Zucchini Cornbread

One last time this year…

We had chilli con carne for lunch and I’ve still got grated zucchini in the freezer for recipes I want to try out. This Zucchini Cornbread was one of them and the chilli recipe actually sounds very nice too.

But back to the bread!

I don’t see the need to put 100g of sugar into what is for all intents and purposes a savoury bread and therefore reduced it to just 10g. I find the bread on its own quite salty but eaten with chilli, it’s a perfect accompaniment.

Since we generally grow the yellow zucchini as we find them more pleasant in taste, the bread doesn’t look quite as interesting as in the original recipe with the green specks.

I’ll make it again to go with chilli. And you get extra veg without making an effort…

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Happy New Year, everybody!
Thanks for reading and putting up with me.
xxx

Baking Bread (38), Lasagne and a Pie

Time to stock up before the next holidays hit us! I went into a baking frenzy… The oven was on for a good four hours…

I made Paul Hollywood’s Bloomer (fifth time this year!) for Mister Meike’s Kitchen. It’s his favourite bread, what can I do? I wasn’t happy with the rise but the bread turned out absolutely fine.

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Then it was time for lunch and I had already roasted and pureed a hokkaido pumpkin. I wanted to try out this Pumpkin Lasagne. It is a wonderful recipe, a very elegant pumpkin recipe.

There is a pumpkin-parmesan-cream mix:

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A spinach-and-onion layer:

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And a pumpkin-and-cream “sauce” for the top:

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I didn’t really get a good picture of the finished dish so you’ll have to make do with this, the leftovers on a messy plate:

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Make it! I think that’s the best way I have ever eaten pumpkin in a savoury dish.

In between all this I was also making Dan Lepard’s Alsace Loaf again (fourth time this year…). The recipe can be found here while I’m still working out on how best to make it. My sourdough starter is much wetter than his. I’m getting there though. I made double the quantity but instead of shaping it into sticks (that should have made ten), I made two proper loaves.

Here’s the better looking one:

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It’s my favourite bread. I love how the grains give it texture and at the same time keep it wonderfully moist.

And now for the pie. This is our New Year’s Even tradition. I’ve actually made it for the seventh time this year. It’s Mrs Whitlow’s Artery-Hardening Hogswatch Pie from Terry Pratchett’s Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook. It’s on page 30 of this PDF.

I only make half the quantity because it’s enough for us. And since Master Meike’s Kitchen has been eating proper food, I’ve made it without the port for the stock. I’ve also experimented with different seasonings for the minced pork over the years and it works also with cayenne and paprika and Italian herbs. I also sometimes put a layer of bacon between the pastry and the filling – if I don’t forget that I’ve bought bacon specifically for that…

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The pie is made the day before so the stock can set; therefore I can’t show you yet what it looks like inside, can’t reveal the meat feast… You’ll have to wait until next year for that.

Enjoy the last 26 and a bit hours (Central European time…) of 2014!

Bread and Pudding…

… but no Bread Pudding …

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We nearly had a white Christmas. The snow was just one day late.

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On Boxing Day, before the weather started to turn, we had our big family Christmas. And when I say big, I mean big: 24 adults and 9 children (6 of those five years or younger). We always have a big buffet to which everybody contributes. I made some bread and it was rather well received. I mean, come on, freshly baked on the day – how much better can it get?

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We ate the not so nicely shaped loaf, the nice round one I brought home, sliced it up and put it in the freezer.

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I got Paul Hollywood’s British Baking for Christmas and sometimes I just can’t wait to try out a recipe from a new book. We had a Scottish St Fillan’s Pudding for dessert today, with custard, and it was really nice.

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I didn’t change anything about the recipe, you’ll be surprised to hear, not even the sugar content. Maybe I should have left it in the oven a bit longer, it looks quite pale compared to the one in the book.

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It tasted lovely though, warm and cold. And custard is a great accompaniment for it.

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Merry Christmas!

