melting the chocolate so my frosting was a bit on the grainy side, but I was fairly okay with it. This was exactly the sort of ‘eat your feelings’ recipe that paired well with the news cycle of horrors back in September (don’t the Kavanaugh hearings seems like a thousand years ago?). If only.

~36. Linzertorte (my recap post)

Thought about making this one again for Christmas but as of now I think we’re sticking to Plätzchen and Glühwein for dessert with BV’s parents come here on the 24th. That’s enough… I hope.

~37. Oven Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms and Thyme

Oven polenta makes life so much easier, and this mushroom and herb combo is a piece of cake. I also tossed in some oregano and rosemary that we had in the fridge and that was a great choice.

~38. Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Skipped the recommended topping and was also slightly short on squash so threw in a few carrots instead. Not the most exciting soup in the world but fast and easy on a weeknight.

~39. Bremer Kürbisbrot (my recap post)

~40. Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad

The problem with a tahini dressing is that it tan and gloopy and makes this look much less appetizing than it is. A tad more color would help, but I skipped the red onions that the recipe calls for because raw red onions (and raw green onions) are my nemeses and they ruin everything. The first time I made this I threw in some shallots for color, and that worked well, but sadly I was out this time.

 

Next week, the final ten!

50 Recipe Challenge: Part 3/5

~21. Bruschetta

Leading off today’s list with one of the easiest things in the world that is incredibly delicious and I’m only slightly resentful that it took me until age 34 to bother making. Fresh, homemade bruschetta for life! And don’t skip on toasting the baguette in butter beforehand…

~22. Peaches & Tomatoes with Burrata

Speaking of fresh and easy, this was also a great choice. My only regret is that I don’t have a picture of it for this post, and that peaches are out of season so I can’t recreate it just yet.

~23. Crab Cakes with Tomatillo Mayo

Ah yes, the crab cake debacle of 2018. Before that though, I couldn’t find any tomatillos so instead used a mix of roasted green tomatoes and poblano peppers for that sauce. That was all well and good, because the crab was a bigger problem. I was struck with a craving for crab cakes on a random day off, and all I could find at our local Edeka was the mostly-fake fish sakami sticks, and tiny packages of crawfish. They did taste vaguely of crab/fish, but they weren’t ideal.

For the second attempt, I managed to find some canned crab for a slightly absurd  price of €8/tiny can in the fancy Karstadt food section. It was super wet and goopy, but with a bit of draining and a lot more of the bread crumbs/other cake filling, they were a better choice. I’m hoping that the cheaper cans that were recently sourced at our new Asian food store will improve my next round of cake improvisation!

~24. Watermelon Feta Mint Salad

Fast and easy. That is all.

~25. Peach Brie Strudel (my recap post)

~26. Flammkuchen Elsässer Art

This recipe has been one of the better things to happen to me this year. (Shout out to Christie!) It’s so much easier than I thought it was to bring a bit of the Alsace to our own kitchen, and I can’t even count how often we’ve made it. Usually I’ve stuck to the bacon and onion variety, but this picture was from a day when we went with bacon (as I still had some in the fridge),  plus mushrooms and Gruyere. Highly recommendable.

~27. Spiced Chickpeas with Crispy Pita, Yogurt & Brown Butter

You want to make this. That’s my advice to anyone reading this. And when the recipe says it serves four, believe it. That means that even though you want to eat more, and (in our case), will eat more of it very quickly, you will feel like you need someone to roll you around the house afterwards. It is FILLING. And so, so, good.

~28. Garlic Soup

I made this tonight, specifically because I get home late on Mondays, it only takes about 30 minutes to make, we had all the ingredients (besides the Vinschgauer bread) and I was short on pictures for this post. You are welcome.

~29. Apfel-Marzipan Kuchen (my recap post)

~30. Knerken (my recap post)

In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I may take another whack at those crab cakes later this week… check back and see if I add another picture!

Next week… 31-40!

