Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year! - Frohes Neues Jahr! - Bonne Année! - Felice Anno Nuovo!

With a picture of our traditional New Year´s Eve pastries called “Mutzenmandeln” I would like to send my New Year wishes! Have a “Happy New Year! – Frohes Neues Jahr! – “Bonne Année! – “Felice Anno Nuovo!”

Saturday, December 29, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Go-with-everything Celery Root Purée

Today the recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Go-with-everything Celery Root Purée.

Dorie´s recipe is easy and since we cook quite a bit with celery root around here, I had no trouble finding some celery root (or "Celeriac") and putting the left-overs to good use. I decided to serve the Go-with-everything Celery Root Purée as an appetizer with a soft-boiled egg, beetroot salad with walnut oil and some cress – made a nice change to the usual potato purée that we eat on a regular basis.

To see how delicious the Go-with-everything Celery Root Purée made by the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group turned out, please click here.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you “All the best for the New Year!Alles Gute für das Neue Jahr! –  Bonne et heureuse année!”. I am very much looking forward to the coming year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Cheez-it-ish Crackers

Today the recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group are Cheez-it-ish Crackers.

Crisp Cheese Crackers spiced with a bit of white pepper and some Aleppo pepper. Perfect as a starter, for snacking or serving with dips. And simple and ideal when friends visit. The cheese in this recipe is Gruyère, the famous Alpine cheese, which originated in Switzerland but is also now produced in France. It has a firm, pliable texture and a nutty, slightly sweet flavor, and is popularly used in dishes such as fondues and gratins (I always use Gruyère as part of my Cheese Fondue Mix – which we always eat New Years). Gruyère is at its best from mid-November to mid-April. Swiss Gruyère - labelled as “Le Gruyère Switzerland” is protected and will have the word ‘Switzerland’ stamped in red across the top and bottom of its rind. If you prefer a milder flavor, look for “Gruyère Doux” (mild Gruyère), which will have been matured for around 5 months, rather than “Gruyère Vieux” (aged Gruyère), which can be aged for up to 18 months.

We all adored these Cheese Cracker, they taste a bit different from my usual Cheese Cracker recipe (which contains some sour cream and aged Gouda), so I was eager to get some reactions – they were very well received and since the dough was easy to roll-out and transfer to the cookie sheets (even the kids got involved), and the baked Crackers had a wonderful cheesy flavor, this recipe will certainly make many more appearances at our house.

To see how delectable the Cheese Crackers made by the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group turned out, please click here.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you “Happy Holidays! – Frohe Festtage! – Joyeuses Fêtes!”  Hopefully, our Christmas Cards for the FFwD Christmas Card Exchange have arrived in time at all their destinations. I would also like to send a big “Thank You! – Danke! – Merci!” to all of you who send their cards and greetings our way. I cannot tell you how much it means to me (and my family) to receive all your cards, colorful and wonderful and prepared with such dedication and lots of love! It has been a real pleasure cooking and baking along with all of you, reading and looking at all your blogs and receiving all the warm and wonderful comments! I am truly looking forward to the coming year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - Finnish Pulla

Today´s recipe for the Tuesdays with Julia group is Finnish Pulla.

This recipe for a Finnish sweet dessert bread  is by contributing baker Beatrice Ojakangas. Most sweet breads are made with a yeast-based dough that gives rise to a lighter and fluffier texture than that of traditional breads. This recipe like any other basic recipe, calls for the flour and yeast to be combined with an amount of liquid (warm milk) to form a soft dough mixture, which is then left to rise. The soft, pliable, aerated dough is then separated into three strands of dough that get braided first and then formed into a ring, or wreath and then left to rise again before baking. This Pulla dough is flavored with one teaspoon of freshly crushed cardamom seeds, brushed with an egg wash and topped with slivered almonds and pearl sugar just before baking.

The Pulla smelled heavenly when baking and looked pretty – I used a large vintage pie baking pan from my collection of old bake ware and it was the exact right size for this large Finnish sweet bread wreath. And since I had some dough left over, I used a mini springform pan to bake a small version.

The Pulla is wonderful served fresh with some really good butter and jam or local honey and a nice cup of tea or coffee for dunking. This recipe is just fabulous! And will certainly make numerous reappearances at our house. We really liked the addition of the almonds and pearl sugar on top of the wreath, not only did it make for a nice presentation, it also tasted just wonderful since the bread itself is not overly sweet.

