Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Festive Beignets for Pentecost (Whitsun) - Heiliggeistkrapfen für die Pfingsttage


This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost (Pfingsten). Pentecost or Pfingsten is a Christian holiday, which is celebrated on the 50th day of the Easter season (Osterfestkreis), that is, the 49 days after Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag). Pentecost is also called 'the birthday of the Church', as Christians remember the day when the Holy Spirit (Heiliger Geist) came to the earth as Jesus had promised.

Since Pentecost is so firmly rooted in Germany’s Christian traditions, Pentecost is celebrated on two consecutive days, Pentecost Sunday (Pfingstsonntag) and Pentecost Monday (Pfingstmontag). Pentecost Monday (also called Whit Monday in Britain) is an official holiday in Germany, shops and businesses are closed and in some federal states students also have a so-called Pentecost break (Pfingstferien), and, traditionally, many Germans avail themselves of the opportunity for a short vacation. Therefore, Pentecost Sunday (also called Whit Sunday) is a public holiday as well as the ceremonial culmination of the Easter season.





There are a number of charming local and regional customs associated with and tied to this springtime feast, some of them date back to pre-Christian times. Already during the Middle Ages, noble and royal marriages, knights’ jousting tournaments, riding competitions were held with great pomp on Pentecost.

In many regions of Germany special Pentecost customs and traditions are being re-discovered thriving again, such as the planting of a decorated birch tree called the 'Pentecost Tree' (Pfingstbaumpflanzen), and the 'Pentecost Tree Wreath' (Pfingstkranz) a custom which involves locals singing and dancing around a Pentecost Tree, and then there is the 'Pentecost Ox' (der Pfingstochse), a special Pentecost Sunday custom, during which cattle in rural areas (normally in the South of Germany) are driven towards fields often located high in the mountains. The strongest animals are decorated with ribbons, flowers and plants and lead a street procession.





Many Christians attend a special church service at Pentecost. And spring fun fairs (Pfingstkirmes) are held on the long Pentecost weekend in many areas of Germany. At church services, singing Pentecost hymns (Pfingstlieder) are central to the celebration in the Western tradition. And let’s not forget about those lovely Peonies (Pfingstrosen - the German name for these flowers literally translates to 'Pentecost roses'), those big pastel or white flowers that grow in large bushes and give off a lovely floral scent. They are known in many cultures in many different varities and are extremely popular in Germany around Pentecost.




In past times, popular superstitions about Pentecost revolved around certain herbs, plants and even flowers. For example, the calendula  (Ringelblume) was believed to have curative powers if picked on Pentecost Sunday morning at sunrise. People also believed that face-washing with Pentecost dew (Pfingsttau) would prevent freckles.  It was also hoped that water, scooped up from wells or brooks at this time (Pfingstwasser) would heal the sick, or that lighting one’s candle from a Pentecost bonfire would dispel evil spirits.




To come back to the more somewhat wordly pleasures of Pentecost, let’s talk about today’s recipe the 'Pentecost Beignets' (Heiliggeistkrapfen). To put it simply, these beignets are round shaped pieces of dough that are deep fried until golden and crunchy and then generously sprinkled with confectioners sugar. They’re best served hot, shared with beloved family members or friends and are a true delight when paired with a cup of coffee or afternoon tea.




The round shape of the beignet is said to resemble the shape of a dove. In Christian Iconography, a dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. And the creases (Windungen) in the beignets are said to symbolize the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (die 7 Gaben des Heiligen Geistes), they are an enumeration of seven spiritual gifts, namely wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (die Gaben der Weisheit, der Einsicht, des Rates, der Erkenntnis, der Stärke, der Frömmigkeit und der Gottesfurcht).




