Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Carnival Doughnuts - Karnevals-Krapfen


Today, to start off the local Canival season, I am featuring a recipe for wonderful Carnival Doughnuts. These doughnuts are considered to be a traditional pastry, fried in hot oil until deep golden-colored and served with a cinnamon-sugar coating. 
Zum Auftakt der Karnevalssaison, gibt es ein Rezept für wunderbare Karnevals-Krapfen. Krapfen sind ein traditionelles und sehr beliebtes Gebäck, dass in heißem Fett goldgelb ausgebacken wird und mit Zimt-Zucker bestreut serviert wird.




Carnival goes by many names in German, depending on the region and dialect. Whether you call it FastnachtFasching or Karneval, it is a time for revelry, humor, and satire. The actual celebrations of the German Carnival take place 40 days before Easter, it is like a last week-long party before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
Karneval hat viele Namen in Deutsch, je nach Region und Dialekt. Ob man die närrischen Tage FastnachtFasching oder Karneval nennt, es ist in jedem Fall eine Zeit zum Feiern, des Humors und der Satire. Die eigentlichen Feierlichkeiten des deutschen Karnevals beginnen immer 40 Tage vor Ostern, es ist wie eine letzte lange Party vor Aschermittwoch und somit dem Beginn der Fastenzeit.




On Thursday, the Carnival celebrations kick off with Women’s Carnival Day at exactly 11.11 a.m. The next highlight is today on so-called Rose Monday. Marching bands, dancers, and floats parade down city streets. The participants of the parades throw confetti, sweets, little bundles of flowers and toys to the eager costumed crowds lining the streets where the parades take place. The elaborate floats often show caricatured figures mocking politicians and other personalities and thousands of dressed-up Germans are flocking the streets every year to watch them.
An Weiberfastnacht um 11:11 Uhr gehen die Feierlichkeiten offiziell los. An Rosenmontag gibt es unzählige traditionelle Karnevalszüge in vielen deutschen Städten. Die Züge bestehen aus Abordnungen der Karnevalsvereine mit Prunkwagen, Kapellen, Tanzgruppierungen und oft auch aus so genannten Motivwagen. Letztere stellen oft Ereignisse und Personen des vergangenen Jahres in satirisch interpretierter Form dar. Von den Prunkwagen und den teilnehmenden Gruppen des Umzugs werden Kamelle (also Bonbons und andere Süßigkeiten) und Strüßcher (Blumen) unter die Zuschauer geworfen.




Almost every German city celebrates Carnival and organizes a street parade in its city center. The best and most traditional Carnival festivities take place in the Cities of Düsseldorf, Münster, Aachen, Mainz, and, of course my beloved hometown, Cologne.
Fast jede deutsche Stadt feiert Karneval und organisiert einen Karnevalsumzug in der Innenstadt. Im Rheinland finden die meist besuchtne und traditionsreichsten Karnevals-Feierlichkeiten in den Städten Düsseldorf, Münster, Aachen, Mainz und natürlich in meiner geliebten Heimatstadt Köln, statt.





On Shrove Tuesday, costume balls are held all over Germany, while the quiet Ash Wednesday marks the end of the frenzied fun.

As with every longstanding traditional holiday, special sweet treats are also served during the Carnival, or "fifth season" season, as we call it. They are different depending on the region where they hail from.
An Veilchendienstag finden viele Kostümbälle statt und am Aschermittwoch beginnt die 40-tägige Fastenzeit und somit steht dieser Tag für das Ende der Karnevalssaison.

Passend zur so genannten fünften Jahreszeit gibt es natürlich jede Menge regional verschiedene, süße Karnevalsrezepte. 




Pastries that are particular to Carnival include the very popular Fried Almond Cookies (my recipe can be found here).

Today, I am presenting a recipe for Carnival Doughnuts. I baked them with a special flour, called Doughnut Flour. This is a specialty flour but the recipe also works well with strong baking flour.
Zum traditionellen Karnevalsgebäck gehören zum Beispiel die allseits beliebten Mutzemandeln, mein Rezept findet ihr hier.

Heute gibt es dann Krapfen – ich habe ich sie mit einem besonderen Mehl gebacken, einem Krapfenmehl. Aber man kann dieses Rezept auch mit Weizenmehl Type 550 backen.





