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Who doesn’t like hummus. It never ceases to amaze me that just cooked chickpeas, a few other ingredients and a couple of minutes in the food processor produces something so tasty. Yes, it is rather substantial but then again, it is also good for you. It seems that there are endless variations of hummus recipes. Some keep it simple, really just chickpeas, salt, sometimes pepper and a little olive oil, others are a bit more elaborate. For this Wild Garlic Spring Hummus recipe I like to use the basic ingredients – and most important of all – a bunch of really fresh seasonal wild garlic (aka ramson or bear´s garlic) from our garden. Wild garlic is available in April or May and is best harvested before the flowers appear.

This spring hummus recipe has a fresh, wild garlic flavor. Wild garlic gives off an incredibly pungent smell in the wild. Unlike common cultivated garlic, it's the leaves that are eaten rather than the bulbs. The taste is more delicate too, similar to the flavor of chives. The wild garlic leaves can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Wether you buy some at the market or go foraging for wild garlic leaves, make sure to wash them well - some recipes also call for blanching the leaves for a few minutes in boiling water in order to tame the garlic taste somewhat but I do not really find that necessary. The garlic taste is subtle and elegant and just right with fresh wild garlic.

When you forage for wild garlic, you should always remember that the shape of the leaves are similar to some other inedible plants (such as Lily of the Valley or Autumn Crocus), so ensure proper identification by crushing some of the leaves in your hand. The tell-tale odor should ensure you pick the right leaves.








Wild Garlic Spring Hummus

Ingredients
  • 250g cooked chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained either use dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked the following day or use canned
  • 3 tbsps good quality tahini (sesame paste)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 50g wild garlic, washed, dried and roughly torn (you can also add a few fresh basil leaves to the mix)
  • 60ml olive oil (use a mild one)
  • sea salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • some of the cooking liquid from the chickpeas or water

Toppings (optional)
  • cooked chickpeas; chopped wild garlic; chili flakes; sesame seeds; sweet paprika; olive oil; etc.

Preparation
  1. Put all the ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Process on high speed for 5 minutes or longer until the hummus is extra-smooth.
  3. Add cooking liquid or water until you have the thickness and texture you prefer.
  4. Add toppings and garnish as you please.

NOTE

This Wild Garlic Hummus is best served with a drizzle of olive oil and toppings of your choice as well as grilled flatbread or pita bread and grilled halloumi and olives.


See also my recipe for Wild Garlic Quiche (here) or Wild Garlic Potato Buns (here)


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How do you like to eat bananas - some people will only eat them when they are yellow but still very firm, whereas others like them when they are very ripe with black skin. The black skin might look as if the banana has gone bad, but it is fine as long as the fruit was not bruised to start with. Peel off the black skin, and the flesh will still be firm, creamy and ripe and also amazingly fragrant.

One of my favorite things to bake with really ripe fruit is banana bread-style cake, such as Nigel Slater`s Black Banana Cake (here) - this recipe calls for really ripe fruits, hence the name of the cake. It seems that there are basically two kinds – either the dark, dense, sticky variety (usually a so-called banana bread) or the lighter cake-type loaf. The recipe in my post today is more of the latter sort, and makes a great teatime treat or accompaniment to an afternoon cup of coffee. It can be made in a loaf pan or a retangular cake pan, like your good old brownie cake pan, and although you could add all kinds of extras to a banana cake (like chocolate chips, chopped pecans, walnuts, or raisins), I only like to add some pure vanilla and a hint of cinnamon.




Once thing that is noteworthy about this recipe is the fact that ripeness doesn’t really matter for this particular cake. The common belief that bananas for baking should always be soft and freckled with brown spot does not apply to all baking recipes calling for bananas. This cake differs from the usual in that it is light, and most definitely banana cake, not banana bread.




