While the origins of the black forest cake aren’t all that clear, some historians believe that its origins can be traced back to the Black Forest Region of Germany. This part of Germany is well known for its sour cherries and ‘Kirschwasser‘ … a clear cherry brandy.
This iconic creation is a layered confection of a liqueur ‘soaked’ chocolate cake with rich whipped cream and sour cherries between its layers. The liqueur and cherries give the cake an intense and unique fruity flavor. It’s these sour cherries which gave it its German name: Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Black Forest Cherry Cake.
There are many origin stories about the cake. Some sources claim that the name of the cake is inspired by the traditional custom of the women of the Black Forest region, with a characteristic hat with big red pom-poms on top called a ‘Bollenhut’. The earliest published written record of black forest cake was in 1934, by a German confectioner. Today, the cake is well known worldwide and probably one of the most popular cakes in Germany.
Since we just happen to have a nice little sour cherry tree growing in our garden, why not put some of them to good use in these cakes?!
Black Forest Desserts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cherry juice in the bottom of each of two 8-ounce ramekins. Microwave ramekins until butter and brown sugar are melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Arrange cherries in a tightly packed layer in the bottom of each ramekin.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in egg yolk, then flour mixture and milk. Divide batter between ramekins.
Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with only a few crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, beat cream, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and cherry brandy until soft peaks form. Run a paring knife around edge of each cake and invert onto a plate. Serve cakes with brandy whipped cream.
- Kirschwasser is German for 'Cherry Water', and while it may be as clear as water, it packs quite a punch. This double distilled brandy made from the sour Morello cherries is, more often than not, simply referred to a Kirsch. This 'not too sweet with a subtle cherry/almond flavored' liqueur is a vitally necessary ingredient to make a traditional Black Forest Cake; for that is where both the cake and Kirschwasser hail from... The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, in southwestern Germany.
Some years ago I acquired a great little book from the Lea & Perrins Company. The main focus of the book was to promote their Worcestershire Sauce.
Worcestershire sauce was created in the heyday of the great English table sauces. In 1838, the commercial Worcestershire sauce was ‘born’. The story of the origins of the recipe for the sauce is entangled in a web of legends, but the common thread is that its place of origin was India. Versions of how the recipe came to England usually credit a member or members of the prominent Sandys and/or Grey families. Typically the stories indicate an effort to reproduce a Bengali recipe for a sauce with the assistance of chemists (pharmacists) John Wheeley Lea & William Henry Perrins of Worcester. In most editions of the tale, the first attempt is a failure, but the results are stored away; fermentation occurs and a later tasting reveals the delightful concoction now enjoyed all over the world.
The exact recipe is ‘secret’, but it is known to include both common and exotic ingredients: anchovies, shallots, chilies, cloves, tamarinds (brown pods from a tropical tree), garlic, sugar, molasses, vinegar and salt. There are about as many ways to incorrectly pronounce Worcestershire as there are ingredients in the sauce. The tremendous depth of flavor of the sauce is the result of many different ingredients being fermented individually, blended and fermented again.
Worcestershire sauce contains something for everyone …. sweetness, acidity and saltiness. This probably explains the reason we still see it on our grocery shelves 184 years after it was first created.
I’ve used this simple little recipe from the Lea & Perrins book numerous times and it always tastes great.
Beef Cabbage Rolls - Reconstructed
Cook cabbage & rice: set aside. Sauté chopped onions; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, salt, Worcestershire sauce, egg & catsup (or BBQ sauce).
Roll out meat mixture between 2 sheets of parchment or foil paper into an oblong 1/2-inch thick. Spread meat with cabbage & onions & sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
Using the help of the bottom sheet of paper, roll up in jelly-roll fashion. Place on greased shallow baking pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes. Slice & serve as is or with a sauce of your own choice.
Today, March 28th, our family honors the birth date of my mother. Over 40 years has gone by since her passing and she still is a never ending song in my heart …. sometimes I may forget the words but I always remember the tune. As children we think we are invincible, that nothing can harm us. Innocence is bliss and makes our childhood carefree and happy as it should be. Little do we know of the worry we cause our mothers as soon as we step out of the door.
