Monday, April 30, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - "Hungarian Shortbread - A Truly Royal Treat"

Hungarian Shortbread is today`s choice for the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group. Shortbread is a classic Scottish dessert and calls for only three ingredients, namely, white sugar, butter, oatmeal flour and no leavening agents. Today´s recipe was contributed by Gale Gand and deviates in a very good way from that traditional recipe – it is a “Hungarian” version and has a thin layer of homemade rhubarb jam between two layers of buttery and crumbly dough.

Shortbread was given its name because of its sandy/crumbly texture and it is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: either it is baked in one large round which is divided into segments very soon after baking, or it is formed into small round shortbread rounds or an oblong shape that gets cut into individual bars. The Hungarian Shortbread recipe calls for baking the dough in a 9- by 12- inch baking pan – I chose a French fluted tart pan with a high rim and a removeable bottom instead. When I prepared the recipe I ended up with double the amount of dough that would fit into the tart pan – so I just had to bake two shortbread rounds. I happen to like the round shape and the segments are easy to cut after baking.

In order to get started you need some homemade rhubarb jam. At this time of year, rhubarb is widely available at the fruit and vegetable markets. It was not a problem at all finding some. Even got some organic rhubarb. The recipe for the jam is easy and quickly prepared. It contains nothing more than rhubarb, sugar, water and a vanilla bean. The jam can be cooled while you put together the dough and wait for it to chill in the freezer.

The dough is prepared with only six ingredients, namely flour, baking powder, salt, butter (used Irish butter for the Hungarian Shortbread…) egg yolks and sugar. After you have prepared the dough, freeze it for 30 minutes. Once the dough is firm, you grate half of it into the baking pan, pat the dough gently to get an even layer, then you drizzle the jam on top and finally grate the rest of the dough over the jam and the first layer of dough. The shortbread then gets baked for about 40 minutes. As soon as the shortbread is removed from the oven, you immediately have to dust it heavily with confectioner´s sugar. By dusting the shortbread while it is hot, the sugar melts somewhat and creates a bit of a glaze. You have to let the shortbread cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting it into your desired shapes, wedges in my case. I did line the bottom of my tart pan with parchment paper, just to be sure the shortbread would release properly and not break.  Right before serving, you can dust it with a bit more with confectioner´s sugar and then, enjoy!

Since it is the first of May today, which means it is Spring festival time and a day off from school and work, we decided to drive to the Town of Brühl, about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from where we live. There we visited the Baroque “Augustusburg Castle” (1725) with its extensive gardens and a famous staircase by Balthasar Neumann (1740-46).

Within Augustusburg`s gardens is the smaller „“Falkenlust“ (1733), a hunting lodge, where Clemens August of Bavaria (1700 – 1761), a member of the Wittelsbach dynasty of Bavaria and Archbishop-Elector of Cologne enjoyed receiving guests in a more casual environment. There, he loved to serve hot chocolate, tea or coffee to his guests.

The Hungarian Shortbread would probably have been perfect to serve to his guests alongside the tea or coffee because it tastes wonderful. It has a pronounced buttery taste and crumbly texture and the rhubarb jam is a nice addition, not too sweet, just right.

My family and all my guests greatly enjoyed it

The castles were both designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 (

Today`s recipe is hosted by Cher Rockwell of The Not So Exiting Adventures of a Dabbler and by Lynette of 1smallkitchen. A big “Thank You” to our hosts!

To see how the other members of the Baking with Dorie group prepared the shortbread, please click here.

And for more information on the “Augustusburg Castle”, you can visit the website of the castle

Thursday, April 26, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Navarin Printanier

Today´s choice for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Navarin Printanier or Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables. The title of this recipe already sounds delicious. It seems like the perfect dish to prepare on a windy and rainy Spring day like today.

It turned out that the most difficult part of this recipe was getting fresh, good quality boneless lamb shoulder. I was glad that I had gone over the ingredient list a few days ago. There are no local traditional lamb dishes around here and not many peolpe eat lamb on a regular basis. So I had to order the meat a few days in advance, decided to double the recipe and ended up getting 6 pounds (about three kilos) of lamb shoulder.