Banana Cake with Oat  & Spelt Flour

Ingredients
  • 375g bananas (peeled weight) - about 4 medium sized bananas
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 100g white spelt flour
  • 100g oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I like to use Ceylon cinnamon)
  • 2 tps baking powder
  • a pinch fine salt
  • 180g superfine (baking) sugar
  • 8g vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or oragnic
  • 4 tbsps sunflower or vegetable oil

Topping
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tbsps natural raw cane sugar
  • some powdered sugar (aka confectioners' sugar or icing sugar) for the finished cake (optional but pretty)

Preparation
  1. Set the oven at 170C°.
  2. Line a square 20cm baking pan with baking parchment.
  3. Break the bananas into chunks, then put them into a bowl and mash roughly with a fork and stir in the lemon juice. NOTE: avoid the temptation to turn them into a purée, chunky is what you are looking for.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
  5. Put the sugar and vanilla sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Break the eggs into the sugar, then beat, using the whisk attachment, for three to four minutes, until light and creamy. 
  6. Pour in the oil, slowly, with the mixer on a moderate speed.
  7. Fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture.
  8. Fold in the crushed bananas, briefly, taking care to distribute them evenly but without crushing them any further.
  9. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake pan and even out the mixture.
  10. Peel the two bananas, slice horizontally and place the four banana halves on top of the cake.
  11. Sprinkle the surface with the sugar.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until lightly firm on top. 
  13. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to settle, in the cake pan, on a wire rack, for about 30 minutes.
  14. Lift the cake from the pan, then place back onto the rack and leave to cool completely. 
  15. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. NOTE: Although this cake is best eatenthe day it is made, it will keep for up to two days, covered well and kept in a cool spot.



Apart form the fact that you do not have to wait for those bananas to turn from a lovely yellow color to an ash like black color, what I love most about this recipe is that it calls for oat flour and white spelt flour - whenever possible I try to bake with different types of flour. As I love the taste of oats, always have, always will, I often replace part of the regular flour with oat flour, especially when the cake batter has a high moisture content.




It is so nice to see that spring has finally arrived around here. So, enjoy your cake in the afternoon or morning sunshine, if at all possible.





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Grain salads are endlessly variable, meaning that if you have the basic composition down, you never need a recipe to put one together. So this is a non-recipe kind of post. This version of a grain salad refelects my personal taste as well as the contents of my pantry.

There are only a few guidelines you should keep in mind when putting together a Winter Grain Salad. First up, choose and cook your grains. You want separate, intact grains that hold their shape. Drain them thoroughly and lay them out to dry in a single layer, then transfer them to a salad bowl. I like to use wheatberries and sometimes brown rice, both prepared separately.

Secondly, choose your add-ins such as grilled vegetables. You are free to roast, sauté, or grill your vegetables, or go totally raw, but make sure anything you cook cools before combining it with your other ingredients. If you use raw veggeis, make sure they are dry before using. In winter time, I like to grill some earty aubergines (aka eggplants).

Third, be very liberal with those soft herbs. My personal preference lies with Italian parsley, chives, basil and dill.

And fourth, there is that protein, which, of course, is entirely optional, especially if you're serving your grain salad as a side. My favorite here are black beluga lentils and chickpeas but I also like to add black beans every so often. You can add chicken breasts or fish if serving this as a main dish. I should add that I like to warm my chickpeas with sliced spring onions and a bit of garlic before I cool and adding them to the salad.

After all your add-ins are prepped and dried, add them to your salad bowl with the grains.








Last but not least, make your dressing. Because grains have an earthy profile, balancing them with acid is important. Vinaigrettes and citrus-based dressings are best here (I like to use lemon juice), but within this framework you are free to go with your personal preferences. As for oil, if you're using olive oil, which is what I do, this is an occasion for your best bottle. If you want, add some Dijon mustard. Whatever your do, make your dressing is quite punchy, trust me, the grains can take it.

How much dressing you use depends on your salad's components. Keep in mind that the longer a grain salad sits, the more dressing it will absorb. Once your dressing is whisked together, pour it over your grains and vegetables and fold everything gently but thoroughly.

Stir some of your finishing ingredients through the salad, and leave a few to scatter over the top. Makes fro a photogenic finish. Alternately, you can stir every bit of these ingredients through and add a few more herbs for garnish, which is what I did here.

This Winter Grain Salad is a wonderful, versatile and healthy dish. Serve either as a main or as a side dish and let your taste and imagination, and, of ocure, the contents of your cupboard, be your guide!


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Some days you find yourself staring at that huge fruit bowl in your dining room or on your kitchen counter, thinking that, your clementines seem to share the same fate as those bananas that are still good but somewhat overripe, the ones that everyone just seems to ignore. Well, if you find yourself in that situation, or if you just happen to want to bake a little afternoon snack cake, grab some of those lonely clementines and, together with just a few other tasty ingredients, turn them into a healthyish treat.

