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.

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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?

 

Two Months on Tour

Considering that we didn’t take an official summer vacation this year, the last two months have been a whole lot of all over the place. BV and I did spend five days in Oberbayern with his parents in July, but that was more like another extended weekend than an actual vacation. I’m hoping we make up for it next year but that all remains to be seen.

So what did I get up to in August and September (besides baking?), click on to find out…

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Amateur Hour Baking: Brötchen + Bonus Naan!

Bread week on The Great British Bake Off gave me the push I’d been needing to venture into the breads and rolls section of Classic German Baking. Quite frankly, I’d been avoiding it. I’ve never really tried making bread and my previous attempts at working with yeast have gone decidedly sideways. Remember the Zwiebelkuchen?

But the time had come. Before I watched the episode, I decided to start as easily as possible, which meant baking the most basic thing in the world, Brötchen. Call it a bun, a dinner roll, a bread nugget, I called it hopefully easy. And then we watched the episode.

Me (while eating my dinner of an African-inspired veggie stew with rice): Hm. Naan looks pretty easy.

BV: You’re right, it doesn’t look too bad. You could do it in the oven, but I think you could also cook them in a pan.

Me: I bet that Naan would go really well with the rest of this stew tomorrow.

BV: Ohhhhh, yes it would.

My fate was sealed. The following day (thankfully Thursdays are free at the moment because who has time for yeast during the normal workweek?) I cleaned up the kitchen and proceeded to trash it again. Baking is about consistency people.

First up: the Brötchen.

I opted for fresh yeast this time, as I thought that gave me better results than the dried yeast had. These plain white rolls don’t require anything too fancy, just a few minutes of proofing time for the yeast, then mixing together with the flour, milk, and salt. A bit of kneading and it was ready to rest. I realize that photos of balls of dough are not the most thrilling thing in the world, but I CANNOT trust my eyeballs on this one. I always take before and after pictures because otherwise I will no idea if/how much things rise. Perhaps I should get a more photogenic bowl though?

An hour later I took it out of the cold oven where I had let it rise. The change in the weather this week has returned our house to its usual winter temperature of too-damn-cold and I thought it was at least safer from Killer German Draft in there. And did it rise?

This time I probably could have trusted my eyeballs. But I stand by my method.

Next it was onto the always-satisfying punching-down part. Then the dough was separated into eight pieces, and formed into hopeful future Brötchen.

I was really not sure about these guys. Would those wrinkles sort themselves out somehow? Or would my rolls end up looking like sweet little Shar Peis? I would have to find out in the morning, because these guys were destined for the fridge and more proofing overnight.

The next morning I popped them out of the fridge and found them… more or less the same. Slightly bigger? Slightly less wrinkled?

Okay, yes, they’re bigger.

While the oven preheated, I brushed them with a bit of milk and slashed them down the middle. My paring knife was probably not sharp enough for this job though, as it didn’t cut down as neatly as I would have liked it to.

25 anxious minutes later, breakfast was almost ready. They’re out!

They really should have spread open a bit more on top, but again, I don’t think I slashed them well enough. I was pleased with the color and that lovely hollow sound when I gave one a knock. How’d they look inside, you ask?

Not bad. I was expecting them to be a bit fluffier inside and they were slightly more on the dense side. Not heavy or wet at all, just more substantial than I expected. I wonder if that has something to do with not expanding enough where they were cut? If you know, let me know in the comments, bitte!

Now that we’ve covered the domestic bake, let’s turn to the foreign. I hadn’t forgotten about the naan, in fact, that was all happening at the same time.

Since the naan was part of my plan for dinner that night and needed a longer resting time, that actually got thrown together first. But again, it doesn’t start off in a very exciting fashion. Yeast, flour, a few other odds and ends, a bit of kneading and off to rest it went.

A few hours later I got back to work, dividing and rolling out the individual pieces. In the interest of saving space, I decided to stack them next to the pan where I’d be cooking them. This was a mistake. It looks all nice and neat but after the first two layers, I wound up having a mess of dough that required reforming and rerolling.