Carnival Doughnuts

Ingredients
  • 500 grams strong flour (while I used the special doughnut flour, you can also use strong flour)
  • 6 eggs (L), free range or organic
  • 500 grams low-fat quark*
  • 200 grams superfine sugar
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla sugar
  • grated zest froom an organic orange
In addition
  • Vegetable shortening/oil for frying
  • 100 grams cinnamon sugar
Preparation of the Doughnuts
  1. Heat the fat/oil for deep-frying to 175° C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingrediensts until you have a stiff, sticky dough.
  3. Taking two small spoons, shape little round dough balls.
  4. Carefully slide them into the hot oil and fry until they turn a deep golden color. That will take about five minutes.
  5. Using a spider cooking utensil, very carefully lift the doughnuts from the oil and transfer them to a paper lined plate - to drain off some of the fat.
  6. While they are still warm, transfer the doughnuts to a medium bowl with cinnamon sugar and coat them. Serve straight away. NOTE: * Quark is also known as soft white cheese or fromage blanc.
Karnevals-Krapfen

Zutaten
  • 500 Gramm Krapfenmehl (man kann auch Weizenmehl, Type 550 nehmen)
  • 6 Eier (L), Freiland-oder Bio
  • 500 Gramm Magerquark (man kann auch griechisches Jogurt nehmen)
  • 200 Gramm feinster Zucker
  • 1/8 TL feines Meersalz
  • 2 ½ TL Backpulver
  • 2 ½ Tl Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • abgerieben Schale einer Bioorange
Zusätzlich
  • Pflanzenfett/ Öl zum Ausbacken
  • 100 Gramm Zimt-Zucker
Zubereitung der Krapfen
  1. Das Fett auf 175 °C erhitzen.
  2. Alle Zutaten in eine große Schüssel geben und solange miteinander verrühren, bis ein zäher Teig entsteht.
  3. Aus dem Teig mit Hilfe von zwei Esslöffeln den Teig zu kleinen Kugeln abstechen.
  4. Diese vorsichtig in das heiße Fett geben und die Krapfen goldgelb auf beiden Seiten ausbacken. Das dauert zirka fünf Minuten.
  5. Mit einem Schaumlöffel die Krapfen herausheben und auf Küchenkrepp etwas abtropfen bzw. entfetten lassen.
  6. Noch warm in Zimt-Zucker wälzen und sofort servieren.



Traditionally, doughnuts can be prepared with either yeast or fresh cheese (Quark) as in this recipe. If you use quark in your recipe, the freshly baked doughnus will have a distinct taste of that fresh cheese, like a little tang, which we really enjoy. And they are not overly sweet either. Just right.

Man kann Krapfen ja entweder mit Hefe backen oder mit Quark, wie dieses Rezept. Wenn man frischen Magerquark für dieses Rezept nimmt, bleiben die Krapfen schön saftig und schmecken auch angenehm nach Quark. Wir fanden sie keineswegs zu süß. Mit wirklich wenig Aufwand sind diese Karnivals-Krapfen ohne Hefe schnell gemacht.




While these Carnival Doughnuts are seasonal, they are always a true treat, so there is no reason to wait for carnival season to give them a try. And you can even coat them with powdered sugar for a change of pace.

Enjoy Carnival season while it lasts!



Also ruhig mal ausprobieren, nicht nur zur Karnevalszeit schmecken die Quarkkrapfen ausgezeichnet. Wenn man möchte, kann man die Krapfen zur Abwechslung auch mal in Puderzucker wälzen.

Viel Spaß im Karneval!



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) -  more delicious treats to come very soon.


Saturday, February 1, 2020

Navettes de Saint Victor for Candelmas Day (La Chandeleur) - Navettes zu Mariä Lichtmess


Navettes are sweet pastries from the City of Marseille (France) with a pleasant orange flower water (eau de fleur d'oranger) and olive oil flavor. Traditionally, they are baked in the shape of a small boat, hence the name 'navette', which is the French word for small barque. Navettes are oval-shaped, about 8 to 10cm long, with the ends tapered in.




The shape of the Navettes is meant to commemorate the arrival of St Lazarus and the two 'Marys', St Mary Magdalene and St Martha, who are said to have arrived in Provence on the 2nd of February about 2000 years ago, in a wooden navette, giving their name to the town of 'Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer'.




At the bakery 'Le Four des Navettes', near the Abbey of St. Victor in the heart of Marseille, navettes have been baked continuously since 1781. They are traditionally eaten after the Candlemas Day procession (Fête de la Chandeleur) on February 2 after they were blessed by The Archbishop of Marseille.

