Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - Irish Soda Bread (Missed Recipe Make-Up)

As a recipe make-up for the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group, I chose to bake the Irish Soda Bread.

The recipe in the “Baking with Julia” book was contributed by Marion Cunningham. It is a very simple, basic and wonderful recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Since it contains only four ingredients,  namely all purpose flour, salt (I used fine sea salt), baking soda and buttermilk, it seemed important to me to get a really good quality buttermilk.

My favorite buttermilk is sold at a farmers store and that’s what I got before I made the bread today. While I was at the store, I also picked up some of the butter that they produce in order to be able to enjoy a thick slice of the Soda Bread with some really good and wholesome tasting butter.

To see how the other make-up artists fared, please click here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Barrister turns Barista

Last Friday evening it was time for eight eager participants and myself to take a Barista Course at Kessel`s Espresso Studio in Bonn. It was a wonderful evening filled with plenty of technical information about the components of coffee machines, different coffee mills and various coffees/coffee blends and practical information about how to program the right degree of fineness for the coffee, how to prepare the perfect cup of espresso and how to get the milk properly frothed in order to be able to get a "heart design" on top of a freshly prepared cup of cappuccino.

The motto of the evening was four-fold: "the person preparing the coffee - the coffee blend - the coffee mill - the coffee machine" ("die vier M´s: der Mensch - die Mischung - die Mühle - die Maschine").

By the end of the evening we had learned a lot about proper coffee preparation and even managed to "design" a decent heart on top of our cups of cappuccino.

A big thanks to our teachers Bianca und Frank Kessel and to barista Jan for a very memorable and fun-filled evening!

And that is how the Barrister (that would be yours truly) turned into a Barista, at least for one evening!

As the icing on the cake, each participant received a Barista Certificate at the end of the evening - and here is mine:

For more information on Kessel`s Espresso Studio Bonn or the Barista Courses, please refer to my blog post dated May 19, 2012 or contact Bianca or Frank Kessel directly at kessels-espresso-studio@t-online.de.

French Market à Bonn - Französischer Markt in Bonn

Last week there was a French Market ("Französischer Markt") à Bonn. The French Market days take place a couple of times a year. The different merchants always display their wares in the Bonn market square, in front of city hall.

While you were shopping you could enjoy a slice of piping-hot "tarte flambée" ("Flammkuchen" - literally that can be translated as a  tarte that was "licked by the flames").

There was a wide selection of French cheeses, among them cheese from the Cantal region or goat´s cheese.

There were a lot meringue pastries and these widely popular colorful macaroos...

and other French cookies.

There was a market stall with argan oil (this rather expensive oil is produced in Morocco).

Well, who does not to like all those differnet kinds of French "dry sausage" or "saucisson sec".

Small cushions stuffed with dried lavender flowers from the Provence are always popular - especially as gifts.

And there was sea salt from the Camargue ("fleur de sel de Camargue"), Herbes de Provence (with herb mills) and lavender honey.

A lot of people also liked the lavender soaps.

And the wide selection of olives made me a very happy shopper. 

I loved the way the dried fruits such as dates, prunes and figues were arranged.

And this a close-up of the different kinds of "saucisson sec" containing duck, wild boar, beef or bull...

or  hazelnuts, garlic or some piment d'espelette .

À la prochaine! - See you again soon!

That is how the Bonn market place used to look like some time ago
(this engraving is presently gracing one of the walls in my living room).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Persian Love Cake

The rose bush in front of our house blooms. Oftentimes when I look at the pretty pink roses I remember a recipe that I saw quite a few years ago in Bon Appétit magazine, a dainty looking layered chiffon cake with rose scented whipped cream and candied rose petals.

The recipe is straightforward and easy to prepare. I started by picking some rose petals, brushed them with lightly beaten egg whites and sprinkeld them with superfine sugar. Then I let them dry on a baking sheet that I previously covered with parchment paper. Within a few hours, the rose petals had dried.

Then I prepared the dough, just enough for the two 8-inch baking pans. Once the two cake layers have completely cooled on wire racks, the only thing left to do is to prepare the rose scented whipped cream.

Persian Love Cake
( a recipe by Elisabeth Faulkner, featured in Bon Appétit Magazine, June 2005)

For the Candied Rose Petals

2 large egg whites, use organic
1/2 cup superfine sugar
Petals from 2 organic roses

Ingredients for the Cake

1 cup cake flour
14 tbsp superfine sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3 large eggs, separated
6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp grated lemon peel (use organic lemon)
1/4 tsp whole cardamom seeds (removed from about 5 green cardamom pods)

Ingredients for the Frosting

2 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
Pinch of saffron threads

2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon rose water

2 tablespoons natural unsalted pistachios


For the Candied Rose Petals

Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl until foamy. Using a pastry brush, brush rose petals on both sides with egg whites; sprinkle on both sides with sugar. Dry on nonstick rack at least six hours or overnight.