Needless to say, it got a bit frantic in the kitchen what with all the flinging of flour about and pivoting from the table (where I was reforming the pieces) back to the pan (trying not to burn said pieces), all the while brushing on butter and trying to press on the fresh garlic. Luckily our kitchen isn’t that big.

Though they had baked their naan in the oven on GBBO, after reading through various recipes, I though cooking them in the pan would be easier. Why? I don’t really remember. But it worked pretty well, minus me making the kitchen smoky af in the process.

The main problem as far as I was concerned was that fresh garlic. I love fresh garlic, BV REALLY loves fresh garlic, and we cook with a ton of it (apologies to colleagues). However, we really didn’t get that much of a taste of it. Either there wasn’t enough, or it got too burnt, as you can see on that slice up front. I think next time I’ll use a mixture of fresh garlic and powdered garlic, or garlic salt. I’m rather pleased with the color, and the consistency of the naan themselves. They were nice and light, with the occasional air bubble, and it really did pair perfectly with that stew.

Obviously this was NOT a recipe from Classic German Baking, oddly not a lot of naan in traditional German cuisine. For this bake, I opted to follow this recipe from Food & Wine. And if you’re curious about the stew as well, that’s here at NYTimes Cooking. I followed that fairly closely, but next time I’ll be adding more of the fresh ginger, and also fresh cilantro (store was out when we shopped, grumble) now that my cilantro-conversion of BV is complete. Happy cooking!

 

Amateur Hour Baking: Apfel-Marzipan-Kuchen

The weekend of the Knerken was actually a double-bake weekend. The day before I made those, BV and I were invited to his dad for lunch, and BV had oh-so-kindly volunteered me to make a cake. Plus, on the Great British Bake Off, they did cakes in the second week so tie-in… score!

We had piles of apples around and so an apple cake was an easy choice. BV loves marzipan, so that narrowed it down from the handful of apple cake recipes in Classic German Baking… Apfel-Marzipan-Kuchen, or apple almond cake, it would be.

On Friday I went running around to gather the last of the supplies. On my list were almond paste and almond extract. According to the internet, and as I’d learned with my Rüblitorte, almond paste and marzipan were not the same thing. Turns out I should maaaybe read the ingredient notes so kindly provided by Luisa Weiss at the beginning of the book? She uses the term almond paste throughout the book to mean Marzipanrohmasse… it’s different to marzipan, but yeah… we already had that in the house. So that’s one thing down despite my unsuccessful shopping trip to find almond paste that didn’t exist.

And the almond extract? Despite checking the Karstadt food section (my Old Faithful when looking for various “exotic” ingredients such as vanilla extract), I came up empty. They did have some bitter almond Aroma, which seems to be like an almond essence in the U.S., so I grabbed that figuring something almond was better than nothing. Put a pin in that one.

Saturday morning I sprang into action. By which I meant I underestimated how long it would take to put this cake together and ended up flinging myself around the kitchen in a panic when it soon became evident that we would be late to lunch. No worries, BV called his dad and let him know. On the plus side, the wild boar was ready when we got there so no small talk preamble! On the negative side (depending on your opinion, haha), I didn’t do much of an Instastory on this one because laaaaaate.

Back to the cake. Step one… apples. Lots of apples.

The diced ones went into the cake eventually, while the slices ones waited to go on top. We’d had some random supermarket apples in the pantry for a touch too long, so those went first, followed up by a few small, tart ones from our garden. Next time I do this cake I would much prefer to use either A) all our own apples, of course, or B) some better, more tart apples. BV tends to buy the bag of apples that are practically flavorless to take to work. I don’t get it, but next time I’m grabbing some better fruit.

Next up was that marzipan, which needed to be grated. The 200 gram chunk grated up surprisingly easily at first, but that changed when I got to the last little bit of it. The stuff pretty much turned into a slippery ball in my hand, it was taking far too long and was far too sticky to deal with at that point, and I ended up just cutting it into small pieces as best I could and chucking it all in the bowl. If anyone has a better strategy than that, please drop me a comment!