I grew up in a time when we would sit down to supper with the entire family and relate our adventures of the day. So much has changed since then and I feel so fortunate to have experienced a time when life was much gentler.
As I’ve mentioned many times on the blog, my mother was an amazing ‘baker’. Although, my siblings & I just took her cooking and baking skills for granted then, I realize now just how amazing they were. If she ever had any ‘failures’, I sure can’t remember them. Yeast goods were her forte. She baked bread every week and there was always something special with one little piece of that dough such as a pan of cinnamon rolls etc.
I recall some raised potato doughnuts that my Dad called ‘spudnuts’. Potato bread or doughnuts are supposedly a creative way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. The truth of the matter is, it is the secret ingredient to incredible tasting, light & airy potato bread.
Spudnut Shops were North American, 1950’s franchised stores selling doughnuts made with potato flour called Spudnuts. The original recipe is based on a folk recipe that traces back to Germany. I’m presuming Germany calls them ‘fastnacht‘.
To make a long story short, when my mother made these potato doughnuts, they were to die for! So here’s my version of the taste of a memory.
BEAUTIFUL MEMORIES OF OUR DEAR MOTHER!
Raised Potato Doughnuts w/ Blackberry Glaze
In a small bowl, combine lukewarm milk, & 2 Tbsp of the sugar; stir until sugar is dissolved. Add in the yeast & allow to sit until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine mashed potatoes, eggs, salt & butter. When yeast mixture is proofed, add to potato mixture, combining well.
In another bowl, whisk together flour & remaining sugar. Combine with wet mixture until dough forms a ball. Knead on a work surface for about 10 minutes then place in a greased bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. Lightly butter a 12-hole doughnut pan; set aside.
Punch down the dough & cut into 12 evenly sized pieces. Roll each piece into a strip long enough to fit around each doughnut hole mold. Lay them in the molds & pinch the ends together so the dough rounds are more or less even.
Cover the tray with plastic wrap & a towel & allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
Bake doughnuts for about 20-25 minutes. The bottom should only be slightly browned while the top is still pale as they will be a bit chewier then.
While doughnuts are baking, place blackberries in a food processor & puree ; strain. Place in a small bowl & add lemon juice, vanilla & sifted powdered sugar. Combine until fully incorporated & no lumps remain.
When baked doughnuts a still slightly warm, drizzle glaze over them & allow glazed doughnuts to set about 20 minutes before serving.
- I wanted to give my little doughnuts a bit of a fancier look today so I baked them in mini Bundt pans. Same great flavor wearing a new look!
Oktoberfest has somewhat strayed from its roots. The first festival in 1810 was originally to celebrate the marriage of German Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became king, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Since then, its become a decadent celebration of fall flavors and fine beers worldwide. This 16-day festival is a celebration of German culture, music, bratwurst, beer, pretzels and much more.
In keeping with Oktoberfest, I thought I would try my hand at making some pretzels this year.
Traditionally, pretzels are a baked bread product made from yeast dough and shaped into a twisted knot. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels but various sweet and savory options are now being used. The soft pretzels are eaten soon after they are baked while the hard pretzels have a longer shelf life.
The characteristic flavor and crust of a pretzel comes from the soda treatment. After being shaped, the dough is dipped in boiling water to which soda has been added and then baked. This treatment helps what is known as the Maillard reaction. The process of boiling the pretzels in soda water breaks the protein and increases the amino acid content in the dough, giving it an amazing crust.
Just for a bit of extra flavor, I am stuffing our pretzels. Should be good!
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of salt; allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt & sugar. Add the frothy yeast mixture along with the melted butter; stir to combine. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes & shape into a ball. Lightly butter the bowl, place the dough in it, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 45 minutes in a draft-free place.
Prepare fillings. This can be done ahead of time which will make the process easier, if you wish.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet, blot on a paper towel & crumble. Place in a bowl & combine with cooked chicken, cheese & ranch dressing; toss until well mixed. Set aside.
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
In a bowl, add pork filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Filling
In a skillet, sauté bratwurst until browned & cooked through. Drain on paper towel; place in a bowl with other bratwurst filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
After dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces & form each one into a 14-inch strand. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, lengthwise then roll it out a bit widthwise.
