Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year Wishes! - Herzliche Neujahrsgrüße!

To all my friends and readers of my blog: wishing you and your families much happiness and joy and blessings for the New Year!

Ich wünsche allen meinen Freunden und Lesern ein glückliches Neues Jahr 2018!


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pain d'épices - Spice Bread

Pain d'épices (French for "spice bread") is a classic moist French cake or quick bread, a kind of cross between a cake and a bread, or as I like to refer to it a „breakfast cake“. There is no butter in this recipe, just milk to bind the ingredients and there is some rye flour in there. Which means that it’s actually rather well-suited to being spread with fresh butter and topped with jam or honey (my favorite).

This cake is something that people tend to buy rather than make these days. However, given how simple the recipe is, there is no reason not to give it a try.

The only prep involved here is scalding of the milk and then letting it cool before mixing the batter. And maybe whipping the egg whites but other than that, this recipe only requires you to just mix everything together until you have a smooth – but still thick – batter, scrape it into your baking pan and bake. Then you will be rewarded by a rich, spicy aroma during baking, and that aroma will linger in your kitchen for a while.

While this cake can be eaten the same day it was made, if you have the time and patience to store it for a day or two, the texture of the loaf will be denser, the loaf will be slightly sticky on top, but it will also cut more easily, making it perfectly suited as something to nibble on during the week for breakfast, but it’s also tasty enough on its own to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee as an afternoon snack. Or do as the French do and cut thin slices to serve under slabs of foie gras. Or do as the Belgians do and add toasted cubes to a wintry Carbonnade flamande (A Flemish Beef and Beer Stew).

In this recipe I use a rather traditional French spice mixture „Quatre épices“. However, you can tweak the recipe and use a gingerbread spice mix or perhaps a Belgian spice mixture like speculooskruiden used in traditional biscuits (the Dutch call it speculaaskruiden). You can also add nuts, dried fruit such as golden raisins or chopped apricots or even preserved ginger. I like it more on the plain side and sometimes add some coarse sugar (from Belgium) as a topping.

Pain d'épices – Spice Bread

  • 125g plain (AP) flour
  • 125g rye flour (I used rye flour "Type 1150" as it is called around here, which is not the whole grain kind. Pls note that rye flour has to be mixed with regular flour for this recipe)
  • 8g baking powder 
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 250g runny (liquid) honey PLUS some honey for brushing the warm cake (optional) NOTE:  if you are looking for a more pronounced honey taste, you can opt for buckwheat honey for example OR go with your favorite local honey, if possible
  • 100 ml milk (I use 3.5%)
  • 2 eggs (M) organic or free range
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4  tsp spice mix „Quatre épices“  (a spice mix used mainly in French cuisine, the name means "four spices" in French and it contains ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and anise) OR (1/4 tsp each grated nutmeg, ground cloves, freshly-ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon anise)
  • chopped nuts, dried fruits or candied ginger, orange or citrus peel (entirely optional)

  1. Grease a loaf pan (23 cm or 9 inch) with butter and line with baking parchment.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  3. Put the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices and salt in a bowl. Mix well.
  4. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a boil, then let it cool and add the honey to it, stir until dissolved. Cool completely.
  5. Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, spices and salt in a bowl. 
  6. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture, add the egg yolks and stir well until you have a smooth batter.
  7. In another bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm. If using: add any dried fruit, nuts, ginger etc. 
  8. Fold the egg whites into the batter – do this carefully.
  9. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool 10 minutes, then tip the cake out of the loaf pan OR let cool for a few minutes, brush the warm cake with honey (optional), wait another few minutes until the honey has been absorbed a bit into the cakem, then tip the cake out of the loaf pan and transfer to a cooling rack. 
  11. Let cool completely and when cool, wrap in food wrap OR enjoy on the same day.
  12. Personally, I prefer to let the cake rest for a day. To serve cut into slices and eat as is OR toast and slather with fresh butter and jam, marmelade, cream cheese or whatever strikes your fancy. NOTE: The Pain d’épices can be wrapped in plastic and stored for at least a week, during which time the flavors will meld and the texture will become denser. 