In the old days, navettes were traditionally bought by the dozen, one for each month of the year, and then taken home with the famous blessed candles whose flame protected homes and stables from lightning and other evils.




The pastry's origin has always been associated with the Candlemas (aka Candelmass) celebrations of the nearby Abbey of St Victor (Abbaye Saint-Victor de Marseille). Based on the story that the navette symbolizes the little bark that brought the saints to the Provençal coast, Monsieur Aveyrous, who founded his famous bakery in 1781, decided to make his delicious little pastries in the shape of a boat. While the below recipe may not disclose every one of Monsieur Aveyrous' secrets, you will nevertheless find it hard to resist these special treats with the flavors of orange flower water (Orangen-Blütenwasser), mild olive oil, a bit of orange zest and some vanilla.




Candelmas is a day that holds many different customs. People used to believe that Candelmas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. Accordingly, weather proverbs express the idea that a bright and sunny Candelmas day means that winter is not over yet, whereas a stormy day means that most of winter is over:

‚If Candelmas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight. If Candelmas Day brings cloud and rain, winter won’t come again.‘

And Candelmas Day marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.




Candelmas is one of the oldest feasts of the Christian church, celebrated since the 4th century AD in Jerusalem. Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a Christian Holy Day commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It falls on February 2, which is traditionally the 40th day of and the conclusion to the Christmas–Epiphany season. In the past, it was therefore customary for Christians to remove their Christmas decorations only on Candlemas. On this second day of February, many parishioners also bring their candles, sometimes baskets full of candles, to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year, for Christians, these blessed candles serve as a symbol of Jesus Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World.

Candlemas is also considered the day of crêpes, or as we refer to them here in the Rhineland 'Kreppchen'. Tradition attributes this custom to Pope Gelasius I, who had pancakes distributed to pilgrims arriving in Rome.




Navettes de Saint Victor

Ingredients
(yields about 36 to 40 navettes)
  • 200g superfine (baking) sugar
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs (L), free-range or organic
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3 tbsp orange flower water (I recommend that use your personal judgment and taste preference here as there are a lot of different types and varities of orange flower waters available that range greatly in taste and quality)
  • zest of orange, organic and/or un-treated
  • 6 tbsp olive oil (I recommend that you use a mild one, suitable for baking that will not overpower but harmonize with the flavor from the orange zest and orange flower water)
  • 500g AP (plain) flour (while somewhat less traditional, I also baked these a few times using white spelt flour, use that if you prefer spelt over wheat flour) 
  • 1 tsp milk 

Preparation
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla sugar, eggs and pinch of salt until the mixture is pale and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
  2. Stir in the orange flower water and orange zest, then gently fold in the olive oil.
  3. Gradually add the flour. Start with a spatula, then you will have to finish off with your hands to make sure the dough is properly mixed. If it is too moist, add a bit more flour but it will still have a very slight stickiness. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for an hour at room temperature.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  5. Roll the dough into two long rolls, then cut into equal pieces (or weigh the dough and form 36 to 40 equal pieces). Roll each piece into a ball, then form into a sausage about 10cm long. Transfer to the baking sheets, then pinch the ends and use a sharp knife to cut along the length of the navette. Gently push the sides slightly open – it should look like a barque.
  6. Lightly brush the navettes with milk, then put the baking sheet in the oven, one after the other.
  7. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, turning half-way to get an even color. When done, cool on a wire rack.




The texture is somewhat like the Italian 'biscotti', as they are made with egg as the binding agent, but perhaps a bit less hard and crunchy. The French like to dunk these dry, crisp cookies into wine, coffee or tea. While orange blossom water is traditional, there are other flavors emerging, with one of the more popular being anisseed. You could also swap out some of the flower for almond meal, or use melted butter instead of the olive oil (which makes the cookies a bit more tender) but, personally, I quite like the flavors of a good mild olive oil and orange and rather enjoy the traditional version.




If you make these lovely cookies, trust me, the fun bit is in the shaping. You just roll them into a sausage, pinch the ends, then slice along them. You can open them up a little bit, and then they will open up further during baking. They end up looking live a cross between little loaves of bread and a boat. I have also seen different sizes of navettes ranging from big to bite-sized but settled on 10cm dough rolls.




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)
  • and for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE) -  more delicious treats to come very soon.



Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Honey Almond Squares


Honey, a naturally sweet liquid made from the nectar of flowers and collected by honey bees, is a key part of this recipe, so what you use has a direct effect on the flavor. If you use something very light (such as clover, orange blossom or acacia honey) the delicate flavor can get lost amidst the other ingredients. However, if you go for a dark honey with a very pronounced aroma and flavor (such as forest, buckwheat, thyme or chestnut honey) this will carry through to the cookies too.




Honey varies greatly in color and flavor, depending on what the bees are eating. Flavor, color and degree of sweetness depend upon which type of flower the honey was collected from. In general, floral honey is lighter in color and comes from flower-eating bees in the spring. Forest honey is collected later in the summer and comes from bees who eat forest leaves and flowers. Depending upon which area you live in, honey is classified with different labels. So-called ‚everyday honey‘ might be a mixture of what is least expensive from several countries. Then there sometimes is a ‚standard honey‘ that might be heat-processed and filtered, making it liquid, or it could be purposely cristallized and sold as ‚set honey‘, the kind that you spread with a knife.




Of course, you should use honey from your neighbourhood if you can get your hands on it and thereby support a local beekeeper. And you should taste it before you start cooking or baking with it. It is also helpful to know whether heat will affect the flavor. So, for this recipe I recommend to use a really good local honey with a taste and flavor that you appreciate, perhaps a floral honey. 




The honey I used for these cookie squares is a light organic honey from the Rhineland - floral notes, runny and golden colored, my kind of honey. I also used it for one of my present favorite sweet and savory appetizers - puff pastry squares with brie, pears, garden thyme and honey.




Honey Almond Squares

(makes 32 cookies depending on the size you cut them; adapted from The French Kitchen Cookbook by Patricia Wells)

Ingredients 

For the Crust
  • 1/2 cup (50g) almond flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (120g) AP (plain) flour
  • 3 tbsp superfine (baking) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 tbsp (90g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed (plus some for the baking pan)
  • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar OR 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Almond Topping
  • 4 tbsp (60g) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup (65g) superfine (baking) sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (local if possible)
  • zest of 1 orange (organic and/or untreated)
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar OR 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt 
  • 1 cup (80g) sliced almonds, preferably blanched

Preparation
  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (400ºF).
  2. Butter a 23cm (9in) square baking pan (such as a brwonie pan) and line with baking parchment. Lightly butter the parchement.
  3. To make the crust: add the almond flour, AP flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then add the 6 tablespoons (90g) of cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal. Add the egg yolk, water, and vanilla and process until the dough comes together. OR Make the dough by hand, cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or a fork.
  4. Press the dough into the pan so it covers the bottom evenly. Bake the dough until the top is golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. 
  5. In the meantime and while the dough is baking, make the topping by melting the 4 tablespoons (60g) butter in a small saucepan. Once it has melted, add the sugar, honey, orange zest, vanilla, and salt, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and add the sliced almonds, stirring until they Are completely coated with the butter-honey mixture.
  6. Scrape the almond mixture onto the still warm baked crust and spread it evenly over the top. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes more, or until the almond topping is nicely bronzed. Let cool. Remove from the pan by lifting out the foil. Cut into squares or rectangles: NOTE: squares are best the day they are made, although they will keep for up to three days in an airtight container at room temperature.





I have made these squares on many different occasions - they are buttery, almondy, sweet and extremly easy to put together. You can taste the almonds and the orange zest and, depending on the variety you used, you will also taste the honey. A bit like a Florentine cookie but without the dark chocolate and a kind of vanilla cookie base instead.




In general, it is easy to incorporate honey in my everyday schedule. I love adding it to desserts or slathering it on my brioche bread on Sunday mornings. Cooking or baking with honey is wonderful, you can use it for sweet as well as savory dishes. When doing so, I always try to make sure to buy honey from a local beekeeper and to taste the different varities one more time before I incorporate them into my dishes such as the Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif (Shredded Sweet and Savory Pastry Pie) HERE, the Honey-Gingerbread Cutouts (Honig-Lebkuchen-Pferde) HERE, or the Lime Honey Beet Salad HERE - to name but a few.




Sunday, January 5, 2020

Swiss Three Kings Cake - Dreikönigskuchen - Gâteau des Rois - Torta dei Re Magi


January 6th is called 'Dreikönigstag' which simply translates to 'Three Kings Day', also known as 'Epiphany'. This day is widely celebrated in German-speaking countries, including Switzerland, but of course also in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, to name but a few. According to Christian tradition, this was the day the Three Kings (Heilige Drei Könige) or Wise Men (Die Weisen) went to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem and brought him precious gifts. Today, there are many special events honouring this visit.