Festive Pentecost Beignets

Ingredients
(yields about 10 beignets)
  • 250g plain (AP) flour
  • 1 generous pinch of fine salt
  • ½ tsp aniseed
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 5 egg yolks (M), organic or free range
  • 125ml cooking cream
  • 1 tbsp rum (you can substitute milk) - optional
  • about 4 cups oil, for deep frying
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preparation
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, aniseed and vanilla sugar.
  2. In another bowl, whish together the egg yolks with the cream (and rum if using). Then add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Then, on a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth. Roll the dough into a fat sausage shape, wrap in kitchen foil and let it rest for about 1 hour.
  4. Once the dough has rested, cut ten slices from it. Take each slice and roll it out (again on a lighty floured work surface) to a round, very thin shape – it should be as thin as you can go (comparable to a strudel like dough). Place each rolled-out disk onto a floured clean kitchen towel and cover the disks with another towel so they do not dry out while your work on the rest. Proceed with the remaining dough until you have a total of 10 very thin dough disks.
  5. In the meantime, in a large enameled cast-iron pan, heat about 4in (10cm) of oil to 340°F to 360°F. 
  6. Very carefully place one dough round at a time into the hot oil and fry the dough until it puffs up and the beignet is light golden brown in color, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. NOTE: in order to create the 'creases' in the dough, you have to hold the dough down in the middle with a wooden spoon whilst turning the dough clockwise with another wooden spoon (it does take a bit of practice).
  7. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beignet to a paper lined sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar and serve at once.




Heiliggeistkrapfen

Zutaten
(für 10 Krapfen)
  • 250g Weizenmehl (Type 405), plus etwas für die Arbeitsfläche
  • 1 Prise Salz, fein
  • ½ TL Anis, gemahlen 
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 5 Eidotter (M), Bio- oder Freilandhaltung
  • 125ml Sahne (30%)
  • 1 EL Rum (oder Milch) optional
  • Pflanzenfett, Butterschmalz oder Öl zum Ausbacken
  • Puderzucker (nach Geschmack)

Zubereitung
  1. Für die Heiligengeistkrapfen das Mehl mit dem Salz, Anis und Vanillezucker vermengen.
  2. Die Eidotter mit der Sahne (und Rum) verrühren, zur Mehlmischung geben und alles zu einem glatten Teig verkneten.
  3. Das Ganze auf der Arbeitsfläche mit ein wenig Mehl zu einem glatten Teig kneten. Zu einer dicken Rolle formen, in Folie einwickeln und 1 Stunde ruhen lassen.
  4. Dann von der Rolle kleine Stücke abschneiden und diese zu hauchdünnen Kreisen ausrollen – der ausgerollte Teig sollte so dünn wie Strudelteig sein. Die Teigkreise auf ein bemehltes Küchentuch legen und jeweils abdecken bis der Teig verarbeitet ist.
  5. Inzwischen das Fett schmelzen lassen. Die Teigkreise ins auf ca. 160 °C (bis 170°) erhitzte Fett geben, mithilfe von zwei Holzlöffeln in die Teigkreise während des Backens Windungen hineindrehen, dann den Krapfen umdrehen und ca. 2 Minuten auch auf der zweiten Seite goldbraun backen – der Krapfen ist schnell ausgebacken und wird schnell zu dunkel.
  6. Nach dem Abtropfen und Auskühlen die Heiligengeistkrapfen mit Puderzucker bestreuen und wenn möglich umgehend 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 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
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun these festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.





Sunday, May 17, 2020

Hänsel & Gretel Cookies - How to turn Yesterday's Loaves into Today's Cookies - Hänsel & Gretel Kekse


When you’re going through unknowable times, something familiar – like cookies - are very comforting and may help keep you on an even keel. Additionally, you will be able to use up some of those breadcrumbs (Semmelbrösel) that you have left over from yesterday’s baguette or breakfast rolls (Semmel oder Brötchen). Commercially baked bread becomes stale through loss of moisture relatively quickly, so it's easy to turn yesterday's loaves into today's cookies.

Staying home for most parts of the day, home-schooling and weekend brunches have lead to considerable stacks of stale breads and rolls, which I like to turn into jars full of breadcrumbs that I use in various recipes. Breadcrumbs are one of my favorite kitchen staples and these lovely cookies are just one of the ways I make good use of yesterday's baked goods.





This is maybe a somewhat unusual cookie recipe where breadcrumbs replace part of the flour. The cookies have a bit of crunch, yet stay moist inside and are definitely not too sweet.

