Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Springtime Baking: Yogurt Rhubarb Bundt - Frühlingsgugelhupf mit Jogurt und Rhabarber


Of all the cakes one could have – and there are many out there – I believe that the ones involving yogurt as well as a good quality vegetable oil (light olive oil being my favorite) are up there with the best. Not only is a yogurt-oil based cake always going to be moist but it will also score culinary points with a pleasant tang from the yogurt. This bundt, or Gugelhupf as we prefer to call it around here, also keeps very well for a few days (if kept in a coolish place), so if you enjoyed it for afternoon tea or coffee the day before, you will be happy to reach for another slice the following morning and turn this delight into a breakfast treat.





Maybe it is just me who prefers the simple, the uncomplicated cakes. But there is something very comforting about a slice of a plain bundt cake. You can leave the cake entirely unadorned, or dust it with some powdered sugar or go for the glaze maybe with red fruit juice, maybe without. Or leave it as is and serve on a very pretty cake plate, maybe vintage, maybe new. If you have flowers, place them on the table, in a vase or glass bottle or any other vessel. Whatever you do, celebrate the simple things in life with this bundt. I should mention that it comes together in no time and rhubarb is just perfect here.





Yogurt Rhubarb  Bundt

Ingredients

For the Bundt
  • 240g white spelt flour (around here 'Type 630') OR all purpose (plain) flour (around here 'Type 405')
  • 2 tsp baking powder (or you could use 250g of self-raising flour)
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 150ml Greek yogurt OR thickened natural/plain yogurt 
  • 150ml light olive oil (or use another light oil suitable for baking such as sunflower oil), plus some for greasing the pan
  • 150g superfine baking sugar (OR use regular white sugar)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar 
  • 3 eggs (M), free-range or organic
  • 1 tsp finely grated organic/untreated orange zest OR use lemon zest
  • 100g rhubarb, diced not bigger than 1.5cm

For the Icing
  • 200g powdered sugar
  • 50ml rhubarb juice (homemade or storebought OR go with freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • optional: 1 drop of natural food color OR a little bit of red fruit juice (sometimes I like to use a bit of red or black currant juice) to make the icing more 'pinkish'
  • dried culinary rose petals* and a few chopped natural pistachios (or almonds) to decorate

Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F).
  2. Lightly oil your baking pan (if you use a Gugelhupf pan, it should be about 22cm), dust with flour and shake out excess flour (if you do not have a bundt pan, go with a loaf pan).
  3. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In another large mixing bowl whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, vanilla sugar and eggs. 
  5. Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture, add orange zest and mix until no flour is visible.
  6. Pour half of the mixture into the pan, top with the rhubarb, pushing some into the batter. Pour over the rest of the batter, smooth it a little then place it into the pre-heated oven. 
  7. Bake the bundt for about 40 to 45 minutes (if you use a different baking pan, you will likely have to increase your baking time by 10 to 15 minutes or more, depending on size and shape). Cover the cake with foil if necessary towards the end to prevent over-browning. Test for doneness with a wooden skewer, it should come out clean. If not, place the bundt back into the oven for a further five minutes or until backed through.
  8. Take the cake out of the oven, leave to cool for only a few minues on a cooling rack, then carefully up-end it onto a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
  9. While the cake is cooling, make the icing (if using). Add the powdered sugar to a bowl, gradually add the rhubarb juice (and/or other red fruit juice) until you have a thickish glaze (you may not use it all). Pour it over the top, wait until it has set a bit, then decorate with culinary rose petals and/or chopped pistachio/almonds. Let the icing dry before slicing into the cake (if you can wait).

Note: *Culinary rose petals can be ordered online, you can dry some at home using only untreated roses, try your tea-merchant (which is what I do), your health-food store or Middle-Eastern stores. But whatver source you choose, smell the dried rose petals before using them - they should have a subtle rose flavor. To increase 'rosiness' use a few drops of a high-quality rose water in the icing but smell that first too, to make sure it has a suble flavor.