My butcher  (the same one who usually orders the lamb chops for me) gave me a strange look but I figured that since the kids already love different kinds of stew that I often prepare, such as "Gulasch with Spätzle" and  "Gaisburger Marsch"  - prepared with potatoes and Spätzle - and since they enjoy lamb chops, they would eat this French lamb stew as well.

The Navarin is a traditional  French stew and there are hundreds of variations of this recipe.

Dorie Greenspan' s recipe calls for a number of vegetables. You will need garlic, small white onions (one more challenging ingredient, I finally found them at a small greengrocer), carrots, turnips, small potatoes (bought the "new potatoes") and peas ( no chance of getting fresh peas at this time of year, so frozen peas will have to do - according to Dorie "almost everyone" uses them).

In addition to the vegetables, you will need a few fresh herbs. Dorie lists parsley, thyme and a bay leaf. Love these herbs...

After I brought all the required ingredients home, I started out by cutting the lamb shoulder into cubes and trimming off the excess fat. The rest of this one-pot meal was easy to prepare since the instructions in Dorie´s recipe are quite straightforward.

Nothing seems to spell comfort better than a pot of stew simmering on the stove. When my husband and the kids came home, it certainly was nice to hear them say that although they did not know what I was preparing, it "smelled great".

As suggested by Dorie, I served the stew in individual shallow soup dishes and I sprinkled a bit of chopped parsley on top. We had a big loaf of crusty French bread and lightly salted French butter on the side. The meat was tender, the vegetables rounded out the meal beautifully and everyone around the table ate and liked the Navarin Printanier!

Voilà! Great success!

I am glad that my family likes eating lamb because I do too and it is nice to know that they all will venture past marinated lamb chops mediterranean style!

(When we were in Rouen, Normandy, we found this wonderful indoor market with vendors selling vegetables, fruits, cheeses, cured meats, eggs, and much more - wish I was there right now...)

To see how the other Doristas prepared the Navarin Printanier this week,  please click here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bonn Marathon - April 22, 2012

On Sunday, the Bonn Marathon took place. Every year this is the largest sports event held in the City of Bonn. It was called the "Deutsche Post Marathon Bonn" since it was sponsered by the German postal service. The Bonn marathon event got started in 2001 and, over the years, has gained much in popularity, so much so that it has made it into the top ten of German marathons.

The 42.195 km route always leads along the right and left banks of the Rhine river. The finish line was located at the beautiful Bonn market place.

On Sunday, in addition to the main marathon, there was a half-marathon, a relay competition for schools, a competition for company teams and wheelchair users. Inline skaters and power walkers were also admitted. The focus of this event is always to attract as many participants as possible from all walks of life - to have top athletes and amateurs participate together in the same race.

The organizers counted a total of 12,128 participants from 53 different nations. And about 200,000 spectators lined the streets of the City of Bonn to cheer them on.

So, in order to cheer on the "marathon runners" in my life, I decided to bake some "Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies" (by the way, the organizers distributed about 27,000 bananas to the participants - that is a lot of bananas).

Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies
(as adapted from Martha Stewart "Cookies",  published in 2008 by Clarkson Potter)


1 cup (140g) AP flour
1/2 cup (70 g) whole-wheat flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (120 g) superfine sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) light-brown sugar, packed
1 egg (L), use free range or organic whenever possible
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or 2 tsp. pure vanilla sugar
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup (110 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces (230 g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt Excellence 70 %)
1/2 cup (60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (unbleached if possible) or silicone mats.

1. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

2. Place butter and both sugars into the bowl of your electric mixer, mix on medium until pale and fluffy.

3. With the mixer running on low, add egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

4. Mix in the mashed banana.

5. Add the flour mixture, mix until just combined.

6. Then stir in the oats, chocolate chunks and walnuts.

7. Using an ice cream scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets.

8. Bake cookies for 12 to 13 minutes and let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes.

9. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool completely.


See you there next year on April 14, 2013

Friday, April 20, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Coconut Friands

Today's recipe schedule for the French Fridays with Dorie group calls for Coconut Friands.

As Dorie Greenspan mentiones in her introduction to the recipe, Friands and Financiers are both very popular small French tea cakes. The difference between the two kinds of "Petits Gâteaux" is not always easy to make out. Financiers usually contain almond meal, browned butter and confectioner`s sugar.