Healthyish, you ask, well, yes. In my baking, I like to use part oat flour, part spelt flour, especially when I bake with fruits. And I like to use dark chocolate, not milk chocolate. Also, there is freshly squeezed clementine juice in the cake batter and no frosting, just a light dusting of confectioners' sugar and maybe a few chopped natural pistachios. If you add a few freshly peeled clementine segments for fun/and taste, you'll all be in for a lovely afternoon/breakfast treat.

As an additional bonus, no frosting also means that the kids can put a square in their lunch boxes - no sticky mess - packed together with a fresh seasonal clementine, a piece of this cake makes for a great treat.




Clementine Snack Cake with Chocolate Chuncks

Ingredients
  • 4 to 6 clementines (depending on their size) – you need 125ml juice for the cake batter
  • 120g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus some for greasing the baking pan
  • 150g superfine (caster) sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free range or organic
  • 100g oat flour (either use oat flour usually available at health food stores OR make your own by first weighing out the amount of oats required in the recipe and then grinding your oats in a food processor until the texture resembles that of wheat flour. Note that old fashioned, steel cut, or quick-cooking oats all work
  • 120g white spelt flour (or use AP flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • a pinch fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon – I like to use Ceylon cinnamon
  • 100g dark chocolate (chopped) – I like to use Belgian chocolate (70%) but feel free to use your favorite chocolate here
  • Optional: confectioners' sugar and a few chopped, natural, unsalted pistachios OR almonds

Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356° F).
  2. Butter a 20cmx20cm (8inx8in) square baking pan, then line with baking paper and set aside.
  3. Juice enough clementines to get 125ml of juice. Strain. Set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined.
  6. In another bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  7. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture and clementine juice in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until just combined.
  8. Fold the chocolate chunks into the batter.
  9. Pour into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown and starting to pull away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes.
  10. Transfer to wire rack and cool for about 20 minutes.
  11. Remove cake from pan and return cake to wire rack to cool completely.
  12. Dust with confectioners` sugar, sprinkle with chopped pistachios and decorate with freshly peeled clementine segments.

NOTE: If you prefer, make a citrus icing instead of simply dusting the cake with confectioners` sugar. Mix confectioners` sugar with enough clementine juice to make a runny icing, then drizzle it over the top of the cake. Let the excess icing drip off the cake and wait a good 30 minutes for the icing to set before serving the cake.

TIP: If you are lucky enough to have untreated clementines, go ahead and add some zest to the batter.




Clementines have firm yet juicy sweet segments and they are thought to be a hybrid of a tangerine and a sweet orange, meaning they are perfect for adding a sweet, wonderful flavor as well as a lovely orange tinge to baked goods. And they are still in season until the end of this month - plenty of time then to try this recipe.

This cake is easy and moist and has lots lovely dark chocolate chunks. And lovely citrus notes. And it keeps well. Our kind of snack cake.



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Rice Pudding is a simple and very old recipe of uncertain origin that began to be common in many households around the beginning of the 18th century, and by the 20th century, it was omnipresent.

Many different countries have their own version of rice pudding. Spain, Portugal, Turkey, India, Thailand and Great Britain, to name but a few. There are two basic ways to make rice pudding - baking or boiling. The German version is called Milchreis (milk rice), made by cooking short-grain rice on the stovetop in milk with sugar and vanilla. German Milchreis is usually served as a sweet main dish with fruit or compote or simply with sugar and cinnamon on top.

So, having tried many a recipe and method for preparing Rice Pudding, I settled on the German basic version - boiling - added a bit of a twist by adding coconut milk to the milk and serving the pudding with Spiced Sour Cherries instead of just cinnamon sugar, my family´s traditional way. I also like to sprinkle a few chopped natural pistachios on top but coconut chips are also wonderful here.




Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding with Spiced Sour Cherries

Ingredients

For the Rice Pudding
  • 125 g risotto/arborio or pudding rice* (no need to soak pudding rice before use)
  • 800 ml milk (I use full fat milk), plus extra if you like your rice pudding to be more creamy
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 4 tbsps sugar or use runny honey
  • the sraped seeds from a vanilla pod (plus add the vanilla pod to the milk while cooking the rice, when the rice pudding is fully cooked, remove the pod)
*NOTE: this is not a specific type of rice, but a generic description for short-grained white rice used for making rice pudding.