Three Kings Day is also about the traditional Three Kings Cake (Dreikönigskuchen), that everyone, particularly in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland (and, nowadays, also part of Bavaria) eats on that day.




Epiphany takes place every year on 6th January. In many places, the so-called Sternsinger (Star Singers) wander through the towns and villages to bless the houses. House doors are traditionally adorned with the letters C+M+B. Many believe that these letters stand for the names of the Three Kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. However, this is not quite true, they stand for the Latin phrase ‚Christus mansionem benedicat‘ which translates to ‚Christ bless this house‘; most towns also hold special masses where the the story of the Three Wise Men is reenacted.

Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, one Swiss speciality certainly stands out, the so-called  ‚Dreikönigskuchen‘ (Three Kings Cake). Three Kings Cake is actually much like a ,Zopf‘ (Sweet Braided Loaf) that Swiss people traditionally enjoy on Sundays with fresh butter jam, or honey. Therefore, the shape of the cake attracts even more attention than the well-known taste of this festive bake.





Three Kings Cake is more of a sweet bread rather than a cake made from small rounds of dough that are set together in the shape of a crown, to a bigger central round of dough and then baked into one piece.

Before baking, a charm is hidden in one of the pieces. This charm is typically a small plastic or ceramic king to symbolize the three wise men who visited Jesus on the twelfth day after his birth. Along with the traditional king figurines, bakers sometimes add a more modern image, like a cartoon characters. In Suisse-Romande, this is referred to as a fève, which translates to broad bean or fava bean, as a long time ago a small bean was used as the charm. The fortunate person who finds the charm within the cake is crowned king or queen for a day. Usually, the king (or queen) receives a paper crown and certain privileges for the day. It's actually a fun tradition, after all, who does not want to be queen or king for a day.




It would seem as if the Three Kings Cake had an ancient history, but surprisingly, it has only been baked in Switzerland since 1952 when it was launched to drive sales for special baked goods. The recipe as we know it today was developed on the initiative of Max Währen (a bread researcher from Bern) at the Academy for Baking & Pastry Arts in Richemont, Switzerland. From an initial production of 50.000 cakes, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million cakes are sold today - in a single day. That's quite an achievement, and it does not even include all those Dreikönigskuchen which are baked at home.




Three Kings Cake – Dreikönigskuchen - Gâteau des Rois  - Torta dei Re Magi 

Ingredients
  • 500g AP (plain) flour
  • 100g superfine (baking) sugar
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 225ml milk, lukewarm (I recommend full fat; I use 3.5%)
  • 20g (dry) yeast
  • 1 charm (almond, hazelnut, dry bean or porcelain figure)

Topping
  • 1 egg yolk (M), organic free-range
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • sliced almonds
  • pearl sugar

Preparation
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix together the flour, salt and sugar.
  2. Create a well in the center of the mix.
  3. Melt the butter, then add the milk and yeast.
  4. Stir well and add to the well in your dry mix.
  5. Knead on low for about 8 minutes (stand mixer about 8 minutes; by hand for abour 10 to 15 minutes).
  6. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with a warm damp cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm and draft-free place for an hour OR until  it doubles in size. It is best to place it back in the bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel.
  7. Separate the dough into eight smaller pieces and one larger piece. NOTE: place your charm/bean/nut  in one of the smaller pieces.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place eight rounds balls around the biggest round. Remember to leave about some room (about 2.5 cm/1 in) between the rounds. The dough will rise some more and join together.  Cover dough again with a damp cloth and leave to rise for another hour.
  9. Mix the egg yolk with the milk and glaze your cake, than sprinkle it with the almond slices and/or pearl sugar.
  10. Preheat your oven to 190°C (375° F).
  11. Bake on the bottom rack for about 25 to 30 minutes. Enjoy freshly baked with butter and local honey or jam for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. NOTE: The Dreikönigskuchen is best eaten the day it was made but, theoretically, keeps for up to two days.




While the Dreikönigskuchen with a yeast dough is made mostly in the German speaking cantons throughout Switzerland, the Galette des Rois or Pithiviers (French) is another form of a Three Kings Cake. It is a puff pastry pie filled with frangipane. The top of the crust usually has an elegant design cut into the pastry, and it can also feature fluted edges. These cakes are more popular in French-speaking Switzerland (as well as in France and Belgium). The fève in these cakes will be hidden in the frangipane filling.