Divide each of your fillings into 4. Lay a line of filling down the center of each flattened pretzel. You will have 4 of each kind. Press the edges of the dough together to seal in the filling. Roll each strand back & forth to fully seal it up.
Shape into a pretzel by twisting the two ends around each other then bring it back down over the body of the pretzel.
Boiling & Baking
Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring 3 cups of water & 1/3 cup baking soda to a low boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Dip each pretzel in soda water for 20 seconds, remove, using a slotted spoon to drain excess water. Lay pretzels on parchment lined baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake until tops turn golden brown, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
Versatile & plentiful, zucchini has endless applications. To mention a ‘few’, we’ve made zucchini bread & muffins, noodles, roasted it and put it on kabobs with chicken. It’s used in curry, ratatouille, stir fry and relish, etc. etc. etc. But just when I think there’s nothing I can do different with it, another idea pops into my head.
Among the family of sausages there is perhaps none so beloved in North America as the bratwurst. There are many interpretations of bratwurst, with variations on texture, flavor, size and cooking methods. Traditional bratwurst, which is German in origin, is made with pork & veal. Turkey bratwurst is a popular alternative to this traditional kind because of its low fat content.
For this recipe, I combine ground turkey with a combination of ‘German’ bratwurst spices and formed them into long sausage shapes. The shredded zucchini/cheese ‘crust’ is wrapped around each sausage and baked. All the flavors blended so well, creating yet one more use for zucchini!
Zucchini Crusted Turkey Bratwurst
Place the shredded zucchini on paper towel & sprinkle LIGHTLY with salt. Cover & blot with another piece of paper towel. Allow to sit for about an hour to release excess moisture.
When zucchini is ready, place in a bowl & combine with remaining 'crust' ingredients.
Combine all ingredients & mix well. Divide mixture into 5 equal portions, shaping each into a 5-inch long sausage.
Assembly & Baking
Divide zucchini mixture into 5 equal amounts. On a piece of plastic wrap, place a portion of the zucchini mixture & pat it into a small rectangle large enough to enclose a sausage in it. Lay a sausage on the zucchini; use the plastic wrap to help roll the sausage & enclose in the zucchini crust. Repeat with remaining sausage,
Oil a piece of foil paper. Place foil on a baking sheet. Top with crusted sausages & bake for 30 minutes or until slightly browned.
These are nice served with baked potatoes & corn.
Its getting to be late summer/early fall and its ‘plum season’. Plums are easy to forget it seems. They’re not the most popular of summer fruits. Plums aren’t exotic as the fig or small and cute like blueberries. Plums are just plums and we should not overlook this humble fruit. They are actually quite special …. sweet & tart, not too big and not too small.
This particular dessert uses ‘plum butter’ which is simply a concentrated plum spread made by cooking plums down to a spreadable paste. These ‘cookies’ are using ready made puff pastry to keep life simple.
Puff pastry isn’t just for croissants. Arguably, its the foundation of many, many pastries as we know them today. Its a technique that lets you enjoy warm, flaky layers of dough instead of literally everything being a ‘biscuit’.
Using this spicy filling in the puff pastry dough really added a whole new dimension.
Plum Blossom Pastries
Spiced Plum Butter
In a large saucepan, combine juice & plums. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat & simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Place plum mixture in a food processor & process until smooth. Press pureed mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
Combine plum mixture, sugar & spices in pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes a thick paste. Cool. Any extra not used for these cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Assembly & Baking
Thaw pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. From parchment paper, cut 9 pieces each about 4-inch square. In a small dish, whisk together egg & water to make egg wash.
Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 9 squares. Taking one square at a time, place on parchment paper squares. Brush edges with egg wash.
Place about 1 tsp of the spiced plum butter in the middle of the pastry square. Bring the 4 corners together, then repeat for the sides.
Shape pastry into a ball then flip. Lightly press the ball with your fingers. With a sharp knife, cut each piece into 12 equal parts from the center towards the outside edge. Leave the center part intact. Each part will become a pedal. Twist petals 45 degrees, all to the same side. The filling should be showing.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
- Making the plum butter ahead of time definitely speeds up the cookie prep.
