Monday, October 14, 2019

Buckwheat and Chickpea Flour Crackers

Just a short post today but with a lovely recipe for Buckwheat and Chickpea Flour Crackers. In general, there are two types of crackers, leavened or unleavened. Leavened crackers (such as cream crackers) have a distinctive bubbly texture due to the bicarbonate of soda they contain. Unleavened crackers, such as matzo cackers, are made from only water and flour.

As their name suggests, my crackers are made with two alternative flours (no leavener), some sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, some good olive oil, water and black as well as white sesame seeds. These crackers are a crunchy, tasty platform for butter, cheese and anything at all savory. They are fabulous dipped in homemade hummus and they are a superb crunchy accompaniment to homemade soup, too.

Buckwheat flour, rather more exotically 'farine de sarrasin' in French, is in itself always gluten-free, it is flour milled from buckwheat, a cold climate plant from the same family as rhubarb, sorrel and dock. Buckwheat’s pointed, triangular seeds resemble cereal grains, and the fine-textured flour is greyish, speckled with black. It has a distinctive, slightly sour and nutty taste and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is made into pancakes and bread in the US, Russia, India, China, and Brittany in Northwest France, where it is also used in rustic porridges, savory pancakes called 'galettes au sarrasin' and fruit flans. It is added to pierogi dumplings, bread and cakes throughout Eastern Europe, and to noodles in Japan.

Chickpea flour, aka, gram flour, is made from ground chickpeas, is also gluten free and is great to coat vegetables for pakoras or to make flatbreads. It is also used to make socca aka farinata (savory chickpea flour pancakes) or bhajis (Indian origin vegetables fried in batter with spices) and it is used for falafel (a Middle Eastern dish – deep-fried ball of chickpeas, herbs, spices and onion).  It is pale yellow and powdery and has an earthy flavor best suited to savory dishes.

Buckwheat and Chickpea Flour Crackers

  • 120g buckwheat flour
  • 120g chickpea (aka gram) flour
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 80 ml water, room temperature (or more)
  • 3 tbsp mild olive oil (suitable for baking)
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flours, pepper and salt together with the sesame seeds.
  2. In separate bowl, whisk the water with the oil. Stir in to the dry ingredients and mix to a firm dough.
  3. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Return to the bowl, cover and set aside for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F) and line two baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.
  5. Oil your work surface and roll the dough out as thinly as possible.
  6. Using a ruler and a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into rectangles or diamonds. Place on to the prepared baking sheets close together, but not touching.
  7. Spray or brush the crackers lightly with water. At this point you can add a topping if you wish (more seeds). You can reknead any left-over scraps, but they will not be as successful as first kneading. Alternatively, put the scraps on a baking sheet and bake them for snacking.
  8. Bake the crackers for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the oven off, open the door for about 30 seconds and then close again. Leave the baking sheets in the residual heat of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes if you are looking for extra crispness. 
  9. Transfer the baked crackers to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Serve or store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.

My favorite way to enjoy these crackers is dipped into homemade hummus that I like to top at this time of year with fresh pomegranate seeds, chopped soft garden herbs (such as basil and Italian parsley), a bit of cold-pressed olive oil, black and white sesame seeds as well as herb blossoms.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane - Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme

Thanksgiving in German-speaking countries is an autumn harvest celebration called Erntedank or Erntedankfest ('harvest festival of thanks'). The observance usually takes place in September or October, depending on the region. Germany has a long tradition, but one that is different in many ways from that in North America. The German 'Erntedankfest' is mostly a rural and a religious celebration. When it is celebrated in larger cities, it is usually part of a church service and not anything like the big traditional family holiday in North America. Although it is celebrated locally and regionally, none of the German-speaking countries observe an official national Thanksgiving holiday on a particular day, as in Canada or the United States.

In German-speaking countries, Erntedankfest is often celebrated on the first Sunday in October, which is usually also the first Sunday following St. Michael's Day (Michaelistag) on September 29, but various locales may give thanks at different times during September and October. It is usually celebrated with church services, a parade, music, and a country fair atmosphere. In some places there will be thanksgiving procession (Erntedankprozession), complete with the presenting of the traditional harvest crown (Erntekrone) for the harvest queen (Erntekönigin). In some places, there is also an evening service followed by a lantern and torch parade (Laternenumzug) for the children and fireworks.