Breads like this Pulla can quickly go stale if exposed to air. So, ideally, you should allow the bread to cool properly and then wrap any left overs in saran wrap or aluminium foil and keep them stored in airtight containers for up to three days.

On the occasion of the approaching Christmas, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all
A Christmas full of love, joy and health and many happy moments in the coming 2013 year! – Ich wünsche allen frohe und besinnliche Festtage und alles Gute für das kommende Jahr 2013!

To see all the other Finish Pulla by the talented members of the Tuesday with Dorie group, please do click here.

The recipe can be found at Erin´s delightful blog - "Thank you" so much for being such a gracious host, Erin!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrating Advent at the Outdoor Museum - Advent im Freilichtmuseum

Every year on the third Sunday of Advent, we take the children for a visit to our favorite Outdoor Museum which was designed to help visitors understand the present time while experiencing a journey into the past and thereby enabling us to compare the present time with bygone times. The Museum focuses on documenting country life as it used to be. 

There are a number of buildings such as residential buildings, farmyards, a blacksmith`s workshop and a bakery - they all have been re-erected in the Museum and most of them were re-constructed in their original condition after being moved.

While walking around the Museum grounds, you will also encounter the animals which formerly characterized the images of the village.

Throughout the year, you can witness traditional work which changes on a daily basis, such as preparation of country meals on an antique stove, baking bread in the bakery, forging nails at the blacksmith`s shop - or you will encounter the country postman wearing an imperial uniform and, in summer, farmers with a yoke of oxen.

But once a year, on the third Sunday of Advent, there is a seasonal "Advent Market" (Adventsmarkt) which is absolutely delightful.

Among the gifts with a rather unique and "rustic appeal", you can buy some wonderful wooden mushrooms (cut with a chainsaw) - I bought a big one and placed it in front of our house today.

 All the half-timbered houses were decorated with fir-branches...

...and the paths leading up to some of the houses were lined with wonderful decorations.

 They were cute little wooden bird houses...

...and hand-crafted jewelry (which the girls adored).

My favorite window of a gift shop...

 ...and, of course, I could not pass up the opportunity to bake some colorful and delicious Cassis-Vanilla-Butter Cookies and bring them along for snacking (and some photo taking).

This is the outside of the beautiful light blue old ropeyard...

...with an old wooden sign bearing the name of the rope maker.

 You could buy wooden Christmas decorations inside the old workshop...

 ...and look at the raw material that the ropemaker works with...

...just take a look at the amazing ropes that he made...

...more ropes and knots. You could buy all kinds of different ropes by the meter. 

More seasonal decorations...

...and a cute angel peeking out of the window of the ropery.

 In an adjacent building, I found these three fantastic Wise Men (crafted out of metal).

Then we went to take a look at the blacksmith´s admirable works of art... could watch him forge many different thigs such as candle holders and nails...

...just take a look at the antique equipment that he still uses.

A woodcarver/woodworker sold angels and Christmas trees.

The last building we visited was an old farmhouse (my personal favorite). I adored the vintage photograph of the former inhabitants that was on display in the entrance...

...more lovely red candles that looked wonderful in the collectable plates that were placed on top of the old iron kitchen stove.

There was a display of an old doll´s house (as an example of the kinds of gifts that children used to received)...

...and a vintage wooden puzzle...

 ...and hand-crafted Christmas decorations (making good use of those walnut shells)...

...and an intriguing display of the natural products that people used for brewing "substitute coffee", such as "coffee" made from peas, acorns or chicory.

There were vintage books...

 ...and a lovely water carafe for the morning.

What a sparingly yet wonderful simple bedroom with a wooden bed, linen bed clothes and nightgowns...

...and yet another bedroom decorated in the same delightful way...

 ...with white walls and some more hints of the former inhabitants faith.

Some wonderful vintage glass containers were on display in one of the bedrooms.

Even Saint Nicholas made an appearance (wearing a miter and a crozier) and he brought some fruits, nuts and apples for the children.

What a wonderful way to spend the third Sunday of Advent with the children at this fantastic Outdoor Folk Museum. We will certainly visit again soon.