For the Spiced Cherries
  • 250ml cherry juice OR red wine
  • 75g sugar
  • 8g vanilla sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise, whole
  • 250g sour cherries, stones removed (either fresh if in season, OR frozen OR from a jar)




Preparation

Of the Rice Pudding
  1. Put the rice, milk, coconut milk, sugar or honey and the vanilla (seeds and pod) into a large pan.
  2. Stir well, then place the pan on a very low heat.
  3. Bring to a low boil. Then cover partially with a lid.
  4. Cook very gently for around 45 minutes, or until thick and creamy, stirring regularly (the time will depend on the rice used).
  5. Loosen the rice pudding with more milk or coconut milk before serving, if needed.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately or let cool before serving (please note that the cooked rice pudding will be less creamy once cooled).
  7. Serve the rice pudding scattered with the Spiced Cherries on top.
  8. Scatter some pistachios over the cherries (optional). OR: serve with fresh fruit, as is, with cinnamon sugar, with demerera sugar, maple syrup or some runny honey.

    Of the Spiced Cherries
    1. Place the cherry juice OR red wine, sugar, vanilla sugar and spices into a pan and bring to the boil.
    2. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until just syrupy.
    3. Remove the cinnamon stick and the star anise.
    4. Add the cherries to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes OR until the cherries are tender.
    5. Alternatively, if you prefer your Spiced Cherries less „liquid“, you can use a bit of cornstarch dissolved in some more cherry juice or water, add that to the cooked spiced cherries, bring to the boil again (to activate the starch). Then serve.




    Variations

    You can easily change up the basic recipe by mixing in different spices such as nutmeg or cardamom, or add a dollop of jam or preserves, or dried fruits such as raisins, apricots or cranberries or a mix of several of these options.

    While the Rice Pudding it is best eaten warm (which is what we do), both the pudding as well as the Spiced Sour Cherries keep well for a day or two in the fridge.




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    Time for some blogging again – after having participated in the #cook90 challenge from Epicurious magazine (here) for the third time and having cooked and baked 90 meals and treats in 30 days, and after having taken a few deep breaths, I believe this is a good time to post a recipe again. A simple one. One that comes together in no time. Most importantly, with ingredients that most of us have on hand, well, maybe not the natural, unsalted pistachios, but then again, who knows. So, without further ado, let´s bake a nutty February teatime treat. A healthyish kind of teatime delight. And after a very dark month of December and January, let´s also hope that the sun will come again soon.




    Almond Pistachio Cake with Fleur de Sel

    Ingredients

    For the Cake
    • 75g unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the baking pan
    • 110g superfine baking sugar
    • 110g light Muscovado sugar (OR your preferred soft brown sugar)
    • 8g pure vanilla sugar (OR use homemade vanilla sugar)
    • 3 eggs (M), free range or organic
    • 1 tbsp Amaretto or dark rum (OR use unfiltered apple juice)
    • 200g natural almonds, ground (OR use almond meal)
    • 80g light spelt flour (OR use AP/plain flour)
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon cinnamon)
    • ½ tsp Natural Fine Sea Salt, such as  "Sel fin de Guérande"
    • ¼ to ½ tsp (according to your personal taste) Natural Flower Sea Salt, such as "Fleur de Sel de Guérande"




    For the Topping
    • 80g natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped (you want to use the unsalted kind here and then add a good quality sea salt instead as that will let you control the amount of saltiness and taste in this recipe)
    • ¼ to ½ tsp (according to your personal taste) Natural Flower Sea Salt, such as "Fleur de Sel de Guérande"
    • 4g pure vanilla sugar
    • 1 tbsp superfine baking sugar




    To serve (optional)
    • a few more chopped pistachios
    • dried rose petals (untreated)




    In addition
    • springform pan 20cm (8 inches)
    • baking paper




    Preparation
    1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F).
    2. Grease a 20cm (8in) springform cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper.
    3. In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients for the topping. Set aside.
    4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat, take off the heat.
    5. Add the melted butter to a mixing bowl, then add the baking sugar, Muscovado sugar and vanilla sugar to the same bowl and mix all the ingredients together.
    6. Add the eggs, one after the other, making sure to stir the batter after each egg.
    7. Then add the Amaretto or dark rum (or apple juice) and stir again.
    8. In another mixing bowl, mix together the ground almonds, the spelt flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and the fine Fleur de Sel.
    9. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir everything together.
    10. Finally, add the batter to the prepared baking pan and top with the pistachio topping mix.
    11. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden-brown. The cake should have slightly shrunken from the sides.
    12. Leave it to cool in the baking pan on a wire rack.
    13. Just before serving, sprinkle with a few more chopped pistachios and dried rose petals. NOTE: While this cake is rather delicious the day it is made, because of the high nut ratio in the batter, it keeps very well for up to 3 days if wrapped well and kept in a cool place.