For the Cake

1. Preheat oven to 325°degrees Fahrenheit. Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line pan bottoms with parchment paper; butter the parchment.
2. Sift flour, 7 tablespoons baker's sugar, baking powder, and salt into large bowl.
3. Whisk yolks and next 4 ingredients in small bowl until smooth. Add yolk mixture to dry ingredients; whisk until smooth.
4. Beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 7 tablespoons baker's sugar; beat until whites resemble thick marshmallow fluff.
5. Fold whites into batter in three additions. Divide batter between prepared pans.
6. Bake until cakes are golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. 7. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks, peel off parchment, and cool completely.

For the Frosting

1. Combine 1/2 cup cream and saffron in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for about 20 minutes. Then chill until cold.
2. Beat remaining 2 cups cream, powdered sugar, and rose water in large bowl until soft peaks form and strain in the saffron cream. Then beat until peaks form.
3. Place one cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread one cup frosting over and top with second cake layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill at least one hour and up to six..
4. Decorate the cake with rose petals and pistachios.

This recipe is a wonderful recipe. The Persian Love Cake turns out light and elegant with delicate eastern flavors and it is not overly sweet. The frosting is also delicious and the taste of the rose water and saffron do come through. The rose petals are also absolutely beautiful and delicious and the green pistachios are a nice touch.

I highly recommend this pretty cake and would make it again. It was a nice ending to an early summertime buffet – with the temperatures that we are having right now, it already feels like summer and I had to make sure to take the cake out of the fridge at the last minute, otherwise I believe the creamy frosting would not have held up.

However, I should add a caveat. Depending on the kind of cardamom, saffron and rose water you use, go easy at first with these additions because their flavors can easily overpower the otherwise subtle flavors of this cake.

What a better way to present pink rose petals than by decorating this cake with them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese

Today's choice for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese (Cervelle de Canut) a simple and fresh dish that is a breeze to prepare.

Dorie states in her cookbook that this Herb Cheese is part dip, part spread, part salad dressing and can be considered as the inspiration for Boursin. That particular well-known French Cheesespread was part of my childhood - ever present when sandwiches were prepared at our house. I never really cared much for it - back then I did not appreciate that garlicky taste all that much. But times have changed and I am glad that Dorie's recipe has a much more appealing taste than the Boursin has. Before I prepared the Herb Cheese according to Dorie's recipe, I started out by making fresh homemade ricotta. I chose to use ricotta instead of the "fromage blanc". I love making ricotta, whenever a recipe calls for it, I make my own. I always use the same wonderful recipe from Gourmet (April 2006 edition).

Fresh Homemade Ricotta
(Gourmet April 2009)

2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Special equipment: large sieve, fine-mesh cheesecloth

1. Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.
2.  Bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
3.  Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.
4. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour. After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered; it will keep in the refrigerator 2 days.

This recipe yields the right amount of ricotta required for the preparatiom of the Herb Cheese.

After the ricotta had drained, I added some of the remaining ingredients to the Herb Cheese, namely very finely minced shallot, garlic (after mincing a garlic clove, I always mash it with the back of a knive) and finely cut chives.

Then I added finely cut tarragon - Dorie says that the Fench use mostly chervil for this kind of recipe but that tarragon is a fine alternative, I agree. Personally, I definitely prefer tarragon.

And as a third herb, I added finely cut parsley, I used Italian parsley. Then some French sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, not white, I prefer to use black pepper even in this "white" cheese. One of my favorite cooks once mentioned that "white pepper always tastes a bit musty" - be that as it may, my family and I just love the taste of freshly ground black pepper.

And the final touch was the addition of some extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. All done!

I put the Herb Cheese in the fridge for a few hours which gives the different flavors a chance to intensify.

I decided not to stuff any tomatoes or peppers or other suitable vegetable with the Herb Cheese, instead, I served it in a terrine so everyone could just serve themselves. The Herb Cheese was a nice addition to our mediterranean style al fresco mid-week dinner. While the ricotta was draining I baked some grissini using a recipe from the wonderful SoNo Baking Company Cookbook by John Barricelli (last recipe in the book - it can be found on page 262). For the Italian breadsticks I used whole wheat flour, black olives and sun- dried tomatoes.

