Rhubarb was originally cultivated for its medicinal properties and was not used in European cooking until the late 18th century. The history of rhubarb is very complicated but simply put there are only two broad categories, medicinal and culinary.
Thought of by many as an old fashioned ‘vegetable’, it never has really fallen out of favor. In Germany, rhubarb season is from April until June. There are countless recipes using rhubarb as the German people are very passionate about eating produce they have grown themselves.
I have an inherited love of rhubarb — the way it tastes, its huge beautiful foliage, its hardiness, productiveness …….
RHUBARB SOUR CREAM PIE (German Rhabarber Sauerrahn Kuchen) has been in my pie ‘go to’ file forever. The combination of these two ingredients works magic. Just for something different, I decided to use the same recipe but make it into tarts today.
In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, flour & citrus zest. Cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & nutmeg; beat in sour cream & egg. Gently fold in rhubarb. Pour into pastry shell. Sprinkle topping mixture over the filling.
Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for 35-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
In order to obtain nice slices, refrigerate pie until cold then slice & heat a bit in the microwave if preferred.
A ‘galette’ (French) or ‘crostata’ (Italian) was an early way to form a pie crust in the absence of pie pans. The dough was rolled flat, the filling placed in the middle with the edges turned up to contain the filling.
The origin of the pie (pye) has been traced to Egypt where savory fillings were baked, using woven reeds as the baking vessel. The concept was brought to Greece and then to Rome. It is believed the ancient Greeks created pie pastry and the trade of ‘pastry chef’ was then distinguished from that of a baker. The use of lard and butter in northern Europe led to a dough that could be rolled out and molded into what has become our modern pie crust. Before the emergence of tin or ceramic pie pans, the ancient practice of using the bottom of the oven or fireplace was used to bake this rustic tart.
Galettes can be made in any size, as well as sweet or savory, using only a simple baking sheet. No technique to create an even, fluted crust is necessary. Rusticity is its charm! No worries about tearing the dough or if the final result is perfectly round or rectangular.
The crust of this galette is made with the addition of a small amount of cornmeal to give it a bit of crunch and is equally as good with a sweet or savory filling.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over the dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a bowl, toss together the fruit, all but 1 Tbsp of the sugar, salt, lemon juice & zest & cornstarch.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough into a circle & set on baking sheet. Place the fruit filling in the middle, leaving a border of 1 1/2 to 2-inches. Gently fold pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Brush pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle the reserved 1 Tbsp sugar over the crust.
Bake 35-45 minutes until the filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Best served warm or at room temperature.
The thought of rhubarb is a nostalgic thing for me. I have memories of my mother’s neat row of rhubarb plants growing along the edge of her garden. Magically each spring they would reappear from what had been frozen ground only a few short weeks before. While other plants still lay dormant, the large fan shaped rhubarb leaves quickly gathered enough sunlight to produce some juicy stalks.
Tucked in behind the water fountain, in Brion and my flower garden, are three rhubarb plants. Originally we had put them there to show off that huge foliage as well as being used in my cooking. Time has passed and with our trees becoming more mature, they are getting more shade than they like. Nevertheless, last year they were still producing in late September.
I’m going to start off this season with some RHUBARB CHEESECAKE SQUARES, a favorite recipe that comes from tasteofhome.com
In a small bowl, combine flour, oats & brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup crumb mixture; press remaining mixture onto bottom of a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese & sugar until smooth. Beat in salt, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in walnuts & rhubarb. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.
If you are wanting to use frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a sieve, but do not press liquid out.
Although quiche didn’t really take hold in North America until the end of the 1970’s, it had been mentioned in the ‘Joy of Cooking’ cookbooks already in 1931 & 1951.
Considered to be a classically French dish, it actually originated in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule. Later, when the kingdom came under French control and was renamed Lorraine, the quiche was reinvented as Quiche Lorraine.
The original quiche Lorraine had a bottom crust made of bread dough and the filling was comprised of a heavy custard, onions and smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added. In today’s quiche the bread dough crust has been replaced with pie dough and you can just about put any variety of vegetables, seafood, ham and different cheeses in the filling. Any vegetables you add should be sauteed, steamed or microwaved first, with the exception of things like fresh tomato slices or asparagus tips. Meat definitely needs to be cooked first.
A quote from the 1900’s, that ‘real men don’t eat quiche’ was made in reference to the small quantities of meat quiche contained. I think that train of thought has ‘gone by the boards’, as time has passed though!
