March 25, 2012

12/52 Heidelbeer-Streuselkuchen

Or: Blueberry Crumble Cake. For my cousin Stephanie. I'll explain why later.

Streuselkuchen is a very typical and traditional German cake.
It is originally made of a yeast dough base with crumbles (= Streusel) on top. In between, as a filling, there can be a kind of vanilla cream/pudding, all sorts of fruit, or poppy seeds.

I always liked the fruit Streuselkuchen best.
In late summer, plums are the most common filling (and one of the best, in my opinion). Cherries are very good as well. Or raspberries. Rhubarb. You pretty much name it. The plain Streuselkuchen with no filling at all, just base and crumbles, has always been a bit too boring for me.
But I will eat it if it's the only kind of Streuselkuchen around...

So back to my cousin Stephanie. She asked me last week if I ever make Zwetschgenstreuselkuchen (the aforementioned plum version). Apparently it reminds her of our Grandmother who was one of the best bakers I know. I guess it might also symbolize Germany for Stephanie, since she grew up in Canada. Yes, this is the short short version but I thought it made sense mentioning.
(Stephanie - if there is anything you would like to add or adjust - please let me know!)

Anyway, since plums aren't in season, I decided to try blueberries for the first time in a Streuselkuchen.
(Yes, I know, blueberries aren't really in season here either, but at least you can buy them...)
I also wanted to make the quicker version with a sponge cake base instead of the yeast one.

So here it is - for Stephanie.

Adapted from Heidelbeerhof Foelster (a blueberry farm in nothern Germany)

500 g (3 2/3 cups) blueberries
125 g (1.1 stick) butter, softened
125 g (10 tablespoons) sugar
1 sachet (2 teaspoons) vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
pinch of salt
2 eggs
250 g (2 cups) flour
1 sachet (1 1/2 tablespoons) baking powder

125 g (1.1 stick) butter, cold
125 g (10 tablespoons) sugar
125 g (1 cup) flour

  • Preheat oven to 175°C (347°F).
  • Beat together sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla sugar, until light and fluffy.
  • Add butter and mix well.
  • Fold in sifted flour and baking powder.
  • Spread batter evenly into a prepared pan (about 24 cm/9.5 in in diameter).
  • Arrange blueberries on batter.
  • Using your hands, quickly mix cold butter, sugar, and flour to crumbs. Crumble them over the blueberries.
  • Bake on second lowest oven rack for 50-60 minutes.

My modification:
I only had 375 g (2 1/2 cups) of blueberries and that was enough to cover the base.
I used raw cane sugar because I was out of "regular" sugar.
My cake was done in 45 minutes. Just keep an eye on the Streusel, they are supposed to be golden but not brown. 
Please note: if you ever plan on making the plum Streuselkuchen, please do make a yeast dough base. It just suits the plums so much better. For every other fruit, feel free to make the quicker version like above.

The taste:
Cake base & blueberries & crumbles - I don't think there is anybody who wouldn't think this is a great combination.
If you like it a bit crunchy (expecially for the crumbles), eat the cake on the same day as you baked it. If you like it a bit soft and soggy, wrap your cake in aluminum foil and eat it one, two or even three days after you baked it.

I still have to admit that nothing beats the yeast base/plum Streuselkuchen, so come around plum season!

Which cake do you associate with your childhood, or a specific member of your family?

March 18, 2012

11b/52 Oatmeal-Apricot Cookies

I am a person who feels guilty pretty easily. Especially for not having done things that I should have. Which doesn't necessarily mean that the guilt wins and forces me to take care of those things. I just continue to feel bad about them. Sometimes for a long time.

I honestly don't want this to happen in regards to this blog. So I couldn't just leave you this week with my last post and the admitted cheating that was involved (= no baking). So I baked something. And I feel better now. Not guilty anymore. I should remember this feeling.