Rhubarb is a funny vegetable. So funny, it thinks it's a fruit.”
(The Guardian, January 6, 2007)



Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Brunch at Home - Oster Brunch Zuhause


This weekend is Easter weekend. But, of course, things are different this year. And different times call for finding different ways of celebrating special festive days that have always been close to our hearts and that remain important to us. Usually we celebrate Easter with a big, long family picnic. This year we are staying home and we will celebrate with an Easter brunch. As in previous years, there will be lots of colored eggs (bunte Ostereier) and Easter chocolates (Osterschokoladen) of course, but we have decided to skip the traditional leg of lamb and big feast for unpretentious, yet big on flavor dishes, including Creamy Peas Soup with Frothed Milk (Erbsenschaumsüppchen), Alsatian-style Tarte Flambée with Goat's Cheese & Zucchini (Flammkuchen mit Ziegenkäse & Zucchini), Braided Easter Wreath (Hefekranz)and Easter Lamb & Bunny Cakes (Osterlamm-und Hasenkuchen).




Personally, I find that cooking and baking cookies and cakes lightens my mood and although it might seem trivial to some, it provides a little ray of normality and makes staying home that little bit more bearable.

This year to celebrate Easter from a different perspective, you might want to have a go at a new recipe or two, maybe you will spend some time doing Easter arts and crafts with the kids, or you will take a walk with your family, admiring all that nature has to offer, you might also re-discover your home library or color lots of beautiful Easter eggs. Set a pretty Easter table, use colorful tableware, and those vintage and/or heirloom serving pieces that remind you of a loved one. Whatever you do, make it special, make it festive, celebrate what you treasure.





Onto my recipe for our Easter brunch. Tarte flambée or Flammkuchen is often said to be an Alsatian version of or France’s answer to the Italian Pizza. In fact, I think it’s not much like pizza at all, apart from being very thin and savory. Flammkuchen is a speciality of Alsace and the Baden-Württemberg (Baden) and Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland-Palatinate) regions on the German-French border. As it is made with unleavened dough, it bakes very crisply indeed, which is its greatest quality.

Traditionally, it is cooked quickly at very high temperature in a wood-fired oven and takes its name from the fact that the edge of the dough often caught fire in the intense heat of the oven, it is said to have been 'licked by the flames'. For all those of us, including myself, who do not own a wood-fired oven, tarte flambée can be made in a regular oven and still be deliciously crisp, it just will not have that typical 'smokey' aroma.





The dish was created by farmers from who used to bake bread once a week. The Flammkuchen was originally a homemade dish which did not make its urban restaurant debut until the 'pizza craze' of the 1960s. A Flammkuchen would be used to test the heat of wood-fired ovens. At the peak of its temperature, the oven would also have the ideal conditions in which to bake a Flammkuchen. The embers would be pushed aside to make room for the tarte in the middle of the oven, and the intense heat would be able to bake it in 1 or 2 minutes.

A traditional tarte flambée always consists of a very thin bread base, either round or rectangular, that is typically topped with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, lardoons (French bacon) and onions - all popular ingredients in Alsatian cuisine.  Depending on the region, this tart can be called 'Flammekueche' (in Alsatian), 'Flammkuchen' (in German) or 'tarte flambée' (in French).




For today´s springtime version, I chose a veggie topping of thinly sliced zucchini (aka courgette) and spring onions as well as an artisinal soft goat‘s cheese (or chèvre) manufactured by my favorite small producer. Especially during difficult times like these, I find it important to support small local businesses. On a positive note, it has become increasingly easy to order fresh regional products online. So, for this recipe, I substituted a third of the traditional crème fraîche with soft goat’s cheese. That lovely fresh cheese definitely adds another layer of flavor here, and, it makes me feel good too.





There are countless variations to the original recipe and there are really no limits as to what can be added as a topping. For example you could add smoked bacon and reblochon or gruyère cheese or maybe red onions and pancetta, other veggies, no onions, add all crème fraîche, lots of soft herbs after your tarte emerges from the oven – use what you have available and what suites your taste buds.

