Monday, September 13, 2021

Traditional German Plum Cake (Zwetschgenkuchen)

I like to divide every year in a culinary way – come wintertime we enjoy hearty kale, in spring asparagus and rhubarb, in early summer strawberries, in summer cherries and now it’s plum season and that’s why this is a good time to feature a Traditional German Plum Cake recipe. The national institution that is the German Plum Cake, is variously known as Zwetschgendatschi, Zwetschgenkuchen, Pflaumenkuchen, or Quetschekuche, depending on where you are in the country.

Many of the recipes out there are rather specific about the type of plum to be used. I always use plums called Zwetschgen, which are small, dark-as-night plums with a vibrant yellow flesh, both tart and sweet in flavor. They are perfect for baking because they don’t hold as much water as other red plum varieties. Outside of Europe it can be difficult to get Zwetschgen but smallish deep-purple Italian plums aka Italian prune plums are a good substitute, these are oval, rather than round, with dark, cloudy skins, and although they can be a bit tricky to stone, they stay satisfyingly plump in the oven. 

There are countless recipes out there for plum cake. Whether plum cake as a sheet pan cake, as a tart, with or without yeast, a buttery shortcrust pastry base, or one made with Quark (fresh cheese) and oil, with streusel or nut topping, these are all incredibly popular around here but what is non-negotiable, is a generous helping of Schlagsahne (whipped cream) on top.

The dough itself is moderately sweet, enriched with fresh eggs and sweet butter. I like to keep the dough quite plain and all I add as additional flavor is pure vanilla sugar as the plums have enough flavor not to need any extra help, the extra cinnamon can be saved for the top.

This year I took a particular liking to a classic German yeast-based sheet pan cake with a buttery streusel topping. With a nice rustic look to it and a great combination of flavor and textures, this was certainly a hit at our house although my trusted taste testers prefer the softer texture of the classic cake made with soft wheat flour (or in my case white spelt flour), sweet butter and fresh eggss to the sturdier bun dough with its strong bread flour and eggs. The big sheet bakes favored by German bakeries are perfect if you’re feeding a crowd, but, in my humble opinion, for tea (or perhaps coffee) at home, today's recipe for a Traditional German Plum Cake works better.

Clearly a soft rich dough and jammy baked plums need little in the way of adornment, so nothing but a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon sugar will do the trick. For my cake there is no streusel oder nut topping required.

The tartness of the plums plays nicely against the buttery batter and the warm flavors of cinnamon and vanilla. And as an added bonus it smells amazing while baking.

German Plum Cake


(for a 9.5in/24cm springform pan)

For the Cake

  • 1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cups (160g) superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 1 tbsp (8g) pure vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (175g) white spelt flour, sifted (or use AP/plain flour instead)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 35 to 40 pitted Italian (purple) plums

For the Topping

  • 1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (8g) pure vanilla sugar
  • 3 tbsp sugar (for a bit more crunch, go with coarse grain white sugar)
  • powdered sugar


  1. Butter a springform pan and line with parchment paper, butter the paper and flour well, shaking out the excess flour.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and mix well.
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stir just until combined.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared springform pan.
  8. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter.
  9. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar topping.
  10. Bake 1 hour, approximately – let cool on wire rack for about 1 hour, than remove the outer ring of the springform pan, let cool for another hour before removing the bottom part of your springform pan as well. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  11. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and plenty of Schlagsahne (whipped cream).



(für eine 24cm Springform)

Für den Kuchen

  • 115g Süßrahmbutter, Zimmertemperatur
  • 160g feinster Backzucker
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 2 Eier (M), aus Freilandhaltung oder ökologischer/biologischer Produktion
  • 175g Dinkelmehl, Type 630 (oder Weizenmehl, Type 405)
  • 1 1⁄2 TL Weinstein Backpulver
  • eine Prise Ur-Salz (optional)
  • 35 bis 40 frische Zwetschgen, entsteint

Für das Topping

  • 1 TL Ceylon Zimt
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 3 EL Zucker
  • Puderzucker