Oatmeal-Apricot Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

110 g (1 1/4 cups) oats
105 g (3/4 cup) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
113 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
100 g (1/2 cup) light-brown sugar
55 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g (3/4 cup) dried apricots, roughly chopped
60 g (3/4 cup) almonds, slivered

  • Preheat oven to 180 °C (350°F).
  • Combine oats, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  • On medium speed, beat together butter and sugars until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract.
  • On low speed, add oat-flour-mix until just combined.
  • Mix in apricots and almonds using your hands.
  • Form small balls, put them on a lined baking sheet with enough space between them and flatten them a bit.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes until edges begin to brown.
  •  Let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
My modifications:
None, except for the baking time: my cookies were done in 18 minutes.
Next time I might omit the granulated sugar, try different dried fruits, and/or possibly add a bit of chocolate (grated or chips).

The taste:
They smell and taste delicious. Fruity. Sweet. A bit healthy. Comforting. Filling.
What about your guilt trips? And what's your favorite cookie? 
(Yes, two questions that are totally related. At least after this post.)

11a/52 Punschkugeln

Do you know how much dust and dirt accumulates when old windows are exchanged for new ones? I do now.
Four days of noise, dirt, dust, and annoyance lie behind me. Not the best environment for baking. Or even baking inspiration. So I cheated a bit - but you're not gonna tell, are you?

This ready-made chocolate sponge cake just caught my eye. I usually never even pay attention to these ready-made cake layers but this time
a) it was 50% off,
b) I knew that I wasn't gonna feel like real baking during the window exchange nuisance, and
c) I have been meaning to make "Punschkugeln" (which literally translates to "punch ball"), one of my husband's favorite sweet treats, for a long time.

Before moving to Switzerland, I wasn't too familiar with Punschkugeln. They are like big chocolate cake balls, with a hint of rum flavor, rolled in chocolate sprinkles, dusted with a bit of powdered sugar.
In Germany, "Rumkugeln" ("rum balls") are widely known. They (obviously) do taste like rum and are rolled in chocolate sprinkles, but are typically more of a chocolate-truffle, not cake.

Reading many different recipes for Punschkugeln and chocolate cake balls, I created my own combination of ingredients:

Punschkugeln à Sarah

340 g chocolate sponge cake layers, ready-made
60 g (1/3 cup) orange jam
60 g  (1/3 cup) apricot jam
3 tablespoons Cinzano Orancio
3 teaspoons cream cheese
chocolate sprinkles
powdered sugar
  • With your hands, crumble sponge cake into a bowl.
  • Add jam, Cinzano, and cream cheese and mix together by hand until you have a smooth "dough". Add more cream cheese or milk if dough is still too crumbly.

  • Form balls of about 10 cm (4 in) diameter.
  • One ball after the other, wet surface with a bit of water, roll in chocolate sprinkles and put in muffin paper liners.
  • Dust with powdered sugar.
  • Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving to get the best taste and texture.

Modification ideas:
For an alcohol-free version, use milk instead of Cinzano and add a bit of rum flavor if you want.
Try different fruit jams or jellies.

The taste:
My husband, who is the Punschkugel expert in our family, said they tasted better than his favorite store-bought ones. Need I say more?

Have you ever cheated when it comes to baking or cooking? Please share your stories!

March 11, 2012

10/52 Crostata di Pere al Cioccolata

Another chocolate/fruit combination. Something that never gets boring.
At least I hope it also never gets boring for you, my readers.

So this one is a pear chocolate pie.
I saw it on the German TV show "Das perfekte Dinner" ("The perfect dinner") where each week, 5 strangers cook a 3-course meal for each other, one each day, at their homes. 
A couple of weeks ago, a girl named Sandy made an Italian-inspired dinner with this pie for dessert (served with vanilla parfait). The guests were not really over the moon about it but I thought it sounded good.