This flavorful BLT QUICHE is good with either pork or turkey bacon and your choice of savory cheese.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a deep 9" quiche or pie pan with pastry.
In a skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove from skillet onto paper towels; cook the leek in bacon drippings over medium heat until softened, 5-7 minutes. Chop bacon. In a bowl, whisk eggs, half & half & spices until combined. Place half of grated cheese in bottom of quiche shell; layer with leek, bacon & roasted tomatoes. Carefully pour egg mixture over all.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the quiche tests firm in the center. Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing & serving.
I have a good pastry recipe that I had posted on my blog October 10/2016 that works real nice for quiche.
The meat traditionally associated with Easter in America is ham, while in many other parts of the world, the arrival of spring is celebrated with lamb. Eating ham at Easter dates back to at least the 6th century in Germany. Pigs thrived in northern Europe, being forest-adapted animals. They were let to roam the abundant woodlands to forage for acorns and roots. Slaughtered and hung in the autumn of the year, pigs were one of the few meats available to eat in early spring. As Christianity spread northward, it merged with the Pagan spring celebration of ‘Eostre’. A convenient uniting of traditions was born, with ham at the center of the Easter feast.
Even though, adding ‘glaze’ while baking a ham seems like a ‘modern’ idea, raw honey was being used in much earlier times.
A glaze that is both sweet and savory has been one of my favorites for many years. Brion & I are looking forward to enjoying some glazed ham for our Easter meal.
HAPPY EASTER TO EVERYONE THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST IN FOLLOWING MY BLOGS!
Preheat oven to 325 F. Place ham, cut side down, on rack in a roasting pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 90 F.
In a small saucepan, simmer jelly, preserves, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar & sage stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Remove ham from oven. With a sharp knife, lightly score outside of ham, making parallel 1/4" deep cuts in crosshatch pattern. Brush ham with some of the glaze & return ham to oven. Bake until internal temperature reaches 130 F., brushing ham with glaze during baking.
Carefully place ham on a serving platter. Cover loosely with foil & let stand 10 minutes before serving. Internal temperature will rise to 140 F. upon standing.
The aroma of Easter bread baking certainly brings back precious childhood memories. What I recall about my mother’s Easter bread, was that it was a dense, mildly sweet & a very egg rich bread. It was always baked in round ‘cans’ and the taste was unforgettable.
Nearly every country around the world has a traditional Easter bread. Each one is different in some way, a mix of symbolism and satisfying taste. They represent a continuity of traditions from centuries past, including much earlier pre-Christian times. Often these rich, yeasted breads are made in symbolic shapes and are elaborately decorated.
Germany and Austria make several shapes such as : Osterzopf – Easter braid, Osterkranz – Easter wreath or crown, Osternester – Easter nests, Eierimnest – Easter egg nest, Striezel – stacked braided bread.
That being said, I couldn’t resist doing a little ‘version’ of my own. I started with my favorite sweet yeast bread, added some anise flavor and a cream cheese filling. So now you have German osterkranz, Italian panettone and Romanian pasca all in one beautiful EUROPEAN EASTER BREAD.
In a large bowl, whisk yeast & sugar into lukewarm water; let stand about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed. Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
Add 4 CUPS flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom & go up the sides of a 10" spring form pan. When dough has risen enough, cut into four pieces.
On the parchment paper, press one piece of the dough into a circle measuring about 10" in diameter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mixed peel, leaving a gap at the edge. Press out second piece of the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper, place it on top of the first layer & sprinkle with another 1/3 of mixed peel. Repeat with the third & fourth pieces of dough but do not sprinkle mixed peel on the final layer.
Place a glass tumbler on top of the center of the dough circles. Cut dough into 16 segments, starting a the edge of the glass. Lift & twist them away from each other through 180 degrees. Lift & twist through 90 degrees so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process with all pairs of segments. Leave glass sitting on top at the center of the circle to form an indentation for the cheese filling. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to to 325 F. In a bowl, place cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla; mix well. When bread has risen, remove glass & fill indentation with cheese mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool. Brush with honey/water glaze. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
German-inspired yeasted coffee cake is a very popular type of cake all over Germany and Austria. It is very different from the typical butter cake associated with streusel coffee cake in North America. Whereas a butter cake is rich, sweet and fine grained, kuchen is light and slightly porous with a complexity of flavor that can only be found in yeast leavened baked goods. Of course, there are many different variations, but the important part is the streusel or crumbled topping, which consists of a combination of flour, sugar, butter and spices.
