Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012


With this Part VI of my October Series entitled „CAKES AND VEGETABLES“ I am presenting the wonderful Parsnip. A sweetly flavored root vegetable, a parsnip resembles a bulky, beige carrot. Parsnips are usually treated in much the same way as potatoes, they can be roasted, mashed, or made into a velvety soup. Parsnips are in season from October to March, but are usually at their best after the first frost. For the best flavor, look for parsnips about the size of a large carrot, with firm, unblemished flesh. If the leaves are still attached to the tops, they should still be green and fresh. Apart from using them in savoury dishes, you can also use them in your baking and make this wonderful Parsnip Spice Cake using freshly grated parsnips and wonderful warm spices, again, try to use the most fragrant and fresh spices that you can. Whenever I buy new spices, I date them and I have made a habit of replacing them every couple of months.

Recipe for the Parsnip Spice Cake

Ingredients for the Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups plain/AP flour
  • 1 cup superfine white sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking powder (Iused baking powder with ground saffron)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 eggs, (L) free range or organic
  • 1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 3.5% milk)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups (packed) shredded peeled parsnips (about 3 large)
  • 1/2 cup new harvest walnuts, toasted and chopped

Ingredients for the Frosting (optional)

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (about 12 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted


  • a 13x9x2 inch baking pan
  • some unbleached parchment paper

Preparation of the Cake

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking pan, line with parchment paper, butter again.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla to combine.
5. Pour the egg mixture over dry ingredients; stir until just combined.
6. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the grated parsnips and the chopped walnuts.
7. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and using an offset-spatula, smooth the top.
8. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes.
9. Transfer the cake to a wire rack.
10. Cool the cake completely in the pan on the rack.

Preparation of the Frosting

1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
2. Beat in the freshly grated ginger, salt and the pure vanilla extract.
3. Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth and glossy.
4. Decorate the cake with the frosting as you like - I piped a few rosettes but the frosting is enough to cover the whole cake with a thick layer of frosting.

NOTE: the amount of frosting is enough to cover the cake with a nice thick layer of frosting, if you opt to pipe rosettes, prepare only half the amount of frosting.

This cake is moist with a pronounced spice flavor and it is not overly sweet. The frosting is a wonderful addition to this cake, you can also prepare it without the grated ginger but I would definitely prepare a cream cheese frosting for this cake, it adds just the right amount of sweetness. You could also skip the walnuts or replace them with pecans but nuts are very nice in this cake.

PART VII and the conclusion to my CAKES AND VEGETABLES Series will feature one more cake with beetroot. This time the beetroot will be grated in its raw stage rather than cooked and puréed before being added to the cake.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spice Merchant in Wiesbaden, Germany

Yesterday I had to take a trip to the beautiful City of Wiesbaden, the state capital of the German state of Hessen, in the heart of the Rhine-Main region. It is a mere hour and a half away from where we live and it was quite nice to take a very comfortable train ride there. I had not taken the train in years and completely forgotten how relaxing a train ride can be. In the afternoon, there was some time left for sight-seeing, eating a piece of cake at a very traditional Viennese Coffee House, and paying a visit to a wonderful Spice Merchant called “Gewürz Müller”. The company was founded in 1948.

The shelves in this tiny store are packed with wonderful things such as flavored sugars, candies and different flower waters…

…and beautifully packaged loose teas which include Frisian Blends, Earl Grey Teas, as well as teas from Assam, Ceylon and special Winter Blends...

…and spiced nuts such as these Caramel Almonds and Wasabi Peanuts.

You can also buy sea salt from France or England...

…or dried flowers, such as these lovely burgundy-colored hibiscus flowers.

Or pick up a gingerbread heart that says “I Love Spice”

…or simply admire the vintage decoration which includes Gugelhupf pans, baking gear, hand woven baskets and this terrific mannequin head…

….and more Gugelhupf pans and vintage tins.

There are also about 157 different spices to choose from and if you cannot find a special spice you are looking for,  the friendly owners who mix and grind their own spices, will probably be able to order it for you.

Do take a look at the vast array of sauces, sauce mixes, mustards, jams and jellies, vinegars, oils, chocolates, a small selection of  French wines, Crémants and Champagnes.

When you leave the store with your arms full of terrific things that you just bought and cannot wait to try out, you will take a last look at the display of French soaps with scents such as lemon verbena, oriental spices, orange or mimosa…

…or vanilla and orange flower.