50 Recipe Challenge: Part 2/5

Who’s hungry? I’m guessing nobody (at least nobody in Germany) because the Christmas markets are officially open over here which means that all of us are slowly but steadily turning our innards into grilled meats, bits of candied fruit from Lebkuchen, while our blood transforms into Glühwein. 

Things get out of hand this time of year. But if you’re looking to cook something, maybe numbers 11-20 will stoke your imagination…

~11. Zwiebelkuchen (my recap post)

~12. Rüblitorte (my recap post)

~13. Israeli Couscous Salad

I couldn’t find Israeli couscous anywhere, and that was after I learned that it was even a thing. Yeah… never heard of it before I made this recipe. I wound up substituting orzo and this was a great quick and easy salad. Also, it makes a ton!

~14. Coconut Chickpea Curry

Another super fast and easy recipe, great on a weeknight when you want something warm! Also it paired well with an Icelandic beer.

~15. Loaded Nachos

I don’t know how the nacho train got started, but once it started it got slightly out of hand. Instead of chili beans, I opted for black beans, and stuck to just cheddar cheese because God knows Monterey Jack does not exist in Germany. It’s perfect with football, but unless you’ve got a full party coming over, be smarter than us and cut the recipe in half! Or a quarter. Or risk food coma.

~16. Orzo Pasta Salad

We made this (again with the orzo, this time as directed) a few times for summer grill parties. I really liked it, especially after pumping up all the seasonings in the dressing.

~17. Lauchtorte (my recap post)

~18. Puddingkuchen mit Rhabarber & Himbeeren

After making multiple Rhabarberkuchen from Classic German Baking*, I switched it up after seeing someone mention this cake on twitter. I made it twice, with less rhubarb and strawberries on the first bake and raspberries on the second. BV looooves rhubarb, but preferred the standard rhubarb cake, sans pudding. We both liked this one but it was a touch too sweet for his taste.

~19. Greek Feta Spinach Burgers

I don’t eat lamb so we stuck to ground beef here. Additionally we used only about a third of what the recipe calls for and it was still a ton of meat/burger for only two people. They were okay but more trouble than I’d want on a regular basis.

~20. Crazy Good Quick Garlic Noodles

As the name says, these were crazy good and quick. Perfect for a weeknight after subbing out shallots for green onions because green onions ruin everything. That’s a fact.

 

Anyone else feeling like nachos? And stay tuned for 21-30 next week! 

*Didn’t post about those as it was one of the few recipes that I had tried out before this year.

 

Amateur Hour Baking: Rosinenschnecken

I think my brain is going into hibernation mode. I’ve been trying to remember what the impetus was for this bake and I cannot for the life of me remember why I decided I had to make these. I don’t think it had anything to do with the Bake Off, it wasn’t for any particular occasion besides Sunday, I really don’t know. But somehow, Rosinenschecken, or Raisin-Frangipane Spiral Buns, happened.

Having learned from my late start on the Franzbrötchen bake day, I started “bright and early” at about 9:30. This was not a great idea though, because I hadn’t yet finished my coffee, misread the directions, and wound up having to proof my yeast twice.

Good start.

These have the same Danish dough as the Franzbrötchen though, which meant that when I did get my yeast successfully proofed, it came together quite smoothly and I put my kneaded dough away to proof.

 

When the proofing had finished and I had successfully retrieved a baguette from the bakery for dinner (I’m not crazy enough to try those yet), I got back to work. I got out my snazzy new French rolling pin, and taking a cue from of the bakers on GBBO, proceeded to beat the crap out of my butter.

Turns out, doing that plus not being afraid to use too much flour, works SO MUCH BETTER. Pretty quickly, I had a fairly neat square of pastry, a fairly neat square of butter, and much less butter all over my work surface.

Last time I also had a bit of exposed butter in the middle of my pastry package, which caused sticky mess later. Not this time! We’re learning! Back into the fridge with you…

In between proofing, I got my raisins soaking. Personally, I’m a fan of raisins, but I don’t think it would kill the recipe to leave them out if you aren’t. I also added a cheeky splash or two of rum to the mix, which gave them a nice subtle taste after baking. Can recommend.