Christkind was very kind to me last night (we get our presents on Christmas Eve, just like the British royal family…) and I got a couple of lovely kitchen-related presents:

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The t-shirt appeals greatly to my silly sense of humour and my Dad actually made that recipe book holder for me. I’m ever so touched. The Jamaican spices and sauce are from my dearest friend, who thinks she’s very funny but we’re now planning to have roast chicken soon…

Christmas Day is usually my turn to cook something grand and we always try to incorporate some elements of an English Christmas Dinner. However, this year this part falls to ……. sprouts, parsnips and roasties… Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about. I’m going to write about dessert. I bought a Lucky Dip Box from The Spicery and it contained – among other things – a kit for Lemon Rosemary Posset. I thought that was a suitably dessert for Christmas Day, herby, spicy, lemony- sharp and nothing overly sweet or laced with chocolate (though I’m usually rather fond of the latter). It’s the first time I’ve tried one of the Sweet Spice Kits.

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It’s all actually rather fool-proof. The herbs and spices come in clearly labelled sachets and the instructions are easy to follow.

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I first made the spiced shortbread, with crushed green peppercorns. I didn’t sprinkle any additional pepper on those biscuits intended for the children (the vertical row on the left).

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Then I made the posset. I’ve always been intrigued by “posset”, something that crops up every now and so often in literature but is not a common drink / dish anymore. (There’s an article on Wikipedia about it, including a list of literary references.) So this went into my first posset:

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I couldn’t get any double cream so I used crème fraîche and normal cream. It boiled alright and it set fine. It was just a pain to filter out the peppercorns and bits of rosemary…

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It was a very surprising dessert. The kids weren’t keen on it at all (and I don’t blame them) even though the Sweet Spice Kit claims be “a range of family-friendly desserts”. Probably not when the youngest members of the family are only five and two… And this one does have a heat rating of two chillies (out of five). Once you got over the initial shock of having a rather hot (as in spicy) dessert, we adults actually quite enjoyed it. Until we found yet another bit of crushed peppercorn between our teeth… I’ll certainly go back to making a posset again. Probably not with pepper though… And maybe not even lemon but the idea is still appealing.

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Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten!

Baking Bread 35

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I’ve tried out another bread recipe which requires the bread to be left in the fridge overnight before it is baked in the morning. The idea of baking bread first thing in the morning holds a big appeal to me. It seems to be a better way of using time effectively.

This bread needs wheat and rye sourdough starters. I started a new wheat one because I discarded the old one before we went to England in October. I have kept both starters for feeding and activating in the bathroom where the temperature is warmest and most stable. (The other rooms get considerably colder during the night.) This is a Neudorfer Sauerteigbrot and I rather like it. It’s less rubbery than the bread I made last time using only wheat sourdough (Weizensauerteig nach Chad Robertson) and, due to the rye content, tastes more interesting. It also contains sufficient wheat to be to Mister Meike’s Kitchen’s liking, I hope…

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Need … to …. catch … up …

“Catch up” could easily be interchanged with sleep, relax, unwind, take a deep breath, slow down and all sorts of other verbs of this type of meaning. December is such a busy month! Christmas parties, the normal Christmassy stuff but then it’s also Master Meike’s Kitchen’s birthday… It’s just about enough.

But let’s start at the beginning. I have tried out a new bread, it’s this Multigrain Oatmeal Bread. I drastically reduced the sugar because, to my mind, there’s no need for 100g of sugar in a bread. I used one teaspoon for the yeast mix and one tablespoon for the main dough. It’s a wonderful bread, the only downside is that it dries out very quickly. I’d freeze it in small portions to keep it fresh.

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And now we enter the birthday bakeathon: For some reason, even unbeknownst to me, I made two birthday cakes for the lucky boy.

The first one was my White Zucchini Confetti Cake, unfortunately I got different sprinkles now and they just melted into the dough. It was still a nice cake though. I made a white chocolate frosting this time and covered the whole cake in sprinkles. It looked pretty though my choice of chocolate wasn’t the best. I should have bought better quality. Hohum. Next time.