This is a nice, easy recipe that gives you a lovely spicy cake. This is also a good one to make with kids, as the recipe is quite easy. And a rather nice way to start my seasonal baking frenzy...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Yeast Luther Roses with Raisins & Cherry Jam to Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

To celebrate Reformation Day in a kind of sweet way, I baked these lovely treats and called them Yeast Luther Roses. Reformation Day always falls on October 31st, and, this year, was pronounced a public holiday in all of Germany to mark the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther's 95 "theses". Public holiday meant no school, no office, shops closed and lots of rememberance events. And some peace and quiet - perfect time to bake if you ask me.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. Luther’s famous posting of his theses on the door of the Wittenberg castle church were the prelude to the Reformation, one of the central events in European history. The Reformation encouraged the development of an image of humanity that was based on a new Christian concept of freedom. Therefore the formation of autonomy and the question of conscience for each individual person gained center stage.

The Reformation crucially influenced enlightenment and basic human rights, just like modern democracy. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was essential for the growth of a uniform written German language and opened a door to education for a vast part of population that had had no access to it before. There is hardly any sphere of life that wasn’t touched by the Reformation.

The Luther Rose (or Seal) is one of the best known symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. It dates back to the reformer and can still be found today in the coat of arms of numerous towns. Martin Luther used the symbol named after him to mark his letters and writings. To this end he got a rose cut in wood as a cylindrical image and printed it under his writings to identify them as original printouts and prevent them from being copied.

Yeast Luther Roses with Raisins & Cherry Jam
(yield: makes eight buns)

Ingredients for the Yeast Dough
  • 500 g strong flour (strong flour has a higher gluten content than regular plain/all purpose flour and is ideal for making yeast dough. Around here we call it "Type 505")
  • 30g (1 ounce) fresh yeast OR you can use 15g (1/2 ounce) active dry yeast or 7g (1/4 ounce) instant yeast instead (adjust the preparation accordingly if you use instant yeast)
  • 180 ml lukewarm milk (I use 3.5%)
  • 80 grams superfine (caster) sugar
  • 60 grams unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
  • 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla sugar (OR 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest (organic)
  • one pinch fine sea salt
  • 50 grams raisins (I like to "plump up" my raisins before I start baking by soaking them in hot black tea for a good 30 minutes, then drain them before using (discard the tea and do not add )

Ingredients for the Glaze
  • 1 egg yolk (L), free-range or organic
  • 1 tbsp milk, room temperature (I use 3.5%)

  • cherry jam (preferably homemade) OR use jam or jelly of your choice

Special Equipment needed
  • 2 baking sheets
  • 2 sheets of baking parchment
  • soft brush

Preparation of the Yeast Dough
  1. Put the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center of the flour.
  2. To a small bowl, add the fresh yeast (crumbled) and a bit of the sugar to the warm milk, then stir well to dissolve, pour the yeast mixture into the well, cover with some of the flour.
  3. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the starter for about 10 to 15 minutes (until you see bubbles).
  4. After 15 minutes add the remaining sugar, butter, egg, vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract), lemon zest, salt and (drained) raisins to the flour mixture. Mix all the ingredients together (using the dough hook) and knead until the dough comes together.
  5. Butter a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl.
  6. Cover the bowl and leave to rise in a warm spot for about 60 minutes or until it has doubled in volume.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface.
  8. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball shape, then flatten into rounds.
  9. Make five small diagonal cuts about one-third towards the center of the rounds from each but do not go all the way - you want to get "rose petals", so make sure to leave the middle of the rounds intact.
  10. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  11. Place the pastries onto the prepared baking sheets, place a geneous dollop of jam in the middle of each pastry. Cover loosely with food wrap and leave to rise again for 10 minutes.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the milk.
  13. Brush each pastry with the egg wash.
  14. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes until they have a rich golden color
  15. When done, remove from the oven, and leave to cool for a few minutes on the paper. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While these lovely pastries are a nice sweet way to celebrate a national public holiday - they are most certainly worth making just because...they are pretty and delicious and fun to make and they come with a nice dollop of jam - all you need to make things even more delightful is to serve some good quality butter with them and a big pot of tea or coffee.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Early November Teatime Treat - Spiced Pear Cake with Quark (Fresh Cheese) & Almonds