They are as delicious with ground almonds as they are with ground hazelnuts or walnuts or a mix of ground nuts. The breadcrumbs add a nice bit of crunch here, the molasses adds a bit of a caramel note and chewiness, the salt is for the balance of flavors and the cinnamon for a nice warm note (you can also add speculoos, gingerbread, apple pie spice here if you happen to have some left over). The dark chocolate I like to use is studded with whole hazelnuts. You can, of course, add regular dark chocolate (100g) and add whole toasted hazelnuts (50g) or use dark chocolate with almonds, or go with milk chocolate, if that’s what you have on hand, but remember that using different kinds of chocolate, will make these cookies more or less sweet.





The cookie dough will take no time to put together. And these cookies are wonderful on their own, but I think they would also be quite charming with a bowl of fresh seasonal fruits or berries.




Hänsel & Gretel Cookies
(yields 18 cookies)

Ingredients
  • 100g almond meal (finely ground almonds with skin or go with walnuts, hazelnuts or a mix thereof)
  • 80g breadcrumbs
  • 100g spelt flour (or go with AP/plain flour instead)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon (you can substitute other spice mixes including speculoos or gingerbread or apple pie)
  • 150g unsalted butter (you can substitute with salted butter but then omit the salt entirely or cut back to a pinch)
  • 120g superfine (baking) sugar (you can substitute with 60g white and 60g brown sugar ot go wwith all brown)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 2 tsps molasses (I like to use ‚Rübenkraut‘ from a local manufacturer)
  • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
  • 100g dark chocolate with hazelnuts (you can substitute 100g dark chocolate and 50g whole hazelnuts in total), chopped into chunks
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped onto chunks
Preparation
  1. Put the almond meal and breadcrumbs in the food processor and whiz together with the flour, salt, and cinnamon to combine.
  2. With your stand or hand mixer beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar until everything is thoroughly blended. Add the molasses and the egg and beat some more until the dough is smooth.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and whisk together.
  4. Add the chocolate chunks and mix briefly.
  5. Cover the bowl and let the cookie dough rest for about an hour in a cool place. If you want to bake the cookies a couple of hours later, make sure to cover the dough carefully with kitchen wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator, then take the cookie dough out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you would like to bake the cookies.
  6. In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 170°C (350°F).
  7. When the dough has had a chance to rest, form about 18 cookies by using an ice cream scoop or spoons, and lay the dough balls about 2.5cm (1in) apart on two parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for about 12 to 13 minutes, until the edges have slightly browned and the cookies are a little bit firm. Let them rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes (to let the melted choclate settle), then remove them to a rack to continue cooling.
  9. When completely cool, store the cookies in an airtight container, they keep well for a few days. But they are best eaten the day they were made.




Hänsel & Gretel Kekse

Zutaten
(für 18 Kekse)
  • 100g Mandelmehl
  • 80g Semmelbrösel
  • 100g Dinkelmehl (Type 630)
  • ½ TL feines Salz
  • ¾ TL Ceylon Zimt
  • 150g Butter
  • 120g feinster Zucker
  • 8g Bourbon Vanille Zucker
  • 2 TL Rübenkraut (Zuckerrübensirup)
  • 1 Ei (L), Bio oder Freilandhaltung
  • 100g dunkle Schokolade mit Haselnüssen (oder Mandeln)
  • 50g dunkle Schokolade (oder 100g dunkle Schokolade und 50g Haselnüsse)
Herstellung
  1. Das Mandelmehl zusammen mit den Semmelbröseln, dem Mehl, Salz und Zimt in die Küchenmaschine (Multizerkleinerer) gegen und ordentlich durchmischen.
  2. Die Butter, den Zucker, Vanillezucker und den Zuckerrübensirup mit einem Handrührgerät verrühren, bis die Masse schön cremig ist.
  3. Anschließend das Mehlgemisch unter die Buttermasse rühren, bis ein glatter Teig entsteht.
  4. Dann die gehackte Schokolade (und Nüsse) unterheben, abdecken und zirka 1 Stunde kühl stellen.
  5. Den Ofen auf 170°C vorheizen.
  6. Danach wird der Teig mit zwei Teelöffeln in kleinen runden Portionen auf zwei mit Backpapier ausgelegte Bleche gegeben, dabei zirka 2.5cm Abstand lassen, denn die Cookies gehen beim Backen etwas auf.
  7. Auf mittlerer Schiene circa 12 bis 13 Minuten hellgelb backen. Das Blech aus dem Ofen nehmen und die Kekse ein paar Minuten auf dem Blech abkühlen lassen, dann direkt auf ein Gitter legen und ganz abkühlen lassen. Mit dem zweiten Blech gleich verfahren.
  8. Nach dem Abkühlen in eine luftdichte Dose geben. Luftdicht verschlossen halten sich die Kekse ein paar Tage. Am besten schmecken die Cookies jedoch ganz frisch. Tipp: Die Kekse sollten noch einen weichen Biss haben und sind nicht knusprig oder gar hart sein - achten Sie darauf, dass die Kekse nicht zu lange im Ofen sind, denn außerhalb des Ofens garen sie aufgrund der eigenen Hitze noch nach.