My recipe for the Classic Galette des Rois with Fangipane and much more historical fun facts and pics can be found HERE





And my recipe for a Galette des Rois Citron et Pavot (Lemon & Poppy Seed Galette des Rois) can be looked at HERE




Wishing you a wonderful Dreikönigstag – no matter which way you are celebrating.



Thursday, December 26, 2019

Basler Brunsli - Bruns de Bâle (Swiss Chocolate, Almond and Spice Cookie Bears & Pine Trees)


These traditional 'Swiss Chocolate Spice Cookies' are very popular for Christmastime and very simple to make. Typically known as 'Basler Brunsli' or 'Bruns de Bâle',  they are a dark chocolate cookie, made with a rather coarse looking dough that includes eggwhites, chocolate, sugar and almonds.

Although the Brunsli are produced throughout Switzerland, they are always associated with the city of Basel and were initially baked there not only at Christmas, but also for special occasions such as weddings, hence their name 'Basler Brunsli'. It is commonly accepted that the first known recipe for Brunsli was published in 1750 in a cookbook called 'Das süsse Basel' (Sweets from Basel), but it seems that the Brunsli cookie itself dates back all the way to the year 1725, when it was first mentioned in a publication in Winterthur (a city in the canton of Zürich in northern Switzerland) -in any case, there is a long tradition of serving 'Brunsli' cookies in Switzerland.




There doesn’t seem to be one standard Brunsli recipe. Historically, the most luxurious and expensive part of the cookie was the ground nuts. It was only during lean times that the nuts were replaced with flour. There is debate over which nuts to use, whether almonds, hazelnuts, or even walnuts. I prefer all natural almonds. Some recipes call for grated or melted chocolate, while others depend on cocoa, and some recipes call for both, my recipe calls for both dark grated chocolate as well as a high quality cocoa powder. As far as the spices go, I like to make my Brunsli with only cinnamon, however, some recipes call for cinnamon and cloves or even espresso. Some add a bit of grated orange zest to the mix which is aslo nice if you like the flavor combination of orange and chocolate. Finally, some recipes suggest the cookies are baked low in the oven and some forego baking completely and just leave them out to dry.




There is also a much debated question as to the shape of these cookies – which I find rather interesting. It is ofen said that while in the past the Brunsli were made using only wooden molds (much like the ones used to make gingerbread as menitioned in my previous post HERE) with motives including deer, swans, houses, musical instruments such as violins, fish, flower arrangements and farmers - starting around 1800 the cookies were made using metall cookie cutters of various shapes . Btw. the first mention of a cookie cutter was apparently made in the year 1766 in Styria (a state located in the southeast of Austria).

Personally, I like the sound and shape of 'Brunsli Bears', so Brunsli Bears it is this season. The cutters were given to me years ago by a very good friend of mine who brought them back from Canada.




Basler Brunsli Bears

Ingredients

For the Cookie Dough
  • 200g natural almonds, ground
  • 200g superfine baking sugar (aka caster sugar)
  • 1 tbsp Ceylon cinnamon (a level tbsp, not heaping)
  • 100g dark chocolate, grated (I recommend using a dark chocalate with about 72% cocoa solids)
  • 100g cocoa powder (I recommend Dutch process)
  • 3 egg whites (M), organic or free-range (each eggs weighs about 55 to 65g with the shell)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • a shot kirsch OR rum
To Finish and Decorate
  • coarse white sugar (granulated or sanding sugar)
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preparation
  1. In a large bowl add ground almonds, sugar, cinnamon, grated chocolate and cocoa powder and whisk together well.
  2. In another bowl, beat the eggwhites with the salt until they are stiff, then fold in the dry ingredients and shot of kirsch or rum.
  3. Divide the dough into 3 discs, and wrap well with kitchen wrap. Cool in the fridge for at least  overnight or up to a day.
  4. The next day, pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
  5. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  6. Roll out the dough (using granulated sugar) to be about 1cm (about half an inch) thick, then cut them out into desired shapes.
  7. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes. 
  8. After they have cooled, dust liberally with powdered sugar (bears) OR leave plain (in my case the trees).