November is a good time to be baking away in the kitchen and a perfect time to enjoy ingredients of the season. Eat fresh chestnuts while you can, enjoy a wide range of root vegetables, cabbage and pumpkins and squashes. And make the most of the fruits of fall. One of autumn's many bounties, pears are endless in their uses. I like them in savory dishes such as quiches, or in salads, as part of a bruschetta topping, and in soups – then there are the sweet treats such as pear tarts and crumbles, poached pears, and many more. Pears are wonderful just plain, on their own, but they also pair particularly well with warm spices such as cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. And I love the combination of pears and ginger.

So this lovely no-fuss, mid-week, treat of a cake combines my favorite autumn fruit with my favorite warm spices and flavors – vanilla, ginger and a hint of cinnamon. Plus the addition of a bit of Quark (fresh cheese) adds just enough tang to balance out the sweetness of the fruit. While almonds add a nice final touch and their natural sweetness compliments this cake beautifully.

Spiced Pear Cake with Quark

Ingredients for the Cake Batter
  • 200 grams unsalted butter (room temperature), plus extra for greasing the baking pan
  • 200 grams superfine (caster) sugar
  • 8 grams vanilla sugar*
  • 3 eggs (M) organic or free range
  • 200 grams wheat (AP) flour
  • 10 grams baking powder
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 3 tbsps Quark (fresh cheese) or use Greek yogurt (room temperature

For the Pears
  • 3 pears (baking variety, fragrant and ripe but still a bit firm) 
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar OR use regular sugar
For the Topping
  • slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar

  1. Lightly butter a retangular baking pan (33 cm x 22 cm or 13 x 9 inches), line the base and sides with baking parchment. Set aside.
  2. For the pears: peel, core, and halve the pears. Thinly slice each half lengthwise without cutting all the way through to the core side, leaving the halves hinged together. Carefully place the prepared pears in a glass bowl, add lemon juice and sugar to bowl and let the pear halves macerate while preparing the cake batter.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 180 ° C (375°F).
  4. For the cake batter: mix, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar together until pale, then gradually mix in eggs (one by one).
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and cinnamon.
  6. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  7. Gently fold the Quark into the cake batter, making sure not to overmix the batter.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, smooth the surface, then place the prepared pear halves on top of the batter.
  9. Top with slivered almonds and sugar.
  10. Bake for 50 to 55  minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Allow to cool in the baking pan.
  12. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar just before serving (optional).
* If vanilla sugar isn't available in your local grocery store, you can make your own. Split one or two vanilla beans to expose the seeds. Bury the split beans in a 2-cup canister of white sugar and seal it. Shake the canister daily for one week or longer if you prefer a stronger flavor. If you need vanilla sugar right away, you can scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod into a cup of white sugar. Pulse the sugar and vanilla in your food processor until they are combined. Let the mixture sit for two hours to infuse.

This Spiced Pear Cake with Quark makes a lovely teatime treat or even breakfast cake (after all there is fruit and Quark in there). Simply serve as is or perhaps with softly whipped cream.

This cake also works well with apples and just cinnamon and the cake keeps well, for a good day or two, wrapped in food wrap (clingfilm).

If you ask me, autumn baking truly is the best  – before all the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season is upon us, it is always a good idea to get some easy, delicious baking done to enjoy all by yourself, with family and friends…and don`t forget to serve your favorite tea or coffee alongside.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Delicate Delights - Lemon Thins

These pretty little turquoise bowls were gifted to me for my birthday (well, ahem, yesterday) – and they immediately beckoned to be filled with delicate delights.  Artisan handmade chocolates would have been a good choice but, personally, I prefer small, delicate cookie teatime treats. So, I decided that my homemade Lemon Thins would be just the perfect cookies – as they are delicious and pretty and small and have a pronounced tart lemon taste (which I absolutely adore in baked goods) as well as a delighful crisp texture.