Dough, raisins, and also frangipane prepared, it was time to assemble.

I go for “fairly neat,” not exact.

A bit of spreading, sprinkling and rolling later, my rolls were ready for one last rest before baking.

 

Ta-da!

Check out those layers! But they look a little bare… perhaps a bit of apricot glaze will help…

Much better.

Now the recipe says to let these cool before serving, but let’s be real… who would do that? Not us, that’s for sure.

Typically when I’ve had these in a bakery, they’ve been filled with some sort of pudding rather than frangipane. I like those, but I liked these much better! If you’re not a marzipan person, you may disagree, but just whip up some pudding and use that instead. 🙂

They were still good the next day (cool, rather than reheated), but warm out of the oven was a great treat on a Sunday afternoon alongside a Caffè corretto. Clearly I’m dreaming of Italy again (but not via bus).

 

Feelings on Marzipan… ja oder nein?

 

Amateur Hour Baking: Bremer Kürbisbrot

With my confidence in yeast on an upswing, I’ve spent a lot of time lately thumbing through the Breads & Rolls section of Classic German Baking. Add that to the piles of assorted squash that are currently spilling off of tables at the supermarket and piled up in boxes at the roadside stands, and I had the perfect time to try out my first real loaf… a Bremer Kürbisbrot.

It’s a very basic bread dough, using canned squash for the flavoring. Since that’s naturally not a thing here, my first step was to roast up some chunks of butternut.

It’s been a butternut-heavy fall over here thus far. At the risk of BV actually turning into a pumpkin, I’ve also been freezing some Hokkaido puree to ration it out over the next few months.

The squash roasted, pureed, and cooled down, I got back to work.

Appetizing, no?

I quickly ran into a problem though.

I’ve now learned that instant yeast is basically useless without proofing it… what the package says be damned. But this recipe calls for nearly no liquid; only a bit of milk if your dough is too dry. Since I wouldn’t know whether or not that would be the case until I was a few minutes down the road, I opted to just warm a few splashes of milk and try to proof my yeast in that.

After a few minutes, it hadn’t appeared to do much of anything. In past attempts I’ve had bubbles, foam, some indication of activity. There was none of that, but I decided to forge ahead and see what happened. The rest of the dough came together quickly, and I got to kneading.

The oven was still a wee bit warm from roasting the squash, and made the perfect place to proof my dough. The first rest of two hours turned into three due to a long Skype appointment, after which I popped it out, punched it down, and put it back for another rest. Guess my worries about the inactive yeast were all for nothing!

Post-first-proof

Another hour later, a milk rinse, and she was ready for baking.

Bread baked, I tried my best to follow directions and let it mostly cool while we ate dinner. But our dinner wasn’t quite filling enough (though delicious), and we dove in afterwards. Luisa Weiss writes that it’s a decent alternative to cake, and BV would agree with her. I like my cakes a bit sweeter, but this was a very tasty bread.

The crust got a touch dark, but I’m very happy with how it turned out overall. The light sweetness paired really well with cheese, particularly fresh goat cheese with a dollop of BV’s pear compote on top.

Despite my best wrapping efforts, it got a bit dry after about three days, so next time we’ll have to try and eat it faster.  A bit more pear compote helped, but we can’t all be so lucky. 😉

I’ve been thinking about how to make this again, perhaps as some sort of crostini, for dinner on its own but am somewhat stumped for ideas. If you’ve got one for me, leave it in the comments!

Amateur Hour Baking: Linzertorte

Any idea what inspired this bake?

If you guessed Spice Week on The Great British Bake Off, you got it! After watching the episode, I flipped through Classic German Baking, sure that there had to be some sort of a ginger-heavy cake in there somewhere. I struck out, but I did come across a recipe for a Linzertorte, which is a spiced almond jam tart. I didn’t know anything else about it, but I thought it sounded like the perfect thing to make as summer fades into fall. I’ve also been thinking about possible options for this year’s Thanksgiving, and a wintry  spiced Linzertorte piqued my interest as a potential dessert option. I’ve never made a pie on Thanksgiving, but this sounded juuuust close enough. I suspect it was the latticework top that lured me in.