I should add one more thing, there are recipes out there for dough that is leavened with yeast - my recipe doesn’t call for yeast – an item that a couple of weeks disappeared from the store shelves and can still be hard to come by. I prefer a tarte flambée dough sans yeast, always have, always will. It is very easy to work with and bakes up beautifully.




Tarte Flambée with Goat's Cheese & Zucchini

Ingredients
  • 150g AP (plain) flour, plus flour for rolling
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (chose a mild one suitable for cooking)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 zucchini (about M size)
  • 2 spring onions
  • 100g crème fraîche
  • 50g soft goat’s cheese
  • salt, pepper, grated lemon zest
  • some wild garlic, cress, basil or other soft fresh herbs to finish

Preparation
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, add oil, egg yolk, 125ml water and then salt. Mix together with your hands or the dough hooks of your hand mixer until the dough comes together to from a smooth dough.
  2. Brush the dough with a bit more oil, cover with an upside-down bowl and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  3. While the dough is resting, wash and slice the zucchini very thinly. Wash the spring onions, dry and slice thinly.
  4. In another bowl mix together the crème fraîche, goat’s cheese, salt, freshly ground black pepper and a bit of grated lemon zest.
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 220°C (428°F) or 200°C (395°F) convection.
  6. Divide the dough in 2 and roll out each portion on a very lightly floured work surface – make sure to roll it out very thinly.
  7. Transfer the rolled-out dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or use a pizza stone if you own one, following the manufacturer’s instructions).
  8. Distribute the cheese mixture evenly between the rounds of dough and spread it up to the edges. Layer the zucchini slices and sliced onions on top.
  9. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the dough are deep golden and crunchy.
  10. Remove the baked tarte from the oven, sprinkle with a few fresh herbs (optional) and serve immediately.


Flammkuchen mit Ziegenkäse & Zucchini

Zutaten
  • 150g Mehl (Type 550), plus etwas zum Ausrollen
  • 100g Weizen-Vollkornmehl
  • 4 EL Olivenöl (mild)
  • 1 Eigelb
  • ½ TL Salz
  • 4 Zucchini (M)
  • 2 Frühlingszwiebeln
  • 100g Crème fraîche
  • 50g Ziegenfrischkäse
  • Salz, Pfeffer, Zitronenabrieb (Bio-Zitrone)
  • etwas Bärlauch, Kresse, Basilikum oder andere frische Kräuter (nach Geschmack)

Zubereitung
  1. Beide Mehle mischen und mit dem Öl, dem Eigelb, 125 ml Wasser und dem Salz zu einem glatten Teig verkneten.
  2. Die Teigkugel mit Öl bestreichen und unter einer Schüssel bei Zimmertemperatur 30 Min. ruhen lassen.
  3. Inzwischen die Zucchini waschen, in feine Streifen schneiden. Frühlingszwiebeln waschen, putzen und in Ringe schneiden.
  4. Crème fraîche mit Ziegenfrischkäse, Salz, Pfeffer und etwas Zitronenabrieb verrühren.
  5. Ofen auf 220° (Umluft 200°) vorheizen. Den Teig halbieren und jede Hälfte und auf der leicht bemehlten Arbeitsfläche zu sehr dünnen Fladen ausrollen. Jeweils 1 Teigboden auf ein mit Backpapier ausgelegtes Backblech legen.
  6. Die Teigböden mit der Crème fraîche Mischung bestreichen, mit Zwiebeln und Zucchinistreifen belegen und im Ofen (Mitte) 10 Min. backen bis die Böden schön knusprig sind.
  7. Etwas Kresse oder andere Kräuter darüber streuen und die Flammkuchen noch heiß servieren.



Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a 'local' radio station, where, throughout the years, I present different baked goods that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German) HERE.

The various recipes of my series can be found here:

  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE
  • for Easter (Ostern) an elegant Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE
  • for Mary's Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) little divine almond cakes called Visitandines (Mandelküchlein) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.



