2018 in Review

Oh, the top nine insta posts. So succinct, and at least in my case, so pointy.

The highlights this year are decidedly less Scandinavian than last year, but I suppose staying closer to home is okay when it looks like this. For those interested in a slighter closer look at all the things I didn’t get to blogging about (pretty sure I say that every year), click on!

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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 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.

 

50 Recipe Challenge: Part 1/5

Mmmmm, South Tyrolian cheese plate…

This photo has literally nothing to do with this post, but I couldn’t lead this off with a picture of cauliflower. Granted, this South Tyrolian cheese plate isn’t the most colorful thing I’ve ever seen, but it was very tasty.

Long-time readers may remember that the whole “Amateur Hour Baking” project got started as part of a larger project to cook 50 new recipes this year. While I opted to only write about the German baking-related recipes, I am happy to report that I’m currently sitting at 49 new recipes tried.

At least, I think it’s that many. To be honest, I may have forgotten to note one down in my list and already be at 50, but either way, I’m certain I’ll get there.

While not all of these recipes were what you might call challenging (looking at you, Watermelon/Feta/Mint Salad), I thought people might be interested in what I wound up making. Thus, for the last five weeks of this year, I’ll share the relevant links in groups of ten. I’ll include quick photos if I’ve got them, with quick notes on substitutions, etc. Ein Guten! 

~1. Sicilian Roasted Cauliflower and Black Olive Gratin

I’m one of those weirdos who loves cauliflower. BV, not so much. Much as I love it, next time I’d roast the veggies in the oven first with spices instead of blanching them. Also, more garlic, more pepper, more olives, more everything.

~2. Butternut Squash Goat Cheese Pasta

I realized a step or two into this that I was actually supposed to make noodles out of my squash and since I don’t have a spiralizer (or whatever the hell those things are called), I just cubed up the squash to mix with the pasta and went for it. It’s squash and cheese, nothing wrong there.

~3. 5 Minute Restaurant Salsa

Since I can only find jalepeno peppers here when I’m not actually looking for them, I didn’t find any fresh. This was a simple and decent salsa with the poblanos, cayennes, and jarred jalapenos that I could get hold of.

~4. 5-Ingredient Black Bean Soup

Super fast and easy, served with the salsa above. Can’t go wrong.

~5. Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte

The first amateur hour baking project I did, which I never wrote about. Perhaps over the Christmas holidays I’ll revisit it and do a then/now comparison?

~6. Poblano Pepper Cream Pasta

This was one of the few recipes I tried this year that there’s no way I would bother with again. It was too fussy, and the consistency of the nuts was too odd for me.

~7. Lemony Pasta with Chickpeas and Parsley 

We pumped this up with more lemon, more sardines (who’s going to use only part of a container of sardines?), and more spinach than it called for. Good choices.

~8. Dark Chocolate Cherry Cake (my recap post)

~9. Lemon Spice Visiting Cake

I loved this cake. It came together pretty fast, didn’t make too much or too little, and had a great lemon flavor. I made it a few times, and it made a decent breakfast cake when we took it with us on our snowshoeing trip.

~10. Russisches Zupfkuchen (my recap post)

 

Stay tuned for 11-20 next week…

 

And are we hungry yet? 

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!