We also had some green asparagus salad.

Then we had a platter with grilled veggetables including baby portabellas, white as well as green zucchinis and eggplant.

And some grilled chicken breasts.

And a bowl full of fresh cherry tomatoes.

This recipe is definitely a keeper - it is very nice as an accompaniment to a mediterranean meal or simply on its own, as a spread. We did not find the flavors to be bland, just right, maybe it was the homemade ricotta or the black pepper or the kind of sea salt or because I added a bit more of those chopped herbs than the recipe calls for but we did not find this Herb Cheese to be lacking in flavor. 

It is simple to prepare, keeps in the fridge for a few days and lets you experiment with different herbs. It is an enjoyable recipe and everyone tasted it, liked it and ate quite a bit of it!

To see how the other Doristas prepared the Herb Cheese, please click here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blue Sheep - Blaue Schafe

As part of a three year Europe-wide campaign for peaceful togetherness and tolerance, there was a flock of about fifty blue sheep grazing in front of Bonn city hall last Friday and Saturday (May 18th and 19th, 2012).

The sheep are created by the (installation) artist Rainer Bonk (born in Duisburg) in cooperation with Bertamaria Reetz, a Cologne artist. The artists fashions all his blue sheep out of bright blue polyester resin. The different installions comprise usually between fifty and one hundred and fifty sheep.

Upon taking a closer look you will notice that the sheep are all the same, one model reproduced again and again. According to the artist that is in keeping with the motto of the campaign “Alle sind gleich – Jeder ist wichtig“ – “All men are equal – Each and Everyone  is important”. That motto is embossed on the front pair of legs of each sheep.

The flock of blue sheep have made an appearance not only in a number of different European countries such as Austria, Italy (“ Pecore blu”), France (“Allez les bleus”) and the Netherlands (“Een Kudde blauwe Scharpen”) but also in a number of cities in Germany. They could be admired in front of the famous Cologne Cathedral, Hanseatic City of Lübeck (home of the real marzipan - I just could not pass up the opportunity  to point that out), Berlin, Hannover, Kiel and Münster.

The artist Rainer Bock calls himself a “Blauschäfer” – “Blue Shepherd” - here he can be seen amongst his flock as he had installed it in Bonn.

As part of Bock´s campaign every major of the „host cities“ receives one sheep as a thank you to be displayed at city hall.

Interested buyers/art collectors can acquire a sheep for the price of 75 Euros and I have found a few blue sheep grazing in and around Bonn.

For more information on Rainer Bock and his blue sheep, you can visit his website at www.blaue-schafe.de  And for more information on Bertamaria Reetz, her gallery and her art, you can visit her website (www.bertamaria.de). Unfortunately both websites were only designed in German.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kessel´s Espresso Studio - "Wir leben Caffé"

There are quite a few coffeeshops in Bonn, Germany, but my favorite place to enjoy a delicious cup of cappuccino is “Kessel´s Espresso Studio”.

Although this is not your typical coffeeshop, one of the friendly baristas will prepare an excellent cappuccino, espresso or hot chocolate for you (with that beautiful Faema E 61 coffee machine) while you ponder your decision  whether you should go ahead and buy a few things while you are there.

The range of products includes espresso machines from a number of different manufacturers (such as Jura, Nivona, ECM, Rancilio, Vibiemme, and WMF) .

Then there it the selection of  espresso and cappuccino cups and mugs. Then there are the Italian sweets like the Baci chocolates (“Kisses”) from Perugina, Torroncini (Sicilian nougat), cookies such as Amaretti (made with ground almonds and apricot pits), Ricciarelli (Tuscan almond cookies) or Cantuccini (crunchy Tucsan specialty). And then there is, of course, the wide selection of pre-ground or whole bean coffees from coffee companies/merchants such as Illy, Segafredo, Pellini, Nannini and Ionia, to name but a few.

You can enjoy your beverage inside the Studio or while sitting an one of the comfy wooden benches outside the store.

The Studio has been operated by Frank and Bianca Kessel for about eighteen years now with an ever growing clientele and is located on the beautiful “Friedrichstrasse” – a wonderful street with a pedestrian zone lined by a number of fantastic stores that are all worth a visit (I will post about some of them in the weeks to come).

Kessel´s Espresso Studio
Friedrichstrasse 54
53117 Bonn
Phone +49 (0228) 656433
Fax     +49 (0228) 656436
E-mail: kessels-espresso-studio@t-online.de
Website: www.kessels-espresso-studio.de

Opening hours: Monday til Friday 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.