I really like getting invited to restaurants because it gives me the opportunity to try out new places and new cuisines.
There used to be a stall at the Cathedral Square in Erfurt that sold Cretan products. They had olive oil, thyme honey, and cheeses from the island of Crete. It was run by a couple–he was Cretan, she German–who then decided to open a restaurant.
It has been open for over a year now, and this is normally a make.or-break time period for a restaurant. If the novelty wears off and you still get a ton of customers, it means that you’ve made it! It looks like they did.
I was part of a party of ten. We decided against ordering individual dishes and got several platters of Cretan specialties instead. So we had the meat platter, the appetizer platter (consisting of dips for the baskets of bread brought by the hosts), the cheese platter and the seafood platter, just to get a vibe of the restaurant.
The atmosphere was great! Cozy place in the heart of the city–it’s better to pay more rent since the traffic that you get pays more than enough. I really liked the dips. And the fries were just luxurious–and not only because it was deep-fried in extra virgin olive oil! The meat was a bit on the dry side, but I liked the pork belly a lot.
Over-all, it was excellent advertising for the owner’s home village in Crete. The interiors were cozy, filled with old family pictures, and a photo album was passed around, which showed the guests who made what. The Olive oil they sell, for example, comes from the olive grove of the owner’s cousin. The honey is organic and comes from a family friend.
The cuisine wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I would visit it just to keep the variety in Erfurt’s restaurant landscape. And also for the freshly-squeezed orange juice.
Grafengasse 30, 99084 Erfurt
Reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +49 361 657 09636
I am a big sucker for tradition. This year was no different, except for the fact that The Kid has reached an age where there are things that MUST be done. He has fully embraced Christmas, and was so excited to trim this year’s tree.
Believe it or not, my six-year old decorated the advent wreath you see above. All by himself! I may have added a few touches, putting in the candles and bundling up the pine switches around the hay base.
I am so proud to see The Kid blossom into his own person, expressing his tastes and using his creativity to decorate for Christmas. It makes me even more excited for December 25!
So a birthday boy needed a birthday cake. This is the first time that I pulled off something like this! The process is chronicled on my Instagram account (click right!). Thank my lucky stars that fondant is now readily available in supermarkets in Germany. It’s not perfect, but it took me a week to put this together (It would’ve been shorter if I didn’t spend the day hacking my brains out! I was seriously ill with the flu.)
I baked my go to chocolate buttermilk cake for this one. I baked three times the amount of the recipe, and split the batter between two 9×13 inch pans and one 8×8 inch square brownie pan. I also used Magnolia bakery’s chocolate buttercream icing recipe. You would need 1 and ahalf to two portions of the icing to cover the cake. But you can use whatever cake/frosting recipe you prefer. After baking and cooling the cakes, I stacked the second cake over the first cake, the second cake upside down so that the flat bottom was facing up, using the icing to keep them together. Then I iced 2/3rds of the top layer, and stacked the square cake on it.
I carved the cake using a bread knife for the general shape, and a small steak knife for the refining details. Then I “dirty iced” the cake to keep all the crumbs in, and left it outside, covered with a stiff shopping bag, to freeze. The real reason I prefer baking in winter is because I don’t have a box freezer, and I could just leave it outside when the recipe calls for freezing or refrigerating.
The night the cake spent outside should sufficiently stabilize the cake enough to support the heavy fondant. I needed two big bricks of red fondant, one medium sized brick of black, another medium sized brick of white, and some blue.
The biggest discovery I made so far was pens with food coloring ink to paint the sides and logos! It was really helpful. The wheels were made by pressing an espresso cup into the black fondant, smothing it out with my hands, and sticking it to the sides of the cake.
The kids ended up not liking the cake, and treated it more like a sculpture than food. but hey, it was a great learning experience.
I would like to thank my friend in Berlin for sending me the recipe for this delicious tart. I am sorry that I didn’t do such a good job with the photos, but it tasted really good! I pinky swear it!
