Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Cottage Cooking Club - March Recipes

The month of March marks the twenty-third month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Everyday Veg".

One of the declared aims of our cooking group is to make a decided effort to use as much regional, organic and seasonal produce as is sensible.

This month I prepared six of the ten designated recipes. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

My first recipe for this March post is the Dressed Puy lentils (page 237) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“. We are a lentil loving nation and I have had a lot of fun trying out different types of lentils lately – after all, 2016 is also the International Year of the Pulses (for more info, please go here).

After reviewing the contents of my cupboard, I noticed that I was out of Puy lentils – they tend to be a bit hard to find around here and I should really make a habit of stocking them. But I did stock up on one of my other favorite lentils, the utterly delicious and very elegant looking black Beluga lentils. Aptly named Beluga lentils, these beauties look like little beads of caviar. Not only do they cook quickly, but they also hold their shape during cooking.

What´s not to love about these black lentils in a salad with fresh spring greens and a simple dressing of olive oil, Dijon mustard, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and let´s not forget some local cider vinegar. There is an apple orchard not far from our home and they produce a lovely apple cider – all bottled in some very pretty glass bottles and adorned with a nice vintage logo. It tastes likes apples, smooth and a bit sweet – a perfect combination with the nutty taste of the lentils.

My second recipe this month is the Roasted new potatoes with harissa (page 225) from the chapter „Bready Things“. Although I am quite aware of the fact that the sweet potato is a root vegetable that resembles a potato, and although it is quite different in taste and texture and is not related to the potato - the new potatoes in this recipe had to make room for sweet potatoes instead – I had this vision in my head of roasted orange fleshed potatoes, blissfully caramelized with harissa -  for this recipe I used the dry version of the popular North African spice mix. A harissa spice mix usually contains cumin seed, coriander seed, dried chilli, smoked paprika, sea salt, and caraway seeds. Since Mr. Whittingstall did not specify wether he means the harissa paste or the harissa spice mix, I to chose to use the later, as it made more sense when roasting veggies with it.

The potoes were gone in a flash – this is a recipe I will most definitely make again with new potatoes as well as sweet potatoes. We enjoyed the harissa-roasted sweet potoes plain, no dip, but I might go for a nice feta dip with new potatoes next time I make this wonderful recipe.

The third recipe in March is the The vegiflette toastie (page 206) from the chapter „Bready Things“.

I love this recipe – I used my French Purple Potatoes. I was, of course, just waiting for another opportunity to show off my exquisite spuds. They have a rich, somewhat chestnutty taste and a dry floury texture which makes these ideal for adding them to a rich toastie treat like this one. Together with roasted spring onions and some wild garlic as well as Gorgonzola dolce, this is a true treat indeed. And as an added bonus their lovely violet color is retained during the cooking process.

The fourth recipe in March is the Potato dauphinoise (page 60) from the chapter „Comfort Food & Feasts“.

I will admit to being a potato gratin addict – I have made so many of them and I still cannot get enough of them. Ever. Sometimes I will mix different kinds of potatoes. Sometimes I will mix the thinly sliced potatoes with other veggies. Sometimes I will use homemade broth and for extra flavor, lots of fresh thyme from the garden. Sometimes I go for the creamy, decadent version like this one…but I will never add cheese to a potato gratin as the starch from the potatoes works its magic without the help from cheese.

There is not much to say about gratins other than that they are utterly amazing – this one from Hugh is no exceptuion. With loads of butter, double cream, garlic, freshly grated nutmeg, black pepper and salt who would not want to indulge every once in a while…it was Easter after all and I always serve potato gratin at this time of year alonside some lovely lamb roast. Bliss on a plate.

The fifth recipe that cought my attention this month is the Dhal (page 238) from the chapter „Pasta & Rice“.

That, on the other hand, is a recipe that I had never prepared before. This recipe calls for red lentils – easily found in stores around here. As opposed to the Beluga lentils that hold their shape during cooking, red lentils disintegrate into a thick, dry, yellowish purée when cooked. They rae best used for soups and spicy Indian dhals.

Hugh´s recipe is rather easy to prepare with ingredients I always have at home. Other than the lentils, you need only turmeric, salt, sunflower oil, cumin and an onion.

While we enjoyed this, I will make sure to prepare the Biryani alonside next time like I was planning to in the first place. For me a Dhal like this one makes for a great appetizer with a bit of a seasonal green salad alongside.

