Chocolate Upright Pear Cake

The air is starting to be crisper, leaves turning into wonderful shades of red and brown. Truly, Fall is slowly creeping into my kitchen as well. I got a windfall of pears, and I have been itching to try out a recipe ever since I saw a picture of it in New Urban Farmer from Celia Brooks Brown.

Apart from its appearance, the cake is also unsusual in that chocolate cakes are normally made moist by the amount of oil in them. This is made moist by the pear juice. It looks really stunning in person and I can only recommend this cake.

Ingredients:

100 g all purpose flour, 1 packet baking powder, 50 g cocoa powder, 50 g ground almonds, 175 g softened salted butter, 175 g brown sugar, 3 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, 5 small pears or 4 big pears.

You need a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease the sides. Pre-heat the pan to 180°C.

Mix the dry ingredients together well. First the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then the ground almonds.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix in an egg, and add a tablespoon of the dry ingredients. Add the two other eggs, then the flour mixture with the milk. Pour this into the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Slice off the bottom of the pears and place them in the batter. Make sure that the pears are at least an inch apart and an inch away from the border. Place in the oven for 45-60 minutes. (I followed the recipe but I ended up with a burned cake. I’d say 30-45 minutes. trust your instincts on this one!) Let cool and separate from the form. Could be served with whipped cream.

Book Review: The Magnolia Cookbook


magnolia

Does America have a taste? The Magnolia Cookbook, comes from the former owners of what was probably the most in-demand pastry shop in New York during the ’90s.It has inspired many people to devote their lives making cupcakes, including I believe the people behind Cupcakeria. It basically covers America’s baked passions like cobbler and pecan pie, and none of the coffee-cake nonsense that German bakeries offer. We’re talking about major moisture and maximum fluffiness.

I spotted this at–where else? TK Maxx, and started with their blueberry muffins.Then I got cracking on their pecan pie. The muffins were really moist, but I wouldn’t call it extraordinary. The pecan pie was interesting, but it isn’t someting I would write home about. I haven’t tried anything of theirs yet that made me say, “Yes, this one is a winner!”

What I found most interesting about this cookbook is that they have devoted the beginning of the book to their set of very specific set of instructions regarding their baking and stirring techniques. That they always use room-temperature eggs, do not over-mix the  dough or batter, pie crust dough has to be sprinkled with ice water…and this for four pages. Learning about the process is what I find most fascinating, which is why I’m learning how to cook.

The techniques mentioned really do work! Ice water and vegetable oil make for a flaky pie crust, while buttermilk and ignoring lumps in the batter make for a moister cake. Just learning how I could prevent a cheesecake from cracking in the oven makes this book worth the money I spent on it.

Apfeltaler

I am generally a patient person. I couldn’t be an English teacher if I weren’t. However my friend Anne has got me beat. She is excellent in involving her kids in the process of cooking and food preparation. I tend to be perfectionist, and do get irritated when my kid doesn’t or can’t make it like Mommy does.

So last week we got together and made something wonderful out of two almost overripe apples. They are easy to make, and my son and his friends had a lot of fun making them. So what if they aren’t perfect? They taste divine just out of the oven, and that is all that matters.

The recipe comes from Backzeit, a baking cookbook sponsored by Swiss Milk Producers Association.

You’ll need: For the base, 200g flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, a pinch of salt, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 100 g cold butter, cut into small squares, and a scrambled egg.

For the toppings, 3 Apples (Cox Orange recommended, but not necessesary); cored, peeled and cut thinly lengthwise,  50 g melted butter, 2 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and rub it with your hands into the dry ingredients. Form a well, drop the egg, and mix only until well incorporated: DO NOT KNEAD. Wrap with plastic film and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can peel and halve the apples. Remove the cores, slice the apples in quarters, then again into thin slices. Mix the melted butter with the sugar and cinnamon.

Pinch out a walnut-sized piece of dough and roll it flat. Alternatively, you can roll the entire thing flat and use a round cookie cutter 3 inches in diameter and punch out the cookie dough.  Place the apples on them accordion-style and brush them with the butter-cinnamon mixture. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and  bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

 

Strawberry Torte Cake

So thanks to a bumper crop of strawberries from my in-law’s garden, I had two kilos of fruit that needed to be worked on, fast.