Saturday, April 4, 2020

Palm Sunday & My Recipe for Palm Pretzels - Palmsonntag & Mein Rezept für Palmbrezeln


Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) otherwise known as Passion Sunday, is April 5 this year, marking the first day of Holy Week (Karwoche), the last week of Lent (Fastenzeit) which starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag). It commemorates the biblical account of Jesus’ triumphant and last ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as the faithful spread palm branches in his path to welcome him.

Crowds of people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, throwing their cloaks in his path and waving palm branches‘ (John 12:19, Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11). 




There are many traditions that take place on Palm Sunday but one of the most popular that actually dates back to the 8th century is the Palm Sunday processions (Palmsonntag Prozessionen) through the streets, traditionally held before church service. Some German parishes and towns still hold these palm parades. After church services, the blessed 'palm twig bouquets' (Palmwedel), many decorated with colorful ribbons, are taken home and while many Christians keep them in their homes all year as a symbol of their faith and place them in vases, others burn them and save the ashes to use on Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch) of the following year. According to old beliefs, the palm bouquets may ward off evil and may even protect the home from lightning and stormy weather.

Since palms don’t usually grow in central and northern Europe, instead of palm fronds, various locally available greenery such as box, yew, birch, hazelnut, forsythia or willow twigs and branches are substituted and brought to church.




In certain areas of southwest Germany, peasant customs from the past are preserved as in olden times and some farmers still mix dried pussy-willows into their animal feed to protect them against sickness and epidemics.




The very popular Pretzel (Brezel) is a type of baked pastry made from dough that is commonly shaped into a knot. The traditional pretzel shape is a distinctive symmetrical form, with the ends of a long strip of dough intertwined and then twisted back onto itself in a particular way (a pretzel loop). In modern times, pretzels come in a wide range of shapes, size and flavors.




Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels, complementing the soda or lye treatment that gives pretzels their traditional skin and flavor acquired through the Maillard reaction. Varieties of pretzels include soft pretzels, which should be eaten shortly after preparation, and hard-baked pretzels, which have a long shelf life.

The German name 'Brezel' is said to derive also from the Latin word 'bracellus' (a medieval term for 'bracelet') or 'bracchiola' (meaning 'little arms'). Popular stories claim that the pretzel was invented by a baker to represent Christian monks crossing their arms in prayer.

The pretzel has also been in use as an emblem of bakers and formerly their guilds in southern German areas since at least the 12th century.




Within the Christian Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels called Lenten Prezels (Fastenbrezel) are traditionally made with a simple recipe using only flour and water and could be eaten during Lent (Fastenzeit) when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. Their texture and flavor resembles rusks (Zwieback). As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter.

Especially in Catholic areas, such as Austria, Bavaria, or some parts of Swabia, the Palm Pretzel (Palmbrezel) is made only for Palm Sunday celebrations. Their size and weight can vary considerably but Palm Pretzels are larger than usual and are made without salt or brine. They are meant as Lenten fare only for Palm Sunday. In some Catholic areas, these pretzels are part of the decorated 'palm sticks' (Palmstecken), they are mounted on colorful decorated poles, carried through the streets to church to be blessed there and later shared with family and friends.




Palm Pretzels
(the recipe yields 6)

Ingredients
  • 1000g strong baking flower (around here ‚Type 550‘)
  • 140g superfine baking sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 30g lard (you can substitute an equal amount of butter)
  • 10g fine salt
  • 42g fresh yeast OR use 21g active dry yeast or 14g instant yeast instead 
  • 2 eggs (L), free-range or organic
  • 400 bis 450 ml lukewarm milk (I like to use full fat milk)
  • Grated zest from an organic/untreated lemon (you can substitute orange zest or use vanilla sugar instead

In Addition
  • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
  • some milk
  • flaked almonds and coarse sugar

