Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Butternut Squash Tart for the First Day of Fall

This is a delicious, delicately spiced Butternut Squash Tart with the flavors of brown sugar and warm spices, in particular cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The filling is similar to a pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie in texture but the earthy sweetness of fresh butternut squash purée sets this pie apart from regular pumpkin pies. It's quite easy to prepare at home and makes for a wonderful fall dessert that I really enjoy in September. And, the golden brown color of the baked pie is kind of hard to beat.

I have baked many pumpkin and squash pies over the years. I must admit that I like butternut squash pies the best. I have eaten them with a pecan topping, meringue topping or plain. I prefer them plain. Sometimes I bake this pie in an unbaked pie shell, or I partially bake (blind bake) the pie shell first before filling to avoid a soggy bottom. Occasionally I bake it with a cookie crust.

This time I made a made a tart crust with whole wheat cookies, pre-baked it for 15 minutes and left the baked tart plain. And I really liked it. So, that’s the recipe I’m posting today – a no-fuss, cookie crust butternut sqaush pie to start off fall baking in a yummy way.

Butternut Squash Tart with Whole Wheat Cookie Crust


For the Cookie Crust
  • 200g whole wheat cookies (around here 'Vollkornkekse') OR use graham crackers 
  • 2 tbsp superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 56g unsalted butter, melted 

For the Filling
  • 1 cup fresh butternut squash purée
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic
  • 85 ml cream (half-and-half) OR use condensed milk 
  • 3/4 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt 
  • 1 tbsp spelt flour
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar (around here 'Bourbon Vanilla Zucker')

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (356°F) degrees. 
  2. Break up large cookies and process cookies, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor until fine crumbs form, then add the melted butter. Process until combined. 
  3. Transfer mixture to a 24 cm (9.5in) tart pan with a removable bottom, pat into bottom and up the sides.
  4. Place tart pan on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly colored, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the squash with the brown sugar. 
  6. Add the eggs, cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, flour, butter, and vanilla sugar. Beat until well blended and smooth.
  7. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crust and place on the center oven rack.
  8. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until set. When the filling is set, transfer the pie to a rack to cool.
  9. Serve just warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream (you culd also go with crème fraîche or vanilla custard) or plain. It’s nice to sprinkle a bit of freshly ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg on top of the whipped cream just before serving.

While there are a ton of pumpkin or squash pie recipes out there, I like this one. It’s s simple. It’s fast. You are likely to have most ingredients on hand – honestly, who doesn’t happen to have a bit of butternut squash lingering in the fridge after a long weekend cooking up fall veggies for a crowd?!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Mary's Sweet Rolls (Süsse Marienküchlein)

Since September 8th marks the end of summer and beginning of fall as well as Mary's Birthday - nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conceptionthis day has many thanksgiving celebrations and customs attached to it, such as the blessing of the summer harvest and fall planting seeds and seedlings.

In France there is a nice connection between the Nativity of Mary and wine: this feast day is the occasion for a grape harvest festival in the wine regions of France where winegrowers call this feast 'Our Lady of the Grape Harvest'. They bring their best grapes to the local church to be blessed and then tie some of the first fruits to the hands of the statue of Mary. An extensive festive meal which includes the new grapes is often part of this day's celebrations.

On this day, which, by the way is also the name day for all Marias and Mariettas, Italians like to eat blueberries, the blue of the berry is a reference to the traditional color of Mary’s cloak.

As the summer draws to a close, in the Alp region of Austria and Bavaria this day is 'Drive-Down Day' (Almabtrieb) during which the cattle are led from their summer mountain pastures in the slopes and brought to their winter quarters in the valleys. The 'Almabtrieb' is usually a large caravan, with loads of decorations and festivities. In some parts of Austria, milk from this day and all the leftover food are given to the poor.

There are a number of Marian Feast Days, too many to list them all. I talked about the wonderful traditions with respect to herbs and Assumption Day in my blog post here. So, today, September 8th, celebrates Mary's birthday and while there is no one specific traditional baked good that is prepared on this day, during my research I came across a recipe for 'Mary’s Sweet Rolls' (Süsse Marienküchlein) - their name refers to the fact that although these lovely sweet rolls can be baked throughout the year, of course, because they are just perfect for teatime, it is nice to bake them on special occasions like one of the many Marian feast days.

While the original recipe I found is for small rolls with pearl sugar only, I decided to add some slivered hazelnuts to some of them. We have a hazelnut tree in our garden and the nuts are ripe about this time of year, so this personal touch seemed fitting - plus I think the hazelnuts make these rolls look even prettier.

And let us not forget that not only is the beginning of September often associated with sowing and harvest, but there is even a folk saying which can be traced back to the Middle Ages that says that ‚Nuts are at their best on Mary’s Birthday‘ (‚An Marä Geburt sind die Nüsse gut‘). One more reason to add freshly harvested hazelnuts from our tree to these rolls.

Mary's Sweet  Rolls (Süsse Marienküchlein)

(yields about 25)
  • 250ml milk (I like to use 3.5%)
  • 100g butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 21g fresh yeast OR 8g instant yeast (around here 'Trockenbackhefe')
  • 550g strong baking flour (around here 'Type 550')
  • 75g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • grated zest of ½ organic lemon
  • 8g pure vanilla sugar (around here 'Bourbon Vanillezucker')
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon (I like to use 'Ceylon cinnamon')
  • 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic

In Addition
  • some milk (again, I like to use full fat milk)
  • pearl sugar (aka 'nib sugar' or 'hail sugar') 
  • slivered hazelnuts
  • pure vanilla sugar 

  1. Heat the milk to lukewarm, add the butter and the yeast to the milk and stir until the yeast and butter are dissolved.
  2. In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, vanilla sugar and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture tot he yeast mixture. Then add the eggs. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
  3. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. 
  4. After that, punch the dough down and roll it out to about 2 cm thickness.
  5. Using either a cookie cutter or a glass, cut into rounds, transfer them to parchment lined baking sheets and allow them to rise for an additional 20 minutes.
  6. While the rounds are rising, pre-heat your oven to 170° C.
  7. Next brush some milk over the top of the buns and sprinkle some pearl sugar and/or slithered hazelnuts mixed with some vanilla sugar on the tops. 
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. NOTE: These treats are best eaten the day they were made.