The sixth recipe is the Nachos with refried beans (page 190) from the chapter „Bready Things“.

This is a fun dish I expressely made for the younger crowds. I remember how much they enjoyed the Refried bean foldovers when we made them back in February 2015 - if you are curious to know how that dish looked liked, please go here.

The Nachos with refried beans is one easy, crowd-pleaser of a recipe with but a few staple ingredients such as tomatoes, cannellini beans, Spanish smoked paprika, onion, garlic etc.

Served with sour cream, sliced avocados, red onions and my baked corn tortilla chips – this is one recipe that I will return to many times. If you prefer an extra kick here - make sure to use the spicy version of the Spanish smoked paprika here and make sure it is the real thing from a trusted spice merchant. I love the depth of flavor from the paprika called "Pimentón de La Vera El Caballo de Oros" de (here). - just had to mention that fancy name.

In summary, we loved each and every dish this month - the kids were pleased as punch with the Nachos with refried beans, the Sweet potatoes with harissa and the Potato gratin but also enjoyed the other recipes quite a bit. We enjoyed all six recipes but loved the Dressed Beluga lentils and the Vegiflette toastie the most. Happy all around again. Th eonly regret I have is having been able to more of the recipes this month.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure - we will be moving on to more of Hugh´s cookbook in May!

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Baking with Vegetables - Springtime Carrot Cake

The star of the show today is one of my favorites veggies - the wonderful, naturally sweet, carrot. The lovely carrot is a root vegetable and as a member of the parsley family related to the parsnip, celery and fennel. It is good to remember that smaller or organic carrots only require topping and tailing and, of course, a quick scrub. Plus the smaller ones pack a lot more flavor than the larger specimen that need to be peeled.

Carrots come in different colors too. There are, of course, the bright orange ones, then yellow and purple ones. The purple ones are said to be the “original carrots”, meaning that today´s orange carrots probably resulted from a cross between the purple and the yellow carrots. I love the prominent nutty taste of the purple variety, they are best used for a grated raw carrot salad for example.

Carrots can be used not only in soups, stews and salads but also roasted, baked, juiced and puréed. And, of course, they are an excellent choice for adding to muffins, cupcakes, cookies, breads, puddings and the most wonderful and widely beloved carrot cakes - this cake recipe is for a European-style Carrot Cake, call it a more minimalist take on the carrot cake, far removed from an American-style cream-cheese frosted version.

This recipe is one of my favorite cake recipes of all times, I love the combination of the grated carrot and the ground hazelnuts. The natural sweetness that this vegetable brings to any kind of baking is unsurpassed and just utterly delicious. The warm spices add a wonderful depth of flavor and warmness to this treat of a cake. But when adding fresh spices to this cake make sure to keep your cake batter low key, to retain as much carrot flavor as possible – a bit of Ceylon cinnamon, ground ginger and cloves, which I happen to think go well with carrots, should do it.

This is an exceptionally moist cake and keeps for a good few days.

Springtime Carrot Cake

Ingredients for the Carrot Cake
  • 300 grams  (2 1/2 cups) ground hazelnuts (you can substitute almonds or use half almonds and half hazelnuts)
  • 4 eggs (L), free range or organic if possible, separated
  • one pinch of fine sea salt
  • 200 grams (1 1/2 cups) confectioner's sugar, divided in two portions of 100 grams (1/2 plus ¼ cup), sifted
  • zest from an orange (organic or untreated)
  • 2 tbsp Kirsch* (Kirschwasser)
  • 25 grams (3 tbsp) potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon 
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 package pure vanilla sugar (best homemade)
  • 8 smallish to medium carrots, organic if possible, finely grated (about 2 cups when lightly packed)
  • a bit of soft butter for greasing the baking pan
  • a bit of flour, bread crumbs or additional ground nuts for the baking pan
* Kirsch or Kirschwasser is a colorless Brandy made from the fermented juice of cherries. But feel free to leave out the Kirsch entirely and use freshly squeezed orange juice instead.