The Friands, on the other hand, often contain desiccated coconut, small pieces of fresh or dried fruit or even a bit of jam.

The Friands have become very popular in Australian and New Zealand baking and are widely available treats at the coffee shops there.

They are often baked in small rectangular or oval shaped baking pans or mini muffin trays.

As mentioned above, bakers often add a bit of fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or even apples to the batter before baking.

Since both the almond meal/fruit version as well as the coconut/Dorie version of the Friand recipe looked delicious, I decided to bake two batches. First, I baked Almond Raspberry Friands, following an Australian recipe.

The recipe that I chose contains almond meal as well as some shredded coconut. It yields only six little tea cakes and seemed perfect for the half dozen mini loaf pans that I bought the other day. The addition of ground almonds made these pretty little cakes very moist and the raspberries were a nice compliment to the nuts. We liked them a lot.

Then I pulled out twelve little tartelette molds.These molds are from my very favorite Dutch/Belgian kitchen supply store but I had never gotten around to using them before. I guess they were just waiting to be used for Dorie's recipe. I buttered (and lightly floured) them. Prepared the batter, baked them for 17 minutes and turned them out while still hot because I was scared that they would never release from these mini molds.

But they did not stick to the molds and I ended up with 24 Coconut Friands, one dozen with blueberries, the other dozen plain, as per the original recipe.

These dainty little cakes turned out to be crisp on the outside with a soft and chewy macaroon centre.

Looking at them, I believe that they can be served dusted with some confectioner`s sugar, with a bit of vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream on the side or, simply, just on their own.

They certainly are delicious, no matter how you serve them and whether you add fruit to the batter or not.

All in all, the Friands are quite easy to prepare and the whole family enjoyed them, no real preference there as to the addition of fruit or almond meal. I will certainly make them again soon.

To see what the other Doristas are up to, please click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - Lemon Loaf Cake

If life hands you strawberries and lemons, bake a lemon loaf cake but use a large brioche pan instead of a loaf pan and top the cake with fresh strawberries. Do not forget to serve some whipped cream, on the side.

This is my first post for the Tuesdays with Dorie group. When I read that the recipe chosen for today was a lemon cake, I was thrilled because lemon desserts are my favorite desserts. I love lemon pudding, lemon cupcakes, lemon just about everything...

So to change my usual routine of grabbing a loaf pan when baking a lemon pound/loaf cake, I decided to use a large brioche pan, drizzle the cooled cake with a bit of a confectioners' sugar glaze with lemon juice and top the cake with fresh strawberries.

There are a lot of strawberries available at different farmers' markets around here and  I just love the combination of strawberries and lemons. Sometimes I serve a little bit of softly whipped cream on the side.

Todays recipe yields a nice and dense cake - my family liked this cake quite a bit.

Ode To The Lemon by Pablo Neruda

"From blossom
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its plantarium
lemons descended to the earth.

This weeks´ recipe is hosted by Truc of Treats and Michelle of The Beauty Of Life and if you would like to see what the other members of Tuesdays With Dorie were up to this week, please click here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Sardine Rillettes

"Sardine Rillettes" or "les rillettes de sardine" is a popular appetizer in France. Dorie Greenspan's recipe calls for canned sardines (packed in olive oil), cream cheese, herbs, lemon/lime juice and "piment d'espelette" (ground peppers from the town of Esplette in the French Basque region). French recipes often call for soft goat cheese (chèvre) and tarragon vinegar. The French also serve this appetizer or spread with soft-boiled eggs or tomatoes, crackers or baguette...there seem to be endless variations on this recipe.

My first task was to get good quality sardines packed in olive oil. My favorite Italian store carries only one kind, namely, "Aurora Sardines". They come in large and beautifully designed cans. Although I decided to double the recipe, I still have lots of sardines left. Since the rillettes were such a success at our house, maybe I will prepare some more on the weekend.

In her notes to her recipe, Dorie Greenspan mentiones that in Paris, the sardine rillettes sometimes are served with a scoop of cornichon sorbet and that capers would also be a good addition. Well, I searched the internet high and low for a cornichon sorbet recipe but to no avail. Might have been interesting to try to make some. So while shopping for the sardines, I decided to pick up some cornichons. And a jar of pickled caper berries and some salt packed capers. I use them a lot in my cooking.