And you will know that next time you are visiting this City, no doubt, the first stop of your shopping trip will be this wonderful Spice Merchant.

Gewürz Müller
Mühlgasse 9
65183 Wiesbaden
phone : +49 (0611)30 07 13

Friday, October 26, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie Group is Chicken Tagine with Sweet Potatoes. A Tagine is a Berber dish from North Africa, that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked.

Tagines are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce. Dorie´s recipe calls for chicken to be browned first and then to be stewed with onions, sweet potatoes and pitted prunes (which I omitted).

The other ingredients of this dish are some wonderfully aromatic spices. You will need saffron (I bought some wonderful Spanish saffron), ground cinnamon, some cayenne (which adds just the right amount of spicyness), star anise (which smells heavenly while cooking away in the stew) and a bay leaf (I still have a lot bay leaves left on my plant in the garden). I do not own a real tagine pot to cook this stew and used a regular cast-iron pot but I found these adorable Mini Tagines, put some of the spices that I used in the little plates and placed them on the table as decorations – besides I loved the smell that emanated from these little colorful porcelain dishes.

Since I always make my own chicken stock, I used that as the stewing liquid and it made for a nice jus when I served the finished dish over rice. The only change I made to the dish was to omit the pitted prunes, the wonderful honey that was also part of the ingredient list, added enough sweetness to this dish for our taste.

The cubed orange-fleshed sweet potatoes harmonized well with all the spices in this dish and were a colorful addition, even after having bubbled away in the chicken stew for quite some time, they retained their wonderful bright color.

In summary, the Tagine was well worth making, it smelled wonderful and intriguing while stewing but not all the little taste testers agreed, two of them happily munched away on the rice. After dinner we turned our attention to the dessert.

Since I had bought some fresh spices for this dish, I decided to bake an Oriental Spice Coffee Cake for dessert. The cake recipe calls for spices such as cardamom, ground cloves, cinnamon and saffron. But you also need to add freshly brewed strong coffee, light brown sugar, orange zest, pistachios and dark chocolate. I decided to use Lindt Excellence Orange Intense, which added even more wonderful orange flavor to this wonderfully moist cake.

This was an intriguing dinner recipe and a new dessert recipe – lots of spices, lots of wonderful smells and a very harmonious dinner indeed! To see how adventurous the other Doristas felt this week when preparing the Chicken Tagine,  please click here.


Monday, October 22, 2012

CAKES & VEGETABLES - PART V - POTATO - Old-Fashioned Potato-Raisin Gugelhupf

Part V of my October Series entitled "CAKES AND VEGETABLES” features the extremely versatile potato and a delightful "Old-Fashioned Potato-Raisin Gugelhupf". Potatoes are tubers that are a staple food in many parts of the world. They are commonly categorized according to when they are harvested, early, mid-season or late as well as their characteristics, whether waxy in appearance, or floury once cooked. Around here, the main potato season begins in October. Although potatoes are available until early spring, towards the end of storage in March, the starch in potatoes turns to sugar and for example fried potatoes made from stored varieties will tend to be sweeter.

When you shop for these veggies, despite the potato´s wide popularity, you will generally have little choice about what types of potatoes to choose from. But a lot of supermarkets and some farmers' markets are increasing their range of old and new potato varieties, with myriad tastes and textures. Whichever kind of potato you choose to buy, they should be firm and well-shaped with no so-called eyes or green patches. Some Europeans, such as the British, tend to prefer white-fleshed potatoes, whereas the Germans, Dutch and Spanish like yellow-fleshed potatoes, but the color makes little difference to the taste.

Once cooked, the texture of potatoes can range from smooth, waxy-textured flesh perfect for salads to floury-textured flesh ideal for fluffy mashed potato, so it is important to know what type of potato you have bought before you decide how to cook them. Certain cooking methods suit different potatoes best such as baking, boiling, frying, mashing, or roasting. Be sure to store your potatoes in a cool, airy, dark place. And if you are looking for a potato recipe that is different from the usual savory ones, why not bake this super moist and utterly delicious Old-Fashioned Potato-Raisin Gugelhupf.