When a work colleague of mine mentioned last week that she absolutely loves pears, I thought of this recipe again and here we are:

Crostata di Pere al Cioccolata
Adapted from Sandy of "Das perfekte Dinner" (I don't know where she had the recipe from, so if you know the original source, please comment on this post)

Pie crust:
125 g (1.1 stick) butter
200 g (1.6 cup) flour
1 egg
125 g (0.6 cup) sugar
50 g  (1/2 cup) cocoa powder

2-3 tablespoons orange marmalade
2-3 pears

100 g dark chocolate
50 g (0.4 stick) butter
2 eggs
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar

  • For the pie crust, knead together all ingredients. Roll out and put into a prepared pie form.
  • Coat crust evenly with orange marmalade.
  • Peel the pears, cut into wedges and arrange on crust.
  • Preheat oven to 200 °C (390°F).
  • For the topping, melt chocolate and butter over hot water.
  • Separate eggs. Beat the egg whites until stiff. 
  • In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks with sugar. Fold in melted chocolate and stiff egg whites until just combined. Pour over pears.
  • Bake until topping is firm.
My modifications:
But as you can see above, the recipe did not give an exact baking time. I baked my pie for 30 minutes. A little longer would have been good for the crust but would have burned the topping. So my suggested modification is to blind-bake the crust. I knew I should have done it but then didn't... Next time I definitely will.

The result and taste:
It was a real problem to get a piece of this pie on a plate and still have it look like a piece of pie (and not some kind of chocolate mash with pieces of pear in it). I meant to take a piece to work to give to my colleague but there was no way of doing that.
Blind-baking the crust, using pears that are not very juicy, and baking the whole pie a bit longer would probably help.
But the taste! Half-baked chocolate cookie meets juicy pears meets mousse au chocolate. That's the best way to describe what my (half-baked, mushy) crostata di pere al cioccolata tasted like. Divine! 
Who needs looks when you can have all the taste? That's my conclusion for this week.

Did anything you ever baked not turn out quite as planned? But still tasted good? 
Please share!

March 4, 2012

9/52 B-O-C-C Scones

I'm so glad that I named this blog 52 cakes *or* a bake a week.
That way, baking something other than cake is totally appropriate. Right?

So let's bake something savory this week.
With Bacon (or not - totally up to you). Spring Onions. Cheese. Chili.

I added this recipe to my baking board on Pinterest for a long time now and I am happy that I finally made it to present it to you now:

B-O-C-C Scones
Adapted from spoon fork bacon

Makes 12 regular or 36 mini scones

310 g (2 cups) flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
50 g (1/2 cup) cold butter, in small cubes
4 strips bacon, fried and crumbled
60 g (2/3 cup) cheese, in very small sticks or cubes
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 red chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced
120 g (1/2 cup) buttermilk
50 g (1/4 cup) cream
  • Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add cold butter cubes and knead quickly until mixture is mealy again.
  • Add bacon, cheese, onions, and chili and combine.
  • Fold in buttermilk and mix until combined to a dough.
  • Cool dough in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 190 °C (375°F).
  • Roll the dough out to about 1 cm (1/2 in) thick and cut out circles of about 7 cm (3 in) for regular scones or 2 cm (1 in) for mini scones.
  • Put on lined baking sheet and brush tops with a bit of cream.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes (regular size) or 15-20 minutes (mini size) or until the tops start to brown.
    Enjoy these straight from the oven, they are so good when still steaming hot. But stored in an airtight container, they still taste delicious the next day - I just tried it to make sure...

    My modifications:
    The above recipe (and its name) is already modified to how I made it but there are only two small differences to the original recipe anyway:
    I used Cheddar cheese, cut into tiny sticks, instead of grated Gruyere cheese.
    And I added the chili because I do like it hot. (Yes, it sounds funny, but it's true...)

    The taste:
    Just delicious!
    Perfect fingerfood for a party. Or a brunch buffet. Or any occasion, really.
    And they are so easy and quick to make. 
    What are your favorite savory baking recipes?