We will soon be heading into fall. For apple lovers, the cool mornings and clear days of Autumn mean one thing; its time for some of the season’s crisp, juicy apple harvest. Apples are available year round thanks to controlled-atmosphere, cold storage chambers that keep them fresh for months. Some varieties even develop better flavor overtime. After 30 plus years in the food service industry, I retired and spent some wonderful years as tree and shrub buyer for a garden center. On this property there were many apple trees. One of the varieties was called Westland. These particular apples don’t taste like much until the first frost had touched them. Apples are a very common fruit but shouldn’t be overlooked due to their versatility.
When you take notice of how many ways apples are used in German baking, cooking, etc. its very clear that Germany loves its apples. For example there’s fresh apples, apple sauce, apple pancakes, apple juice, apple schnapps, apfelschorle (apple juice and carbonated water) and of course the many versions of apple cake …..
This German Apple Cake is served with a nice vanilla custard sauce making it quite special.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease & flour or line with parchment paper an 8 or 9-inch spring form pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon & cardamom. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add 3/4 cup sugar & mix. Peel apples; slice & cut as suggested. Toss apples with flour mixture to coat.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs & milk together. Add to the apples & flour; mix in with a large spatula until just combined. Batter should look thick & dough-like. Transfer the dough to prepared cake pan & flatten the top using the back of spatula. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp sugar over the cake top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or when cake tests done.
In a bowl, whisk egg yolks & sugar until pale yellow about 2-3 minutes. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg/sugar mixture. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan & stir over medium heat until custard thickens, about 4 minutes. Custard should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in vanilla & transfer to serving pitcher. This custard is not a thick, pudding like consistency; it needs to be a pour able.
It seems logical, since new potatoes and fresh dill are available, to make some of these special little quiche.
When I think of salmon, dill immediately comes to mind. One of the few herbs you can purchase fresh in the supermarkets year round. Dill is a very pretty herb with its feathery leaves or fronds. It has a fresh, grassy flavor that is often referred to as anise-like. A member of the parsley family, it can bring out the flavors of other herbs.
Dill is a commonly used herb in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Fresh dill is often added to seafood dishes, yogurt sauces, vinegars, potato salads, fresh baked breads and soups as well as making a very gourmet looking garnish.
Quiche had become popular in England after WWII, but it wasn’t until the 70’s and 80’s that it really caught on in North America. Today we have many variations in our quiche fillings. There are also crustless recipes of quiche but some would argue that those can only be classed as ‘baked custard’.
Hot or cold, I have always enjoyed quiche. Brion probably could take it or leave it but I think this SALMON, NEW POTATO & DILL QUICHE will be real tasty.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening until it resembles small peas. In a 1 cup measure, place egg & vinegar; combine. Add enough COLD water to fill cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing quickly, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes; DO NOT OVER MIX PASTRY.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Cut 8 circles about 5 3/4" in diameter (providing your mini tart shell pans are 4 3/4" size). Line mini tart pans with pastry & place them on a baking sheet. Place a piece of parchment in each shell, fill it with dry beans & 'blind' bake pastry crust for 6-8 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 325 F.
Divide grated cheese between tart shells; slice cooked new potatoes over cheese. Top with cubed salmon fillet, green onions & fresh dill. In a small bowl, combine eggs, milk & spices; beat well. Carefully pour equally over each tart. Place in oven & bake for 35-40 minutes or until filling is set & slightly golden. Cool in tin before removing to serve. If desired, sprinkle tops with a little bit more shredded Gouda cheese.
Smoked or fresh raw, ground salmon can be used instead of salmon fillet.
On February 12, 2016, I posted my first blog on this site. It was called ‘Bake Day Surprises’. It featured a simple little recipe from one of my mother’s many versions of dumplings. A sweet, caramel-like, bread dough dumpling that brings back another taste of a memory never to be forgotten.
Dumplings are made from a dough that can consist of ingredients such as flour, potatoes and bread crumbs. Most often formed into a ball shape, then boiled or steamed.
In German cuisine, you will find a dumpling for every occasion and course in a meal. They can be served as a main meal, side dish, part of a soup or as a sweet dessert. Other varieties are filled with fruit or meats.
The fact that my mother baked bread every week when I was a kid, meant that dumplings were the ‘norm’.
With fresh blueberries available at this time of year, why not use some in a few BLUEBERRY DUMPLINGS!
Place blueberries into a skillet. Add water, sugar & cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until blueberry juices start to flow & bubble. Turn heat to low.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, zest, nutmeg & salt. Add milk & stir until flour mixture is just moistened. With a spoon, drop 8 'dumplings' onto simmering blueberry mixture. Cover pan & allow to cook 14-15 minutes or until dumplings puff up nicely.