Note the chunky bits on the bottom right.

It all banged together much more quickly from this point. The batter came together pretty quickly, but remember that almond Aroma? When then recipe called for a teaspoon of extract I grabbed the Aroma, which comes in these comically small little tubes. I attempted to shake one out into a teaspoon to measure it but much more of it went into the bowl (luckily) than the spoon. At that point I decided that measuring it was an exercise in futility, and since one tube was nowhere near a teaspoon, I’d just thrown in two tubes worth. I managed that, and then noticed that a bit had splashed onto my finger. So I licked it, naturally.

HOLY SHIT. NO. NO. NO.

SO MUCH BITTER ALMOND IN MY MOUTH OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?

But you know what? It was already in the cake and we were late. It is what it is.

Thus, more apples went on top and into the oven it went.

While it was in the oven, BV and I put ourselves together and anxiously awaited the timer. I really thought I took a picture of it when it came out, in between us fanning it off in an attempt to cool the cake a whopping minute or two faster, but seems I didn’t. Never mind. Instead, please enjoy this picture of the cake, still in its form, on a wooden cutting board inside our cake caddy. On my lap, in our car, because we couldn’t trust it on a seat or the floor in case it slid and melted the dome. FUN!

This was a harrowing 20-minute drive to BV’s dad.

“No sudden stops!”

“Agh, it’s sliding!”

“Oh God, that’s warm!”

That one was when the condensation dripped on me, because I thought it would be a better idea to lift the lid slightly on the straight, flat highway in order to ventilate the thing a little. Debatable.

Eventually we arrived without incident, and the cake was placed on the windowsill to cool off while we ate, with the bonus feature of drawing in all the wasps that passed by! More fun!

Boar and Klöße* ingested, it was time to cut into the cake. Please enjoy this photo of half of the cake, upon its return to our house.

Photo doesn’t quite convey the journey this baby went through.

Texture shot.

There were five of us at this particular lunch, most of whom had just consumed a pile of roasted boar, two or three dumplings, cabbage, and salad. The fact that they still had room to eat half this cake is amazing to me, and I have a strict one dumpling rule. BV’s dad was particularly enthusiastic (he and BV’s mom split the sixth piece) about it. BV loved it. And me?

I may still have been tasting that bitter almond Aroma from earlier, but it was STRONG. I liked this cake quite a bit, but that flavor was a bit too strong and I have no idea if it was because of that almond essence, or just the crazy amount of marzipan that went into it. This cake is DEFINITELY not for someone who isn’t into marzipan, but luckily that’s not us.

The cake was really moist and flavorful, and the apricot glaze on top gives it a nice shine. I probably could’ve taken it out of the oven a few minutes earlier as it got a bit dark on top, but it didn’t hurt the taste too much.

As I mentioned before, next time I make this I’m going to look for some tarter apples and see about finding some real almond extract. I know I can get it online, but if anyone has seen it in a brick-and-mortar store in Germany, please let me know!

 

*dumplings

 

Amateur Hour Baking: Knerken

Back when I started this baking project, the lovely Cynthia over at Adventurings mentioned that I should join in with some folks who bake along with The Great British Bake Off every year. At the time I thought that sounded like a fun idea, and then promptly forgot about it.

Cut to last week, when I scrolled through Twitter and saw piles of #GBBO… was it back? How did I not know this? Yes it was, and I don’t know how I hadn’t heard it was coming. Oh well, I was just in time to tune in the next night for all the candy-colored scenery, Sheep Cats and the usual amount of self-effacing behavior from the contestants. Basically everything that makes it good is the exact opposite of every American reality show. Go watch, if you haven’t, you weirdo.

As it turns out the old link-up isn’t really happening this year, but since I’m already baking anyway, I’ll be giving it a try. Not much got baked this summer, as we were really trying to avoid turning on the oven if we didn’t have to, but the time is ripe now. As is all the fruit. But that will have to wait.