Anyone from Switzerland will tell you that the 'Basler Brunsli' should only be eaten around Christmas but, honestly, we enjoy these chewy, brownie-like cookies year-round. Statistically, the Brunsli rank among the three most popular cookies in Switzerland, the other two being Butter Cookies (Mailänderli) and Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne).





The Brunsli keep for about five days in a sealed container. But remember that the longer you keep them, the more they dry out. In the beginning their exterior is firm, while the interior is soft, the longer you keep them, the firmer they get.

The dough can also be frozen (either when shaped into a ball or cut into cookie shapes) for up to a month. If you bake from frozen, just add another minute or two to the cooking time.



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Elisenlebkuchen (Traditional German Gingerbread)


Gingerbread has a very illustrious history. Depending upon how you actually define gingerbread, you can trace it back all the way to ancient time. Back in pre-Christian times, in Ancient Egypt, but also with the old Teutons, the Romans or the Greek it was traditional to use gingerbread as a burial gift or as an object of sacrifice. In royal Egyptian tombs, historians discovereed honey cakes in the shape of plants, animals or humans, that were given to the deceased pharaohs as provisions for their journey to eternity. The Romans already knew baked cakes called 'panus mellitus‘, a sort of cake that was enhanced and baked with a layer of honey. And the old Teutons used to bake a sort of gingerbread in the shape of their cattle – so they could sacrifice the sweet cakes instead of their live cattle.




Gingerbread as we know it today has its origins in monastery bakeries, where, following traditional recipes, gingerbread (Lebkuchen), spicebread (Gewürzkuchen) and honey cakes (Honigkuchen) have been baked since the 11th and 12th century. Back then, gingerbread was baked as medecine or cure for all kinds of ailments, they were also baked during Lent.

In addition, in Christian symbolism, the ingredients such as spices, honey, almonds and nuts played an important role (more on that later). An old manusript that dates back to the 11th century and which hails from the monastery 'Tegernsee‘ (in Bavaria, Southern Germany) that mentions the term 'Pfefferkuchen‘ (which literally translates to 'pepper cake‘) and thereby refers to the fact that pepper was a catch-all phrase for spice in general, and in particular those spices that came all the way from ‚the Orient‘ including cinnamon, cloves, anise, cardamom, coriander, ginger and nutmeg.




Outside of the confines of monastery bakeries, gingerbread was first menitioned in 1296 in the City of Ulm (Bavaria) and in 1395 in the City of Nuremberg. In the 13th and 14th century the craft of the gingerbread bakers developed (Lebküchner) – in the beginning as part of the regular bakeries. But in the year 1643, the Nuremberg gingerbread bakers decided to part ways with the ‚regular bakers‘ and establish their own guild. In 1806, all of this competition actually culminated in the so-called 'Gingerbread War‘ (Lebkuchenkrieg) – as the gingerbread bakers wanted to forbid the regular bakers to bake gingerbread, the 'white gingerbread‘ to be exact (the one covered with a white sugary, frosty looking glaze). The discord was finally settled by King Maximilian I who decided in favor of the gingerbread bakers, so that they alone kept the right to bake white (sugar coated), black (chocolate covered) and plain gingerbread.

Apart from Nuremberg, regionally different gingerbread was baked in a number of other cities. But whereas in Nuremberg it was only baked by specific gingerbread bakers, in other cities, bakeries in general offered gingerbread as part of their seasonal assorted baked goods.




Since 1927 the designation 'Lebkuchen‘ has been protected by trademark law. And in 1996 the term 'Nürnberger Lebkuchen‘ was granted the prestigious qualification as 'Protected Designation of Origin‘ (g.g.A. - geschützte geografische Angabe) – meaning that only gingerbread made in Nuremberg can today legitimately be labeled 'Nürnberger Lebkuchen‘ within the EU.

As far as the origins of the name 'Lebkuchen‘ are concerned, there are a number of different theories. It is commonly believed that the word 'leb‘ originated form the Latin word 'lebum‘ which is a designation for 'flatbread‘ or 'sacrifice bread‘.




For the people who lived in the Middle Ages, gingerbread was not a mere treat but rather a baked good that was enriched with Christian traditions and sybolism. The number of the spices used, namely 'seven‘ was meant as a reference to the 7 days of creation, to the fact that the number 7 regulates our rhythm of life, that the 7 spices permeate the gingerbread dough much in the same way as the rules of the Bible permeate our lives. Furthermore, the oriental spices were meant as a reference to the fact that the Three Wise Men gifted the Baby Jesus with precious gifts from the Orient. And the sweetness of the honey is a common methaphor and reference to the fact that the Promised Land would flow 'with milk and honey. Finally, the almonds and hazelnuts with their rather hard nutshells are meant as a reminder of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.