My Lemon Thins get their zippy flavor from fresh lemon zest and juice. Perfect. But, of course, you could opt for orange, blood orange or grapefruit flavor here as well. For now, the market is flooded with bright, yellow lemons and so a batch of Lemon Thins it was.

Lemon Thins

(yields 28 to 32)
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 300g AP flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg (L), organic or free range
  • grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • juice of ½ lemon

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C° (300°F).
  2. Line a baking sheet or two with baking parchment.
  3. Put the butter and all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, working it into a crumb.
  4. Add the egg, lemon zest and juice.
  5. Mix all together very well, kneading lightly to a smooth dough.
  6. Divide the dough in half and form into two rolls.
  7. Wrap the dough logs in food wrap or wax paper.
  8. Refrigerate the rolls until firm. NOTE: chilling cookie dough for just 30 minutes makes a big difference.
  9. Slice thin discs from one end of the log, laying each disc 2 to 3cm or so apart on the baking parchment.
  10. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until lightly colored.
  11. Transfer the cookies to cooling rack. NOTE: should there be too much dough, then the remainder freezes well.

This lemon cookie recipe would be the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea, bowls of ice cream, stewed fruits, or any fresh seasonal fruit or berries.

Or enjoy them just as they are. Crisp. Clean. Lemony. And elegant. And perfect in these darling handcrafted serving bowls.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif (Shredded Sweet and Savory Pastry Pie) & August Thoughts

A few days ago, the members of Cottage Cooking Club closed the books (so to speak) on yet another chapter of our cooking adventures – we finished cooking and baking our way through yet another one (or two) of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s wonderful cookbooks. August is always a good time for reflection, for taking a step back, for looking at things from a different angle, for expanding our palates and enjoying new foods, so, while we wait, with bated breath, no doubt, for Hugh´s new book to hit stores in the UK on September 21, entitled River Cottage Much More Veg (for more info visit here) – I like to turn my thoughts to a few different kinds of recipes, the ones that are not to be found in any of Hugh´s books.

There are so many things on my list that I want to try out and cook and bake and test that I have the feeling that if I do not get started right now, I will never get a chance to make them. So, without further ado, here is one of the many inspirational dishes I tried and loved and enjoyed and shared with my family. To the last crumb, or rather shred of that delightful Kataifi pastry.

This Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif is meant as an homage to Levantine dishes. It is fun to eat. It is pretty. It is crisp on the outside with a smooth, creamy, cheesy center and a pleasant sweetness from the local early summer harvest honey, and, yes, my kids loved it. To our palates it tastes like a cross between an appetizer and a dessert. I was told that it is meant as a starter before lunch or dinner but would be quite at home at a party as well. Well, no matter what time of day you choose to enjoy this dish, wether with a nice glass of wine, a fine mineral water or maybe even a cup of floral Earl Grey, you will be more than pleasantly surprised.

This recipe is a hybrid of two Levantine dishesKadaif and Kanafeh. Kadaif is a type of baklava, with a filling of nuts, drenched in honey. Kanafeh is a special type of cheese pastry, soaked in sugar syrup and served as dessert.

Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif (Shredded Sweet and Savory Pastry Pie)

  • 60g unsalted butter, plus some extra to grease the cake pan
  • 250g kataifi/kadaif pastry*
  • 200g feta, crumbled**
  • 100g halloumi, grated***
  • 125g ball mozzarella (not buffalo), shredded
  • 100g clear runny honey (a local honey would be nice here but any clear, mild honey will do nicely)
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • untreated/organic dried rose leaves for decoration (optional) and/or some rosemary sprigs
* is shredded bric or filo pastry and is available from Turkish shops or online. It freezes well, so it’s worth stocking up
** a brined curd white cheese made in Greece from sheep's milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk
***  a Cypriot/Middle Eastern semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, and sometimes also cow's milk