- Alternately, you can probably find a nice jar of plum butter at a deli store & just add your own spices to it. Works too!
Fresh fruit in the summer is one of life’s simple pleasures …. juicy, sweet and/or tart …. they’re like summer jewels.
The saskatoon berry is one of North America’s great unappreciated fruits. Although its easy to confuse them with blueberries, the two fruits are quite dissimilar. The most distinctive feature of saskatoon berries is their almond-like flavor. Saskatoons are in the same branch of the rose family that includes apples, pears, hawthorn and quince.
These little gems are a truly wonderful Canadian fruit with the bulk of their natural range being in British Columbia and the prairie provinces. Come July, many of the U-Pick farms in our area have fresh saskatoons ripening on their trees.
Pairing sour cherries with saskatoons in this dessert is a perfect match. One is tart and juicy, the other is sweet and plump making a good balance.
The (sour) ‘prairie’ cherry was developed in Canada for colder climates. It was cross pollinated with a Mongolian cherry resulting in very hardy, trees producing a sweet-tart cherry.
Our little cherry tree is about 12 years old now. Since I have both of these fruits on hand right now, there is no reason to not make this galette!
Sour Cherry & Saskatoon Galette
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt & sugar. Add butter & with fingertips, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water & combine only until blended, do NOT overmix.
Divide pastry into 8 equal portions & press into mini galette pan cups. Place in refrigerator until filling is ready to use.
In a large bowl, combine berries, cherries & sugars. In a small dish, mix lemon juice with cornstarch & add to berry mixture.
Remove pastry from fridge. Mound the berry mixture in each galette cup. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown & bubbly.
Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
- Don't hesitate to make this into one round galette instead of individuals or to use frozen puff pastry. It will all taste just as good, believe me!
If you follow the blog, its no surprise to see rhubarb recipes frequently at this time of year. Its probably due to a childhood memory or maybe because its just so versatile and good.
The name of today’s pastry was inspired by the round shape of the ‘taler‘, a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in the currency called ‘dollar‘.
Taler is a German word for ‘coin’, so the name of the dessert literally translates to ‘streusel coin’. Basically, a free form tart made with a yeast dough topped with a huge amount of streusel, sometimes filled with custard and often with a sugar glaze.
A traditional German streusel (streusel meaning something ‘strewn or scattered’ in German) bakes up into shortbread balls. It makes a crunchy, cookie-like top but is soft on the bottom where it meets the cake or fruit.
Streusel was first popularized in Germany. In its simplest form, it consists of flour, sugar and butter but gets even better with the addition of oatmeal, cinnamon and nuts …. just my opinion of course!
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & allow to cool to room temperature.
In a bowl, place COLD, cubed butter, add flour, cinnamon, sugar & vanilla. With your finger tips work streusel until crumbles form. Spread out on a large tray & set aside in freezer until ready to use.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, & divide into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball & allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
Space out the balls on parchment lined baking sheet. With fingertips, press out each ball to about 4-inch diameter. Add about 1 Tbsp of rhubarb compote to each dough piece & spread leaving a border around the outside.
Divide streusel topping evenly between the pastries & allow to rise for about 15-20 minutes.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. In the meantime, you can prepare the glaze.
In a small dish, whisk powdered sugar & lemon juice to a thick glaze. When streuseltaler are cooled, drizzle with glaze.
- Being lovers of the cardamom spice, I dusted our streuseltaler with it using a wire mess strainer.
- You will probably have a little bit of rhubarb compote left over but its never too hard to find a use for at our house.
- I should mention, making the compote the day before needed will speed up your baking process.
- These streuseltaler are incredibly soft & so good!
Tenderloin has always been one of my favorite ‘go to’ meats. Lean, tender, tastes great, so what more could you ask for?! I’m forever pairing it with another kind of stuffing or roasting it with different glazes or marinades.
Today I wanted to roast it with the classic combo of cabbage and apples. The perfect accompaniment probably because you really don’t need to add much else to the meal to make it taste great.
Cabbage isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have a fancy name but it is common, versatile and lasts forever in the refrigerator. Even the smallest head yields enough for at least two or three meals.