For Thanksgiving (which we celebrate today) it has become a tradition in our family to bake this Apple Tart with Frangipane, a tart that combines a buttery crisp pastry with a sweet almond cream, a layer of sliced seasonal baking apples, a final glazing of homemade apple or quince jelly (Apfel oder Quittengelee) and chopped almonds - simply wonderful and hard to beat.

For the decoration of my tart, years ago I was inspired by the apple design on the fabric. I use my apple-shaped cookie cutter and always decorate my tart with apple cut-outs. I rather like the way this recipe fits in with the season and thanksgiving - the design and the ingredients.

Thanksgiving Apple Tart with  Frangipane - Erntedank Apfeltarte  mit Mandelcreme


For the Pastry
  • 350g (12oz) AP (plain) flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 150g (6oz) cold butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 50g (2oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free range (or organic if possible), beaten

For the Frangipane Filling
  • 75g (3oz) butter, softened
  • 75g (3oz) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla sugar
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic (if possible), beaten 
  • 75g (3oz) ground natural almonds (toast the almonds prior to grinding them to enhance their sweet almond flavor)
  • ½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon (optional)
  • 3 to 4 seasonal baking apples (depending on their size)
  • some freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 egg (M), free-range or organic (if possible), beaten

For the Glaze
  • a few tbsps of apple jelly (or use quince jelly instead; you can evne go with strained apricot jam)
  • some chopped almonds (you can toast them if you prefer)

  1. You will need a 28cm (11in) round, loose-bottomed fluted tart or quiche pan, 3-4cm (1-1.5in) deep.
  2. First make the pastry: either by mixing the flour and butter in a food processor or by hand – rubbing the flour and butter together with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 
  3. Add the sugar and mix in briefly, then add the eggs and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. 
  4. Mix until the pastry just holds together. 
  5. Divide the pastry in two. Form discs. Wrap in food wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for a good thirty minutes.
  6. Butter your tart/quiche pan and line the bottom with a round of baking parchment. Butter the parchment.
  7. After the pastry has chilled, take one disc out of the refrigerator, roll the pastry out on a floured surface as thinly as possible,and use to line the tart pan.
  8. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork.
  9. Place in the refrigerator while preparaing the fragipane fillling.
  10. To make the frangipane filling: place the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt in the food processor and whizz until creamy, blend in the eggs, then mix in the ground almonds and cinnamon, if using.  NOTE: alternatively, beat together with a wooden spoon if making by hand.
  11. To prepare the apples: peel the apples, core and slice thinly. Place in a medium bowl and mix with a few drops of fresh lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
  12. Take the pastry-lined tart pan out of the refrigerator.
  13. Spoon the frangipane mixture into the pastry shell, spreading it evenly.
  14. Then arrange the apple slices on top of the frangipane. 
  15. Take the remaining pastry disc out of the refrigerator
  16. Roll the pastry out on the floured surface as thinly as possible, and using your cookie cutter, make some cut-outs, make sure you have enough to be able to cover your apples.
  17. Take the beaten egg and dip the edges of your cut-outs into the egg and arange the cut-outs on top of your apple slices.
  18. Place the tart in the refrigerator while your oven pre-heats.
  19. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and place a heavy baking sheet inside to heat up.
  20. Place the tart pan on the hot baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the tart is golden brown.
  21. Take the tart out of the oven and place on a cooling rack for a good 15 minutes.
  22. To finish, heat up a bit of apple jelly and brush the top of the warm tart with it. Decorate the border of the tart with chopped almonds.
  23. Remove the tart from the pan and transfer to a serving plate.

This beautiful apple tart tastes as good as it looks. I used seasonal apples in my recipe. However, firm but ripe pears can be used instead – if you choose to use ripe but not too soft baking pears in this recipe, do not forget to use a pear-shaped cookie cutter (if you are so lucky to own one) or just about any other shape you have on hand, maybe a leaf-shaped one.

And if almonds are not your thing, you can certainly substitute other nuts here such as ground and chopped hazelnuts or go with walnuts which are also wonderful in combination with apples or pears.

If possible, let this  Apple Tart rest for 30 minutes rather than to serve it straight from the oven. But it is nice to enjoy it while just warm, or at room temperature, as is, or serve it with a generous dollop of softly whipped vanilla cream or vanilla ice cream.

Simple, but delicious and just a little bit classy. Really nice for a Thanksgiving (Erntedank) celebration.

Please note that my recipe for Thanksgiving Apple Tarte with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) 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 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
  • 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.