This was yet another long-game back. It started with hard-boiling eggs, as the recipe called for two hard-boiled yolks. I have never encountered this before, but a quick google tells me that it’s a trick to make everything more moist and crumbly. Sounds good, no?

I retrieved my butter from in front of the fire (winter problems… nothing comes to “room temperature” in our pantry from October-April), and mixed up the dry ingredients. Then it was time to sieve my egg yolks. A bit fussy, but cleaning the sieve afterwards was the worst part of this life hack.

Before long I had a very sticky mess of dough that desperately required chilling. Sadly the pantry isn’t *quite* cold enough for that, but I guess we could find room for it in the fridge.

While it was chilling, I threw together a new house favorite, Flammkuchen, and we popped open a bottle of Federweißer. It’s fall, after all!

Side note: if you’re looking for a tasty and easy recipe for Flammkuchen, this one courtesy of A Sausage Has Two’s Christie, is a winner. I’ve made it a LOT lately.

Here’s one from earlier this year.

Dinner eaten, I went back to the cake. I removed my dough from the fridge, and cut off a quarter of it that would be reserved for the latticework on top.

A note on the tin: this was a mistake. In the book, Weiss recommends using either 1) a cake pan lined with baking paper for easier removal or 2) a fluted tart pan. I went with the tart pan because pushing dough down into baking paper always makes me crazy. I also thought that it would be fairly easy to get out, given the removable bottom.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong.  But we’re not there yet.

The next step was the jam. Raspberry makes everything better.

With the bottom ready to go, I turned my attention to the top. Things got sticky.

The reserved dough was supposed to be rolled out, sliced into thin strips, and laid into the lattice pattern across the top. That… did not work. At all.

I probably should have stuck that reserved bit back into the fridge while I was working. The kitchen was already hot from the Flammkuchen, and at this point we’d had the fireplace going for a few hours. Rolling the dough out got very sticky and I decided pretty quickly that trying to get it all sliced, get those slices off the paper or the work surface and into a lattice was not going to happen.

Instead, I opted to roll out a bit, use a cookie cutter to cut out a piece or two as quickly as possible, work it back together, get it back into the fridge and repeat. In the end, I had a slightly awkward heart pattern.

The dough isn’t growing mold from how long this all took… that’s an egg white brush. No worries. My nerves shot, I shoved this baby into the oven, and returned to the couch and my Federweißer.

It wasn’t long before the house smelled decidedly Christmas-like.

We’d have to wait to find out if it tasted Christmas-like though. Per the recipe, the ideal resting time for this torte is three days.

You read that right. Three days.

I’ll assume Austrians* are not big fans of instant gratification. I really should have made some cookies along with it… but at least I had wine.

After cooling, BV had to help me pry it out of that tin. Next time, I’ll give the baking paper sling a shot because we could not get it off the bottom part of the tin without completely destroying the cake. So that went along as the cake was wrapped up in tinfoil and put out of sight until the weekend.

We finally wound up slicing into it with friends after a Saturday BBQ. It was far too dark for photos, but here’s one of the last, lonely slice.

Was it spicy? Yes. Was it moist? Yes. Was it crumbly in a highly positive way? Yes. I’m still undecided on whether this will be on the table after our Thanksgiving dinner, but I think I’ll give it at least one more bake before then to test out the other pan and try the lattice part again.

*This torte originates from Austria… hence the name.

Amateur Hour Baking: Franzbrötchen

Naan wasn’t the only thing inspired by bread week on GBBO. As someone with a deep and abiding love for waking up to the smell of Pillsbury rolls in the oven (even better if it’s the orange ones), I thought doing a Germanized version of the Chelsea bun might be a great idea. And it just so happened that Franzbrötchen had been one of the first things suggestions I got when I asked what recipes I should try out from Classic German Baking.