  1. Die Springform buttern, mit Backpapier auskleiden, nochmals buttern und mehlieren, dabei das überschüssige Mehl rausschütteln.
  2. Den Backofen auf 180°C vorheizen.
  3. In einer Rührschüssel die Butter, den Zucker und den Vanillezucker schaumig rühren.
  4. Eier einzeln hinzufügen und gut verrühren.
  5. In einer anderen Rührschüssel Mehl, Backpulver und Salz verrühren.
  6. Die Mehlmischung zu der Buttermischung geben, unterheben.
  7. Den Teig in die vorbereitete Springform geben und glatt streichen.
  8. Die vorbereiteten Pflaumenhälften auf den Teig setzen.
  9. Mit der Zimt-Zuckermischung bestreuen.
  10. Ungefähr eine Stunde backen, dann auf einem Kuchenrost ca. 1 Stunde abkühlen lassen, dann den äußeren Ring der Springform abnehmen, eine weitere Stunde abkühlen lassen, bevor auch der untere Teil der Springform entfernt werden kann.
  11. Mit Puderzucker bestäuben und mit einer großzügigen Portion Schlagsahne servieren.

For more plum inspiration on my blog, take a look at:

Nigel Slater´s Autumnal Plum Cake with Hazelnuts and Spiced Frosting (HERE)

Rice Pudding with caramelized Italian Plums (HERE)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Bread Wreath with Pesto, Tomatoes and Cheese l Brotkranz mit Pesto, Tomaten und Käse

The month of September has arrived, and with it not only cooler temperatures but also the appetite for hearty food. So, it seems high time to start this first month of fall with some fun bread baking, with bold textures and ingredients that capture the tastes of late summer.

I was looking for an easy weeknight bread, shaped like a wreath, or crown, a bread with a rustic look and feel that is easily shareable and can be served alongside a ragù pasta dish and still stand out. I had some homemade arugula (aka rocket) and basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, shredded cheese and tons of garden herbs. As I always have fresh yeast and spelt flour on hand, I decided to make a lovely Bread Wreath with Arugula and Basil Pesto, Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

The yeast dough is easy. A no fuss recipe that is still big on taste. I use fresh yeast for my recipe but you can go with dry (instan) yeast, of course. It a very basic yeast dough with added herbs – I like to use fresh parsley from my herb garden, of course, you can also use other soft herbs such as oniony chives, woodsy sage or estragon (tarragon) with a slight anise flavor

You should note that because of the amount of liquid used, this is a rather shaggy, wet dough that needs a bit of tender handling, but if you use some additional flour while shaping and manoeuvring the dough, you should not run into any trouble.

The filling calls for homemade pesto. However, if you happen to have a jar left in your cupboard from that trip to the farmers' market, by all means, use that, about 100g will do – or eye-ball the quantity, as all you are looking for is a thin, well spread layer of pesto all across your rolled-out yeast dough. You will then scatter the finely minced shallot, diced oil-cured, sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese on top, season with a generous grinding of black pepper and salt. With the help of a bench scraper, roll up the dough into a sausage, then transfer it to a parchment-lined baking pan that you previously dusted with flour and while the wreath rests for an additional 15 minutes or so, you can pre-heat your oven. That’s it. All you have to do is wait a good 45 minutes and you will be able to enjoy a freshly-baked bread with all those wonderful Mediterranean flavors. 

Bread Wreath with Pesto, Tomatoes and Cheese


For the dough

  • 500g white spelt flour (alternatively use strong bread flour), plus extra for the work surface 
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg (M), organic or free-range
  • 200ml water (warm)
  • 100ml milk (I like to use 3.5%), warm
  • 21g of fresh yeast or 1 pkg. dry yeast
  • ½ bunch parsley OR other soft herb, washed, dried well and finely chopped (or other soft herbs)

For the filling

  • 100g pesto (I like to use a arugula/basil pesto, if possible homemade)
  • 1 shallot (or a small mild onion)
  • 100g tomatoes (sun-dried, soaked in oil), oil drained and coarsely chopped
  • 125g cheese such as Emmenthal, grated (or use another cheese of your choice)
  • freshly ground black pepper, salt


  1. Knead all ingredients to a smooth dough.
  2. Let it stand covered in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours or until the volume has doubled.
  3. Roll out on a floured work surface (you should end up with a large rectangle).
  4. Spread evenly with pesto.
  5. Scatter the chopped, dried and drained tomatoes, the diced shallot and the grated Emmenthal evenly on top of the pesto.
  6. Season generously with pepper and salt.
  7. With the help of a bench scraper, roll up the dough and cut it in the middle save 5cm (2in) at the top and bottom edge) and twist it around itself.
  8. Prepare a backing sheet or large pizza pan and line it with parchment paper dusted with a little flour.
  9. Shape the dough into a wreath, tucking the ends under and transfer to the prepared baking sheet or pan.
  10. Loosely cover the wreath and place it in a warm spot while you pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
  11. Fill an oven-proof bowl with hot water and carefully place it at the bottom of the oven (to create steam). Then bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
  12. To cool, slide the baking sheet/pan onto a cooling rack.