In addition
  • 20cm cake pan (for ease of cleanup no loose bottom or springform but if you own baking pans with loose bottoms only, make sure to double-wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil)

  1. Grease the cake pan well with butter (best done with a pastry brush), then set aside and pre-heat your oven to 220°C (200°C fan-assisted).
  2. Put the kataifi in a food processor and whizz until you have strands that are 1 to 2cm long.
  3. Melt the 60g butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat then, when foaming, tip in the pastry. Stir to coat it in the butter, then cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the pastry has become a little translucent and has changed color slightly.
  4. Tip about two thirds of the pastry into the cake tin and spread it over the base, pressing it up the sides, creating a hollow in the center.
  5. Mix the three kinds of cheese together and season well with freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Press the cheese mix into the hollow, then put the remaining pastry over the top and pat it down to secure it.
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden and crisp.
  8. While the Kadaif is in the oven, put the honey, rosemary sprigs and lemon juice into a small saucepan and heat gently until the honey is warm – but don’t let it boil. Leave it to cool while the pie finishes cooking.
  9. Once the pie is ready, remove it from the oven and carefully invert it onto a serving plate- to do so, hold the plate on top of the pie, smoothly flip the pie and plate together in one move, then remove the cake pan. Place a serving plate on top and flip one more time.
  10. Heat the honey again until warm, then drizzle it over the pie to soak in.
  11. Top with untreated rose leaves or rosemary sprigs, then slice and serve while still warm. Please NOTE that a sharp, heavy knife is best for cutting.

Clearly, the Now is a good time to expand our horizons and try out many a new thing – this lovely Cheese and Rosemary Honey Kadaif is certainly a delicious way to do so. A great way to ease into the lovely month of August.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - July 2017 Recipes

The month of July marks the sixth and final month of our second project for our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. We cooked our way through a wonderful, family-friendly cookbook written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Every Day". And the optional „Love your Leftovers“ by the same author.

This month I prepared five recipes from River Cottage Every Day. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

The first recipe for my July post is the Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs on Toast (page 58) from the chapter Making Breakfast

To this recipe I chose to add fresh Broad Beans with Garden Herbs & Spring Onions - I really love the combination of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon - who doesn´t - but it is even better with those lovely, seasonal broad beans. That´s all I want for breakfast or even lunch.

The second recipe was the Genoise Sponge Cake (page 372) from the chapter Treats. A really nice way to celebrate the delicious end to another chapter of our Cottage Cooking Club adventures. And, may I add, a really useful recipe to have in your repertoire. Easy. Summertime treat. Perfect for a July day.

Lastly I made the always useful Ten-minute Vegetable Stock (page 166) for the delicious Potato and Fennel Soup (page 268), both from the chapter Vegetables Galore

The combination of flavors - fennel and potatoes - prompted one of my trusted taste testers to burst out "this is my new favorite creamy soup". Truth is, this is a great combination and a reccuring theme in Hugh´s books which we really enjoy. The weather has been more than fallish on some days, so a creamy soup was not out of place in July. 

To this creamy soup I not only added some Caramelized Fennel but also the Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Pesto (page 132) from the chapter Weekday Lunch. I much prefer pumpkin seeds in my pesto than pine nuts - we get these amazingly delicious and very healthy dark green Styrian pumkin seeds here that I love to cook and bake with. So, I did not hestitate to make this pesto when I saw Hugh´s recipe.

There are so many ideas for leftover pesto - spread it, smear it, drizzle it, pour it or use it as a dip, pesto is so much more than a pasta sauce and there are so many ways to make the most of it. There are also so many varieties and this one with pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley, olive oil, Parmesan, sea salt, black pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice is pretty delicious.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoyed the recipes in our series, hopefully, the very talented and enthusiastic members of #The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts convinced you to get a copy of this lovely book or both books.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.

