Archive for November, 2006

November 29, 2006

Appenzell

This past weekend was my grandmother’s 84th birthday. Of course this required decent celebration, so I packed my Dresdener Stollen (a pastry that deserves a post of its own in due time) and went off to the Lake of Constance. We celebrated all day Saturday, and it was nice to know that at 84 one can still enjoy early-morning mimosas!

The next day, my parents and I decided to take a trip in their new red VW Polo to the Swiss Alps. It was my request to go to Switzerland, as I love the country, the mountains, and, nowadays, the cheese (and let’s face it, I’m working on getting an addendum for my passport, so I had to get another stamp!). When I was younger I was the only person in my immediate family who couldn’t appreciate a good Gruyère or Appenzeller, but those days have changed. My taste buds have matured along with my personality, and I am now a full-fledged member of the Swiss Cheese Lovers Community (nonexistent as far as I know, but there should be one).

Aside from their famous cheese, the canton of Appenzell in Switzerland is also known for two pastries: the Appenzeller Birnenweggen and the Appenzeller Biber. The first is a type of fruit bread with a very thin pastry dough on the outside and filled with dried pears, figs, raisins, nuts, and other fruits. It’s amazingly tasty, and obviously quite filling. The Biber is a traditional Lebkuchen pastry sandwich that has a nut crème filling (often marzipan) that tastes wonderfully like Christmas to me. While not as moist and flavorful as the Birnenweggen, the Biber is a very yummy advent-time treat (that seems to be eaten year-round in Appenzell) that goes well with a good cup of Swiss coffee.

We also visited a cheese factory, though it was a bit disappointing. We didn’t get to see as much of the process as we’d hoped. Part of this was due to the fact that it was Sunday and they were just finishing their shift and cleaning all the machines, and part of it was due to the fact that it was a much smaller operation than the other cheese factory I’ve been to in Oregon, the Tillamook factory. What I did get a peek at was all the cheese wheels lined up and patiently waiting to be done aging. That was pretty cool! I’d very much like to take a guided tour of a factory sometime, and see the process in action. As a souvenir I bought some fondue that I hope to share with my friends here who enjoy stronger cheese fondues. And in the meantime I will satisfy myself with looking at the Swiss stamp in my passport and dreaming of being high up in the Alps again with its breathtaking views.

These lovely pastries were purchased in a cute little bakery/konditorei called Drei Könige run by the Gmünder family. They are located on Hauptstrasse 26, 9050 Appenzell, Switzerland Tel. (+41 071 787 11 24) Fax (+41 071 787 52 88)

November 27, 2006

Truffles!

Make sure to take a look at the round-up from this month’s Sugar High Friday. It was my first time venturing into the SHF world, and into truffles, and it was very fun! Thanks for all the support from other bloggers and the links and comments! I look forward to next month’s celebration of sugar.

November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Pie

Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up on us expats here in Dresden. There was flurry in the last week of emails (my inbox counted at least 28 ) as we decided who would bring what where and when. Since it was our friend Lindsay’s birthday the same day, she decided to host it in her awesome basement pub/party area. We celebrated potluck style and everyone brought some yummy food they usually have at Thanksgiving, or had always wanted to try making.

We had everything – a bird (not turkey, but chicken and very tasty), stuffing (Fred Meyer’s brand, which was fantastic in a sentimental goodness way), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad with all the fixings, baked apples, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something amazingly good but it was just so much! For dessert we had pie, which I had gingerly baked in my mini oven Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

As those who read my blog regularly know, my oven only has one temperature setting, and after further experimentation I don’t know exactly how warm it is, but it is too warm for normal pie baking. I had read somewhere that if you place tin foil around the crust, it will prevent it from burning while the filling finishes baking. Normally, I don’t have to worry about my crust burning (my dad’s recipe is quite fool proof most of the time), but the trick was perfect for my inflexible oven.

I snapped this picture before I stuck my pumpkin pie in the oven, in case it flopped miserably and looked ugly. It didn’t look ugly at all – in fact developed that beautifully rich, autumn orange-brown color it should – but the pictures I took after it came out of the oven just weren’t as nice as this one. To bake, I placed foil over the crust of my pie and turned on the heat for a few minutes, then turned it off and let the remaining warmth in the oven bake through, then turned the heat back on. This tedious process obviously required me to be watching the pie very closely for about an hour, perhaps longer, while it baked until I was sufficiently pleased. However, it was much more difficult for the apple pie, and I have to say I wasn’t as patient and so it didn’t turn out nearly as well. The recipe was also off, as I had to use an internet recipe and not my father’s tasty one. Therefore, I’m only posting the pumpkin pie recipe.

This recipe is put together in two parts (as pie usually is): the crust is from Edith Norton’s contribution to the congregation cookbook, “Our Cup Runneth Over,” of the First United Methodist Church in Schenectady, New York. Its name suggests its simplicity, and the recipe is for anyone who doesn’t like making pie crust. It uses sour cream instead of water and makes for a very yummy, flaky crust.

The filling is a recipe from my late paternal grandma, Grace. The custard makes for an excellent pie filling, or pumpkin pudding (either cooked on the stove or in the oven). I had extra filling this time, which I cooked up on the stove and have been mixing into my cream of wheat in the mornings with excellent results. It’s a take on my traditional slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast on the Friday after Thanksgiving!

Happy pie baking and congratulations on surviving part one of the holiday season!

Easy as Pie Crust

3 cups flour
2 sticks (= 1 cup) margarine
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening (e.g., Crisco) (not oil)
at least 1/2 cup sour cream


Cut the fat into the flour using a fork until you have circa pea sized little pieces of mix. Add the sour cream. If you add too much sour cream, you end up with a sticky glob, so go on the low side to start with.

