Eggnog Pound Cake

Eggnog. Any thoughts on eggnog? Personally I like it a lot – when I’m in the mood for it. And remember that I’ve got some… Mister Meike’s Kitchen likes it with lemonade at Christmas. I think that’s just plain wrong but different tastes and all that.

Anyway. We’ve had two nearly empty bottles lurking at the back of the cupboard so I decided to try out this Eggnog Pound Cake. Years and years ago we made lots of cake with eggnog but I haven’t had one for a long time.

I didn’t have quite enough eggnog so made it up with a splash of milk. Also, I only used half the amount of sugar and that was sufficient. I made the cake in a ceramic bundt pan and I was awfully scared the it would stick and I wouldn’t be able to get it out. I therefore greased it really well, maybe too well and dusted it with a fair amount of flour. The recipe says to leave the baked cake in the tin for 20 minutes before turning it out – and, miraculously, this worked really well. The cake just slid out.

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At first I thought the cake wouldn’t rise. But eventually it did, beautifully. It just seemed to be taking quite a long time.

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I glazed the cake – not only to cover up the bits of butter from greasing the pan, also to keep the cake fresh. I swirled the empty eggnog bottles with milk and used that for the glaze instead of neat eggnog. It was a bit more child-friendly that way.

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It’s a lovely cake that smells and tastes awfully good. Everybody here loved it!

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Baking and knitting

I’ve started my first big knitting project of the year and so knitting is all I do when I have some free time. Well, not quite true, I do some baking too but writing about it has somehow lost its priority spot. But at least I sometimes knit in the kitchen (when my iPad has run out of power and I need to plug it in because I’m hooked on Nurse Jackie on Netflix…)

I’m making a tunic for Miss Meike’s Kitchen and therefore I have to hurry up before she’s outgrown that size. (Although to be honest, that should not be too soon – the tunic is two sizes up from the one she’s currently wearing…)

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I’ve been hankering after cinnamon rolls for some time. It’s been my Christmas craving. I’ve tried out a more Christmasy variation this time: Apple Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls. The recipe is here.

I didn’t change anything about the dough which is quite heavy and dense. It needed longer to rise than just one hour.

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I don’t think the original recipe requires enough apples for this, they barely covered the rolled-out dough. I’ll try double the amount next time. And I only used two thirds of the sugar for the filling, it was sweet enough for us.

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I cut the rolled-up dough into 16 pieces, not 12, because that’s easier to do and the rolls are a bit smaller.

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Covered, fittingly with a blessing, they went into the fridge overnight.

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I was rather disappointed because they didn’t rise noticeably during their stay in the fridge but they had oozed a lot of apple juice.

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The rolls rose during baking though so all was well in the end and the apple juice had turned into a thick syrup.

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These are lovely rolls, something quite different and I can imagine they’d be rather nice for a wintery breakfast. I didn’t bother making a glaze because they are rather sticky thanks to the syrup.

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Zucchini Pound Cake

We started 2015 with a lot of sorting and tidying up. It’s been a lot of work but it’s also been very satisfying. I personally started the New Year by unravelling last year’s work (I’d made a hat for me but it was just a tad too small), which was rather symbolic … of symbolism …

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I still owe you a picture of the inside of our New Year’s Pie. It was tasty as every year and went down well. Here it is:

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We started the year with my Dad’s birthday. This year I made a Zucchini Pound Cake. I had zucchini in the freezer for this recipe (the last portion is for a Zucchini Bread, coming soon…).* I used this recipe from i am baker. It’s the first recipe I’ve ever tried that requires cake flour. I’d never come across it before so had to google it. I found my answer on Nigella Lawson’s website and decided to try it her way. Basically, it’s normal flour mixed with corn starch and sieved a couple of times.

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I used only half the amount of sugar required in the recipe. Absolutely sufficient.
The cake turned out well, with nice big air holes in it.

