Cheesecake marbled brownies

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These extraordinarily chocolate-y, cheesecake-y, gooey brownies are the best way to say Thank You, a big THANK YOU in fact. Don’t waste them on something like ‘Thanks for watering my plants’ or watching the dog or some such. They are epic, chocolate-cheesecake brownie nirvana, and only those make an adequate gesture for something big, something so wonderful and delightful like two little boys, for example, delivered healthily and for us being looked after so well, even mollycoddled every minute we have been in the hospital.

If you are not a brownie purist but enjoy a cheesecake version as well, then these are it, I mean they, perfection, nirvana, heaven with (chocolate) knobs on. I never buy chips but chop (good) chocolate and find delight in the odd-sized rubble, especially when I hit the jackpot with a chunky nugget on my piece. Hence the Jackson Pollock look of my brownie slab. A slight reduction of the sugar amount results in a less sweet version but these are in fact sweet, decadent and rich, so no kidding oneself that it’s health food – but cut in little morsels they are not only a big Thank you but the panacea for fraught nerves of overtired people.

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Mutzenmandeln – German almond dough nuts

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Mutzenmandeln, almond cookies or veritable dough nuts, if you so will, are almond cake dough bits shaped in the form of almonds, fried and rolled in sugar while still hot. Eaten warm, licking sugar covered fingers they are still a rare treat to me Continue reading

Gougères

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Every year we swish through Burgundy on our way to Provence & the Côte d’Azur, only interrupting our journey to spend the night – plus a nice dinner, no question – and continue extremely well fed & refreshed in the morning. Not at snails pace, mind you, who wants to miss the morning opening time at Valrhona and spend some quality time amongst like-minded freaks connoisseurs at the holy grail of chocolate and stock up on ‘essentials’, certainly not me. Though every time I wish we could stay a little longer, explore this village and that wine cellar, revisit places I have been to eons ago on a Romanesque architecture research tour, soak in the smells of the vines, ancient abbeys and dark forests, snoop around in tiny hamlets to find a cheese maker advertised on the side of a narrow country road.

Well, this summer we did! Burgundy is stunningly beautiful and boasts – apart from wine (obviously) & recently granted Unesco World Heritage status (July 2015), first class architecture & art – an excellent cuisine with great eateries and a cornucopia of one, two, three Michelin star restaurants in nearly every, or every other village. The food is remarkable and does not take any prisoners with its use of butter, cream, cheese, more butter, eggs, garlic to anoint snails, Bresse chicken, Charolais beef, frogs legs… deep sigh. Of course all minimum three, no arguing, courses of a delicious menu are washed down accompanied with (properly swirled, sniffed and gargeled) exquisite wines. It is the proverbial Schlaraffenland or land of milk and honey cheese and wine. And that those two go very well together, is known especially in Burgundy where Gougères, little savoury cheese puffs with a crunchy outside and a soft cheesy doughy centre, are served with a glass of wine or as an amuse bouche while you contemplate which delicacy to choose for dinner. I think we’ll make a habit of that. Continue reading

Maple & walnut buttermilk scones

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A proper Devonshire cream tea with scones, clotted cream & strawberry jam is pure joy for me and luckily my parents-in-law live in the wonderful West Country where there’s no shortage of quaint & pretty places to enjoy this true British delight (along with many other fantastic regional specialties). Unfortunately, it is really hard to get the proper stuff, namely Cornish clotted cream outside of Western England but scones can easily be made at home anywhere.

This is a delicious British-American hybrid brimming with the inviting flavours of Maple syrup, vanilla, brown sugar. Add walnuts (or pecans if you like) and you have got a treat for breakfast or tea with a dab of slowly melting salted butter or a quickly stirred maple butter. Just mildly sweet, I think they can go either way: for a sweeter tooth drizzle the scones after baking with a maple icing or try the unadulterated scone with a stronger blue cheese or ripe cheddar and some spiced chutney. Therefore, they might be just the ideal thing for brunch.

 

 

Maple & walnut buttermilk scones


Maple & walnut buttermilk scones

Makes 16. Adapted from Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito: Baked. New frontiers in Baking.

 

640g / 4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
90g / ½ cup light brown sugar
345g / 3 sticks cold butter, diced
1 egg
180ml / ¾ cup buttermilk
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
110g / 1 cup walnuts, only very coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons buttermilk to brush the tops
1-2 teaspoons raw cane sugar (or maple sugar) to sprinkle a pinch on each scone

maple butter (optional): softened butter mixed with a little maple syrup

maple icing: make a semi-runny icing by mixing a little icing sugar and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup

 

Mix flour with baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt & sugar and rub together with the cold butter (hands). Whisk buttermilk, egg, maple syrup & vanilla extract and knead briefly into the dry ingredients, add walnuts and only just push it all together into a rough dough. Do not overknead, it is fine if there are still a few butter patches visible! Divide into two portions and form two rounds, ca. 3.75 cm or 1½ inches thick (on a lightly floured board or directly on a sheet of baking parchment). Cut each disc into 8 slices and arrange on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Brush each wedge with a little buttermilk and sprinkle a pinch of raw cane sugar or maple sugar on top.