    All you really need to remember when baking this cake is that you can make it easily by hand, no mixer needed, just a whisk and a wooden spoon. It is meant to taste a lot like nuts, that is almonds and pistachios, which, in my humble opinion, go very well together. It is also meant to taste pleasingly salty, from the addition of just the right amout of a good sea salt here. As I mentioned in the recipe above,  you want to use unsalted, good quality, fresh roasted pistachios here and then add a good quality sea salt instead of using pre-salted pistachios. That way you control the amount of good and balanced saltiness in this recipe. One more thing, I love using natural almonds with skins on in my recipe, but, by all means, if you prefer the skinned ones use those or use ready made almond meal.

    And as the rose petals for that fancy final touch are concerned, they are optional, of course. But if you do use them, make sure to get organic and/or untreated ones.




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    To all my friends and readers of my blog: wishing you and your families much happiness and joy and blessings for the New Year!


    Ich wünsche allen meinen Freunden und Lesern ein glückliches Neues Jahr 2018!

    Andrea 


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    Pain d'épices (French for "spice bread") is a classic moist French cake or quick bread, a kind of cross between a cake and a bread, or as I like to refer to it a „breakfast cake“. There is no butter in this recipe, just milk to bind the ingredients and there is some rye flour in there. Which means that it’s actually rather well-suited to being spread with fresh butter and topped with jam or honey (my favorite).




    This cake is something that people tend to buy rather than make these days. However, given how simple the recipe is, there is no reason not to give it a try.

    The only prep involved here is scalding of the milk and then letting it cool before mixing the batter. And maybe whipping the egg whites but other than that, this recipe only requires you to just mix everything together until you have a smooth – but still thick – batter, scrape it into your baking pan and bake. Then you will be rewarded by a rich, spicy aroma during baking, and that aroma will linger in your kitchen for a while.

    While this cake can be eaten the same day it was made, if you have the time and patience to store it for a day or two, the texture of the loaf will be denser, the loaf will be slightly sticky on top, but it will also cut more easily, making it perfectly suited as something to nibble on during the week for breakfast, but it’s also tasty enough on its own to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee as an afternoon snack. Or do as the French do and cut thin slices to serve under slabs of foie gras. Or do as the Belgians do and add toasted cubes to a wintry Carbonnade flamande (A Flemish Beef and Beer Stew).




    In this recipe I use a rather traditional French spice mixture „Quatre épices“. However, you can tweak the recipe and use a gingerbread spice mix or perhaps a Belgian spice mixture like speculooskruiden used in traditional biscuits (the Dutch call it speculaaskruiden). You can also add nuts, dried fruit such as golden raisins or chopped apricots or even preserved ginger. I like it more on the plain side and sometimes add some coarse sugar (from Belgium) as a topping.




    Pain d'épices – Spice Bread

    Ingredients
    • 125g plain (AP) flour
    • 125g rye flour (I used rye flour "Type 1150" as it is called around here, which is not the whole grain kind. Pls note that rye flour has to be mixed with regular flour for this recipe)
    • 8g baking powder 
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • 50g light brown sugar
    • 250g runny (liquid) honey PLUS some honey for brushing the warm cake (optional) NOTE:  if you are looking for a more pronounced honey taste, you can opt for buckwheat honey for example OR go with your favorite local honey, if possible
    • 100 ml milk (I use 3.5%)
    • 2 eggs (M) organic or free range
    • a pinch of fine sea salt
    • 1 ½ tsp ground ginger
    • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/4  tsp spice mix „Quatre épices“  (a spice mix used mainly in French cuisine, the name means "four spices" in French and it contains ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and anise) OR (1/4 tsp each grated nutmeg, ground cloves, freshly-ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon anise)
    • chopped nuts, dried fruits or candied ginger, orange or citrus peel (entirely optional)