Brotkranz mit Pesto, Tomaten und Käse


Für den Teig

  • 500 g Dinkelmehl Type 630 (alternativ: Weizenmehl Type 550), plus extra für die Arbeitsfläche
  • ½ TL feines Meersalz
  • 2 TL Zucker
  • 1 Ei (M), Bio- oder Freilandhaltung
  • 200ml Wasser (lauwarm)
  • 100ml Milch (3.5%), lauwarm
  • 21g frische Hefe oder 1 Pkg. Trockenhefe
  • ½ Bund Petersilie, gewaschen, gut getrocknet und klein gehackt (man kann auch andere Kräuter nehmen)

Für die Füllung

  • 100g Pesto (ich nehme gerne ein selbstgemachtes Rucola-Basilkum Pesto)
  • 1 Schalotte (oder eine kleine milde Zwiebel), fein geschnitten
  • 100g Tomaten (getrocknet, in Öl eingelegt), klein geschnitten
  • 125 g Emmentaler, gerieben (man kann auch einen anderen Käse nehmen)
  • frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer, Salz


  1. Alle Zutaten zu einem glatten Teig verkneten.
  2. Diesen zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort für 1 bis 1 ½ Stunden gehen lassen oder bis das Volumen verdoppelt ist.
  3. Auf einer bemehlten Arbeitsfläche fingerdick ausrollen.
  4. Gleichmäßig mit Pesto bestreichen.
  5. Dann die klein geschnittenen Tomaten und die Schalotte und den Emmentaler gleichmässig auf dem Teig verteilen.
  6. Grosszügig mit Pfeffer und Salz würzen.
  7. Den Teig einrollen und in der Mitte durchschneiden (dabei je fünf Zentimeter am oberen und unteren Rand aussparen) und eindrehen.
  8. Zu einem Kranz formen.
  9. Ein Back-oder Pizzablch mit Backpapier auslegen, leicht mehlieren, dann den Brotkranz darauf plazieren, lose abdecken und an einem warmen Ort gehen lassen. In der Zwischenzeit den Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen. 
  10. Eine ofenfeste Schüssel mit heissem Wasser füllen und auf den Boden des Ofens stellen. Das Brot im vorgeheizten Backofen für 45 bis 50 Minuten backen. 

For more bready inspiration, pls take a look at:

  • Irish Brown Soda Bread for St Patrick's Day (Sodabrot zum St. Patrick's Day) (HERE)
  • Tuesdays with Dorie - Semolina Bread (HERE)
  • Nigel Slater´s Lazy Loaf (HERE)
  • Back-of-the-Card Wild Herb Bread with Daisy Butter (HERE)

For some Grissini (Italian Breadsticks) inspiration, you can have a look at my:

  • Grissini with Garden Herbs, Parmesan & Tomato Paste (Grissinis mit Rosmarin, Parmesan & Tomatenpüree) (HERE)
  • Grissini with Red Onion Skins (Grissini mit roten Zwiebelschalen) (HERE)

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Rainbow Chard Filo Strudel with Ricotta l Bunter Mangoldstrudel mit Filoteig und Ricotta

Swiss chard (Mangold) is a member of the beet family and has large, flat, crinkled green leaves with thick, fleshy stalks and ribs. The taste of Swiss chard is rather rich, complex and robust. You can even think of Swiss chard almost as two vegetables in one as both the leaves and stems can be used. Swiss chard is popular in Italian and French, but also in German cooking.

Swiss chard is also simply called 'chard', or 'leaf beet', 'white beet' or 'spinach beet'. And different varieties may have red, pink, white or yellow stalks.

Swiss chard is in season from June to August, and from October to April.The stem is often cooked  and served separately, for example in a stir-fry. The leaves cook more quickly than the stem and can be added to omelettes, soups, strudels, tarts - last November, I posted a recipe for a delightful Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart. For even cooking, remove the stems from the leaves, then chop or slice the stems and start cooking them for a few minutes before adding the leaves.