Bake in a preheated oven (175°C / 350° F) for 15 minutes, turn the oven trays back to front and bake for another 15 minutes until the scones are light golden brown. Serve warm with salted or maple butter or leave to cool and drizzle with a maple icing made from icing sugar & maple syrup.

 

 

Maple & walnut buttermilk scones

 


Ahornsirup & Walnuß Buttermilchscones

Ergibt 16 Stück. Adaptiert von Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito: Baked. New frontiers in Baking.

 

640g Mehl
1 TL Backpulver
½ TL Natron
½ TL Salz
90g heller brauner Zucker
345g kalte Butter, in Würfel geschnitten
1 Ei
180ml Buttermilch
2-3 EL Ahornsirup
½ TL Vanilleextrakt
110g Walnüsse, sehr, sehr grob gehackt

2 EL Buttermilch zum Bestereichen
1-2 TL roher Rohrzucker oder Ahornzucker zum Bestreuen

Ahornsirupbutter (optional): weiche Butter mit ein wenig Ahornsirup verrührt

Ahornglasur: Puderzucker mit ca. 1 EL Ahornsirup zu einer dickflüssigen Glasur verrühren

 

Mehl mit Backpulver, Natronpulver, Salz und Zucker vermischen, Butter hinein geben und mit den Händen verreiben. Buttermilch, Ei, Ahornsirup & Vanilleextrakt verrühren, kurz mit der Mehlmischung verkneten, Walnüsse hinzufügen und die Masse zu einem Teig gerade eben zusammenschieben. Es ist sehr wichtig, den Teig nicht zu überarbeiten! In zwei Teile teilen und zwei runde Scheiben von ca. 3,75cm Dicke formen (auf einer leicht bemehlten Oberfläche oder direkt auf Backpapier). Die Scheiben in 8 Stücke schneiden, diese auf mit Backpapier ausgelegte Bleche legen mit Buttermilch bestreichen und ein wenig Rohrzucker oder Ahornzucker darauf streuen. Im vorgeheizten Backofen (175°C) für 15 Minuten backen, dann die Backbleche drehen und weitere 15 Minuten backen bis die Scones goldgelb aufgegangen sind.

Leicht abgekühlt mit der Ahornsirupglasur beträufeln oder pur und warm mit ein wenig Salz- oder Ahornsirupbutter servieren.

 

 

Mormor Larsson’s pepparkakor

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Just in case you might feel a little behind in all things Christmas (I am desperately, hence the tardiness of this post) and have not reached the comforting, all-embracing Christmas feeling that comes with the house being festively adorned, cards sent, presents bought and menus planned. If despite being assaulted inundated by Season’s greetings, bells, songs & carols, decorations, quaint markets with roasted chestnuts and the like, the Christmas spirit has not reached you, then these traditional Swedish spiced cookies should do the trick. Up the dosage and take one to five in the early evening with a large mug of hot, mulled wine – preferably outside around a glowing fire with a group of friends & family.

Pepparkakor is not your usual soft gingerbread, nothing like German Pfefferkuchen although they share the name nor Lebkuchen, Honigkuchen or other gingerbreads. The sweet crisp cookies loaded with aromatic spices are more akin to spiced Spekuloos / Spekulatius biscuits – perfect to be dipped into milk, cocoa or the aforementioned mulled wine (Glögg). Continue reading

Finger cookies

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Happy Halloween!

I’ve made these for our first proper Halloween in California and am, as I was then, still totally smitten with these weird cookies with their red varnished fingertips peeking out in-between the sweets in the bowl. They are totally charming and a mighty quick Halloween treat to make, so here’s the recipe for you to create some severed fingers in no time before the door bell rings. Continue reading

Sour cherry & hazelnut biscotti

Rezept auf deutsch für Sauerkirsch & Haselnuss Biscotti s. u.

 

Biscotti are twice-baked and the most famous biscotti are the Tuscan cantuccini, hard almond biscotti dipped repeatedly into Vin santo or with a vero espresso in the afternoon. Spring weekends in California saw us many times driving to Half Moon Bay or Montara, wandering the empty beaches accompanied by Sanderlings and cradling a cup of coffee & ever so often dunking one of the giant biscotti picked up from the coffee shop. These sour cherry and hazelnut ones are just equally nice with a steaming cup of tea (mine’s Early Gray with milk).