    Preparation
    1. Grease a loaf pan (23 cm or 9 inch) with butter and line with baking parchment.
    2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
    3. Put the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices and salt in a bowl. Mix well.
    4. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a boil, then let it cool and add the honey to it, stir until dissolved. Cool completely.
    5. Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, spices and salt in a bowl. 
    6. Add the flour mixture to the milk mixture, add the egg yolks and stir well until you have a smooth batter.
    7. In another bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm. If using: add any dried fruit, nuts, ginger etc. 
    8. Fold the egg whites into the batter – do this carefully.
    9. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
    10. Cool 10 minutes, then tip the cake out of the loaf pan OR let cool for a few minutes, brush the warm cake with honey (optional), wait another few minutes until the honey has been absorbed a bit into the cakem, then tip the cake out of the loaf pan and transfer to a cooling rack. 
    11. Let cool completely and when cool, wrap in food wrap OR enjoy on the same day.
    12. Personally, I prefer to let the cake rest for a day. To serve cut into slices and eat as is OR toast and slather with fresh butter and jam, marmelade, cream cheese or whatever strikes your fancy. NOTE: The Pain d’épices can be wrapped in plastic and stored for at least a week, during which time the flavors will meld and the texture will become denser. 




    This is a nice, easy recipe that gives you a lovely spicy cake. This is also a good one to make with kids, as the recipe is quite easy. And a rather nice way to start my seasonal baking frenzy...



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    To celebrate Reformation Day in a kind of sweet way, I baked these lovely treats and called them Yeast Luther Roses. Reformation Day always falls on October 31st, and, this year, was pronounced a public holiday in all of Germany to mark the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther's 95 "theses". Public holiday meant no school, no office, shops closed and lots of rememberance events. And some peace and quiet - perfect time to bake if you ask me.




    On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. Luther’s famous posting of his theses on the door of the Wittenberg castle church were the prelude to the Reformation, one of the central events in European history. The Reformation encouraged the development of an image of humanity that was based on a new Christian concept of freedom. Therefore the formation of autonomy and the question of conscience for each individual person gained center stage.




    The Reformation crucially influenced enlightenment and basic human rights, just like modern democracy. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was essential for the growth of a uniform written German language and opened a door to education for a vast part of population that had had no access to it before. There is hardly any sphere of life that wasn’t touched by the Reformation.




    The Luther Rose (or Seal) is one of the best known symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. It dates back to the reformer and can still be found today in the coat of arms of numerous towns. Martin Luther used the symbol named after him to mark his letters and writings. To this end he got a rose cut in wood as a cylindrical image and printed it under his writings to identify them as original printouts and prevent them from being copied.




    Yeast Luther Roses with Raisins & Cherry Jam
    (yield: makes eight buns)

    Ingredients for the Yeast Dough
    • 500 g strong flour (strong flour has a higher gluten content than regular plain/all purpose flour and is ideal for making yeast dough. Around here we call it "Type 505")
    • 30g (1 ounce) fresh yeast OR you can use 15g (1/2 ounce) active dry yeast or 7g (1/4 ounce) instant yeast instead (adjust the preparation accordingly if you use instant yeast)
    • 180 ml lukewarm milk (I use 3.5%)
    • 80 grams superfine (caster) sugar
    • 60 grams unsalted butter (melted)
    • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
    • 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla sugar (OR 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
    • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest (organic)
    • one pinch fine sea salt
    • 50 grams raisins (I like to "plump up" my raisins before I start baking by soaking them in hot black tea for a good 30 minutes, then drain them before using (discard the tea and do not add )

    Ingredients for the Glaze
    • 1 egg yolk (L), free-range or organic
    • 1 tbsp milk, room temperature (I use 3.5%)

    Filling
    • cherry jam (preferably homemade) OR use jam or jelly of your choice

    Special Equipment needed
    • 2 baking sheets
    • 2 sheets of baking parchment
    • soft brush




    Preparation of the Yeast Dough
    1. Put the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center of the flour.
    2. To a small bowl, add the fresh yeast (crumbled) and a bit of the sugar to the warm milk, then stir well to dissolve, pour the yeast mixture into the well, cover with some of the flour.
    3. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the starter for about 10 to 15 minutes (until you see bubbles).
    4. After 15 minutes add the remaining sugar, butter, egg, vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract), lemon zest, salt and (drained) raisins to the flour mixture. Mix all the ingredients together (using the dough hook) and knead until the dough comes together.
    5. Butter a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl.
    6. Cover the bowl and leave to rise in a warm spot for about 60 minutes or until it has doubled in volume.
    7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface.
    8. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball shape, then flatten into rounds.
    9. Make five small diagonal cuts about one-third towards the center of the rounds from each but do not go all the way - you want to get "rose petals", so make sure to leave the middle of the rounds intact.
    10. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
    11. Place the pastries onto the prepared baking sheets, place a geneous dollop of jam in the middle of each pastry. Cover loosely with food wrap and leave to rise again for 10 minutes.
    12. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the milk.
    13. Brush each pastry with the egg wash.
    14. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes until they have a rich golden color
    15. When done, remove from the oven, and leave to cool for a few minutes on the paper. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.