When cabbage is roasted, a caramelized sweetness comes out, giving it such a nice flavor and especially when paired with apples.
Sometimes, cabbage is avoided because when cooked, the sulfur that it contains multiplies, giving off an unflattering odor. It helps to avoid using aluminum pans when preparing cabbage; aluminum reacts strongly to the sulfur present in the leaves. Stainless pots make a much better choice.
You can neutralize the odor by adding 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Certain ingredients will also help absorb the odor. Try adding a bay leaf or a couple of ribs of celery to sautéed cabbage. The sulfur odor will be absorbed without changing the taste of the cabbage. Simply discard the bay leaf or celery before serving.
No doubt about it, the flavor in this meal doesn’t lack for anything.
Stuffed Pork Medallions w/ Cabbage & Apples
Cook rice. Place in a bowl & set aside. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté onions until tender crisp. Add garlic & mushrooms & sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add all herbs & spices; cook another minute than transfer to bowl with rice. Add Panko crumbs & egg, stirring to combine.
Remove silver skin from tenderloins. Cut a slit all the way down the long end of your tenderloin, making sure not to cut all the way through. Open the tenderloins like a book, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap & pound with a meat mallet until they are about 1/2-inch thickness.
Divide filling mixture between the two tenderloins & spread evenly over the surface of the tenderloins, leaving 1/2-inch at the borders. Roll tightly starting with the long end & secure the ends with toothpicks. Season all over with salt & pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat a large oven proof skillet with 2 Tbsp oil. Once oil is hot, place tenderloins in the skillet & sear about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet with the tenderloins to the oven & bake for about 18-20 minutes or until thermometer reads 145-150 F. in the thickest portion of the meat. Transfer to a cutting board, brush with pan drippings. Cover loosely with foil & allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Cabbage & Apples
While tenderloin is roasting, prepare cabbage/apple mixture.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion in butter until soft & translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic & continue cooking just until fragrant, 1 minute more.
Add the cabbage & continue cooking until wilted, 6-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Continue cooking until cabbage begins to caramelize, 4-5 minutes longer.
Add the cubed apple, cider, mustard & brown sugar; carefully combine. Cover & cook until any liquid has evaporated & apples are soft. Place on a serving platter. Top with sliced tenderloin medallions & serve. If you wish, you could also serve the tenderloin with some mashed potatoes & oven roasted carrots.
The wonderful thing about potato casseroles is that you can dictate the flavor by the types of cheese used as well as the added ingredients and flavor aids like herbs, garlic and spices.
There are many versions and variations of potato ‘bakes’. It comes down to little more than a free form of how the potatoes are cut and layered. Other ingredients such as herbs and cured meats like ham or bacon as well as smoked fish and other vegetables can be added.
With this recipe you are combining the best of all variations; scalloped, au gratin and dauphinoise. Béchamel sauce, a variety of cheeses and the flavor of garlic result in an amazing taste as well as the dish makes for some interesting eye appeal.
Scalloped Potato Turkey Rolls
Place the shredded zucchini on paper towel & sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover & blot with another piece of paper towel. Allow to sit for about an hour or until moisture is absorbed. Place zucchini in a bowl & combine with panko, cheese, egg & spices. Set aside in refrigerator.
In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes then turn off heat & slowly begin to add milk. Continue whisking until all milk has been added then turn on heat & bring sauce to a boil. Whisk constantly until thickened then add 3/4 of the Gruyere cheese & stir until cheese is melted. Spread the bechamel sauce evenly in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
In a saucepan, saute bacon, leeks & garlic until cooked & tender. Remove from heat & place in a bowl; allow to cool then add turkey & spices. Mix well.
Slice potatoes into about 30 thin slices, keeping them in their original potato shape. Wrap each sliced potato in plastic wrap & bake in the microwave until almost cooked.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lay the potato slices on your work surface, spread a small amount of the zucchini mixture on each one. Top with a layer of the turkey mixture. Roll each potato slice in a spiral shape then place in rows over the bechamel sauce.
Cover pan with foil & bake for 45 minutes then remove the foil & sprinkle the remaining Gruyere cheese on top. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until top is golden.