More recipes with leftovers and forgotten ingredients to follow.



Tuesday, May 12, 2020

About Onion Skins in your Quiche Crust & Leaf-to-Root Eating - Über Zwiebelschalen im Quicheteig & Genuss vom Blatt bis zur Wurzel


As the season for wild garlic draws to an end, I would like to post just one more recipe that calls for some fragrant wild garlic leaves. If you cannot get hold of this seasonal ingredient, young spinach leaves work nicely in this recipe as well.





In these challenging times, it’s nice to remember long-planned projects like realizing an idea that I have carried around in my head and heart for a long time now and that involves cooking with so-called 'veggie kitchen scraps' such as peels, stems etc. - known also as 'The Vegetable Version Of Nose-To-Tail Eating' or 'Leaf-to-Root Eating'.

The different foods that I have cooked up in the past following this motto or philosphy include the following: making pesto from radish greens or from carrot tops, including beet greens in gratins, risottos or frittatas, keeping different veggie scraps and peelings to make vegetable stock, topping pasta with breadcrumbs from yesterday’s bread. The list is long and it keeps growing. But let's approach this food challenge one recipe at a time. Today I will start out by looking at onions and their nutritious skins.





You all know that onion skins not only add quite a bit of flavor to soups, but also give the broth a beautiful natural brown color. Alternatively, you can also dye your hair with onions or create beautiful shades of Easter egg color. If you are an avid gardener you might be using an onion skin fertilizer of sorts to protect and nurish your greens. But did you also realize that onion skins add a nice flavor to all sorts of dishes (other than soup) and a delicious aroma to freshly baked breads and other baked goods. Depending on the intensity of flavor you desire, try replacing 1 to 5% of the flour called for with dried and ground onion skins.

There is no doubt that cooking with onion skins is a fun way to turn an otherwise waste product into a striking ingredient that can give a contemporary look to your food. Add some to your quiche dough to give it a bit of an oniony flavor and intriguing color. So, next time you pick up an onion or two for cooking, remember to keep the onion skins. Wash them well, dry them well and grind them up in your food processor. But note that you will probably not be able to grind up the onions skins completely, but some flecks in the dough are desirable and pretty too. Personally, I love cooking with red onions, so I made the dough with red onion skins but feel free to use whatever onion skins you have on hand.