Before you start cooking your chard, you have to wash it very well, before use, to remove any grit, and trim only when ready to cook.

Rainbow chard with vibrant red, pink, yellow and white stems, is not one actual variety of chard but rather a mix of white-stemmed, red and golden chard. The mix of the different colors not only looks quite pretty, but packs a lot in flavor as you as it combines the spinach like flavor of Swiss chard with the earthy taste and sweetness of red chard and the mild nutty flavor of golden chard. 

Look for rainbow varieties of chard at farmers’ markets or farm shops. When shopping for Swiss chard, you should look for fresh green leaves and firm stalks with no signs of wilting or discoloration. When you shop for rainbow chard, look for a good mix of the different colors with bright green leaves and fresh-cut stems. You should keep your chard in a paper bag in the fridge for not more than 2 to 3 days, or blanch and freeze your veggies for later use. If you choose to freeze your chard, you should rememberthat while chard leaves freeze well, the stems tend to become somewhat soggy.  For longer storage in your fridge, you should cut the leaves from the stems and keep them separate - make sure to roll up the leaves between layers of paper towel, that way they will keep reasonably fresh for about a week.

Rainbow Chard Filo Strudel with Ricotta


(for 10 persons)

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, rainbow chard if possible (approx. 500g/16 oz)
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 12 tbsp of olive oil, suitable for cooking
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • 500g (16 oz) ricotta
  • 50g (1.7 oz) freshly grated Parmesan 
  • 4 eggs, organic or free-range
  • 12 strudel or filo dough sheets (filo dough, about 12in x  12in)
  • 150g (5.3 oz) cooking cream
  • 1 to 2 tbsp of black poppy seeds 


  1. For the filling: rinse the Swiss chard, trim, thinly slice the stalks and coarsely chop the greens.
  2. Peel the shallots and garlic (if using), finely chop and sweat in the oil until translucent. Add the chard stalks and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the greens and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Place the chard in a bowl and let it cool slightly.
  3. Add the ricotta with 2 eggs to the chard mixture. Mix the filling well, then season with salt and pepper. Add freshly grated nutmeg and parmesan to the mixture and stir well.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 °C (395°F). Brush a baking dish with olive oil.
  5. On your work surface, place four filo dough sheets next to each other and brush with olive oil. Cover each of the four sheets with one more sheet and finish off smoothly. Repeat this process once again.
  6. Place the four filo dough stacks side by side, brush each top with oil.
  7. Spread the Swiss chard filling on the bottom third of each filo stack. Leave a 3 cm wide edge at the ends. Roll up the filo leaves, squeeze the ends together OR fold the ends under and brush with olive oil. Place the filo strudel side by side in the baking dish.
  8. Whisk the remaining eggs (2) with cream, salt and pepper and pour over the strudel. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top.
  9. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. As soon as the strudels are light brown and the filling is stocked, remove the baking dish from the oven.
  10. Let the strudel cool slightly and cut into portions. 
  11. Eat hot or enjoy at room temperature.


Bunter Mangoldstrudel mit Filoteig und Ricotta


(für 10 Personen)

  • 1 Mangold (ca. 500g)
  • 2 Schalotten
  • 2 Knoblauchzehen
  • 12 EL Olivenöl, zum Kochen geeignet
  • feines Ur-Salz
  • frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer
  • etwas frisch gemahlene Muskatnuss
  • 500g Ricotta
  • 50g frisch gemahlener Parmesan
  • 4 Eier, Bio oder Freiland
  • 12 Strudel- oder Filoteigblätter (Filoteig, 30 x 31cm)
  • 150g Sahne
  • 1 bis 2 EL schwarzer Mohnsamen