Once you assemble all the ingredients,  it takes only a few minutes to prepare the rillettes. They can easily be prepared in advance and even improve in taste after a few hours in the fridge. After a first taste test, I decided to add a few chopped capers to the rillettes. Great taste.

As herbs, I chose chives and parsley. They grow in abundance in my garden and they go very nicely with the rillettes.

So when I served them to my family as an appetizer (entrée) to our lunch, I served cornichons and caper berries alongside. I also toasted baguette rounds. Baguette always makes for a nice presentation and my family does not really like crackers all that much.

Everyone enjoyed the sardine rillettes and they liked the toasted baguette slices, cornichons and caper berries on the side.

To see what the other Doristas are up to, please click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hazelnut Baby Cakes

On Dorie Greenspan's blog "In the Kitchen and on the Road with Dorie", she posted a French recipe for Almond Baby Cakes. She writes "If you play around with the recipe, let me know what you do ...please".

So there I was standing in my kitchen on Easter Monday morning, early morning, and it was quiet in the house. Ahhh...not a sound to be heard...more ahhh...And I was reading Dorie's post about Snickerdoodles and Almond Baby Cakes.
(By the  way, I do not believe that the word "Snickerdoodles" stems from the German "Schneckennudeln", a popular pastry that is very similar to Sticky Buns. I think I will do a post on "Schneckennudeln" soon. But I am straying from my actual theme here...)

But back to the business of baking Baby Cakes. Within minutes of reading Dorie's blog, my resolution NOT to do any more baking in the week after Easter, went out the kitchen window. In the week before Easter, I had baked Easter Bunny Cakes, Easter Bundts, muffins with bunny ears, marzipan Easter Lambs (tradition in this country) and cookies, I had dyed hundred of eggs, packed countless Easter baskets and prepared a big Easter brunch. So in order to recover from my Easter baking and cooking frenzy, I decided that I should bake some more. Go figure.

But the recipe and the picture looked just too wonderful to resist. And after all, tweaking the recipe was tempting. Since I had exhausted my almond inventory when baking all these Easter Lamb Cakes and my Kirsch inventory when baking my European-style Carrot Cake, I decided to go with hazelnuts (skins on), raspberry Brandy and some pure vanilla sugar.

Since I seem to own and uncountable number of tart pans in all sorts of differents shapes and sizes, I decided to use little tart pans with removeable bottoms (4 inches/10 centimeters) as opposed to muffin tins.

This is my version of Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Baby Cakes
(Hazelnut Baby Cakes)

3 eggs, L ( use organic or free range whenever possible), at room temperature
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1 package pure vanilla sugar (contains ground vanilla bean)
1 pinch of fine sea salt
5 ounces (150 g) ground hazelnuts, not too finely ground
5 tbsp (70 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp raspberry Brandy (Himbeergeist)

12 tart pans with removeable bottoms (4 inches/10 centimeters), buttered and lined with unbleached parchment paper rounds, then buttered again and floured ( better safe here than sorry later)

(preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius)

1. In your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.

2. Add the vanilla sugar and the salt and whisk again briefly.

3. To the egg mixture, add the ground hazelnuts and whisk some more, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Switch to a spatula and knead  the butter until it gets to be very soft.

5.  Then add the butter to the batter, a small piece at a time until all the butter is used up and beat until blended.

6. Turn the mixer speed to low, add the raspberry Brandy and beat some more.

7. Using an ice cream scoop, spoon the batter into the twelve tart pans.

8. Place the tart pans on a baking sheet and transfer to the preheated oven.

9. Bake the Baby Cakes for about 25 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

10. Cool for a few minutes, turn the cakes out and cool completely.


Serve plain or with raspberries ( harmonizing with the raspberry Brandy) and/ or some softly whipped cream.

I should mention that while baking, the smell of these Baby Cakes was absolutely terrific. And I had no trouble turning them out of the tart pans, that parchment paper sure helped. And the taste was wonderful, everyone loved them plain as well as with berries and cream. Wonderful recipe!