Ingredients for the first Glaze
  • some high quality apricot jam, warmed and then strained

Ingredients for the second Glaze
  • confectioner' s sugar
  • a bit of Kirsch and milk or leave out the Kirsch and use freshly squeeezed orange juice instead

  • marzipan decorations (entirely optional)
  • 1 tbsp ground unsalted pistachios, chopped (entirely optional, you can also decorate with chopped hazelnuts or almonds)

  • a 23 centimeter (9 inch) spring form pan or other round cake pan
  • some parchment paper (unbleached if possible) for lining the pan as well as a few strips to avoid drips while glazing the cake
  • soft bristled brush
  • strainer

Preparation of the Cake
  1. Preheat your oven to 180° C (355°F).
  2. Butter your baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, butter that as well, Flour the pan and shake out the excess flour.
  3. Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground.
  4. In the bowl of your mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form. Then add 100 grams (1/2 plus ¼ cup of the sifted confectioner's sugar and continue to beat for a while until firm peaks form, set aside.
  5. In another bowl, also with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with the other half of the confectioner's sugar, the orange zest and the Kirsch until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.
  6. To the ground hazelnuts add the starch, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and vanilla sugar.
  7. Switch to a spatula and add the nut mixture, alternating with the grated carrots, to the egg mixture.
  8. Fold in the egg white mixture until no white streaks remain but do not over mix.
  9. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the sides of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack, then remove the bottom of the spring form pan.
  12. Transfer the cake to a cake platter for decorating.
  13. Before you glaze the cake, place a few strips of parchment paper under the cake to catch any drips.

Preparation of the first and second Glaze and Decoration (optional)
  1. In a small bowl, heat a few tablespoons of apricot jam, put it through a strainer and using a soft bristled brush, glaze the cooled cake.
  2. Let the apricot glaze set for a few minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk some confectioner's sugar together with one teaspoon of Kirsch or orange juice and a bit of milk. You need a thick but runny consistency.
  4. Spoon this mixture evenly over the cake.
  5. Decorate with little marzipan decoration and ground unsalted pistachios.

This Springtime Carrot Cake contains no flour and no butter, it is a very moist and nutty cake with no heavy frosting – the decoration that I chose here is also entirely optional, you could also leave this cake plain and serve it with a light dusting of confectioner´s sugar. Sometimes I chose to decorate this cake with tiny marzipan carrots but when I came across these marzipan fruits in a sweet shop, I thought that they would add a nice springtime touch to my carrot cake.

Carrot cake icing is one part of this fabulous cake that people seem to disagree on. I never really warmed to a tradition of a rich cream cheese frosting, beaten with butter and sugar. Although I enjoy some buttercream frosting every once in a sweet while, it adds a richness to a carrot cake which I happily trade in for a thin layer of homemade apricot jam and a glaze with confectioners´s sugar - sometimes less is just more - why not to let the sweet natural flavors of carrots and spices shine through.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Vanilla Bean Easter Bunny Cake

If you are anything like me, it is that time of year again when I dust off my rather extensive collection of various Easter baking pans and welcome spring with some whimsical cakes. Not only are these specialty baking pans fun to use once a year but they will also make your kids rather happy. Not to mention that the seasonally shaped cakes will make a brilliant centerpiece for your Easter table.

Sometimes I will use my Easter lamb cake pans to bake a Easter Lamb Marble Cake or Easter Lamb Coconut Cake (as can be seen here), today I have used one of my baking pans in the shape of the season’s signature rabbit. All you need to pull off this easy Easter baking project is, of course, one of those baking pans, plus a few everyday baking ingredients, no need to get too fancy here but the scraped seeds of a fresh vanilla bean or vanilla paste is a lovely addition to this simple cake batter and most definitely worth the extra splurge, it is Easter after all. Vanilla beans are the ultimate in flavoring and scenting baked goods. Their flavor is really intense and the extra perk of being able to see all those tiny black specks throughout the batter never ceases to amaze me. Vanilla bean paste can also be used here as a good alternative. Just make sure to buy a smallish jar of the scraped-out vanilla pod, and follow directions on each jar indicating proper equivalencies so you will get the fragrant, sweet, speckled end product you want. As far as conversions go, 1 vanilla bean will equal 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (which I prefer not to use but, of course, do feel free to do so).

Then, maybe with the help of some eager young kitchen assistants, decorate that bunny any way you like. Whether you sprinkle your Easter bunny with confectioners´ sugar, or drizzle him with a dark or white chocolate glaze or adorn him with some colorful icings, place him in the middle of your Easter buffet table or bring him along as a gift to a that Easter brunch at your friends´  house, the resulting Easter bunny cake will always be a charming addition to an Easter feast. Trust us on this one.