The first week of the bake off this year focused on biscuits, or cookies, as we philistines in the U.S. call them. The contestants made a regionally-specific English biscuit, and I decided to do the same. Hence, Knerken, or Cardamon Snap Cookies. Also, I found the name funny. Good reasons.

The only cookies I’ve tried from the book thus far were two types of Christmas cookies last year, and I had mixed results. But the Knerken looked relatively simple, are regionally-specific to the Halligen Islands in Schleswig-Holstein (where I’ve never been), and contained cardamom which is a major house favorite. Cardamom in hand, we were off!

Yummmmm.

The first step involved browning butter and then allowing it to cool. I’ve only browned small amounts of butter at a time before, which meant that though I started strong, I promptly burnt the first try, leaving it on the stove just a minute too long.

Pre-burning.

Second batch of butter lightly browned and toasty-tasting, it got set aside to cool while I tossed together the dry ingredients. Then the butter was combined with the other wet ingredients, and the kitchen immediately smelled like cardamom.

The dry ingredients also included something new for me. This recipe calls for Baker’s Ammonia, which sounds mildly terrifying, but it’s just a leavening agent. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to find, but it was right in the baking section, easy-peasy.

It was all fun and games until I got everything mixed together, which required some elbow grease as it was pretty crumbly at the beginning. Eventually I got everything pressed together, as it needed to be divided, rolled into two logs, and refrigerated for a few hours. Before I did that though, I did what I usually do, and popped a bit of dough in my mouth for a taste.

BAD IDEA.

The baker’s ammonia is obviously meant to go into food, and you don’t taste anything weird from it when your recipe is baked. But beforehand? Tastes pretty funky. I immediately ran into the bedroom and asked BV what my chances were of dropping dead. He had no idea but assumed they were probably pretty low, especially as I hadn’t eaten too much of it. I returned to the kitchen to roll out my dough, and also spent the next half an hour sticking my tongue out constantly like a dog after they eat peanut butter. I don’t know if it helped any. Just couldn’t get that taste out.

Slightly uneven dough sausages.

Also, did I mention I got a new toy? Clearly I didn’t use it to accurately divide my dough for GBBO-worthy exactly perfectly even cookies, but I could have!

Shout out to BV’s Eltern for my bday present. 🙂

Several hours later, I retrieved my chilled dough from the fridge, and got to slicing. Then it was into the oven with this extremely monochrome tray.

It didn’t take long to bake the two batches, and I soon had another monochrome sheet of potential tastiness.

It’s easy to see the second batch, as they’re slightly smaller and also slightly darker than the first. BV emerged, lured by the scent of cardamom, and we got to tasting.

BV thought they looked like “nice cookies.” I thought they looked… austere. Granted, I’m much more used to the colorful sugar bombs found in U.S. supermarkets, not so much cookies for long sea voyages, like these ones. But the good news is, we agreed on the taste!

They have a great snap-factor, are light and airy thanks to that Baker’s Ammonia, and the cardamom taste is really unique in a cookie. Definitely a winner!

I realized several hours later, when I spotted the brush still sitting unused on the counter, that I actually missed a step. They were supposed to be brushed with milk before baking, so I’m curious to see what difference that makes the next time these get made… which will be soon.

Amateur Hour Baking: Lauchtorte Twice Over

Back in April I was on a savory kick in the baking project. After my attempts at Zwiebelkuchen had yielded varying results, I thought I’d give Lauchtorte, a savory leek cake, a try. It’s a similar idea to the onion cake, but I’m more of a fan of leeks, plus it didn’t involve any yeast so… easier, right? Famous last words.

I set out to make the Lauchtorte, whipping the ingredients for the crust together. Since the recipe called for 130 grams of butter and it’s sold here in pats of 225, I decided that was easy enough to eyeball, and tossed it all together while I got my leeks cooking.

I quickly encountered a problem when I tried to stuff it into the pan. Side note on the pan: I had been very excited that we somehow already had a fluted torte pan. Just another instance of BV already having everything when I moved in here… amazing. Again, famous last words.  Anyway, here’s how my crust looked.