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I also tried to make made a Captain Barnacles Cake. Captain Barnacles is a character from the children’s TV series The Octonauts, which the kids like a lot. I used the recipe for the Owl Cake I made for Miss Meike’s Kitchen in August because I thought it would be easiest to shape. Which it was. But then I decided to cover the cake in white chocolate buttercream and use dyed buttercream for the feature. That was a bad choice. If only I thought that through! Next time I use marzipan.

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One of Master Meike’s Kitchen’s friends, who were coming along for his birthday tea, is gluten intolerant and allergic to dairy and egg. That makes catering for him quite a challenge. He is not into sweet things at all but I like to make the effort so that there’s something for him, should he want to have it. And I don’t just want to serve up a couple of rice cakes. This year I made some everything-free Oreos because I was going to make a lovely dessert called Dirt for Master to take to Kindergarten to celebrate his birthday there. Anyway. Those “Oreos” were after nooone’s taste, I’m afraid to say. And I’m even more determined now to one day find a recipe that produces something Master’s friend, and everyone else for that matter, will enjoy.

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We also needed something savoury for the evening and because Master Meike’s Kitchen is rather fond of burgers, I was rather pleased to have found a recipe for a cheeseburger bread. It’s basically a pizza with cooked mince, gherkins, bacon, grated cheese and ketchup, rolled up. We dropped our bread onto the floor when I tried to get it from the worktop to the baking tray – which Master was holding for me; I think he was surprised by the sudden increase in weight… So we shaped it into a big snail. I baked it the night before and then just reheated it in the oven on the day. It was fantastic! Mister Meike’s Kitchen has already requested it for his birthday!!! (On the downside, Master didn’t try a single bite, I think he was too excited, but both kids had helped make it and wouldn’t leave the filling alone…)

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I’m still recovering from that bakeathon but the next loaf of bread is already in the making…

Baking Bread 33

I really haven’t got the time to bake bread at the moment but the freezer was empty – so what was I supposed to do?

I tried out a new sourdough bread, a wheat sourdough, by an American baker. On Facebook, I had come across this video about Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread . It sounded intriguing, a bread everyone can make. And also to leave the shaped bread in the fridge overnight holds a big appeal.

I searched the interwebs for a recipe and at first only found some that need like a kilo of flour to make a sourdough starter and similar such madness. In the end I ended up on Ploetzblog, a fantastic German blog about bread baking. So I followed the recipe for Weizensauerteigbrot nach Chad Robertson to the letter (but forgot to slash the loaf before baking) and it all happened as it was described: once the bread had gone into the oven, it went flat. But after a little while it puffed up and got a really nice shape. I forgot to turn the oven down after I put the bread in but I’m not sure whether that had an impact and if it did, what it may have been. Unfortunately mine turned out a bit moist-looking and rubbery. I posted a comment and the answer I got was that my sourdough probably needs to ripen at a higher temperature so I’ll give this a go next time.

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Vanillekipferln – Christmas Baking, part 5

I was actually going to write this post last night but then Miss Meike’s Kitchen thought it would be a good idea to stop up and keep me company so that plan went out of the window.

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We had some more Christmas cookies yesterday after dinner and you’ll see that my mum has also been busy:

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Her latest additions to the cookie plate are almond macaroons with a chocolate filling (to the left of the reindeers), next to these almond cookies with a jam filling and some chocolate coating and, at the bottom, orange sticks (they sound better in German: Orangenstäbchen) filled with marmalade and coated with chocolate at one end. The latter two are part of our permanent Christmas cookie baking list. My grandma always made the almond cookies and my mum has been making the Orangenstäbchen for a very long time too. You see, we’ve always got cookies that are made every single year without fail and then there are always some new recipes we try out or others that we only make occasionally.

The next cookies I made are from the permanent list. I’ve been tinkering with my Grandma’s recipe, may she rest in peace. There can’t be a Christmas season without them, particularly since my dad declared them to be “the most boring Christmas cookie”. Let me assure you, they are not. They are Vanillekipferln, a Bohemian-Austrian traditional cookie that seems to be ubiquitous here in Germany. I like them for their subtle taste and I’ve just noticed that this recipe is the first Christmas recipe I copied into my recipe book. Says it all. The Kipferl bit here refers to their crescent shape.