The thing about German berries is that time is of the essence. You can’t just leave them open for a few days. Like cherries, berries have to be either eaten or turned into something  within two days after picking, or else they go moldy or bad.

Now after turning a kilo of strawberries into chunky strawberry jam, I needed to do something with the rest. Thanks to a friend, she gave me her recipe for Biskuitboden, which needed a significantly lower amount of eggs from the recipe I found (two eggs versus six eggs!)

Her recipe is:

100 g butter or margarine, 100g sugar, 5g vanilla sugar, 2 eggs, 150 g flour, 1 tsp baking powder

Thoroughly grease tart pan with butter, and pre-heat oven to 180°C. Mix softened butter/margarine with sugar until creamy,add vanilla sugar then eggs, then flour. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

I was quite pleased with the results of the cake base, and I would like to experiment by adding a dash of lemon juice to add a bit of flavor.

And I still had a bowl of strawberries left over after that! I turned half of it into yogurt strawberry shake with muscovado sugrar and packed the rest for me and my kid’s lunch.

French Toast

These are a beloved childhood favorite. These are special treats made by my dear departed grandma when we had pan de sal left over from the day before. Her recipe was to dip the halved rolls in a mixture that consisted of  two eggs, a tablespoon of sugar, and a bit of evaporated milk whisked together, then fried in oil.

I still make french toast when I have too many pieces of toast left over to prevent them from going bad, which was the case last weekend. So in lieu of pancake Saturday, we had french toast 🙂 I’ve tried many recipes, but I’ve stuck with Nigella’s because 1) I am pretty traditionalist with my french toast;  and 2) the ingredients are all things I have lying around the house, and I don’t have to do extra shopping to whip up a batch.

The only thing I would change about Nigella’s recipe is her technique: I do not soak my french toast for five minutes at each side, since it soaks up too much egg and the bread slices break up when you put them in a pan.

They tasted as good as they looked. When was the last time you made french toast?

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding

There really is nothing like having dinner with great company and good food to lift somebody’s spirits. I was feeling really crappy last weekend, but I pulled myself together to spend time gossiping and cooking with friends. We had a wonderful fatty but low-carb dinner, without really thinking about the menu, and it was all topped off with a wonderful dessert!

My friend Caroline told me that sticky toffee pudding is pretty much as traditionally English as you can get. I only have terrible memories of my grand-uncle’s pudding made out of day-old bread, and toffee I only know as a sweet, and from my son’s favorite Thomas the Train book, Sticky Toffee Thomas. As Caroline emphasized, the horrible reputation of British cuisine is undeserved, and with cooks like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsey, I definitely agree, if the pudding is anything to go by. It was a pleasant surprise, as the dates really complemented the caramel flavor of the toffee.

Here’s the recipe, the only thing that changed was that Caroline used whipping cream since she wasn’t able to get double cream from the supermarket. The uncanny thing was that the sauce tasted exactly like Latik sauce from Suman sa Lihiya, but it had a completely different set of ingredients! Latik sauce is made from coconut milk and muscovado sugar, while toffee sauce has butter, cream, and muscovado sugar. Well, it is basically creamy fat mixed with sugar, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I have to try this recipe out one day, it is really sinfully delicious! Thanks Caroline!

Obsttorte/Fruit Pie/ Crema de Fruita

Fruits, cake, and cream. It doesn’t matter where you are, this combination is always a hit. What I like about Germany is that if you want to cheat about “from scratch cooking,” you can and still get from scratch results.

This is my go-to potluck party cake if I am short on time. Get fruits from the grocery store, get a packet of vanilla pudding powder, get  glaze powder, milk, and prepared cake base.

Slice the fruits, prepare vanilla pudding according to packet instructions. Once cooled,  spread it on the base like pizza. Place the fruits on it. Prepare the glaze according to packet instructions. A total of 35 minutes and you’re done!

It isn’t really efficient to make your own base because you need SIX eggs to make it, in comparison to the cost of buying it at the supermarket (€1,79 at Rewe), but if I ever make it from scratch scratch, I’ll let you know.