Cut the dough into two equal pieces and place a piece on a floured surface. Roll out and place the crust into your pie pan and crimp the edges how you like. You can use both halves in one pie (one for the bottom crust, one for a top crust for cherry or apple pies), or you can use the recipe to make two pies with just a bottom crust (recommended for this pumpkin pie recipe).

This dough can be frozen for at least 1 – 2 months or stored in refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.

Pumpkin Pie/Custard Mix

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Mix Dry Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice (this isn’t a spice I could find in Germany, so I used Spekulatius seasoning, which is similar)
1/4 tsp salt

Mix Wet Ingredients:

2 cups pumpkin (canned is fine; fresh winter squash works just as well
as fresh pumpkin)
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tall can (about 1 2/3 cups) evaporated milk (I used condensed milk successfully this year)
1 cup of water (I don’t always use a whole cup)

Combine the two mixtures and pour into prepared pie crust and bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit then 35 – 50 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

November 23, 2006

Sugar High Friday, #25

First of all: Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful holiday with family and/or friends. Because this is the perfect holiday for my blog, I promise you a Thanksgiving post. However, my dinner isn’t until tonight, so I will digress and post more this weekend.

To celebrate my one-week anniversary with DSL, I decided quite last-minute to participate in this month’s Sugar High Friday. Invented by Jennifer, the Domestic Goddess, it is hosted this month by Johanna, the passionatecook. I stumbled upon their websites today, having heard of SHF before but not joined in yet. I figured, while I am on a Thanksgiving baking kick, why not make more sugary things?

While I usually leave truffle-making to my sister and her previous SHF contribution, I decided to jump into the sea of chocolate goodness and try to swim. I figured, simple is better, so upon successfully googling, I found an easy recipe. Of course, this has to be an original creation, so I took the basic idea of the recipe and went from there. What I liked about it was that it used cream cheese. I had hoped this would make it less sweet, but I believe the three cups of powdered sugar counter-acted that.

I decided truffle-making would be a great activity for my English Club that meets every Thursday afternoon. It’s a very informal club, where a few of my students come over to my apartment and we have a conversation group. I figured I would cut down on time by making the ganache before they came. Instead of using chocolate chips, which aren’t available here, I decided to give my truffles a more German flair and used my favorite chocolate: Ritter Sport. I used their delicious semi-sweet bar with much success. As flavoring I decided on my favorite liquor: Baileys (hey, while we’re sweet already, might as well go all the way, right?). As a topping I chose Hazelnusskrokant, which is easily purchased in any baking section of the grocery store here in Germany. It’s basically caramelized, chopped Hazelnuts. I’ll have to experiment on how to make this from scratch, but today I “cheated” and bought the already-prepared nuts.

When my students came, we had a fantastic time rolling the truffles into little balls and rolling them in the caramelized hazelnuts. Our hands got quite chocolaty, and wetting them really didn’t help much. As I’m not a pastry chef (or any type of professional chef) I’m sure our techniques were blasphemous; however, we had a great time and that’s what matters. We also ran out of hazelnuts, so we switched over to smashed graham crackers (left over from my friend Briana’s visit from the States). One of my students suggested using half semi-sweet chocolate and half baking chocolate next time to counteract the powdered sugar. I will have to try that. Then again, if I want a truffle, that usually means I’m craving sugar…lots of sugar…

Baileys Chocolate Truffles

12 oz (350g) dark/semi-sweet chocolate (can use half baking chocolate)

8 oz (225g) cream cheese

3 cups (390g) powdered sugar

3 Tbsp (45ml) Baileys

caramelized Hazelnut (Hazelnuss Krokant)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally un

til liquefied. Set aside. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then slowly add the sugar until blended. Add the chocolate and Baileys; mix well. Refrigerate for about one hour.

Shape into small balls, roll in nuts, and refrigerate about another hour, or until hardened.

Makes about 5 dozen truffles.

Note: This would make a very good frosting! Just don’t refrigerate and frost away. Please be aware that, because of the chocolate, the frosting will harden more than regular cream cheese frosting!

November 22, 2006

German Cucumber Salad


In
Germany, salads served in restaurants and cafés, sometimes even ones served at home, are actually many different salads put together. A house salad might consist of greens, a carrot salad, and a cucumber salad. Each of the ingredient salads have their own dressing, so at the Mensa (transl: university cafeteria) I never top my salad with an extra dressing. However, Germans love dressing (they even call it Dressing because they’ve forgotten the perfectly good German word for it: Salatsoße) One of the most popular dressings is a yoghurt dressing, with plain yoghurt and herbs. I like the dressing in itself very much, but have yet to experiment with making it. Nevertheless, I thought I’d start my salad postings and give a recipe for a cucumber salad I made recently.

Everyone here in Germany seems to have their own recipe for cucumber salad, and most of the time it’s not written down, so it is only fair to point out that “German” is a relative word here. The only things that make this particular recipe German is that it comes out of a cooperation between me and a German friend of mine, Emilia. It tastes pretty much like cucumber salads you can get in German restaurants and Mensas, though, so I think we succeeded.

German Cucumber Salad

1 cup sliced Onion
1 sliced Cucumber (about 4 cups)
4 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp White wine vinegar
1 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp dried Dill weed
Salt and Pepper to taste

Whisk the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, dill, and seasonings together to form dressing. Toss with cucumber and onion, let sit for about 15-30 minutes and serve at room temperature. The key to the salad is to slice the cucumber and onions as thinly as possible, so the flavors can really mix. The easiest way to do this is to use a mandolin. Holds well in the fridge for a couple days.