Just returning from a short stay in the Black Forest region proves again Germany’s fondness for dark-red Morello cherries (Schattenmorellen) as a main ingredient in the well-known Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau). I have a special place in my heart for the less flamboyant light-red Amarelle or glas-cherries like the beautiful Cerise de Montmorency. My grandfather had a tiny tree in his garden studded with cherries shining like small light-red baubles against the dark green leaves – a picture perfect tree akin to those illustrating children’s books. They were extremely sour or so you believe as a child. Taste changes and today I savour the intense tartness & slightly old-fashioned fragrance much more as it reminds me of endless summers spent alone with my grandfather in his garden.

Buying dried sour cherry varieties in Germany is nearly impossible, at least specialist shops or online dealers in dried fruits sell dried & untreated sour cherries. For these biscotti though I have used my last bag of dried Montmorency cherries brought back from the US (Trader Joe’s, Whole Food Market) before I stock up our larder again like a greedy magpie.

 

Sour cherry & hazelnut biscotti
makes about 40 biscotti, adapted from a cutting from Williams-Sonoma Cookies

1 stick of unsalted butter (114g), room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
a scant ¼ teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
1 heaped cup hazelnuts
½ cup of whole dried sour cherries (Cerises de Montmorency, unsweetened & untreated)

 

Preheat the oven to 175°C or 350° F, line one or two baking trays with a sheet of baking parchment.

Roast the hazelnuts in a dry pan or the oven until they small intensely nutty but are not browned too much. Cool briefly, then chop into coarse pieces, leaving a few rather large chunks or give the nuts a quick blitz in the food processor.

Cream butter and sugar until light yellow and fluffy. Add one egg after the other and the vanilla extract. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon & salt together, slowly stir a small amount into the batter at first before you add the rest. Mix with orange zest, hazelnuts and cherries and spoon the soft dough with a spatula onto the baking tray and form two logs (flouring your hands helps to prevent the dough from sticking) with at least 20 cm space in between. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until lightly golden but not brown. Take them out of the oven and leave to cool on the tray for about 15 minutes, then cut the logs with a serrated knife diagonally into 2cm slices and return those to the baking tray (lying on one side) to be baked for another 10 minutes until the biscotti look lightly toasted. Leave to cool on the trays, keep in airtight containers.

 

 

Sauerkirsch & Haselnuss Biscotti
ergibt ca. 40 Biscotti, ich bleibe hier der Einfachheit halber bei den amerikanischen Tassen

114g ungesalzene weiche Butter
¾ Tasse Zucker
2 Eier
1 TL Vanilleextrakt (ersatzweise Vanillezucker)
1 ¾ Tassen Mehl
½ TL Backpulver
½ TL Zimt
annähernd ¼ TL Salz
Zesten (geriebene Schale) von 1 Orange (Bio)
1 Tasse ganze Haselnüsse
½ Tasse ganze getrocknete Sauerkirschen (Montmorency- oder Glaskirschen, unbehandelt, ungesüßt)

 

Backofen auf 175°C vorheizen und ein Backblech mit Backpapier belegen.

Die Haselnüsse entweder in einer trockenen Pfanne kurz rösten oder im Backofen toasten bis sie intensiv nussig riechen, aber nicht sehr braun geworden sind. Abkühlen lassen und entweder mit dem Messer grob hacken oder in der Küchenmaschine zerkleinern. Es sollten noch ein paar größere Stückchen darunter sein, die man auch noch in den gebackenen Biscotti sehen kann.

Die Butter mit dem Zucker schaumig schlagen und die Eier nach und nach, anschließend den Vanilleextrakt hinzugeben. Das Mehl zusammen mit Backpulver, Zimt und Salz sieben, zuerst einen kleinen Teil langsam unterrühren, schließlich das gesamte Mehl. Zum Schluß die Orangenschale, die grob gehackten Haselnüsse und die Sauerkirschen unterheben.

Die weiche Masse auf das Backblech mit dem Teigschaber geben und mit bemehlten Händen zu zwei langen Rollen formen, etwas plattdrücken. Beide Teigrollen sollten mindestens 20cm Abstand voneinander haben. Für ca. 25-30 Minuten backen bis sie goldfarben (nicht braun) sind, auf dem Blech für 15 Minuten abkühlen lassen. Mit einem Brotmesser diagonal in 2cm breite Scheiben schneiden, diese auf der flachen Seite auf das Backblech legen und wiederum für 10 Minuten backen bis diese goldfarben getoastet sind. Auf dem Blech abkühlen lassen, in luftdichtem Container aufbewahren.