Amateur Hour Baking: A Tale of Two Strudels

It seems that many of us have taken to the kitchen more than usual in these strange, Covid quarantine days. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time cooking, trying out new things, and cleaning up the kitchen nearly non-stop.

The first weekend in, I spent in a South Tyrol-influenced bakeathon. Like many of social media accounts, the official ST Instagram account has switched over from “come visit us!” posts to, “stay home and experience South Tyrol through pictures and food until you can come visit us at some indeterminate point of time in the future!” posts. For the best, of course, but it did lead us into the dangerous territory of too much dessert.

When this recipe for Apfelstrudel popped up in my feed, I immediately grabbed a screenshot and decided it was time to give Strudel another shot. It’s been ages since I made the peach brie variety, and making a decent Strudel is undoubtedly a life goal I aim to accomplish. To the kitchen!

I began by whipping together my dough. About halfway through, it occurred to me to check and see what I had done last time, following the Classic German Baking method. This pastry dough was completely different to that one, but as my bowl was already chock full of butter and such, I pressed on.

I had started with butter that was already quite soft, so my dough was as well. It was less kneading, more mixing, but I hoped that some time in the fridge would firm it up well enough.

While that was in the fridge, I got to work on the filling. Naturally the recommended apples for this recipe would come from South Tyrol itself, but we settled for German apples of unknown origins, because the little signs at our local Tante-Emma-Laden are less than legible. I whipped together the apples, whatever quantity of pine nuts we still had, and threw in some cranberries as raisins were nowhere to be found in the drawer.

Filling prepared, I pulled the pastry dough out of the refrigerator and got to rolling. It was… slightly firmer but it quickly became apparent that I should have mixed the butter and sugar a bit better before throwing in the other ingredients. Besides a dollop or two of butter in my rolled-out pastry, it was still entirely too soft and I soon realized that there was no way to get it any thinner while also being able to fold it over the filling.

Finally I did get it rolled out to approximately the size recommended in the recipe, 25x35cm, and started to pour on the apple mixture. A problem quickly became apparent.

After reconsulting CGB, I think there may have been a slight conversion error. All the recipes in that book recommend closer to 25×35 inches, not centimeters. But even if I hadn’t already piled my apples on, there was no way that my sticky, sticky dough was going to get that big. Not a chance. So what to do? Call it a tart!

The filling was good, and the pastry itself was quite good. Of course it was too thick for the filling where I had folded it over, but I was in general pleased with the flavor.

But I still had nearly half the filling and what to do with that? I considered a few options, but in the end, I decided that I did not want to be defeated by this damn Strudel. I could have just gone on with the CGB pastry recipe, but I did really like the buttery sugary crust of this tart, so I headed back to the internet to source a likely-sounding replacement. Happily, South Tyrol came through for me again when I found this recipe for Apple Strudel with a Shortcrust Pastry.

The amounts of sugar, butter, and flour were much more reasonable sounding, but I did also switch out the vanilla sugar for bourbon vanilla and added lemon zest as in the first recipe. I also opted to do the smart thing and whip together the (colder this time) butter and sugar before adding the other ingredients… no butter pockets today!

At the end, I had a lovely pastry dough, not a hint of stickiness. I did give it some time in the fridge again, just in case, and then got to rolling. Lo and behold, I managed to get it to a much more impressive size, with nary a hint of sticky!

I retrieved the filling from the fridge and piled it on. Wait… could it be that now I don’t have enough? It was looking a little thin, so I pulled another two apples out of the pantry and quickly chopped those up to add in. A few minutes later, it was time to wrap and roll, with BV’s assistance.

It was a fairly secure package, but it was rather large and unwieldy, so his long arms were very helpful here. Between the two of us, we got it curled onto the baking sheet and bathed in egg yolk. Another 45 minutes, and we had a house of delicious smells and  this thicc boi.

I was sorely missing a bit of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream, but this really worked out much better on day two. I do think more filling would’ve been good as well, so I think if I used this pastry recipe again with the full amount of filling the recipe yielded originally, it would’ve been nearly perfect. Possibly immovable, but the ratio would’ve been better anyway.

Note to self: brush up on food photo skills. As you can see,the filling was a bit thin, but so was that top crust… thin and gloriously crisp and flaky. If anyone wants to give their own Apfelstrudel a try, give the link above a shot. Just try not to get distracted by all the other delicious things on that website. Ahhhhhh…. Strudel and dumplings and Vinschgauer, oh my.

For the time being though, it’s vicarious travel through food and photos. Hopefully, we can get back to South Tyrol sooner rather than later. Happy, and healthy, with any luck. Stay inside if you can. Bake stuff if you want. It helps…  or at least for me it does.

 

11/52

Put Some Mustard On It…

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed an oddity of the German language, but I learned a new phrase the other day that tickled me and thought it would make a good post.

Usually my favorite German phrases have to do with animals (notably pigs, as there are at least 48309234 idioms involving pigs in German #WurstJokes), but this one is more food-based.

BV had just sent a text to our Südtirol group chat, and I was trying to decipher it. The last paragraph started with “Mein Senf zu dem Thema,” which would translate to ‘My mustard to the topic,’ and I had to laugh. I was pretty sure I got the gist, but I still asked him to clarify, just in case. 😉

What BV said was a variation on ‘seinen Senf dazugeben,’ or to put in one’s two cents. My initial thought was along the lines of ‘in my humble opinion,’ which IMHO, means I’ve been spending too much time on ze internet. Should do something about that (…as I’m sitting here writing a blog and trying to do that more often instead of like, solving world hunger or whatever people do when they’re not lurking on reddit).

So why mustard in this expression? Because people friggin’ love their mustard in these parts. I already showed you a fairly bizarre mustard ad a few years ago, and I assure you, there have been more. The mustard shelf in the supermarket is loaded with choice, and lest you doubt me on that, please enjoy this selection of all the mustards currently open in our fridge…

Full disclosure, the sweet Bavarian mustard isn’t open yet. Guess that just means it’s time for Weißwurstfrühstück…

This is perfectly normal, right? Guess I’m going to have to start serving more of my opinions with a dash of mustard…

 

3/52

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!

Continue reading

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!