Not great. But I was already hungry and decided I was too far down the path to stop now, so on I pressed. I didn’t think my pastry was anywhere near deep enough to fit all the filling that was in the pan, but again, at this point there was no chance of getting it out of the tin so I improvised.

Somewhat deceptive as there is a well around the edge of this tin.

The Lauchtorte went into the oven, as BV stalked the kitchen, lured by the scent of bacon. It came out smelling great and looking not entirely terrible. However, due to the well around the edge of the torte pan, there was no chance of getting it out of the tin as instructed. Instead, we scooped as best as we could…

The filling tasted great, though it needed a bit more salt and pepper for my taste, but the crust was utter crap. Dry, crumbly, definitely wrong. Another try was in order, and a week or so later, I steeled myself for round two.

Key point: MEASURE YOUR BUTTER DUMMY. I don’t know what shenanigans are going on with the butter measurements and the package, but 130 grams of 225 looks like significantly more than what this dumb-dumb had eyeballed. This crust came together like buttery perfection. Looks how much nicer it looks!

I also was much more judicious with my leeks on the second bake. The first time I had left a fair amount of the dark green leaf in the mix, and this time I stuck to white and light green. My pan was still full, but much more manageably so, particularly after adding the bacon, cheese, and all the other ingredients.

I also upgraded the pan this time, going from the yes, fluted, but very wrong tin that SHOULD be used for a fruit tart, to a tin with a smooth and removable bottom. Observe…

This time the crust pushed right into the tin with zero extra effort required. It was amazing. And the filling was the exact perfect amount to fit inside. No extra dish required today!

The house filled with the same delicious aroma, but that wasn’t my concern. I couldn’t wait to see what the crust situation was going to be when it came out. A couple of minutes of cooling time and we gingerly removed it from the tin…

Are there cracks? Yes. Would Mary Berry wrinkle her nose at that? Probably.

But I don’t care. Much.

It held together, the bottom was fully cooked, and it came out of the tin perfectly and I wasn’t going to have to soak and scrub and soak and scrub the well on the other one again. Perfection.

In addition to the clean-up factor, the crust tasted much better this time too. It tasted much better, because of much butter, clearly. I’m okay with that, which means that henceforth I will be accurately measuring butter. Every time. In fact. BV told his parents that I wanted a digital scale for my birthday this year. I’ve been bugging him about this for awhile since ours is analog and not very accurate, so fingers crossed they find a decent one!

 

Amateur Hour Baking: Peach Brie Strudel

What’s going on here? Two posts in a week? Hot damn.

It’s summer, I’ve got time, and I really wanted to write this one before forgetting how it went… again. Strudel time!

This bake was a combo platter. I saw this recipe for a peach brie Strudel over at Dirndl Kitchen’s blog, and thought it sounded delicious. I’m a huge fan of anything that combines cheese and fruit, and since I’ve been tripping over peaches at all the markets I thought it’d be the perfect choice for my next bake.

In her recipe, she opts to use pre-made puff pastry, which is definitely a great option if you’re short on time. But since I had a free Sunday and it was raining, I thought I’d be a bit more ambitious. I hadn’t yet tried any of the Strudel featured in Classic German Baking and thought the time was ripe. As were the peaches. Heyo!

There are a few different Strudel featured in the book, but they all use the exact same ingredients and method for the pastry portion. I flipped to the Apfelstrudel recipe and gathered my ingredients. After tossing them together, I got kneading.

It was… a struggle. The dough was incredibly firm, and tough to knead. The recipe states that you should have a smooth and elastic ball after about 10 minutes kneading, and mine was… yeah, still firm. I gave it a few more minutes, and decided I’d let it rest as instructed and see what happened.

Post-resting time, it felt deceptively softer when I poked at it, but that was just the surface. Inside it remained far too firm, and I worked up a sweat trying my damnedest to roll it out as instructed. After a valiant effort, I gave it up, tossed it into the bio waste in frustration, and got the mixing bowl back out.