Sheet cakes are sometimes thought of by some as a lazy man’s cake. Yes, they are easy to bake and contain no fancy layers or have intricate decorations but ….
Traditionally a sheet cake refers to a cake baked in a large, shallow rectangular pan such as a jelly-roll pan. They are single layer and almost always frosted on both top and sides.
The famous ‘Texas Sheet Cake’ that is very popular in the US seems to be referenced as far back as 1936. I understand it started out as three layers and ultimately became a one layer, large sheet cake. By the 1970’s these recipes were using sour cream instead of buttermilk and alternative ingredients had evolved.
Today, if you are wanting to make a sheet cake you can find over 300 recipe choices on allrecipes.com alone. At this time of year with so many people hosting block parties, barbecues, family gatherings etc. I thought it would be nice to post a favorite recipe of mine. If you like poppy seed, you will absolutely love this cake.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Beat egg whites until stiff, set aside in fridge. In a small bowl, combine flour, poppy seed, baking powder & salt. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks, gradually adding sugar, followed by oil, milk, flavorings & dry ingredients.
Gently fold in egg whites. Pour into 2 unbuttered 9 x 13" pans or onto an unbuttered cookie sheet 18 x 15 x 1". Bake on middle rack for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely.
Icing & Topping
In a small bowl, combine icing ingredients & beat until smooth; spread on cake & cool completely. Melt chocolate & margarine in microwave. QUICKLY spread topping over cooled cake.
I was only needing a small amount today so I made a quarter of the recipe & baked it in an 8 x 8-inch pan. It cuts nicely into 9 or 18 pieces.
I know it sounds quite ordinary but we are not just talking about just any plum cake. Variations of the German specialty, ‘zwetschgenkuchen’, exist where some versions are made with a shortbread pastry verses a yeast dough, some have streusel – some do not – some are round, other’s are rectangular. One thing for sure is that they all use the plump, sweet, juicy European plums also known as Italian Prune Plums or Empress Plums. This variety is ideal for cooking not only because of their texture but also because their flavor becomes more complex through cooking.
Fruit and yeast-based cakes are a German hallmark with this cake being a perfect example. Its not overly sweet, has a touch of tartness to it, a small hint of cinnamon and that tender yeast dough.
When I was growing up and my mother used Italian Prune Plums in her canning or baking, I just thought it was because they were available at the time. I had no idea that they played such a special part in German baking until I was older.
I realize this is probably not the kind of thing you feel like making on a hot summer day. I suggest putting it on hold for a rainy day because it is well worth the effort. Just to encourage you further, I’ve added an alternate yogurt dough you could use instead of the yeasted one which would speed things up.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm milk & allow to become frothy, about 5-10 minutes. With an electric hand mixer, beat together sugar, salt, warm melted butter, egg & vanilla. When yeast is ready, Combine with egg mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition; dough should become smooth & elastic. It will not be firm enough to knead into a ball, more like thick batter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & set in a warm, draft-free place to rise for an hour or until doubled in bulk.
In a small bowl, combine streusel ingredients. Using fingertips, rub mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
'ALTERNATE' Yogurt Dough
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. In small bowl, beat together yogurt, milk, oil & vanilla. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add wet mixture & combine until dough forms a ball.
To make Plum Cake Tarts
Generously butter eight - 4 x 3/4" mini tart pans or press out a rectangle of dough about 8 x 10" size on a baking sheet or a jelly-roll pan could be used. For tart pans, divide dough into 8 pieces & press dough out over bottom & up sides. For the rectangle shape, dough could be rolled out on parchment paper & laid directly on pan.
Lay plums close together in rows, covering the entire dough. If using YEAST DOUGH, set pan in a warm place & let rise rise an hour. Sprinkle the streusel over the top & bake at 350 F. for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden. If using YOGURT DOUGH, evenly sprinkle farina over dough before placing the plums on the pastry ( it helps to keep the pastry from becoming soggy). Arrange plums on pastry; distribute streusel over cake. Bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes or streusel is light golden.
From breakfast to dessert, healthy to decadent, traditional to innovative, the carrot cake is considered a timeless classic that never goes out of ‘style’. It was probably borne out of necessity, making use of the carrots’ natural sweetness, evolving from the carrot pudding of medieval times. Carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet.
In the 1970’s, carrot cake was perceived as being ‘healthy’ due to the fact that carrots, raisins and nuts are all ‘good for us’. Then along came that glorious cream cheese frosting that forever bonded the pair. While raisins are undoubtedly the oldest compliment to carrots, pineapple, apples or applesauce as well as walnuts have all become modern day add-ins of choice.