Wild Garlic Quiche with Onion Skins  in the Crust

Ingredients

For the Shortcrust Pastry
  • 250g spelt flour (you can go with white spelt flour or use a mix of spelt and wheat)
  • fine sea salt
  • 125g butter, unsalted and fridge cold
  • 1 egg (L), organic or free-range
  • 1 tbsp water, cold (you might need a bit more, depending on the consistency of your dough)
  • red onion skins from about 2 red onions, washed, dried and ground up (you can use different colored onion skins as well)
For the Filling
  • 50g grated mozzarella (you can substiute any other mild cheese that you have on hand and that is suitable for cooking)
  • 50g Pancetta (you can substiute a mild bacon here)
  • 16 freshly picked wild garlic leaves (you can substitute young spinch leaves)
  • 2 eggs (L), organic or free-range
  • 50g cooking cream
  • some milk
  • freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation
  1. To make the shortcrust pastry, whisk together the flour and the salt. Cut up the cold butter into small cubes and, using your fingertips, rub together the ingredients just until it looks like coarse oatmeal. Add the egg, water and ground onion skins and make the crumb mixture come together to form a firm dough. Pat the dough into a disc. Cover with kitchen wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 356°F.
  3. Then on a lightly-floured work surface, roll out the dough to a circle.
  4. Grease the baking pan with some butter and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Then line the pan with the rolled-out dough, dock the dough with the tines of a fork, line with crumbled parchment paper, fill-up with pie weights and pre-bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes at 356°F, then remove the pie weights and the parchment paper and bake again for another 5 minutes at 320°F or until the pastry has a golden color.
  5. While your tart case pre-bakes, you can prep your filling. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, cream, a bit of milk, freshly ground black pepper, salt and some freshly grated nutmeg.
  6. Remove the pastry case from the oven, fsprinkle the grated cheese into the pastry base and let it sit for a moment until it has started melting, then sprinkle the pancetta over the melted cheese. Then distribute the sliced wild garlic leaves evenly over the pancetta. Then pour the filling over the pancetta and wild garlic.
  7. Return the quiche to the oven and finish baking the quiche for about 30 minutes.
  8. Place the baked quiche on a cooling rack, let it rest for a while.
  9. Either enjoy right away or at room temperature.




Bärlauch Quiche mit roten Zwiebelschalen im Teig

Zutaten

Für den Teig
  • 250g Dinkelmehl (Type 630 oder Type 1050)
  • etwas feines Salz
  • 125g Butter, kalt
  • 1 Ei (L), Bio-oder Freiland
  • 1 EL Wasser, kalt
  • ein paar rote Zwiebelschalen, von zirka 2 roten Zwiebeln, gewaschen, getrocknet und gemahlen
Für die Füllung
  • 50g geriebener (grob) Mozzarella oder ein anderer milder Käse
  • 50g Pancetta (ersatzweise magerer Speck)
  • 16 frische gepflückte Bärlauch Blätter (ersatzweise Spinat)
  • 2 Eier (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • 50g Sahne
  • etwas Milch
  • frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer, Salz, etwas frisch gemahlene Muskatnuss

Zubereitung
  1. Das Dinkelmehl mit der Butter, einer Prise Salz, dem Ei, Wasser und den gemahlenen Zwiebelschalen zu einem glatten Teig verkneten. Diesen in Folie wickeln und zirka 30 Minuten kühl stellen.
  2. Den Backofen auf 180°C Ober-/Unterhitze vorheizen. Die Tarte-Form fetten und mit Backpapier auslegen. 
  3. Den Teig auf einer mit Mehl bestäubten Arbeitsfläche ausrollen und die Form damit auslegen. Überstehenden Teig wegschneiden, mit einer Gabel einstechen, mit Backpapier auskleiden, mit Hülsenfrüchten (oder Keramik Backbohnen) beschweren und im vorgeheizten Ofen bei 180°C zirka 20 bis 25 Min blind backen, dann Backpapier entfernen und bei 160° C zirka 5 Minuten nachbacken.
  4. In der Zwischenzeit für die Füllung die Eier, Sahne und Milch verrühren und mit Salz, frisch gemahlenem Pfeffer und etwas Muskatnuss kräftig würzen.
  5. Den Käse auf dem Teigboden verteilen und kurz an-schmelzen lassen.
  6. Dann 50g Pancetta auf den Käse geben, dann geschnittener Bärlauch, dann die Eiermischung gleichmäßig über den Pancetta/Bärlauch gießen.
  7. Bei 160° C auf der untersten Einschubleiste etwa 30 Minuten fertig backen.
  8. Noch heiß servieren oder abkühlen lassen und lauwarm servieren, gerne auch mit einem saisonalen Pflücksalat.





You might also like the recipe for my Red Beet Top & Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta. For the recipe, please click HERE.

Make sure to follow me along on this tasty journey. I believe that especially these days, it‘s worth knowing a few recipes that make good use of perfectly healthy and delicious ingredients that you would otherwise end up not using and discarding. Its good to think outside the box these days and venture beyond using onion skins in your soup.