Vanilla Bean Easter Bunny Cake

Ingredients for the Cake
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, plus a bit for buttering the pan
  • 50 grams superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 egg (L), free range or organic
  • the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 50 grams almond meal (or grind natural almonds)
  • 50 grams flour, plus a bit for flouring the pan
  • 30 grams cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsps milk (I use 3.5%)

For the Decoration
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional) or dark or white chocoale glaze or shredded coconut

  1. Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
  2. Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 165° C (325° F).
  3. Grease and flour all wells of an Easter bunny cake pan (or use an Easter lamb shaped pan) and tap out the excess flour.
  4. To make the cake, put the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. 
  5.  Beat on medium speed light and creamy.
  6. Add the egg and beat until blended and smooth, about 1 minute. 
  7. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds more.
  8. Add the scraped seeds of the vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste and beat some more.
  9. In a medium bowl whisk together the almond meal, flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.
  10. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk.
  11. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling about 3/4 full, and spread the batter so the sides are slightly higher than the center. 
  12. Bake until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  13. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. 
  14. If necessary, level cake by using a serrated knife to gently saw off any portion of the cake that rose above the edge of the pan.
  15. Carefully unmold the bunny cake and place the bunny upright on a platter and lift off the pan.
  16. Let the cake cool completely before dusting with confectioners´ sugar ot decoirating it to your heart´s content.

Hope you enjoy using your fun-shaped, Easter baking pans at this time of year and while you are at it, why not dye some lovely Easter eggs and place them next to the Vanilla Bean Bunny Cake. Happy Easter Baking!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lemon Balm Drizzle Cake & Easter Eggs

If you are looking for a classic lemon drizzle cake recipe with a bit of a twist, then this recipe for my Lemon Balm Drizzle Cake is one to try. This classic cake recipe with some added lemon balm from my lovely herb garden is sweet yet zingy, satisfying yet light. It is full of citrus flavor and is perfect for all baking abilities, from beginners to those who can bake cakes with their eyes closed.

In this recipe, the light and zesty lemon sponge is glazed with a lemon icing, made with a simple sugar and lemon mixture. This lovely cake takes only under an hour to prepare and bake and it serves a small crowd. Plus it is perfect for bake sales or as a potluck dessert as it cuts neatly, is easy to transport and keeps well.

Lemon balm is such a great addition if you want some extra lemon flavor. As its name suggests, this leafy, green herb has a distinct fresh lemony flavor and fragrance. It is a member of the mint family and makes a very refreshing infusion or tea. And it is just perfect for adding to your cake batter. Only use and buy it fresh however as it loses virtually all of its flavor when dried. You could also use lemon thyme here. But do not worry if you cannot get hold of fresh lemon balm or lemon thyme, the recipe will still work without it.

Lemon Balm Drizzle Cake

Ingredients for the Cake
  • 225 g (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the baking pan
  • 225 g (8 oz) super fine baking sugar (caster sugar)
  • 275 g (10 oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 level tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs (L), free range or organic
  • 4 tbsp milk (I use 3.5%)
  • 2 lemons, untreated or organic, zest only
  • 1 heaped tbsp very finely chopped lemon balm 

Ingredients for the Lemon Glaze
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon, juice only

In addition
  • one  30 x 23cm (12 x 9 in) sheet pan
  • baking paper

  1. Preheat your oven to 180° C (356° F).
  2. Grease the baking pan with butter and line the base with baking paper.
  3. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat for 2 minutes, or until well blended.
  4. Turn the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and level the top (best done with an offset spatula).
  5. Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes until the it springs back when lightly touched with a fingertip in the center of the cake.
  6. Meanwhile, make the glaze: mix the granulated sugar with the lemon juice and stir to a runny consistency.
  7. Leave the cake to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then lift out, with the baking paper still attached, and place on wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  8. Brush the glaze all over the surface of the warm cake and leave to set.
  9. Remove the baking paper and cut into slices to serve.
  10. You can add some powdered sugar on every other piece of cake and top the remaining pieces of cake with freshly picked lemon balm leaves (optional).


It is important to spoon the glaze on to the cake while it is still warm so the lemon juice soaks in properly.
Finely chopped lemon thyme leaves work well as an alternative for lemon balm. But if you can’t get hold of any, do not worry, as the recipe still works without it.
This sheet cake bake can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days and frozen for up to a month.
If you do not want to use a sheet pan here, you can still use a springform mold (20 cm or 8 in) or two one pound loaf pans.