Monday, July 10, 2017

French Palmiers & Pretty Bowls

If you have followed me along for a while, you might have noticed that visiting a Pottery Market is one of the great joys in life for me. I love looking at the many wares on display. I enjoy chatting to the various artists and potters about their inspiration for a certain color or a unique design.  I take great joy in imagining different foods on and in all those handcrafted plates and bowls. The interaction, if I may call it that way, of food and pottery is rather unique and, to me, absolutely fascinating.

So, yesterday we visited a wonderful pottery market in the City of Siegburg (Germany) – once a year, in July, ceramic artists and potters from different countries will display their craft to an interested audience – there is always a good mix of everyday pottery and more artistic pieces. In my view, that is a pretty good balance.

This year I chose to buy a few complementary pieces from a Dutch pottery called De Rode Scherf from the well-known City of Delft (for more info about the artist, pls visit here). Last year I bought a small bowl with birds, this year I bought small plates and two more bowls – this time with roses - all pieces match so well. And I am already looking forward to seeing more of their exquisite pottery come September.

After our visit to the pottery market, I felt like taking pictures right away. The sun was out and we were still short of any dessert that day. A bit short on time and energy, I decided to bake some lovely Palmiers, one of my very favorite cookies.

Palmiers are a classic French cookie. They are fabulous sweet, crisp, airy cookies made of nothing more than buttery, flaky puff pastry and granulated sugar plus, in my case, a bit of cinnamon. Roll out the pastry, shape, slice and bake. It’s that simple. The magic happens in the oven – the sugar caramelizes, and the pastry puffs up into an elegant dual spiral shape, resulting in a palm-like shape that has given them their name. They might be simple to prepare, but these crisp delicacies look rather elegant.

French Palmiers

  • 140g/5oz ready-rolled all butter puff pastry (the best quality you can afford or make your own)
  • 25g/1oz superfine (caster) sugar*
  • 1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon (optional)
For the sugar, I use superfine aka caster sugar but if you prefer the crunch and flavor of specialty sugars, you can substitute demerara or another coarse-grained sugar. Brown sugar or granulated sugar also work just fine but make a sweeter palmier.

  1. Preheat the oven to 220° C (425° F).
  2. Take a sheet of ready-rolled all butter puff pastry and unroll, leaving it on the paper.
  3. Mix the sugar and cinnamon (if using) together in a bowl, then sprinkle over the pastry to lightly cover. Make sure your filling reaches all the corners of the pastry. Roll it gently onto the pastry sheet with a rolling pin to help it stick.
  4. Starting from one of the long edges, roll the pastry up tightly to the centre then repeat from the other side.
  5. Roll up the pastry in its original paper to help with definition.
  6. Chill before baking to ensure the palmiers hold their shape. If you are short of time, place them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  7. Flour your knife and cut the pastry roll into slices just thinner than 1cm (1/2 in).
  8. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet leaving a slight gap in between for the pastries to expand.
  9. Cook on a high shelf in your pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes - or until the pastry is crisp, golden and caramelized.
  10. Use a palette knife to ease the palmiers off the baking parchment and let cool on rack.
  11. Serve with pots of tea or cups of coffee or whatever strikes your fancy.

These cookies are really nice treats – very easy to make, but looking very sophisticated. Handy for those times when you want something fancy, but don’t have the time or inclination to put in a lot of work.

These can also be varied to include a bit of different spice with the sugar (nutmeg, cardamom), just sugar no spice or make savory versions using pesto, tapenade or grated cheese such as Parmiggiano Reggiano in place of the sugar.

I must say that I was rather pleased with the way my French Palmiers looked liked when I served them in these lovely bowls - pottery market visits are a great way to spend a Sunday and get a lot of inspiration.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - June 2017 Recipes

The month of June marks the fifth month of our second project for our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. Presently we are cooking our way through a wonderful, family-friendly cookbook written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Every Day". And the optional „Love your Leftovers“ by the same author.

This month I prepared five recipes from River Cottage Every Day. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

The first recipe for my June post is the Leftover Pork with Fennel and new Potatoes (page 212) from the chapter Thrifty Meat. I believe this is a recipe that a few of the CCC members have already prepared and enjoyed very much.