  1. Den Mangold putzen, waschen und auf einem Sieb gut abtropfen lassen. Die Blätter von den festen, Blattrippen abschneiden. Die Blattrippen in ca. 3mm dünne Streifen schneiden. Die Blätter grob hacken.
  2. Schalotten und Knoblauch fein würfeln und in 3 EL Olivenöl glasig dünsten. Die geschnittenen Blattrippen des Mangolds zufügen, mit Salz und Pfeffer würzen. Alles ca. 10 Minuten unter häufigem Wenden dünsten. Dann die gehackten Mangoldblätter zufügen und weitere 2 bis 3 Minuten mit andünsten. Die Mangoldmischung in eine große Schüssel geben und leicht abkühlen lassen.
  3. Den Ricotta mit 2 Eiern zum Mangold geben. Die Füllung gut mischen, dann kräftig mit Salz und Pfeffer abschmecken, etwas frisch geriebene Muskatnuss und Parmesan dazu geben, nochmals rühren.
  4. Backofen auf 200 °C (Ober-/Unterhitze) vorheizen. Eine Auflaufform mit Olivenöl fetten.
  5. Vier Strudelteigplatten nebeneinander legen und mit Olivenöl bepinseln. Jedes der vier Blätter mit einem weiteren Blatt belegen und glatt streichen. Diesen Vorgang einmal wiederholen.
  6. Die vier Strudelplatten nebeneinander ausbreiten, jeweils mit Öl bepinseln. 
  7. Die Füllung jeweils auf dem unteren Drittel einer Teigplatte verteilen. Dabei an den Enden jeweils einen 3 cm breiten Rand frei lassen. Strudelblätter aufrollen, an den Enden zusammendrücken und mit Olivenöl bepinseln. Die Strudel nebeneinander in die Auflaufform legen.
  8. Restliche Eier (2 Stück) mit Sahne, Salz und Pfeffer verquirlen und über die Strudel gießen. Mohn darüber streuen. 
  9. Strudel 45 Minuten im Ofen backen. Sobald der Strudel hellbraun und die Füllung gestockt ist, die Auflaufform aus dem Ofen nehmen. 
  10. Strudel leicht abkühlen lassen und in Portionen schneiden. Schmeckt warm sowol als auch und kalt.

For more Swiss chard inspiration, take a look at my recipe for:

  • Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart (Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & braunen Champignons) (HERE)

For more Filo Tart inspiration on my blog, please have a look at the following:

  • December Filo Tart with Mini Brussels Sprouts (Winterliche Filotarte mit Rosenkohlröschen) (HERE)
  • Filo Tart with fresh Figs & Prosciutto (Filotarte mit frischen Feigen & Prosciutto) (HERE)
  • Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart (HERE)
  • River Cottage "Veg Everyday" Courgette and Filo Rice Pie (HERE)
  • Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Meadowsweet Blossoms (Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten) (HERE)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Focaccia with Olive Herb l Focaccia mit Olivenkraut

Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, served as a side or (depending on whether you top it with herbs, veggies and fruits or not) made into a sandwich. Basically, it only requires five ingredients, flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt. Accordingly, my rustic Herb Focaccia recipe is easy to make and to adapt with whatever herbs you have on hand.

While there are countless recipes and variations of Focaccia, for my version of Herb Focaccia, I chose one of my favorite herbs, the so-called ‘olive herb’ (bot. Santolina viridis or Santolina rosmarinifolia), also known as ‘holy flax’. 

It is a perennial, hardy and woody plant that is rather low maintenance. It grows as a small, compact shrub up to 30 to 50cm (12 to 20in) high which makes it ideal as a hedge and in borders, it is also well suited to growing in containers which means it can easily go on a sunny terrace or balcony.

This culinary plant has dark green needle-like leaves that are reminiscent of rosemary and which have the flavor and aroma of marinated green olives. Come summertime, it is known to produce small yellow button flowers, which I used for dressing up my Focaccia as well.

The olive herb can be grown from seed but they are not always easy to find. After the plant flowers, it produces achenes (source), a type of nut fruit which can be sown in early spring. In spring, it can be propagated through cuttings, much the same as you would do for propagating rosemary.

The plant is so low maintenance that you can simply plant it and forget it. Like most woody herbs, it likes full sun and well-drained soil. And, according to my humble experience, it seems to be tolerant of most diseases and garden pests. 

The culinary uses of olive herb are countless. It adds a savory flavor to many dishes and once you start using it, you will find it to be very versatile in the kitchen. For example, you can add it to salads, or pasta, but also to marinades, pesto, mushroom dishes, pizza, and, of course to focaccia. You can also use it in place of rosemary, with fish or roast meats and make flavored salts. To make flavored salt, start with about 75g (0.25 cup) coarse salt plus ½ tsp dried olive herb.

The little branches can also be used for cocktails and drinks or cut and hung to dry for later use.