Ingredients:
66g sugar
200g butter
2 egg yolks
seeds from a vanilla pod
pinch of salt
260g flour
100g ground almonds*

Method:
Cream sugar and butter together. Add the yolks and vanilla seeds.
Slowly add the salt, flour and almonds and bring the dough together to a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour in the fridge.
(It saves time later, if you divide the dough into quarters and shape each quarter into a sausage, about 2 cm thicks and wrap them individually.)

* I compared a couple of recipes and some add as much as 200g of almonds. I have tried this this year but I can’t offer an opinion on that yet. Last time I made them, I only used 50g (that was all I had left) and that was fine too. You can also use a mixture of nuts, e.g. half almonds, half hazelnuts.

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Cut the sausages into slices, about 2cm thick. Shape into crescents.

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Bake in a preheated oven (190°C) for 8-10 minutes.

While they’re still hot, roll them in 50g icing sugar mixed with 7g vanilla sugar.
But be warned: they easily break when they’re too hot so let them cool on the baking tray for about five minutes.

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Gingerbread House – Christmas Baking, part 4

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In this house, we’ve been trying to merge German and English Christmas traditions so the kids get the best of both. Today, 6 December, is the German Nikolaustag, our Santa Claus day. Thanks to Martin Luther, the Christchild delivers presents on Christmas Eve but Santa Claus, the Catholic saint, survived as the bringer of small things at the beginning of December, a bit like a teaser before the big day. When I was a child, Nikolaus always dropped his bag off in the evening – there would be an almighty knock on the front door and when we opened, a potato sack with oranges, nuts and little presents (stocking fillers…) would be lying there.

Master Meike’s Kitchen was given a fabric stocking with his name on by an English friend a couple and I got one for Miss in a well-known German discount chain in England – so we now hang up stocking by the front door the night before. And Nikolaus does what he has to do during the night. It works well.

Another cherished childhood memory of mine for Nikolaustag is my Grandma’s gingerbread houses. She used to make one each for me and my brother and they were ginormous. My mum told me today that my Grandad was the one doing the construction work and my Grandma probably never made them again after he passed away 30 years ago. In my memories, we had them every year until I was a teenager… But maybe not. Anyway, last year I decided to continue this tradition and make one gingerbread house for my kids (and the rest of the family). It took me three evenings to make and I was kind of happy with it but there was lots of room for improvement. This is last year’s house:

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It was a bit wonky and the bits I had designated as roofs were too short. I used my Grandma’s recipe and for some reason decided that I needed triple the amount, made it all in one go but, of course, couldn’t bake it all at the same time. The first batch rose beautifully and was perfect and the other two stayed flat and were a bit dry. I think if I’d put the dough in the fridge while I didn’t need it, the baking powder may have stayed active. We didn’t actually eat it all in the end. The last, dry bits I ground to a powder and used up for desserts.

So this year I decided to try a different approach. I was going to make dough for one batch at a time but in the end I needed only one. I also thought rolling the dough out and cutting it to shape before baking might be an idea. And I think that is the way forward but I will make proper cardboard shapes for next time. After baking:

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Unfortunately I made one of the side walls too thin and it collapsed before I even started putting the house together… But what is thick icing for? I had also cut out windows because I wanted to try melting hard sugar sweets to get “glass”. That didn’t work. Either my oven wasn’t hot enough or there wasn’t enough time or I didn’t bash up my sweets into small enough pieces. I’ll have to look into that again. For roof tiles, I used filled wafers. That wasn’t my brightest idea as, of course, they go soggy. But at least they stayed on. Note to self: use biscuits again next year…

I found a website with very useful tips on how to build the house and I actually sat and watched the video… Well, how else am I supposed to learn? I never asked my Grandma because making gingerbread houses wasn’t really on my to-do-list in my late teens and early twenties so I missed that opportunity. But I think I’m getting there. The construction process (no toothpicks!):

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And the finished Gingerbread House:

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The kids loved it:

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The demolition process has begun!