Where has your culinary 'Leaf-to-Root' journey taken you so far...




Friday, May 1, 2020

Visitandines de Nancy - Divine Bakes for the Month of May (Visitandines für den Marienmonat Mai)


Visitandines de Nancy also called Visitandines de Lorraine are small French Almond Cakes that originated in the convent of a community of French nuns called 'Ordre de la Visitation' (Order of the Visitation in English or Visitantinnen in German). The 'Sisters of the Visitation', colloquially known in French as the 'Visitandines' took their name from the visitation by the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, before Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. And the lovely month of May is also known as 'Mary's month of May' (Marienmonat), therefore there seems to be no better time than May to present the wonderful recipe for classic Visitandines.




It is said that these small cakes with almond meal, egg whites, and brown butter were created by the nuns as a source of much-needed protein in times of hunger. Other sources indicate that since in former times paint was made with egg yolks (as an emulsifier), accordingly the nuns had many egg whites left over from mixing paints, didn’t want to waste them and created those lovely little cakes. Whatever the truth of their original creation maybe, Visitandines are adorable little snack cakes that are a cinch to make.




For many years, the original recipe that was created by the nuns in the 17th century, seems to have been forgotten but it was re-vived at the end of the 19th century (around 1890) by a French Pâtissier named Lasne. He owned a pastry shop on the Rue St. Denis in Paris, located in the heart of the financial district, nearby 'La Bourse', the stock exchange. In the afternoons the stockbrockers would go to his pastry shop to pick-up a small afternoon snack. So, based on the traditional recipe for 'Visitandines', Monsieur Lasne offered his customers small compact almond cakes with a batter of nut flour, sugar and egg whites, enriched with melted brown butter and baked in small rectangular molds (the shape being reminiscent of gold bars). He served them without any decoration and named them for his clients 'Financiers'.




Later the recipe was picked up by the world famous Parisian pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre (Desserts traditionnels de France). Lenôtre even mentions in his cookbook that the little cakes originated in the convent of the Visitation community, but that they were subsequently improved by pastry chefs who prepared them elsewhere. A similar recipe appears in Darenne and Duval’s early-twentieth century Treatise on Modern Pastrymaking (Traite de Patisserie Moderne). Today, you can also find a recipe for 'Financiers' in Thomas Keller’s 'Bouchon Bakery' (page 98).

The recipe spread not only across France but also to the US, Australia and New Zealand and many pastry chefs around the world have come up with their own takes on the classic – including adding berries, fresh fruits, differents nut flours, dried fruits or chocolate. In many places including New Zealand and Australia, these cakes are also known as 'Friands'.

My recipe for today is based on a classic version, as it is my favorite way to enjoy these almond cakes. It needs just a handful of ingredients and bakes in less than 20 minutes.These elegant Visitandines are rich, buttery, and delicate, a perfect afternoon delight, not only in the month of May.





Visitandines de Nancy (French Almond Cakelettes)

Ingredients
(yield 12 to 24 small cakes, depending on the size of the molds used)
  • 110g beurre noisette*, plus some butter for the baking pan
  • 80g almond flour (if you do not have almond flour, use blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor)
  • 145g powdered sugar, sieved
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 4 egg whites (L), free-range or organic
  • 50g AP (plain) flour, plus some for the baking pans
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 cl rum (you can substitute milk here)
  • Powdered sugar, or powdered sugar mixed with cherry liqueur (Kirsch) for the glaze (optional)
* To prepare the beurre noisette, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat, warm until completely melted, once the butter has turned brown, emove from the heat and filter.


Baking Molds

If you use a regular muffin pan, you will end up with 12 Visitandines, if you go with a mini-muffin pan, you will get 24. If you have oval visitandines, friands or financiers molds, you will also end up with 12. You can also use madeleines molds.