The fact that you can now buy cheap, ready made Dulce de Leche from Rewe was the reason I decided to make this tart for my birthday. And I wanted to test my brand new mixer 😀 Since I didn’t have a pie dish with a detachable bottom, I had to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t gonna lift perfect slices, despite oiling the pie dish very heavily.
If you don’t have pie weights, you could use dried beans, like chickpea. I used mung beans, which you could in turn make into guinataang munggo (remind me to share you the recipe one day).
The recipe was published in David’s book My Paris Kitchen. This is how I made this tart
For the Crust: 6 Tablespoons/ 85 g butter (preferably salted) at room temperature or softer, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 large egg yolk, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt, and 1 Tablespoon water (optional)
Filling: 230 g chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup (240 g) dulce de leche, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling.
Make the crust before the filling. Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the powdered sugar at low speed, until smooth. Mix in the yolk, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.
In another bowl, whisk the flour and the cocoa powder together, and add to the butter mixture until the dough comes together. If it looks dry, add a tablespoon of water (which I did). Roll into a ball. Pull a plate- sized (about 15 inches by 15 inches) portion of saran wrap (cling film) on a flat surface, place the dough ball on it, flatten a bit with the heel of your hand and wrap the dough in the film. Set aside for 30 minutes. You can also use a clean plastic bag, it is probably easier.
After 30 minutes, roll the dough relatively flat in the bag or unwrap the dough, place another sheet of cling film over it, and roll with a rolling pin. When the dough is wide enough to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart ring with a removable bottom, remove the top sheet, place the dough in the tart ring by flipping it in using the plastic film for stability, and try to evenly cover the walls of the dish by pressing your fingers at the dough located at the bottom and sides of the dish and pushing the dough up the walls, until the rim. Sprinkle the sea salt over the dough and press it into the pastry. Cover the tart ring with the wrap you used to roll it in, and freeze for 30 minutes. Colder temperatures means that I could just open the balcony door and let it rest outside.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Once the 30 minutes are up, line the dough with aluminum foil and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and the weights, and bake for 5 more minutes, until the shell feels set. Take the shell out of the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C.
During the waiting/baking period you can get cracking on the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bain-Marie, remove the bowl from heat once melted, and set a strainer on top.
Whisk the eggs into a bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm, and whisk the milk into the eggs. Not too warm, we don’t want the eggs to scramble! Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or a wire whisk, until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate, and add the vanilla, stirring until smooth.
Carefully spread the Dulce de Leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer. It helps to let the Dulce sit for 30 seconds before spreading, the warmth of the tart bottom will soften the cream enough, making it easier to spread. Set the tart sheet on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then carefully pur the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche. Smooth the top, and sprinkle with more salt.
Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the tart with the door closed for 25 minutes more.
You can remove it from the oven and let cool before serving. I just let the tart in the oven overnight and served it to my guests the day after.
David recommends serving it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but the tart is so filling, I don’t think you will need more sweet! The crust tastes a lot like Oreo cookies, so it was really addictive.
Yo yo yo, what do we have here? Others may have bling on their fingers; I have bling in my kitchen. Finally got myself one of them free-standing mixers. Ok, it ain’t no KitchenAid, but hey, I got me a mixer.
Ok, I just want to show off. But it was a birthday gift! And what a birthday gift! Thanks Schnufi!
You didn’t think I was really leaving, did you?
I know, I know, it’s been a year. A crazy year, if I may say. I finally got my divorce, after three (!) years. I picked up a man and a dog along the way. And I am back in school.
I haven’t stopped cooking and experimenting, it’s just that I haven’t got the time to make a blog post (believe me, it takes at least an hour from concept to posting). So I put up an Instagram account for my lazy days. More food, less talk. Okay, so the images aren’t always stellar, but at least you know I still walk among the living!
If you want to follow me on Instagram, click on the link at the right!
It seems like fall has come all too soon in these parts, with the nights turning colder and the days shorter. Can it already be autumn at the beginning of September? And here I was, hoping for an Indian summer. But no matter, it is here, and I am glad.