Luisa Weiss describes them as “a flaky, buttery cross between croissants and squashed cinnamon rolls.” Not exactly a Chelsea bun, but not completely far off… and exactly the sort of sweet snack that would travel perfectly. This was important, since we were leaving the following day to drive down to South Tyrol and I consider road snacks to be an integral part of the planning process. It was on.

The most important ingredient.

Side note: did anyone else grow up eating everything made with Crisco? Do you all get as much enjoyment as I do out of putting entire slabs of butter (slightly more than this block, in the case of Franzbrötchen) into their recipes?

Not only is yeast fairly new to me, I’m also a rookie when it comes to making pastry. I guess if you count Strudel dough as pastry, I’ve done that, but that is it. Frankly, pastry seems rather intimidating. And why would anyone bother to make it themselves when you can buy it frozen? In fact, when I googled “puff pastry” just now to find a description on Wikipedia, the first thing that comes up isn’t the Wiki page, but a page from Pepperidge Farm. What kind of weirdo makes their own pastry? Apparently today, this kind.

First up, the dough. I got my yeast going (still using fresh yeast today), and let it sit as required for half an hour.

The yeast well-rested and (hopefully, judging by the foam) activated, it was mixed in with the the buttery goodness in the large bowl. A mess of kneading later, I had a ball ready to rest for a few more hours.

A note on timing: pastry dough is not for the impatient. I started this business at about 11am and the first Franzbrötchen came out of the oven at about 5pm. It’s a commitment. Especially if you’re hungry.

Dough rested, it was time to roll. It’s not exactly a square but I was happy to have an awkward shape that was more or less the correct size. That was the easy part. Rolling out the butter proved much more difficult. I suspect I was still too conservative when it came to the liberal dusting of flour on the butter because I could not for the life of me keep it from sticking to my rolling pin, hence the torn mess. But I got it to again, more or less the correct size, and onto my dough.

A bit more dough origami, and my pastry package was ready for the fridge.

The goal of puff pastry is to create thin layers of dough, which meant several more rounds of rolling, folding, and chilling. At the end, I sliced into my final package, hoping and praying to the pastry Gods to see some sort of layers.

We have layers! Cue the trumpets!

Half of my roll went back to the fridge and I went back to rolling. Besides the butter squishing out of the cut end and making my mess even messier, that part went well. I had yet another awkward square that was more or less the correct size! Feel free to judge me for still defaulting to using the ‘inch’ size of the tape measure.

The dough was sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and rolled yet again.

The next step was a bit odd. It feels incredibly rude to squash this dough ruthlessly… but that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. I was far too gentle on my first few but in my defense, I’d been babying the hell out of this dough up to this point and generally it’s frowned upon to squish your baby. Luckily I got over it in the end.

The top right corner was where I started. I still think this looks weird, but the oven shall help!

By the time the oven timer went off, I was dying to stick one of these puppies directly into my mouth. BV on the other hand, had decided that it was finally time for him to get around to showering. That meant me dancing around the house in anticipation until he finally finished his toilette and joined me in the living room for a taste test.

Batch number one smelled like heaven. Batch number two was in, and it was finally time to eat. Thank goodness.

So warm, so flaky, so buttery. The sugar and cinnamon caramelize during the bake, making all those edges crispy and sweet and delicious. They were worth the wait for sure! I easily could’ve eaten at least two more that night, but we opted for restraint.

When the second batch came out, that decision got harder. I mean, look at these things!

Yes, I absolutely scooped up that cinnamon-sugary goodness that was left on the paper and ate it. We don’t leave sugar behind.

Germany on the other hand, we did. We had a date with South Tyrol… and our road snacks were a welcome addition. Here’s one of them admiring a rest stop parking area somewhere in Austria. Or Italy? I think Austria… don’t quote me.

After these yeast-related bakes, I’m happy to say that it doesn’t freak me out quite as much anymore. There’s no way it’s going to work every time, but I plan to try a lot more bakes with yeast. That’s what this whole thing is about, right?