Lord Hell’s Plum Cake

 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!

Plum Season

What I like about living in Europe is that you can still pick fresh fruits for free, even in urban areas. All you need to have is an attentive eye for splattered, rotting fruit underfoot and you begin to notice which fruits are in season.

I was going about my normal jogging route when I noticed black fruit flies congregating on sticky-looking mush on the pavement. I looked up and saw a tree laden with huge yellow egg plums! They deserve the name, it really are as huge as small eggs. I returned with a net and a basket after my jog and hauled a total of five kilos of fruit. My basket was only a fourth full!

The plums were tart with their skins, but they were super sweet with the skins peeled off. And the seed just separated itself so easily, which is a big advantage for fruit. I baked a plum cake, and I still had a kilo left over. Unfortunately, plums don’t keep well, so I had to throw the rest away, despite snacking on them non-stop since last weekend. The cake is safely stored in the freezer, and I now have cake to feed unexpected guests with.

Plum and mirabelle season is  in full swing in Europe, so I reckon you should get out there and pick them plums!

Cherry, Cherry Cherries!

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This year is turning out to be a good year for fruits. It’s not so hot, not so dry, and the rains have come at the right time. And because of the hot spring/cool summer we are having in Germany this year, the sweet cherry and sour cherry varieties arrived almost at the same time, instead of the sour varieties coming in this July. This may differ from region to region, so I cannot speak for the whole country.

So I have a bucket full of cherries. The darker ones are sour cherries from the backyard, while the lighter ones are from the tree I spoke of last year. I believe the tree is a Royal Ann cherry, but I am not sure what kind of cherry is the one from our backyard. It is not really sour, it’s more tart-sweetish, and quite juicy.

I’ve made three jars of jam, and one wonderful cherry chutney so far. I hope to make cherry cupcakes today, and maybe freeze the rest, if I am not able to harvest any more this weekend.

What amazes me is the difference of the cherries from the backyard tree from this year and last year. It was pruned this spring, and the cherries are huge and juicy! I wish I could learn more about tree pruning, but I guess that is for when I have more time.

 

 

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.

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.

Strawberry Jam

 

 

 

 

Now that jam season has descended upon us, my weekends are devoted to foraging for fruits and turning them into jam. The glass jars I’ve been assiduously saving the whole year are now all almost all filled with jam.

So how do you make jam? In Germany it’s quite easy, since stores stock up on jam sugar, or sugar already mixed with pectin, a jelling agent that can be extracted from the seeds of fruits like apples and pears. I’ve seriously considered extracting my own pectin from apples, then I decided the last minute that it means I’m certifiably nuts.

So, there are three different kinds of jam sugars in Germany; 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1. That means that 1 part fruit to the whole bag of sugar, two parts fruit to the bag of sugar, and three parts fruit or juice to one part sugar. I always use 3:1 for making jelly, like elderberry jelly. 

For strawberry jam, I always take 1:1, since they always give me the best results.

So take a kilo of strawberries. You can safely add about 100 grams more, since these berries will diminish considerably from here. Take a medium-sized to big stock pot, and proceed to remove the green tops, slice away brown portions, and quarter the strawberries then put them in the pot. Slicing away the brown or moldy portions of the strawberries improves the shelf life considerably.

Then I dump the whole bag of sugar into the pot. If I want to make chunky strawberry jam, I let the fruit steep in the sugar at least half an hour, stirring it every so often with a wooden spoon. If I’m making confiture, I puree it with a hand mixer. Meanwhile, I take some clean from the dishwasher pop-up, screw-top jars, leave them in the sink,  and douse the whole lot with boiling water. You can then use a pair of tongs to drain them of water and leave them on the sink. I do not pat dry.

The slurry is put on the stove over medium high heat, stirring all the time until it comes to a rolling boil. Be careful, since this sugar mixture likes to splatter. This is the time it thickens to a jam, and continue to stir for three to five minutes. Then you can do the plate test.

Jam test

I take a plate from the cupboard in my left hand and drop a droplet of jam from the wooden spoon on the plate, then tip the plate towards me. I’ve labeled the tests 1-6, so you could see the development of jam setting. Once the jam hardly moves after tipping, you are ready to can.

You don’t need to use a jam funnel, but it is very helpful when you have made chunky jam. I fill the still-warm glass to the brim, and use oven mitts to help me screw the tops on the jars, then tip them over in the sink so I don’t have a catastrophe on my counter. Let them stay upside-down until they cool. Once you turn them right-side up again, you will (hopefully) notice that the pop-up lid is depressed. Congratulations! You have created an air-tight seal! Jam for the whole year! They are a brilliant red, but the colors do tend to fade over time. Your jam is still good, don’t worry, even if it’s from 2011.

So, hopefully the rains start to subside, so I can begin cherry season!

Strawberry Season Is Here!

What can compare to fresh fruit picked during the right season? Forget about strawberries  from Spain in winter. This is the real deal right here. These strawberries are so sweet, I might as well be eating candy!

I always eagerly await the first strawberry harvest of Gärtnerei Gloria in Erfurt, since they always come up with the sweetest strawberries. The later harvests tend to be tart, and sour/tart strawberries are better for baking and jam. I normally go to one of their fields that are open for picking by customers, but alas, the recent heavy rains and floods in Thüringen  means that in Erfurt, strawberry-picking season for self-picking customers won’t open this year.

So as soon as they set up their temporary stall in Anger Square, I immediately bought myself a small box, sat myself on a bench, and enjoyed one of  life’s small pleasures: eating strawberries in the warm sun.

 

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.