Despite common belief, the hazelnut is not a bush but a tree and in many cultures the hazelnut tree is revered as a sacred tree. And if one needed one more reason for the addition of hazelnuts to this recipe, I came across a legend from the Middle Ages during my research. According to the legend, Mary feel asleep under a hazelnut tree and when she awoke, she blessed the hazelnut tree that had provided a safe shelter to her while she slept so that from that day on, every person that stands under a hazelnut tree shall feel safe and never despair.

Please note that my recipe for Mary's Sweet Rolls (Süsse Marienküchlein) is part of my series for a 'local' (meaning across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) 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 listen (in German) HERE.

The various recipes of my series can be found here:

  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
  • for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
  • for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun these festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Colorful September Veggie Fritters

Veggie Fritters are a wonderful way to enjoy a variety of vegetables. Once you have a base recipe, you can vary them according to your personal taste and the season. The best Veggie Fritters aren’t just packed with veggies, they’re also enhanced with cheese such as parmesan (feta or halloumi) and soft herbs (such as parsley or chives). Then they are pan-fried, making them nice and crispy.

Vegetable fritters are an easy way to eat more veggies. They pack up great for lunch, either on their own or in a sandwich, and they even make a nice, light dinner when paired with a simple salad. But the best part about these fritters is that what you decide to put in them is really just determined by what you already have in your kitchen.

Boosting veggies with plenty of complementary flavors is exactly what makes fritters so delicious. Cheese loves vegetables, so tossing a little grated or crumbled cheese into the mix doesn’t hurt. Aromatics like garlic, fresh herbs, and spices also help keep things exciting. Once you know the basic formula, it’s just a matter of experimenting with different combinations.

These easy Sweetcorn Fritters are the perfect accompaniment to chicken or pork, but also good as finger food, for lunch or brunch with a lovely Yogurt Radish Dip or try them with avocado and eggs.

In general, vegetable fritters love a dipping and dolloping sauce, especially a creamy one. I like to use Greek yogurt or a 10% natural yogurt, then I like to add cottage cheese (go with low fat or the regular one) but adding Quark (German fresh cheese) to the yogurt is also very nice. Just go with what you like and what you have on hand. Got any leftover pesto, stir that into the dip, harissa is also nice if you like it spicy. Or just add freshly squeezed lemon juice, pepper and salt to the dip.

Sweetcorn Fritters with Yogurt Radish Dip


For the Fritters
  • 4 sweetcorn cobs 
  • 3 eggs (M), free-range or organic
  • 200g plain (AP) flour (less or more depending on the moisture level of your veg) NOTE: for a gluten-free version, you can use an equal amount of chickpea flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g cup grated parmesan NOTE: you can use crumbled feta or coarsely grated halloumi instead
  • freshly ground black pepper, fine sea salt
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • chopped chives or parsley
  • vegetable oil, for frying
For the Dip
  • 100g natural yogurt (use the one you enjoy the most and/or have on hand) 
  • 50g cottage cheese (full fat or reduced fat) OR use Quark (fresh cheese)
  • a bit of good quality olive oil
  • a few fresh radishes (washed carefully to remove dirt, topped, tailed, chopped and moisture dried off)
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
  • grated zest of 1/2 organic lemon and some lemon juice
  • cress (optional)

  1. Cook your cobs in a large pot with salted, boiling water for about 15 minutes; take out, run under cold water and dry off.
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut down the length of each cob to remove the kernels.
  3. Process 2/3 of the sweetcorn kernels in a food processor. Then add the 3 eggs, process some more.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, grated parmesan, pepper, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sweetcorn mixture and process again until all the ingredients come together OR use a spatula to mix everything together so that it’s evenly combined.
  5. Transfer the sweetcorn mixture to a medium bowl, add the thinly sliced spring onions, chopped herbs and mix well.
  6. Add the oil to a large frying pan - as you need to shallow fry these, so make sure the base of the pan is well covered. 
  7. Heat the oil then test by adding a tiny bit of the batter – it should immediately start bubbling around the edges when it hits the oil. Using a small ladle OR an ice cream scoop, drop batter onto the oil – you need around 2 tbsp of mixture per fritter. You should be able to fry 4 to 5 at any one time – be careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  8. Fry for a couple of minutes on one side until light brown then turn over and cook for a further minute.
  9. Turn out onto kitchen paper to remove any excess oil and keep warm in a low oven. 
  10. Continue until you have used all the batter.
  11. Transfer the fritters to a plate and serve warm, at room temperature, or cold with a dipping sauce of your choice, if using.
  12. For the dip, mix together all the ingedients and place in the fridge while preparing the fritters - I like to serve a really cold dip with warm fritters.

You can also use grated and well drained zucchini and summer squash. I like to garnish my Zucchini (Courgette) Fritters with just a bit of Greek yogurt and maybe some herbs – personally I like the flavor combination of basil and zucchini, so I often add a bit of basil to my Greek yogurt to compliment the zucchini fritters.

Let the season and your taste buds be your guide when prepearing Veggie Fritters - apart from sweetcorn or zucchini, you can also use carrots, parsnips, or even chard.