This cakes comes out light and lemony and when you slice into it, you can see all those lovely green flecks of lemon balm.

There is really no need to poke holes into the cake to help the syrup sink in. It is more important to add the syrup while the cake is still warm. And bear in mind it will always seem like more liquid than the cake could possible absorb, but do not worry, it will always work out. And if you feel like adding the freshly grated lemon zest right at the start to the sugar and before you cream all the ingredients together, that extra step will help to release the oils in the zest, producing an even more lemony sponge.

If anything is worth taking a little tea break for, it is a slice of this lovely Lemon Balm Drizzle Cake. And remember that a "tart drizzle demands sweet cake. And both demand a nice cup of tea".

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saint Patrick´s Day & Wild Garlic Quiche

When Wild Garlic (Ramson) appears you know that Springtime is finally on its way. The wonderfully mild garlic taste of cooked Wild Garlic makes this quiche recipe a great way to welcome back the return of the sun after many months of Winter. And a lovely and "green" way to celebrate Saint Patricks Day, of course.

The air is still rather chilly here, but the spring hardy leaves of the wild garlic are now to be found all along the woodland floor and even in our garden.. As a relative to the chive, wild garlic, as its name would indicate, has a lovely delicate garlic flavor and smell. It is ideal for using in the kitchen, tossed through a salad for some depth or as I have done today, in a quiche.

Pick the young leaves of the wild garlic, as they are more tender and fresher than the mature leaves. When out picking bring a basket as well as a damp tea towel or paper napkin to keep the leaves fresh, whilst you make your way home.

Wild Garlic Quiche

Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry
  • 250 g plain (all purpose) flour
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 110 g butter, unsalted, cold, cubed
  • 6 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the Filling
  • 100 g smoked bacon lardons, cooked (these are small chunks of diced bacon, if you cannot find them, buy thick slices of bacon and dice them yourself)
  • 4 eggs (L), free-range or organic
  • 200 g cream (such as single cream which has a fat content of 18% or use cream with a fat content up to 30% )
  • 30-40  wild garlic leaves, washed, dried and chopped
  • some sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation of the Shortcrust Pastry
  1. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the cubes of butter.
  2. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter remaining. 
  3. Using a knife, stir in just enough of the cold water to bind the dough together.
  4. Wrap the dough in food wrap and chill for 30 minutes before using.
  5. Alternatively using a food processor, put the flour, butter and salt in the food processor and pulse until the fat is rubbed into the flour.
  6. With the motor running, gradually add the water through the funnel until the dough comes together. Only add enough water to bind it and then stop.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350° F).
  8. Roll out the shortcrust pastry until it is slightly larger than a round 28 cm (11 in) tart pan with removable bottom OR use a rectangular 28 cm x 20 cm (11 in x 8 in) tart pan .
  9. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill it with rice or dried beans. 
  10. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove the greaseproof paper and rice or beans, then return the tart to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Preparation of the Filling
  1. For the filling, arrange the lardons evenly in the bottom of the pastry case.
  2. Then spread the chopped wild garlic over the lardons.
  3. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and cream until well combined. 
  4. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the pastry case.
  6. Transfer the quiche to the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the egg mixture has set.
  7. Set the quiche aside to cool.

Wild garlic is very easy to identify, but you should still make sure to familiarize yourself with the plant using a good foraging book. They can be mixed up with Lily of the Valley, but are easy to distinguish by crushing a leaf with your fingers. The tell-tale odor should ensure you pick the right leaves. The leaves can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Be sure to wash them well - some recipes also call for blanching the leaves for a few minutes in boiling water. Wild garlic can be stirred into risottos or omelettes, added to soups or used in sauces to accompany meat and fish.

Wether you are celebrating Saint Patrick´s Day today – or whether you are just looking for something seasonal and „green“ to enjoy today, this light, springtime Wild Garlic Quiche of mine, will be just the recipe to prepare.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy π-Day with a Poppy Seed Quark Pie!

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations. An approximation for Pi is 3.14, or March 14 using the US date system. So mathematicians, who are always on the lookout to make their subject more interesting to a broader audience, have jumped on today as a day to promote what is a lot of people's favorite little number.