    While these lovely pastries are a nice sweet way to celebrate a national public holiday - they are most certainly worth making just because...they are pretty and delicious and fun to make and they come with a nice dollop of jam - all you need to make things even more delightful is to serve some good quality butter with them and a big pot of tea or coffee.

    Enjoy!




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    November is a good time to be baking away in the kitchen and a perfect time to enjoy ingredients of the season. Eat fresh chestnuts while you can, enjoy a wide range of root vegetables, cabbage and pumpkins and squashes. And make the most of the fruits of fall. One of autumn's many bounties, pears are endless in their uses. I like them in savory dishes such as quiches, or in salads, as part of a bruschetta topping, and in soups – then there are the sweet treats such as pear tarts and crumbles, poached pears, and many more. Pears are wonderful just plain, on their own, but they also pair particularly well with warm spices such as cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. And I love the combination of pears and ginger.




    So this lovely no-fuss, mid-week, treat of a cake combines my favorite autumn fruit with my favorite warm spices and flavors – vanilla, ginger and a hint of cinnamon. Plus the addition of a bit of Quark (fresh cheese) adds just enough tang to balance out the sweetness of the fruit. While almonds add a nice final touch and their natural sweetness compliments this cake beautifully.




    Spiced Pear Cake with Quark

    Ingredients for the Cake Batter
    • 200 grams unsalted butter (room temperature), plus extra for greasing the baking pan
    • 200 grams superfine (caster) sugar
    • 8 grams vanilla sugar*
    • 3 eggs (M) organic or free range
    • 200 grams wheat (AP) flour
    • 10 grams baking powder
    • a pinch of fine sea salt
    • ½ tsp ground ginger
    • ¼ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
    • 3 tbsps Quark (fresh cheese) or use Greek yogurt (room temperature

    For the Pears
    • 3 pears (baking variety, fragrant and ripe but still a bit firm) 
    • a good squeeze of lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar OR use regular sugar
    For the Topping
    • slivered almonds
    • 1 tbsp superfine (caster) sugar

    Preparation
    1. Lightly butter a retangular baking pan (33 cm x 22 cm or 13 x 9 inches), line the base and sides with baking parchment. Set aside.
    2. For the pears: peel, core, and halve the pears. Thinly slice each half lengthwise without cutting all the way through to the core side, leaving the halves hinged together. Carefully place the prepared pears in a glass bowl, add lemon juice and sugar to bowl and let the pear halves macerate while preparing the cake batter.
    3. Pre-heat your oven to 180 ° C (375°F).
    4. For the cake batter: mix, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar together until pale, then gradually mix in eggs (one by one).
    5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and cinnamon.
    6. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
    7. Gently fold the Quark into the cake batter, making sure not to overmix the batter.
    8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, smooth the surface, then place the prepared pear halves on top of the batter.
    9. Top with slivered almonds and sugar.
    10. Bake for 50 to 55  minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
    11. Allow to cool in the baking pan.
    12. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar just before serving (optional).
    * If vanilla sugar isn't available in your local grocery store, you can make your own. Split one or two vanilla beans to expose the seeds. Bury the split beans in a 2-cup canister of white sugar and seal it. Shake the canister daily for one week or longer if you prefer a stronger flavor. If you need vanilla sugar right away, you can scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod into a cup of white sugar. Pulse the sugar and vanilla in your food processor until they are combined. Let the mixture sit for two hours to infuse.




    This Spiced Pear Cake with Quark makes a lovely teatime treat or even breakfast cake (after all there is fruit and Quark in there). Simply serve as is or perhaps with softly whipped cream.

    This cake also works well with apples and just cinnamon and the cake keeps well, for a good day or two, wrapped in food wrap (clingfilm).

    If you ask me, autumn baking truly is the best  – before all the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season is upon us, it is always a good idea to get some easy, delicious baking done to enjoy all by yourself, with family and friends…and don`t forget to serve your favorite tea or coffee alongside.


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