Focaccia with Olive Herb l Focaccia mit Olivenkraut


  • 300g strong baking flour ( '00')
  • 1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 21g fresh yeast OR 7gr dried yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (suitable for cooking), plus some for drizzling the dough and for brushing the herbs just before baking
  • 200ml warm water 
  • a few sprigs of olive herb or other woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary, lavender, bay, marjoram, sage or hyssop

To finish and for dipping

  • olive oil, mild, preferably a fruity olive oil
  • flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon


  1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 100ml of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough, then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
  2. Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the center, turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.
  3. Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  4. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten the dough onto the prepared tray, pushing to the corners, cover with a large plastic bag, making sure it does not touch the top of the dough, then leave to prove again - for about one hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 220°C or as hot as it will go.
  6. Now, if you wish to top the Focaccia with herbs, just before you drizzle the bread with olive oil, make small indentations all over the dough, then break off small sprigs of the herb you are using from a couple of larger sprigs, and push the small sprigs into each indentation or try to tush them into the dough as best as you can. OR just drizzle the Focaccia with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden.
  7. When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve straight from the oven or warm/at room temperature.

Recipe Tips

  • Try adding other garden herbs or leave the focaccia herb free.
  • Serve with your favorite fruity, high-quality olive oil for dipping, some additional fleur de sel or Maldon salt for sprinkling and some olives for munching alongside.
  • When stale, cut or break into chunks and fry in olive oil (the one that is suitable for cooking) – so you will end up with lovely croutons for your salad – maybe a for a Panzanella (a summery Italian bread and tomato salad) or an American Caesar salad.

More Focaccia inspiration from my blog:

Focaccia with Butternut Squash and Winter Sage (Focaccia mit Butternut Kürbis und Wintersalbei) (HERE)

Focaccia with Za’atar (Focaccia mit Za'atar) (HERE)

Wild Garlic and Cheese Focaccia (Focaccia mit Bärlauch und Käse) (HERE)

Fennel and Grape Focaccia (Fenchel-Trauben Focaccia) (HERE)

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Seasonal Baking: Apricot-Mixed Grain Crumb Bars

These summery bars have three components, the buttery, shortbread-y crust, the fruity filling with homemade apricot jam and apricot slices and the mixed grain-almond crumble. None of the three require the use of an electric mixer, meaning that they can be made entirely by hand. 

And I would even go so far as to say that when you compare these bars to other dessert bars, they do have a certain healthy-ish, feel-good advantage -  as I use spelt flour for the base and mixed grain flakes as well as almonds for the crumble, as well as fresh seasonal stone fruit for the filling – all in all resulting in wonderfully delicious, summery dessert bar that is also fantastic for breakfast or simply as a snack. Of course, coarse oats can be used instead of the coarse mixed grain flakes.

First up the buttery crust, once all the components are roughly mixed together, butter and line a square (brownie) baking pan with baking parchment, dump the buttery mix into the pan and, using a floured measuring cup (or similar suitable piece of equipment with a flat bottom) make sure to flatten and only slightly press on the ingredients, until you have a uniform layer of crust. Then freeze that for about 15 minutes. Pre-heat your oven in the meantime and prepare the filling and the topping while the crust is freezing and baking. Pre-baking for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on your oven) is a must here - just until the crust is golden.

For the fruity filling use homemade or good-quality (meaning a high ratio of fruit to sugar) jam or preserve. You will also add a layer of peeled and thinly sliced apricots. Apricots are in season and abundantly available these days. Make sure to try a few before using, just to make sure they are ripe but not too soft for peeling. To peel, mark the fruit with an x, boil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (depending on the ripeness of your fruit), transfer to a bowl with ice water, peel, de-stone and slice (depending on the size of the apricot, about 4 slices per half). If apricots are not your thing, you can substitute equal amounts of stone-fruits and jam/preserve, like peaches, nectarines or later in the season, even plums.

Lastly, prepare the crumble layer. Once you finished the crumble, leave it in the freezer while the shortbread crust is baking and cooling. Now I love the taste and bite of mixed grains and coarse oats but if you don’t, just use quick cooking oats instead of the coarse oats. As far as the coarse oats are concerned, I use a mix of organic grain flakes consisting of coarse oats, wheat, rye, spelt and barley but all coarse oats is just as delicious. And I add flaked almonds to the crumble mix as well but you can omit them if you prefer a nut free recipe.