There is a legend of the Elisenlebkuchenthe most delicious of the many types of gingerbreads available. The traditionally flourless Elisenlebkuchen, the masterpiece of the trade since the early nineteenth century, with over 45% nut (almond and hazelnut) content are my very favorite kind and I bake them every year for Christmas.

According to the lore, this name goes back to 1720, when the daughter of one of Nuremberg’s master gingerbread bakers fell violently ill. Her desperate father, who had already lost his wife to a severe illness, remembered the healing properties of the oriental spices and decided to bake an especially wholesome gingerbread for his ill daughter, made only with hazelnuts, honey and spices. After the girl had eaten some of the special gingerbread that her father had baked for her, she is said to have completely recovered from her illness and full of gratitude, her father named this special gingerbread after his daughter who was called Elisabeth - hence, the Elisenlebkuchen was born. While the original recipe for Elisenlebkuchen still calls for only ground and chopped nuts but no flour, today, most bakers use up to 10% of flour to create a more manageable dough which is placed on pre-cut edible paper, also called rice or oblaten paper. Elisenlebkuchen are usually glazed with sugar or chocolate, or plain. My favorite kind are glazed with dark chocolate with just a hint of white choclate for the final touch.




Elisenlebkuchen  (Traditional German Gingerbread)
(yields about 35 to 40)

Ingredients

For the Elisenlebkuchen
  • 235g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 3 eggs (M), organic or free-range (each egg weighs about 53g to 63g)
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar
  • 250g natural almonds, finely ground 
  • 50g natural hazelnuts, coarsely chopped 
  • 50g candied orange peel, very finely chopped (best done in a small food processor)
  • 50g candied lemon peel, very finely chopped
  • grated zest of each ½ organic/untreated lemon and orange 
  • ½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon, ground
  • ½ tsp cloves, ground
  • ½ tsp allspice, ground
  • ½ coriander, ground
  • ½ tsp mace OR nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ tsp cardamom, ground
  • ½ tsp ginger, ground
  • 35 to 40 round wafer papers for baking (about 5 to 6cm)

For the Decoration
  • 200g dark chocolate couverture plus some white chocolate/couverture

Preparation
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla sugar until the mixture has doubled in volume.
  2. Add ground and chopped nuts, finely minced candied peel, grated lemon and orange zest and all the spices to the mix. 
  3. Cover and let rest in a cool place for about 24 hours.
  4. The next day, prepare two baking sheets and line them with baking parchment. Then form dough balls (best done using a cookie scoop) - they shoud weigh about 15 to 18 g each. Place them on your baking wafer papers. NOTE: either order the wafer papers online, get them at your favorite German deli OR bake the Elisenlebkuchen on parchment lined baking sheets sans baking wafers. If you omit the wafers, you will need to glaze the bottom side of the baked and cooled cookies as well, otherwise they will dry out.
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 180° C (356°F).
  6. Place the Elisenlebkuchen on your parchment lined baking sheets and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until they have set and taken on a lighty golden color.
  7. Take the Elisenlebkuchen out of the oven, leave them on the baking sheets and place the baking sheets on cooling racks. 
  8. Once the Elisenlebkuchen have cooled, melt the dark chocolate couverture, and glaze the tops - while the glaze is still warm, draw lines with a bit melted white chocolate. 
Helpful Hints
  • to keep the Elisenlebkuchen soft and chewy, keep them in a cookie tin. Cover the cookies with baking parchment and place a few apple slices in the tin together with the cookies to keep them extra moist - make sure to change the apples every other day.
  • the seven spices can be substituted with 3 tsp Gingerbread Spice Mix (Lebkuchen Gewürzmischung) plus ½ TL ground cinnamon.
  • if you prefer larger Elisenlebkuchen, then chose larger baking wafers and increase the baking time by a few minutes.



While gingerbread cookies without nuts can be cut into a variety of shapes such as gingerbread men, this type of gingerbread (Lebkuchen) is more akin to drop cookies, soft and chewy, with lots of flavor from the different spices, the nuts and the citrus peels.


*Frohe Weihnachten! * Joyeux Noël! * Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!*




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)
  • and for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE) -  more delicious treats to come very soon.