Fennel ranks as one of my very favorite vegetables of all times. I love the taste of caramelized fennel, its anisseed flavor particularly complements pork, fish or chicken so well. My love of fennel started with an Ottolenghi recipe that I first made ages ago and that made me a fennel lover at once – since then I have cooked fennel more times that I care to count. I love it best when thinly sliced, crisp, cold and raw or caramelized, soft and with a distinctive sweetness.

Add some fried new potatoes to leftover pork and sautéed fennel and you will have a new family favorite – if your family is like mine and enjoys the taste of fennel, that is.

This recipe has a very familiar flavor combination. Pork, fennel and potatoes. I used thinly sliced pork tenderloins here and I like to add slices of pan-seared lemon wedges, fennel fronds or chopped fresh dill for added flavor (and for looks, of course). I also love to serve green olives and chuncks of feta or goat cheese alongside. It is also a nice idea to serve a nice loaf of Ciabatta or baguette with this dish, to mop up all the lovely and very tasty pan sauce/cooking juices.

Recipe two is the Corn Bread (page 76) from the chapter Daily Bread. Corn Bread is a type of bread made from cornmeal flour. Corn is a major crop in the US and the southern states in particular use cornmeal to make a wide variety of dishes, including corn bread. Corn bread can include various add-ins such as cheese, spring onions or bacon and is usually baked in a rectangular pan and cooked either thin and crisp or thick, light and airy. It is served with all kinds of dishes, such as deep-fried chicken or bowls of chili, and can be used as the basis of stuffing for turkey.

I usually make the plain version but you can vary the recipe by adding other ingredients, just let your imagination and your left-overs be your guide. This is certainly a a simple, quick, yeast-free bread that can be put together in no time.

Recipes three, four and five for the month of June are the Digestive Biscuits aka Cookies (page 88) from the chapter Daily Bread, the Fridge Jam (page 50) from the chapter Making Breakfast and Macerated Fruits (page 336) from the chapter The Whole Fruit.

In general, digestive biscuits are hard, semi-sweet biscuits sometimes known as sweetmeal biscuits. While Hugh´s recipe calls for baking podwer, other recipes call for baking soda, believed to have a positive effect on digestion, hence the name. Digestives are light-brown in color and the ingredients include whole-wheat flour (I used part whole-wheat, part spelt flour), quick oats, brown sugar (the quantity will depend on whether you prefer them less or more sweet, sea salt, baking powder, and a bit of milk. You should always store the baked Digestives in an airtight container because any moisture will make the biscuits soggy. Uncooked biscuit dough can be frozen for up to two months, I tried it, it works like a charm.

You can either roll the biscuit dough into a log and chill in the fridge, then slice into rounds or roll out the dough on your work surface and use a biscuit cutter or a glass to cut out rounds. For chocolate digestives, place baked and cooled digestives onto a wire rack and pour over melted chocolate, then allow the chocolate to cool and harden before eating. I dipped half of the batch in dark chocolate – I always thought and still think that Digestives are wonderful with a number of add-tos, such as dark chocolate, jams and fruits or berries. It is fun to get a bit creative here.

Hence, I chose to serve the cooled Digestives with Macerated Fruits. Next time you have more apricots, peaches, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries than you know what to do with, just macerate them. This will amplify the flavor of fruits and berries. The process of adding sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (which is what I used) will give additional flavor to fruit and letting it steep over time is known as maceration. The fruit will soften as it macerates, and generate a thin syrup that is saturated with flavor. Because sugar is a natural preservative, macerating is a great method for extending the life of fruits that are less than perfect in appearance or just past their prime.

Fruit prepared this way can last for up to three or four days covered in the fridge. Apricots and sweet cherries is what I had on hand and the Macerted Fruits were indeed wonderful alongside the Digestive Biscuits.

And then there was Hugh´s Fridge Jam. Easy to make and also adaptable to the season. And just perfect with all sorts of biscuits, especially Digestives. Still loving those recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the very talented and enthusiastic members of #The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book or both books.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.