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The zucchini needs to be dry for this cake and I think I dried it out too much, if that’s possible at all. It was really difficult to stir it in and so I ended up with a layer of zucchini near the bottom of the cake. It was alright, it just didn’t look that nice.
I made a lemon glaze for the cake, as per the original recipe.
I was quite surprised when I cut the cake and sampled a bit, it was rather dry but when we actually ate the cake, it was okay. Even a couple of days later it hadn’t gone noticeably more dry. Another zucchini recipe to keep….

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* 15 Jan. 2015: I saw the other day that the blog where I saw the recipe I was going to try out has been closed down. Since I hadn’t saved the recipe anywhere, the frozen batch of zucchini will go into a vegetable curry…

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!

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…

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!

Gewürzplätzchen- Christmas Baking, part 3

I don’t think I’ve ever been that early with my Christmas cookies. It’s not even the first Sunday of Advent yet and I’ve made three different types already. Well, all I can say is December is a busy month…

We made Gewürzplätzchen – one day, we made the dough, then it went in the fridge overnight, next day we baked the cookies and then finally we iced them. Gewürze are spices in German and there’s a lot of them in these cookies, a tablespoon each to be exact:

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Ingredients:
(adapted from LISA 49/2003, p.37)
250g butter
1 egg
160g sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ginger (the powdered stuff)
1 tsp ground cardamom (or go up to 1 tbsp, if you dare)
1 tsp ground cloves (or up to 1 tbsp but I find it overpowering)
500g flour

Method:
Melt the butter. Let it cool.
Mix the egg, sugar and syrup together until creamy.
Add baking powder, spices, butter and flour and bring together with your hands. Form a ball, cover and put in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

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Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C fan.
Roll out the dough to 4mm thick on a floured surface. (I alternately dust my worktop with flour and powdered sugar.) Cut out cookies. Bake for 7 minutes.
Don’t attempt to do this with kids – if they’re like mine, you’ll be struggling to get any cookies onto your baking sheet… And if they then turn the oven temperature to zero and you wonder why the cookies come out looking uncooked and slightly dried out, you know you’re baking with kids! 🙂

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These are baked:

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The recipe would like to see them covered in an icing made with port and added red swirls. But that’s too fancy for me. We experimented with some leftover green icing but it was too runny and those cookies now look ever so slightly mouldy….

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I then made another batch of icing (just powdered sugar and water) and finally got the right consistency and those last cookies are rather pretty:

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I wish I could share the smell of these Gewürzplätzchen! It’s (almost) the best thing about them. They taste good too. Quite a lot vanished between baking and having a dried icing…

English Gingerbread – Christmas Baking, part 2

My mum calls it “English Gingerbread” but its ‘real’ name is Chocolate Gingerbread and it’s a recipe by Nigella Lawson. It’s the first of only two of her recipes I’ve ever tried as for some reason I’ve never warmed to her and her TV shows. I did read her column in The Guardian, I think it was, at the time when we still read the paper paper. Anyway, it’s a personal favourite with my mum and so the kids and I made this again this year. I never got round to making it last year even though it was on the list…

The recipe is here. I have reduced the dark muscovado sugar to 80g and found it actually tastes much better. Normally it’s neither here nor there if you have a third less sugar but in this case it enhances the chocolatey-ness of the Gingerbread. What works rather well too is replacing the choc chips with grated chocolate. I suppose that would depend what you’re after: with choc chips you get chunky bits, the grated chocolate just melts into the Gingerbread. This year we used a mixture.

Black treacle and golden syrup are melted with butter and spices:

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It doesn’t look very pretty:

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I bake the Gingerbread in my brownie tin instead of a 30×20 roasting tin. The Gingerbread comes out higher that way and needs 45 minutes in the oven plus ten extra minutes with the oven turned off.

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The Gingerbread is covered in an icing made out of butter, ginger ale and cocoa melted together before whisked together with icing sugar:

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They’re then cut in sticks. Because the Gingerbread rises up so high in the brownie tin and we want small(-ish) bites, I cut them in sticks of about one centimetre thick. My mum says she likes them like that but I just might try the roasting tin version again next year…

Here are a couple of the Gingerbread sticks, the top layer of three or so in a shoe box (we keep Christmas cookies in shoe boxes on the balcony – that keeps them fresh all winter):

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