In the past, most German towns and cities had orchards planted all around them, on land that belonged to the community. Cows or sheep grazed underneath the trees and people were free to pick the fruits when they became ripe. Today most of those common lands have been turned into suburbs and the trees are gone. Destruction of the remnants of ancient orchards is ongoing, contributing to the loss of heirloom varieties. Even though the diversity of choice is decreasing, the apple is still by far the most popular fruit in Germany.
Here is my best adaptation of an APPLE STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE that I think you might enjoy to try.
In a large bowl, combine yeast, 1/8 cup sugar & lukewarm water; allow to dissolve. Stir in remaining 1/8 cup of sugar, salt, milk, sour cream, lemon juice & vanilla; mix well. Add egg & blend.
With fingertips, rapidly work the butter into 2 1/2 cups of the flour until coarse, meal-like consistency. Add to the yeast mixture & knead in bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make a smooth, elastic dough. Shape into a ball & place in a lightly buttered bowl. Cover tightly and let rise in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk.
Peel & slice apples. In a small saucepan, combine all filling ingredients except pecans. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until apples are tender, & juice has evaporated. Stir in pecans; set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon & lemon zest. With fingertips, rub in butter until mixture is coarse & crumbly. Set aside.
When dough has doubled in size, turn out on a lightly floured piece of wax paper. Press out gently into a rectangle about 10 x 14-inches in size. Spread apple filling to within 1/4-inch of edges & very gently press into dough. Roll up from the wide end, jelly-roll fashion.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9-inch tube or bundt pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel in pan. Carefully, (dough will be very soft) with the help of the wax paper, fit the roll into the pan so that the ends of the dough join. Pinch ends of together. Sprinkle cake with remaining streusel. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven & allow cake to cool before slicing.
A number of years back, Brion and I decided we would like to seriously explore Rome ‘on foot‘. We rented a furnished apartment up in the hills of the northwest part of the city, by the Embassy residences. Each morning we would set out to travel the cobbled streets of Rome, checking out the art of Michelangelo, the sculptures of Bernini or wander through the ancient Roman ruins. In no other city can you see so much in a short space of time and yet merely scratch the surface.
Rome is the real thing! So many of its legendary sites are the original article that to see them is to fulfill a lifelong dream. It’s this that raises the ‘goose pimples’; that feeling that the city really is as old as its seven hills, that in Rome, time and beauty are measured on an altogether grander scale.
We found it easy and relatively fast to get around the city by using the public transit system. We paid 18 euros for a 7-day pass which could be used as many times as you wished. Rome’s buses struggle to cope with the daily demand that is already well over its operating limits; battling their way through traffic and streets made impenetrable by cars double parked. To rent a car to see the sights of Rome would be an exercise in frustration or to say the least, taking your life in your hands. Best to spend a day and learn the ‘system’ and you’re set!
Rome is a city that bathes in a warm Mediterranean climate. During the month we spent there we experienced some great weather — 20-23 C with only one day of rain.
Of course when in Italy it would be unthinkable not to eat pizza during your stay. We discovered a small little pizza place close to our apartment. Once or twice a week we made a point of enjoying some ‘authentic pizza’. The two options generally available in the pizzerias are Roman pizza (the paper thin, almost charred version) and Neapolitan with the thicker crust. As for the toppings, there are unlimited choices.
The pizza recipe I’d like to share today is one that is probably one that is more American/Canadian then Roman but nevertheless real good. I had adapted it from Pillsbury.com quite a few years ago.
In a medium bowl, measure dry ingredients for pizza crust. Make a well in center & add milk. Stir until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. With buttered hands, gently knead 5-6 times. Spray or butter a 14-inch pizza pan; press dough evenly over bottom & up sides.
In microwave, bake the potato & slice thinly; slightly cook chopped onion. Crisply fry bacon & coarsely chop. Seed Roma tomato & chop along with cooked chicken.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread ranch dressing evenly over dough. Combine chesses; sprinkle half of the cheese over crust. Top with thinly sliced potato then remaining ingredients; ending with cheese.
Bake 13 - 16 minutes or until crust is golden & cheese is melted.
If you are pressed for time, no worries, just use a purchased pizza crust to speed up the process.