Preparation
  1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of your stander mix and knead for about 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Cover the dough and let rise in a draft-free/warm spot for about an hour or until doubeld in volume.
  3. Place the risen dough on your lighty-floured work surface.
  4. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into six equals parts (each part will weigh about 300g), then divide each portion into 3 equal portions each (that will equal 18 portions weighing about 100g each).
  5. Taking one portion at a time, roll the dough into a long strand - use the palms of your hands to roll it back and forth against the counter top. Push the dough outwards as you roll until you achieve the desired length of about 35 cm.
  6. Then take 3 strands and braid the middle part only, squeeze the ends together and roll them together.
  7. Then pick up the two ends and twist them around each other. Attach the twisted section to the left and the right of pretzel and pinch them firmly into the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough. When you are done, you should have 6 pretzels.
  8. Place two on one parchment lined baking sheet, brush with some egg and milk mixed together, cover loosely and let rise again for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. In the meantime pre-heat your oven to about 180°C (356°F).
  10. After the second rise, brush again with egg mixture, sprinkle some coarse sugar and flaked almonds on the middle parts (optional) and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.



Palmbrezeln
(für ca. 6 Palmbrezeln)

Zutaten
  • 1000g Weizenmehl 'Type 550' (kann auch durch 500g 'Type 405' und 500g Type 550' ersetzt werden)
  • 140g feinster Backzucker
  • 100g Butter
  • 30g Schweineschmalz (kann auch durch Butter ersetzt werden)
  • 10g feines Salz
  • 42g frische Hefe (oder 14g Trockenhefe, also 2 Packungen)
  • 2 Eier (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • 400 bis 450ml lauwarme Milch
  • abgeriebene Schale einer Bio-Zitrone (kann auch durch Bio-Orange oder Vanillemark oder -pulver ersetzt werden)

Zusätzlich
  • 1 Ei (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • etwas Milch
  • Mandelblättchen und etwas Hagelzucker

Zubereitung
  1. Alle Zutaten 7 bis 10 Minuten in der Teigknetmaschine zu einem Hefeteig verkneten. 
  2. Den Teig zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort zirka 1 Stunde ruhen lassen bis er gut aufgegangen ist bzw, bis es sich verdoppelt hat.
  3. Aus der Schüssel nehmen und auf die leicht bemehlte Arbeitsfläche geben.
  4. Anschließend sechs Portionen mit je zirka 300g abstechen und jede Portion nochmal in 3 gleich große Stücke teilen (ergibt 18 gleich große Stücke à zirka 100g).
  5. Alle Stücke zu Strängen vorrollen. Dann jeden Strang zu einer Länge von zirka 35cm lang ausrollen, dabei darauf achten, dass alle Stränge gleich stark sind.
  6. Dann jeweils 3 Stränge in der Mitte zu einem 3-Strang-Zopf flechten, die Enden gut zusammendrücken und dann zusammen ausrollen.
  7. Die Enden über Kreuz legen, dann einmal verdrehen und links und rechts das Ende festdrücken.
  8. Jeweils zwei Palmbrezelteiglinge auf ein Backblech legen, mit Eistreiche (Ei mit Milch) bepinseln, zudecken und nochmals zirka 20 bis 30 Minuten aufgehen lassen.
  9. In der Zwischenzeit den Ofen vorheizen (180°C).
  10. Dann nochmals mit Eistreiche einpinseln, mit Mandelblättchen und Hagelzucker verzieren und im vorgeheizten Ofen zirka 20 bis 25 Minuten backen oder bis die Brezel goldbraun sind.




Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a 'local' radio station, where, throughout the years, I present different baked goods that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German)HERE.


The various recipes of my series can be found here:


  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
  • for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
  • for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.








Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Old Viennese Topfen Cake & Oven-Baked Rhubarb - Altwiener Topfentorte & Ofen-Gebackener Rhabarber


The word 'Topfen', is just another name for 'Quark', a European-style fresh farmers' cheese that is somewhat creamier than cottage cheese. In general, while the expression 'Topfen' is widely used in Austria, Germans usually refer to this fresh cheese as 'Quark'.




It has a delightful mild yogurt tang. In general, Quark can by used for anything that you may use crème fraîche, sour cream, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for.




Quark (Topfen) can be described aa fresh, creamy cheese with a distinct flavor. It is very popular for both savory and sweet meals in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The Vienna (or Old Viennese) Topfen Cake is a traditional tart with origins that date back to the days of the Empire. And it is fairly simple to make, with just a few steps to remember.