Late summer is my favorite time of year. The gardening season is winding down, fruit falling off the trees, colors are starting to deepen. Apples are already making an appearance, pears are too. It’s time to make apple sauce. It’s time to assess what could be improved next year, ideas on what new herbs and plants should be planted next. The last time you could spend a warm summer night on the balcony, relaxing with a glass of wine.
I am still amazed how many fruit and nut trees grow in the streets of Erfurt. Just keep your eyes open, and things start revealing themselves. Walnuts have already started ripening and falling off trees, picking them from trees while when I go on walks. I’ve also discovered several hazelnut trees that I used to ignore until somebody pointed them out to me. I’m currently looking for ways to use the hazelnuts. If anybody has got an idea, I’m all ears!
Plum season is almost over, but I still get to enjoy them thanks to the three sheets of plum cakes I have managed to bake this season.
My go-to cake recipe comes from the coolest handle nameI’ve ever heard, Lord Hell, the pseudonym of a Chefkoch.de member who struck gold at the death metal name generator. According to Lord Hell, this is her (?) Oma’s recipe, and is glad that she could share it so that it wouldn’t die out. Judging from the rating this cake has, it definitely won’t!
Germans are big into dry cakes, or what is also called coffee cakes. As long as you can get used to the idea that Germans like their cake to taste like bread, you are good to go.
For the base:
500 grams flour, 30 grams fresh yeast or 10 grams dry yeast, 250 ml lukewarm milk, 75 grams sugar, and 100 grams butter.
For the toppings, a kilo and a half of plums is definitely more than enough to cover a 37 cm by 42 cm baking sheet.
Pre-heat the oven to 220° C. Dump the flour into a big mixing bowl and create a depression in the middle. Place the cut-up butter, and strew about 60 grams of the sugar, and a pinch of salt along the edges of the crater, making sure that it wouldn’t fall into ist. Break up the yeast and dump it in the hollow, adding the rest of the sugar and the milk. You can either leave it as is or mix it up, if you like. Let it rest under a kitchen towel for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, knead the mixture into a dough, and proof for 30 minutes.
While waiting for the dough to rise, you could either halve or quarter the plums lengthwise, removing the stones. Place the cut-up fruit in a separate bowl.
When the 30 minutes are up, knead the dough again, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can either roll the dough out with a pin or using your fingertips, massage the mixture to fan out on the sheet until the whole thing is covered with the dough. Pierce the base with a fork in several places (I prefer making a Union Jack pattern). If the plums are an especially juicy or watery variety, you could sprinkle the base with either breadcrumbs or powdered cinnamon.
Place the plums with the skins down on the base in a row until the whole base is covered. Leave about three centimeters of lip around the edges if you like. You could also add streusel on top by mixing 200 grams soft butter with 200 grams salt, 300 grams flour, ½ teaspoons of powdered cinnamon and a pinch of salt. After mixing the ingredients together, take a big hunk of the mixture in your hand and pinch off small pieces and strew it randomly over the plums. Place in the oven and it should be done by 20 to 30 minutes. You need to watch the streusel because it burns easily. As soon as the plums smell fragrant it should be done!
It is quite easy to make and it is a very traditional German dish. Thank you LordHell for allowing me to share your recipe!
Sooooo….I have discovered the motherlode of plum trees in Erfurt, not far from where I work. Like a whole grove of plum and apple trees, with nobody paying attention to them! My son and I picked a bucket full of plums last weekend. They are what Germans call Zwetschge, a variety of plum that is deep purple, slim, and long-ish. We got a total of three kilos! After the initial frenzy of ALL THOSE PLUMS wore off, I kinda scratched my head and asked myself what the hell was I gonna do with all those plums?
So I made Pflaumenmus, what should be translated as plum jam, but it is more of a plum puree. Three kilos fortunately fit into my six quart dutch oven, which proved itself once again as an excellent investment! I filled four large jars with the stuff. I don’t even like Pflaumenmus, so I’m gonna learn how to like it These next couple of months. Or maybe use them to fill jelly donuts?
So far I have baked three batches of plum coffee cakes, with streusel so they would keep better in the freezer. I’ve been giving them away like mad and I don’t think I’ll be picking any more plums this season!