Recipe for the Old-Fashioned Potato-Raisin Gugelhupf

Ingredients for the Gugelhupf

  • 400 grams (14.10 ounces) waxy potatoes, cooked with the peel on.and cooled, then peeled and grated on the small grates of your box grater - (after you have peeled them, you will be left with about 300 grams/10.5 ounces)
  • 300 grams (10.5 ounces) plain/AP flour, plus some for the pan
  • 1 package instant yeast 
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) superfine white sugar
  • 1 package pure vanilla sugar (such as Dr. Oetker Natural Vanilla Sugar) or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • one pinch fine salt (I used fine sea salt)
  • 3 eggs (M), preferably free range or organic, room temperature
  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus some for the pan
  • 125 grams (4.4 ounces) raisins soaked in warm rum or apple juice for about twenty minutes, drained

Ingredients for the Butter Glaze

  • 50 grams unsalted butter, melted 

Ingredients for the Chocolate Glaze

  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup (or light corn syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • one 10 cup Gugelhupf or Bundt pan
  • pastry brushes

Preparation of the Gugelhupf

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
2. Butter and flour the Gugelhupf pan, knocking out any excess flour.
3. In the bowl of your mixer, carefully whisk together the flour with the instant yeast.
4. To the flour mixture add the sugar, vanilla sugar (or extract), salt, eggs and butter and mix for about two minutes until the cake batter is smooth.
5. Switch to a spatula and gently add the grated potatoes and raisins to the batter.
6. Transfer the batter to the pan and with a small offset spatula, smooth the top of the batter.
7. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean, or with only a few crumbs attached.
8. When the cake is done, transfer it to a wire rack to cool for about ten minutes.
9. After ten minutes, turn out the cake, heat the remaining butter, just until melted and brush the warm butter over the warm cake. Cool the cake completely on the wire rack.

Preparation of the Chocolate Glaze

1. In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine chopped chocolate, butter, and golden syrup.
2. Stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, then add vanilla.
3. Spread warm glaze over top of cake, letting it drizzle down the sides.

PART VI of my CAKES AND VEGETABLES SERIES will feature a delicious cake that contains PARSNIP, a sweetly flavored root vegetable that resembles a bulky, beige carrot.

A Visit to a Country Fair ("Tag der offenen Höfe")

Yesterday, we visited one of our favorite Country Fairs, the weather was beautiful and the visitors were numerous.

There was a Basket Weaver telling stories while taking a break from weaving and...

...showing off his wonderful handmade wares.

There were Apple Farmers handing out samples of their plentiful harvest.

We could admire the incredible works from the "Chainsaw Artists"...

...such as this proud eagle...

...or the owl that was taking shape right in front of our eyes... looked incredible.

Another one of the artists created a bear while we watched.

There was also a beautiful piece of wood...

...and a "Bear Angel" on display.

This is my favorite Half-Timber House of the village where the fair takes place every year.

All the houses and yards were decorated with new harvest Apples.

The wall of one of the barnes was decorated with a lot of Antlers mounted on wooden plates...

...and proudly displayed by the owner who obviously is also a rather passionate Hunter.

 There was a Wood Carver selling his wooden plates and bowls.

You could also buy lots of homemade Jellies and Jams.

And there were a lot of very colorful Vintage Tractors on display from a lot of different manufacturers.

This "Straw Couple" was watching over the visitors.

More incredible Wood Work.

Our youngest tried her hand at the "Apple Spiral"...

...and was delighted by the results.

There was also "Bread on a Stick" that the kids were invited to roast over the fire.

You could also sample different clear "Brandies" from a local destillery.

More Vintage Tractors.

A beautiful piece of Wrought-Iron Work on the side of a farm house.

 And Vinegars, Syrups, Chutneys (I bought some delightful Elderflower Syrup)...

...and more Jams and Jellies (thinking of one of my favorite fall tarts, I bought delicious Quince Jelly).

More colorful Vintage Tractors.

A pretty big tractor tire doubles as a comfortable resting spot for our two youngest daughters.

So many incredible Vintage Cars.

Our youngest also loved "Painting for a Good Cause", all the money donated at this booth will go to the Paediatric Oncology Department of the University Hospital of Bonn.

There was a wonderful display of various mustards from a well-known local "Mustard Manufacturer" (I bought some of their classic mustards that they sell packaged in beautiful stoneware)...

One of the kids favorite was a Broom Maker, his brooms looked wonderful...

...and so did his old-fashioned equipment.

More handmade baskets from the Basket Weaver (I bought the one in the front row, second to the right).

And last, but not least, you could also buy wonderful and unusual Vinegars.

This was a wonderful day spent sampling, watching, admiring and buying some pretty terrific works of art, food and housewares - all of them produced by local farmers or artists!