And while Topfen (Quark) is an essential ingredient for baked cheesecakes in the two German speaking countries (Austria and Germany), the approach to cheesecake is different. German cheesecake (Käsekuchen) often includes a pie crust to encase the baked filling, while this classic Old Viennese Topfen Cake (Altwiener Topfentorte) is crustless and made with Quark mixed with almond flour and is essentially gluten free.




The combination of a bit of good quality butter, Quark, farm fresh eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond flour gives this traditional Old Viennese Topfen Cake a wonderful light texture that will surprise you. But you will definitely need to separate the eggs and with a light, quick hand fold the beaten egg whites into the Quark mixture, otherwise you will end up with a cake on the dense side. It is always a good idea to make sure your beater and bowl are clean - free of any fats - before you start beating your egg whites to ensure good volume results.




While I have blogged about this little elegant cake before, I decided to write about it one more time. I revised the recipe slightly and instead of serving it with fresh red currants, I decided to prepare oven-baked rhubarb and serve it alongside. This recipe has stolen my heart. Simple, Delicious. No flour needed. And to a certain degree, also versatile. If you are out of almond flour, use hazelnut (or any other nut) flour, got no lemons, use orange (or other citrus) here. No vanilla sugar. No problem. Use a pinch of cinnamon, or leftover speculoos or gingerbread spices (or any other spices you enjoy).




For the Roasted Rhubarb, wash (and peel if necessary) about 4 to 5 stalks of fresh rhubarb. Pre-heat the oven to 200° C (395°F), then cut the rhubarb into 5cm (2in) or so lengths and place in a roasting pan with half a tea-cup of water and some light brown (or white) sugar. Roast until just soft enough to take the point of a knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then drain, reserving the cooking juices. You can boil down the juices to a syrupy consistency and use any left-overs in some springtime lemonade.




Old Viennese Topfen Cake - Altwiener Topfentorte  
(this is a smallish cake, so it serves about 6 to 8, depending, of course, entirely on the size of your cake slices)

Ingredients
  • 120g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 120g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 4 eggs (M), free-range or organic, separated
  • 120g Quark (I recommend the use of the 'skim' variety, called 'Magerquark' - 10%)*
  • grated zest of an organic lemon (if you do not have lemons, use an organic orange instead)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar (if you do not have vanilla sugar, use a pinch of cinnamon)
  • a pinch fine sea salt
  • 120g almond flour (if you do not have almond flour, use another nut flour instead)
  • icing sugar for dusting and oven-baked rhubarb OR fresh fuits are entirely optional

*Instead of the Austrian Topfen or the German Quark, you can take any fresh farmers' cheesecottage cheese or ricotta because the eggs will hold everything together, but your choice of fresh cheese will affect the final flavor of the cheesecake. And it might be a good idea to whiz the cottage cheese or ricotta in your food processor to a smoother consistency. Or use 'skyr' (similar to strained yogurt) if you have that.

In addition
  • a 22cm (8.5in) springform pan
  • baking parchment

Preparation
  1. Pre-heat your oven 180°C (356°F). 
  2. Butter the springform pan, line with baking parchment and dust with almond meal, shaking out any excess.
  3. With a mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add one egg yolk at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Then add the Quark, lemon zest and vanilla sugar and mix through. Set aside.
  6. Using a separate clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. 
  7. Fold a third of the beaten egg white into the Quark mixture, then fold in the remaining eggwhites, along with the almond flour. Do this quickly using a spatula with a cutting motion. 
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. If the top of the cake browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the last 20 minutes or so of baking.
  9. Take the cake out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely on the wire rack. 
  10. Once completely cooled, remove the cake from the pan, remove the baking parchment, dust with icing sugar (optional) and serve as is, with fresh fruit or oven-baked rhubarb.




Enjoy - and if you can get your hands on fresh rhubarb, make the oven-baked rhubarb alongside. These two together make for a wonderful afternoon delight.