The second attempt also wound up in the bio waste. It started off feeling a bit better when I began kneading, but was still pretty dry. I thought, ‘let’s just give this a quick squirt of water from the tap’ and that was a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE IDEA. A few drops probably would’ve done it, but instead I got a splotchy, sticky gob of mess.

Third try. IT’S ONLY FOUR INGREDIENTS THIS SHOULDN’T BE THAT HARD. Turns out, the key is to add the water slowly, as directed in the book. I thought I had added it slowly the first time, but clearly not slowly enough. Dribble, knead knead, dribble, knead knead, repeat. That worked. This ball of dough was stretchy, smooth, and had not a hint of blotch.

That’s better

Resting time up, I stretched my arms for another crack at rolling it out. Strudel dough should be almost impossibly thin, giving me flashbacks to my great-grandmother’s insistence that Norwegian Lefse should be toilet paper thin when rolled out. HOW? I don’t know.

After the first bout of rolling

I even got out a measuring tape because, according to the recipe, my dough should be the size of the towel. It wasn’t. It matched the see-through requirement though, so when tearing became impossible to avoid, I called it a win.

And after even more rolling and stretching

Finally it was time to gather the filling ingredients. I was a bit confused by how big this whole thing was getting, but I followed the directions as best as I could. I suppose when you buy Strudel at the bakery, typically you’re only getting a few pieces, and it’s easy to forget how massive these get. For reference, please enjoy this ancient photo of my friend Katie and I ogling this giant Strudel in Prague.

I layered the fruit mixture on top of the cheese and gathered my strength to try and fold this monstrosity together. Using the towel to flip it was key, but there was no stopping the tearing. Trying to patch it up was pretty futile, so into the oven with tears it went. No points for aesthetics today, but man did it smell good in the kitchen!

Ignore the tears, please

It looks light in the pictures but the pastry itself was surprisingly firm when the baking time was up. I think it could have done with just a few more minutes as the pastry on the bottom was a bit soft, but I also think it would’ve helped if I could have rolled it over once more before baking. But I couldn’t so… oh well. A river of sweet peachy goodness was flooding out, and my fork was in that pretty much immediately.

Fresh out of the oven + river of tasty goo

We gave it 20 minutes or so to cool off, but due to the first pastry disasters, coffee and cake time had already been delayed enough. We dove in right away, because who cares that you still have to eat dinner? Not me, my friends.

For me, I think I’d give it a bit more cinnamon next time, but the peaches and brie are really just always a winning combo. The brie we bought was fairly mild, and I think I’ll look for a stronger one next time as well. The rum taste comes through nicely, with the nuts giving everything a good extra crunch factor.

Overall I’m pretty pleased with the way this first Strudel came out. I’ve been wanting to get out of the cakes and savories and try some of the trickier things in Classic German Baking, but there hasn’t been much baking lately in this heat. When it cools off, I might even get crazy and try some rolls.

Have you made a Strudel? Got any tips to share? 

Hütte Hiking for Beginners

It occurred to me while on our latest Hütte overnight stay, that while I’ve written about some of our previous tours, I’ve never really written about the Hütten themselves.

In case you’re not familiar, the word Hütte translates into hut, cabin, lodge, barracks, hovel, and on and on and on. Leo.org gives me 23 different choices. Growing up in Wisconsin, I knew tons of people who had “cabins up north,” and so cabin has always struck me as the wrong word for a Hütte, at least the ones in the mountains. I usually go with ‘lodge’ or ‘shelter’ since those seem more appropriate for a large wooden or stone structure that can accommodate anything from a few people up to 200 or so.

Hiking to and staying the night in a Hütte is one of my very favorite ways to spend a weekend this time of year, but I wouldn’t say it’s an experience for everyone. It is however, often the only way to get views like this.

At the Kemptner Hütte

So, think you want to stay in a Hütte? Read on and let’s see…  Continue reading