Preparation
  1. Butter and flour your molds. Pre-heat your oven to 356°F.
  2. In a small pan, have the warm (still liquid) beurre noisette at the ready.
  3. To another pan, add the almond flour, powdered sugar and vanilla sugar, then add the 4 egg whites and stir well. Then very carefully warm slightly (over low heat). Take off the heat and add the flour, salt, beurre noisette and rum (if using, otherwise go with milk). Stir until you have a homogeneous batter (the consistency will be like a tick liquid).
  4. Use a large soup spoon OR fill the dough in a piping bag OR use an ice cream soop to fill the previously buttered and floured baking molds – about 2/3 full.
  5. Bake the Visitandines in a pre-heated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on their size) until they are risen and golden and they feel firm when pressed with a fingertip.
  6. Place the molds on a cooling rack for about 2 minutes and then un-mold the Visitandines while they are still slightly warm.
  7. You can serve them as is, dusted with powdered sugar or with a sugar/Kirsch glaze (glaze once they have cooled completely).
Serving:  the Visitandines are fabulous with coffee, tea or a glass of sweet dessert wine.

Storage: keep the cooled Visitandines loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are made. For longer storage, transfer them to a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid in one layer and refrigerate them. Bring them back to room temperature before serving again.




Visitandines de Nancy (Französische Mandelküchlein)

Zutaten
(für 12 bis 24 Stück, je nachdem welche Backform man nimmt)
  • 110g Nussbutter* (beurre noisette) und etwas weiche Butter für die Backformen
  • 80g Mandelmehl
  • 145g Puderzucker, gesiebt
  • 8g Vanillezucker
  • 4 Eiweiß (L), Freiland oder Bio
  • 50g Weizenmehl (Type 405), gesiebt und etwas für die Backformen
  • eine Prise feines Salz
  • 1 CL Rum
  • Puderzucker, oder Puderzucker mit Kirschwasser verrührt für eine Glasur (nach Wunsch)
*Zur Zubereitung von Nussbutter die Butter in einem kleinen Topf schmelzen und zum Köcheln bringen, bis sie eine goldbraune Farbe annimmt, dann die flüssige Butter durch ein Passiertuch geben.

Backform

Bei Gebrauch eines Muffinblechs ergibt die Teigmenge 12 Stück, wenn man ein Mini-Muffinblech einsetzt, dann eher 24 Stück. Falls man ovale oder runde Visitandine Formen, eckige Financiers oder Friands Formen oder Madeleines Backbleche benutzt, ergibt das Rezept ebenfalls 12 Stück.

Zubereitung
  1. Erst die Backförmchen vorbereiten: zunächst mit weicher Butter ausstreichen, dann mit etwas Mehl bestäuben, dann die Förmchen ausklopfen (dabei das überschüssige Mehl ausschütteln). Den Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen.
  2. Die warme, flüssige Nussbutter in einem Topf bereit halten.
  3. In einem zweiten kleinen Topf das Mandelmehl mit dem Puderzucker und Vanillezucker mischen, dann die 4 Eiweiß dazu geben, verrühren und ganz leicht erwärmen. Von der Kochstelle nehmen und das Mehl, Salz, Nussbutter und Rum ebenfalls dazu geben und unterarbeiten bis eine homogene, glatte und relativ weicher Masse entstanden ist.
  4. Diese entweder in einen Spritzbeutel geben, oder mit einem Eisproportionierer arbeiten und in die vorbereiteten Kuchenformen geben, diese nur bis zu 3/4 füllen.
  5. Im vorgeheizten Ofen bei 180°C für ungefähr 15 bis 20 Minuten (abhängig von der Größe der Förmchen) goldgelb backen.
  6. Auf einem Kuchenrost etwas abkühlen lassen, dann noch lauwarm aus den Formen nehmen und weiter abkühlen lassen oder noch lauwarm servieren.
  7. Nach Wunsch mit Puderzucker bestreuen oder glasieren.




Gaston Lenôtre : "Les religieuses lorraines devaient être fort gourmandes tant sont nombreuses les pâtisseries dont on leur attribue la création. (...) leur imagination paraissait vouée aux sucreries et a laissé une forte empreinte dans les desserts régionaux ou bien peut-être ces derniers petits gâteaux ne furent-ils inventés que dans un noble souci d'économie, pour utiliser des blancs d'oeufs excédentaires. Comme les créations des religieuses de l'ordre de la Visitation Sainte-Marie étaient bonnes, on en vendit de plus en plus, et les pâtissiers les améliorèrent (...)".




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
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun these festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.