The apricots: fresh apricots are loose-stoned fruit that range in color from pale yellow to flushed pink. When they are ripe, their flesh is sweet, soft and juicy. They can vary greatly in quality. If they taste somewhat mealy when eaten fresh, cook them into a dish and they will become very flavorsome.

Apricots make wonderful jam if cooked with sugar and lemon juice. The jam is commonly used as a glaze on pastries, tarts and cakes, just melt the jam with water and strain before applying. And the strong sweet-tart taste of apricots makes them generally popular in desserts and sauces. 

The seeds or kernals of the apricot pits, which are poisonous until roasted, are used in confections and to flavor liqueurs. Seeds or kernels of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they may be substituted for almonds. Did you realize that the popular Italian liqueur Amaretto as well as the wonderful Amaretti Biscotti are flavored with extract of apricot kernels rather than almonds. And oil pressed from these cultivars has been used as cooking oil as well (Aprikosenkernöl).

While the amazing flavor of the apricots is undisputed, the origin of the apricot is another story. The apricot was known in Armenia during ancient times, and has been cultivated there for so long that it is often thought to have originated there. Its scientific name Prunus armeniaca (translated as Armenian plum) derives from that very assumption. And the Belgian arborist Baron de Poerderlé, writing in the 1770s, stated that "Cet arbre tire son nom de l'Arménie, province d'Asie, d'où il est originaire et d'où il fut porté en Europe ..." ("this tree takes its name from Armenia, province of Asia, where it is native, and whence it was brought to Europe ..."). Others, however, argue that apricots originated in China or were first cultivated in India in about 3000 BC. It is said Alexander the Great brought them to Greece and they were first introduced to the New World in the early 18th century by Spanish missionaries in California. Wherever apricots were cultivated first, they are delicious and healthy with a rather short season, so indulge while you can.

Apricot-Mixed Grain Crumb Bars


For the Shortbread Crust 

  • 200g (1 ½ cups) white spelt flour OR use all purpose (plain) flour
  • 70g (1/3 cup) superfine (baking) sugar 
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 pinch of fine salt
  • 140g (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Fruity Filling

  • 140g (5 ounces) apricot jam or preserves (preferably homemade)
  • 8 to 10 smallish fresh apricots (peeled and pitted, they weigh about 250g)

For the Crumbly Topping

  • 45g (1/3 cup) white spelt flour OR use all purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar OR use light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp superfine (baking) sugar
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • ¼ tsp Ceylon cinnamon OR go with ground cardamom instead if cinnamon is not your thing
  • 45g (½ cup) coarse multi gran flakes OR coarse oats OR use quick-cooking oats if you prefer 
  • 45g (½ cup) flaked almonds
  • 45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature


  1. Butter a 20x20cm (8inx8in) square baking pan (such as a brownie pan) and line with parchment paper (preferably with overlapping baking paper, so the baked bars can easily be lifted from the pan without breaking).
  2. For the crust: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar and a pinch of salt together in a medium bowl. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix, using your hands. until it comes together in a crumbly batter. Dump this into the parchment lined pan and press into an even layer, corner to corner. Then cover and put the crust into the freezer for 15 minutes or until nice and firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375° F). 
  4. For the filling: while the crust is in the freezer, peel your apricots. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cut a small X into the bottom of each fruit. Dunk the apricots into the boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. The skin should peel off easily starting from the X. Slice the apricot flesh into small wedges and set aside.
  5. Remove the pan with the crust from freezer and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until deep golden.
  6. For the topping: assemble the topping by placing all the ingredients into a bowl and squeazing them together with a fork or your fingers. Place in the freezer until ready to use.
  7. Once you removed the baked crust from the oven, you should allow it to cool slightly before coating with the jam/preserves, followed by the fresh slices, spaced to cover. Then top that with the cooled crumble topping and return to the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and baked through.
  8. Transfer to a cooling rack and make sure to allow to cool completely before cutting so that the jam/preserve and fruit filling can set properly. NOTE: These are definitely best eaten the day they are made but leftovers can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a day (well wrapped, of course to keep moisture away from their buttery goodness).

Below is a collage of Yotam Ottolanghi's Apricot & Rosemary Galette, that I made a while ago, for more on this lovely, seasonal apricot recipe, pls go HERE

In Europe, apricots were long considered an aphrodisiac, and were used in this context in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. And dreaming of apricots, in English folklore, is said to be good luck. 

"Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,

With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries,"

William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene 1