Martha Stewart’s Lion Cake

The one cake that started it all

I started with the whole baking thing because of cakes. I was so inspired by my consistency in baking a good Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte that I decided to up the ante and offered to bake the birthday cake of one of my son’s friends.

When I asked the boy’s mom what was his favorite thing at the time, I thought I bit off more than what I could chew when she said “Lions.”

Alrighty then. I decided to roll up my sleeves and after some research, I decided to bake Martha Stewart’s Lion Cake.

It was this time when I bought my 4 1/2″ springform pan. Though many people think that a small springform pan is useless, I have no regrets! The trickiest part here is making the Caramel Buttercream icing. I mean, 9 egg whites for icing?! But the effort was so worth it. The icing tasted like Goldilocks icing, and it was addictive.

The boy was ecstatic after seeing his birthday cake. It made me so happy, it encouraged me to bake even more.

My next post will tell you what I did with the egg yolks…

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everybody! I hope you all had a great time with family and friends. In the picture above, I have featured two traditional Easter baked goodies in Germany: sweet bread with raisins, and Easter lamb. Easter lamb-shaped cake tins  are available here around Lent, and in some churches, churchgoers bake them and are given to  elderly parishoners who could not go to church anymore. The sweet bread one is a one-eared bunny made by my son and his Oma. 🙂

I am usually skeptical of recipes that are printed on the box. As I child, I used to rip off Del Monte can labels and save the recipes at the back. Now I know that they are used as advertising. This time, following the box recipe saved me from doing unnecessary research. This recipe comes from the box of the cake form featured on my link.

You would need:

2 small eggs, 60 g sugar, 65 g soft butter, 1/2 sachet vanilla sugar (I used 1/2 Tablespoon), a pinch of salt, 15 g flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and some icing sugar. Lemon flavoring/extract optional

Separate the eggs. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites, adding 30 g of sugar bit by bit until stiff. In another bowl, beat the yolks with the rest of the sugar, melted butter, vanilla sugar and salt until foamy. Add in the lemon flavoring if so desired. Mix the flour and baking powder in a cup, and add it the yolk mixture, and mix with a spatula. Fold in the beaten egg white until well-incorporated. The result is a mass that is somewhere between batter and dough.

Grease the baking form by brushing the insides with melted butter, and close the form and secure with the clips provided. Turn the cake tin upside down, and pour the batter into it. Bake it upside down for 180°C top-and-bottom heat for about 30 minutes. Test the center with a stick.

If you need the cake in a jiffy, take out the cake tin, let it cool, wrap the tin with a wet kitchen towel for 10 minutes and gingerly release the lamb from the tin and saw off the bottom part to even it out.

I was too lazy, so i just waited until completely cool and removed it from the cake form.

Dust with powdered sugar with a small sieve, dot the eyes with chocolate or raisins. Enjoy!

 

 

Das Ist Keine Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Not A Black Forest Cake

As a kid, I always saved up money so I could buy a slice of “Black Forest Cake” from our school canteen. Sure, the “cherry” was red glace icing, and there weren’t any cherries between the cake layers, but still. Chocolate! One of the things I said to myself when I started baking was, I needed to learn how to make this!

Six years in Germany, and I still haven’t eaten “real” Black Forest Cake. Don’t you know it is a regionally protected brand? The Kirchwasser doesn’t come from Swaben, the cake wasn’t made in Baden-Wüttemburg, so technically, this Black Forest Cake…isn’t. So call this an imitation Black Forest Cake.

I would like to thank Sofi from Chefkoch.de for sharing her wonderful recipe. It is quite easy to make, but the execution is tricky. I have made this cake in the most rudimentary of conditions in the Philippines, using my homemade cherry jam as a filling (thank you balikbayan boxes!) in a turbo broiler! My tip: refrigerate the eggs, since the whites turn to stiff peaks much quicker than ones in room temperature.

For the cake itself, you would need:

140 g baking chocolate (55% cocoa solids), 75 g (a little less than 1/3 c) butter, 6 eggs, refrigerated, 180 g sugar, 100 g all-purpose flour, 50 g cornstarch, 2 tsp. baking powder.