So, let´s make some pie for today´s celebration – I like pies and I just love making them. Sweet as well as savory. My Poppy Seed Quark Pie is one of my favorite pies to make. It combines a lot of the flavors I enjoy. The tangyness of the Quark (or fromage blanc) and the grated lemon zest, the sweet poppy seed filling and the buttery shortcrust pastry all combine in the most delicious of ways. One thing to remember when making this pie is that the pie shell must be made with care, so the edges don’t shrink as they cook, otherwise it will leak once the filling goes in. I always keep a little bit of pastry aside so I can patch any holes before I add the Quark as well as the poppy seed filling.

Poppy Seed Quark Pie

Ingredients for the Shortcrust Pastry
  • 200 g (7 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 8 g (1 sachet) pure vanilla sugar or homemade vanilla sugar
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 egg (M), free range or organic
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

Ingredients for the Quark Topping
  • 25 g (1.7 oz) unsalted butter
  • 375 g (13 oz) low fat Quark* (or use fromage blanc)
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) superfine (caster) sugar
  • grated zest of one organic lemon
  • 25 g (0.7 oz) vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 egg (M), free range or organic

Ingredients for the Poppy Seed Topping
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 250 g (8.8 oz) poppy seed filling, either use a ready-to-bake poppy seed filling for cakes, pastries, dumplings and desserts OR make your own (see recipe below)
  • one egg yolk (M), free range or organic

  • a tart pan with removable bottom or springform pan (diameter 26 cm or 10 1/4 in)

  1. To make the shortcrust pastry, mix together the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add all the other ingredients for the shortcrust pastry and whisk everything using a hand-mixer (kneading hook), first on the lowest setting, then on the highest setting until all the ingredients have been incorporated and formed a shortcrust pastry. Then shape into a disk  with your hands. If the pastry feels sticky, wrap it in clingfilm (plastic film) and put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  2. For the Quark topping, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Set aside.
  3. For the poppy seed topping, mix the poppy-seed filling with 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Grease the bottom of the tart pan or springform mold.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F - fan-assisted oven: 160° C / 325° F.
  6. Sprinkle flour on your work surface and roll out 2/3 of the pastry, make sure it is a bit larger than your tart pan.
  7. Roll the dough up with the help of the rolling pin and place in the baking pan.
  8. Spread the Quark topping on first and then distribute the poppy seed topping over it.
  9. Roll out the 1/3 remaining pastry thin and cut into strips.
  10. Place the pastry strips over the poppy seed topping in a grid pattern.
  11. Brush on egg yolk and milk mixture.
  12. Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.
  13. Leave the tart to cool in the tart pan or springform mold on a cake rack.
  14. Loosen the tart from the tart pan or springform mold and remove it.

NOTE: *Different fresh cheeses have a slightly different texture – a fromage blanc needs draining 24 hours beforehand. A goat’s milk fromage blanc will add an interesting flavor here. Drain in a colander lined with a tea-towel, leave in the fridge for 24 hours or more with a heavy weight on top.

Recipe for Poppy Seed Filling
(if you cannot find ready-made poppy seed filling, you can always make your own following this recipe)

  • 225 g (8 oz.) poppy seeds
  • 55 g (1.9 oz) unsalted butter
  • 235 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 150 g (6 oz) cup sugar
  • 85 g (3 oz) mild runny honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (M), organic or free range, beaten

  1. Grind the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder in batches until they are powdery.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Whisk the milk, sugar, honey and salt into the melted butter.
  4. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and the honey is melted.
  5. Carefully transfer some of the hot mixture to a small bowl.
  6. Gradually add the hot mixture to the bowl with the beaten eggs. Whisk briskly and constantly until all of the hot liquid is integrated into the eggs.
  7. Slowly pour the heated, tempered egg mixture back into the hot mixture in the saucepan, whisking constantly.
  8. Continue to whisk and cook for 3 to 5 more minutes over medium heat till the mixture thickens and turns light yellow. It is ready when it thickly coats the back of a spoon.
  9. Remove the saucepan from heat.
  10. Then whisk the ground poppy seeds into the buttery liquid and stir well to blend all ingredients.
  11. Allow filling to cool to room temperature before using.
  12. You can make the poppy seed filling ahead of time and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for a few days.

May you enjoy π-Day as well as my recipe for a Poppy Seed Quark Pie – fabulous taste and a bit of old-world charm are all combined in this delightful pie of a dessert.