I remember my mother making a jelly roll cake when I was growing up. It was a sponge cake baked in a sheet pan. She would spread a layer of jam over it when it was cool and roll it up. It looked unique and tasted great. Of course, today a cake roll is very common place with many variations. As far as carrots are concerned, you can transform this versatile veggie into everything from energy bars and smoothies to cinnamon rolls and cookies etc, etc, etc…. My choice today is to make a CARROT CAKE ROLL with CREAM CHEESE FILLING, yum!!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a jelly roll pan ( 10 x 15") with parchment paper & spray with baking spray.
With a hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes, until frothy & dark yellow. Beat in sugar, oil & vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt & spices. Stir into wet ingredients just until blended. Fold in dry carrots.
Spread batter in prepared pan. This makes a very thin layer; use a spatula to make sure it is spread evenly to the corners of pan. Bake 10-15 minutes. Test cake with a toothpick to be sure it is completely baked. While cake is baking, spread a clean kitchen towel on work surface. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. As soon as cake comes out of oven, turn it over on towel. Remove parchment paper carefully.
Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over cake. Using the help of the towel, roll cake tightly. Let cool completely while rolled, at least an hour.
While cake is cooling, make filling. Beat butter & cream cheese together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar & vanilla; beat until smooth.
When cake is cool, carefully unroll the towel. Spread the filling evenly over cake & re-roll tightly. Chill about 30 minutes to an hour. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, slice & serve.
In the food service industry, brunch on Mother’s Day is huge. What better way is there to celebrate your mom then by taking her out of the kitchen on her day. As is the case with many culinary traditions, the origin of brunch is a bit hazy.
There are numerous theories, such as the English tradition of feasting after a hunt, or from the Catholic tradition of fasting before church and having a large meal after services. By 1930, ‘brunch’, that blend of breakfast and lunch had caught on in the United States. From some of the classic dishes restaurants offered such as eggs benedict, brunch evolved into decadent spreads that even included morning cocktails.
Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 39 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.
It is also with loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. To my sisters, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.
In July 2016, I posted a blog entitled ‘Brunch in Thibery, France. It has some more brunch ideas for croissants, crepes and french toast you might like.
For today I have two brunch items in mind. One is BAKED EGGS IN PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM CAPS and the other a SAVORY SALMON & DILL MUFFIN. Enjoy your day!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-cup large muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour & baking powder; add grated cheese, salmon & fresh dill. In a small bowl, beat together egg, milk & oil. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add wet ingredients, mix only until combined.
Fill muffin cups half full; divide cream cheese between the 8 cups. Top with remaining batter to evenly fill cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done.
Baked Eggs in Mushroom Caps
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove stalk from mushroom caps. Make sure mushrooms do not get cracked so the eggs & sauce leak out. Place mushrooms in a baking dish that will keep them from tipping. Divide pasta sauce between mushrooms & spread. Break an egg into each mushroom. Pour cream over the eggs, drizzling to try to cover the whole surface.
Carefully place mushrooms in the oven for about 20 minutes. When eggs are almost set lay cheese slices on top & continue baking for another 5 minutes.
Cooking times can vary between ovens; watch eggs closely.
If you prefer, you can scrape out the mushroom 'gills' to make more room for the filling.
Crisp or crumble, call it what you like, its just simply good to me. I think, over the years, I have made fruit crumble in just about every flavor and shape possible.
Crumbles became popular in Britain during WWII when crumble topping was an economical alternative to pie due to shortages of pastry ingredients. Other ingredients such as breadcrumbs or oatmeal helped further reduce the use of rationed flour, fat and sugar.
Crumble cakes can be made either sweet or savory. The sweet variety usually will contain fruit topped with a crumbly mixture of butter, flour and sugar. With the savory version, meat, vegetables and a sauce make up the the filling with cheese replacing the sugar in the crumble mix. The crumble is then baked until the topping is crisp. Generally the sweet dessert is served with custard or ice cream and the savory variety with accompanying vegetables.
Fruits that are commonly used in making crumble include apples, blueberries, peaches, rhubarb and plums or a combination of two or more. Due to its simplicity, this dish has remained popular over the years.
The MINI FRUIT CRUMBLE CAKES I made for today’s blog were made with various kinds of preserves but you can prepare your own fruit for the filling or simply use canned pie filling — your choice!
In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. To remainder add baking powder, baking soda & nuts.
Beat egg slightly in a small bowl. Stir in yogurt & lemon zest. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Spread 2/3 of batter over bottom & part way up sides of 8 - 4" x 3/4" mini tart pans. Spoon pie filling over batter. Drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over filling.
Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture; place tart pans on baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until done. Serve warm or cold.
Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.
Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.
As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.
The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones, bothmade with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.
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.