For the layers and icing:

2 650 g jars of preserved sour cherries, (makes 700-800 g cherries when drained), 500 ml  cherry juice from the preserves, 4 level Tbsp. cornstarch, 800 ml whipping cream, 3 Tbsp. (or 3 packets, if you prefer it sweeter) of vanilla sugar. This can be replaced by sugar mixed with vanilla extract or vanillin in Manila. 100 ml Kirchwasser, (optional if making cake for children) 17 cocktail or candied cherries, and 100 grams of chocolate shavings. While it can be bought ready-made in Germany and the US, this is not the case in the Philippines. It is easy enough to make using either a potato peeler or melting, then scraping the chocolate off a flat pan. Please use European chocolate with at least 50 % chocolate solids, like Lindt or Ritter Sport. I was most disappointed by the quality of baking chocolate in the Philippines. If making this with cherry jam, about 600 ml cherry jam will do.

How to : the cake

bf2In a double boiler (bain-Marie), melt the chocolate and the butter together over very warm (not boiling!) water. When melted, set aside to cool a little. Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar with an electric mixer until lemony-yellow and foamy, then mix in the choco-butter mixture. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Sift the flour, baking powder, and cornstarch over the egg whites, then fold gently. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg whites and continue folding until the mixture is well incorporated.

Line the bottom of an 8-9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Cut up a sheet of paper, put over the bottom, put the barrel over it, tighten to seal, then cut the excess paper around the springform). Bake in a 175° C preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. When this is done, allow to fully cool before removing the ring. The cake is dry, as it needs to be.

Meanwhile, you can make the cherry filling. If you are using cherry jam, lucky you, no need to do these next steps.

Drain the preserved cherries, setting aside 500 ml (2 cups) of the juice. Take about half a cup of this juice, and mix with the cornstarch and sugar. Boil the rest of the juice in a saucepan, then add the juice slurry in it. Mix in the cherries, and add half (50 ml) of the Kirchwasser.

Ok here it comes. How to thinly slice across a cake . if you don’t have a cake leveler, you would need a) a bread knife, and b) sewing thread long enough to go around the cake (around 30 inches/ 70 cm)

bf3With a serrated bread knife, cut a groove around the cake about a centimeter and a half (half an inch) from the top.

bf4 Place the sewing thread into the groove you cut. Make an x with both ends of the string. with a see-sawing motion, pull the threads to and fro until the threads cut into the cake. do this until the top separates from the rest of your cake. Set this cake top aside, and repeat this

bf5process with the second half of the cake, cutting it in half, ending up with three different pieces of cake. Never mind the crumbs and pieces falling off: this can be repaired later with icing. If using Kirchwasser, sprinkle it over the cakes.

Whip 500 ml whipping cream, adding 2 Tbsp. Vanilla sugar in the middle of the whipping process. You know that it is whipped if you can turn the bowl upside-down and the cream doesn’t slip out. Do not overbeat unless you want to accidentally churn butter.

The next step is better done on cardboard cake lining. Place this lining on a cake butler tray if this cake is meant to be transported.

Place the ring of the springform pan on the cake board, then put the top part of the cake, baked side up, at the bottom. The ring acts as a mold for the cake.Spread half of the cherry mixture or jam over the cake. Then spread half of the whipped cream over it. Repeat the process with the middle portion of the cut cake. Then place the whole thing in the fridge overnight for the cherry mixture to set. If using cherry jam, you can skip this process.

bf6The next morning, place the bottom part of the cake, cut side down and the smooth side up, on the cake. Remove the ring. Whip the rest of the cream, half-filling a pastry bag capped with the largest star-shaped tip you have for the garnish, and use the rest to cover the entire cake with it with a spatula.

Now, covering the cake  sides with chocolate shavings takes some practice. Using a small cup or a small, stiff plastic bag, splay the sides of the cake with the chocolate shavings with a flick of the wrist. Remember how a priest douses churchgoers with holy water? Like that. Then sprinkle the top. This gets messy, so a pastry brush is very helpful to clean up the mess.

Pipe the rest of the cream on top of the cake, one very large dot at a time. then place the cherries on top.

I make this cake once or twice a year. It really is worth the effort!