Banana Tea Cake

•July 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Ask a hausfrau what to do with overripe bananas, and she will tell you to bake banana bread. Ask the Professional Pastry Chef, and it will tell you to bake a Banana Tea Cake. What’s the difference? Well, the one is a bread, the other a cake. There’s your difference. But, seriously, is it only the name? We’ll come back to this issue, later on.

Looks familiar enough, flour, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, banana, baking soda, vanilla, and walnuts.

Well, it’s a regular cake batter, and surely enough, everything starts with beating melted butter with the sugar for several minutes.

In the meantime, the dry ingredients are being mixed. This step is important, not only to distribute salt and baking soda evenly throughout the flour. It also coats the walnuts with a thin layer of flour which helps preventing them from sinking to the bottom of the pan while baking.

Once butter and sugar is well beaten, eggs, vanilla and the banana puree are mixed in.

After stirring in the dry ingredients, the batter is poured into the buttered and floured bundt pan.

Then, the pan goes into the preheated oven, standard baking temperature of 350ºF. 45 Minutes later, the cake is baked and can come out of the oven. Bo Friberg urges the baker to unmold the cake as soon as possible to prevent the cake from soaking through.

After the cake is cooled off, it can be decorated either with powdered sugar or a glaze. I chose the powdered sugar, and went for the adidas sports look. Soccer World Cup is on, after all 😉 (BTW, Germany just scored a third place. Congrats on a great game to the German soccer team!)

Now, back to the question whether or not this is different from your regular old banana bread. Well, it’s baked in a bundt pan, not a loaf pan. So it doesn’t have the typical “bread shape.” Otherwise, not so much difference, after all! It’s leavened with baking soda – check. It contains banana puree – check. There are nuts in the cake – check. It’s sweet, heck, it’s VERY sweet, so – check. Ah, well, that looks a helluva lot like banana bread! There’s one difference, though: this cake is the softest, most moist version of banana bread I’ve ever had! It is really amazingly spongy, the walnuts are just a perfect addition to the bananas. It’s just a tad too sweet for my tooth. I will have to cut back on the sugar, next time. Otherwise, this is easily THE banana cake/bread recipe.

The final product in “artistic” presentation.

Banana Tea Cake. Banana Bread? Who cares, it’s delicious!


Pecan-Whiskey Tart

•July 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A potluck dinner some time ago left me with a bottle of finest Irish Whiskey – we treated ourselves to some Irish coffee, back then. Well, what should I say, I’m not a heavy drinker. Now and then a glass of wine, that’s all. So, what use could I put this bottle of hard liquor to? In the pastry kitchen, liquor is usually used to flavor baked goods (and the alcohol acts as a preservative at the same time). Of course, the Professional Pastry Chef saved the day. The index had exactly one entry for Whiskey: Pecan-Whiskey Tart. I love pecans, so it was decided, I would try this tart at some point.

If you are now wondering what exactly a tart is, and if it isn’t just a fancy name for a pie, I would like to quote Bo Friberg, who addresses this very question in his introduction to the chapter “Tarts.”

It is a common misconception that a tart is a European type of pie, or nothing more than a pie with a fancy name. Pies and tarts do have some similarities: they are both made of a crust and a filling, and they are usually baked in a metal tin. However, the baking pan itself sets the two apart: Tart pans are not as deep as pie pans, so they hold less, they have almost straight sides, the sides are usually fluted, and the pans have no lip. A tart is removed in one piece from the baking pan. A pie, on the other hand, is cut and served from the baking pan; it cannot be unmolded because of its fragile crust and large, mounded filling. Since a pie will fall apart if you try to take it out of the pan whole, pie pans have slanted sides to make serving easier. In most cases a pie is made with a double crust, and a tart with a single, but actually both can be made either way.

Let me add a couple of things. First of all: pies can be unmolded. Believe me, I’ve tried. You can even stack pies on top of each other. We recently created a three-layered pie, but that’s a different story. And second, the crust is typically different for tarts and pies. While a tart uses a sweet crumbly short crust, the pie crust is very flaky and not necessarily sweet, the surface more smooth.

Today, I decided to treat my fellow researchers to this specialty during our weekly group meeting. I just had used up all the short dough that I had made and frozen, recently (see last blog entry), so I had to make a new dough for the crust. I did not want to make a large quantity and freeze the rest, since it was kind of a hassle to work with the previously frozen dough. The recipe in The Professional Pastry Chef (from now on, I might as well use the acronym TPPC) is hard to scale down, so I tried a new recipe out of a cookbook solely devoted to Pastry. This turned out to be quite a nice dough, it was even easier to work with than the TPPC one!

Turns out that making short dough is not so much different from making pie crust 😉 Put the sifted dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) in a food processor, process until combined, then add the cubed, chilled butter, process until the texture looks crumbly. Then add the liquid ingredients (chilled water and an egg yolk), process until everything starts holding together. Remove from the processor and knead lightly on the counter until you have a smooth ball. E voilá, there you go, the ball has to go into the fridge for half an hour, perfect time to do the dishes and preheat the oven!

I learned that you should roll out short dough with as little flour as possible to not get an unpleasantly tough and hard texture in the final product. Turns out that sometimes pastry chefs can learn from housewives. Using two sheets of waxed paper eliminates the need for flour at all and helps transferring the rolled out crust into the pan.

While the pastry-lined pan was chilling in the freezer, I prepared the filling for the tart. It actually is pretty similar to a pecan pie filling. But see for yourselves…

Yummy ingredients: four eggs, a lot of brown sugar, molasses and light corn syrup, some vanilla, melted butter, and of course pecans and whiskey. Everything nicely mixed together, and filled into the prepared and chilled pastry shell. Yes, it’s loaded with carbs. But honestly, who cares? 😉

Next step: baking. 350ºF for about 35 minutes. Then off to the cooling rack. Well, as far as “cooling” goes at almost 90 degrees room temperature…

So, now it’s ready to eat, right? Well, no. This is The Professional Pastry Chef! We have to do some decorations!

The tiny white thingy is a piping bag made out of parchment paper. And I just realized that Bo Friberg actually has a little diagram with directions how to do that (pg. 505 in case you’re interested). Neat!

And now it’s done and the tart can go into the fridge to further cool down and set.

There you go. Pecan-Whiskey Tart in the fridge. It was actually quite delicious! The Whiskey taste was there but not too prominent (although I accidentally used twice the requested amount… much to the delight of our Irish post-doc Tommy 😉 ). In my opinion, the texture was a little too moist and fudgy. I think, I will only use three whole eggs and one yolk, and the right amount of Whiskey, next time.

The final product in “artistic” presentation.

Pecan-Whiskey Tart. Deliciousness…

Gâteau Lausanne (Short Dough, Vanilla Buttercream)

•June 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

In my last post on this blog, I wrote about the Gâteau Lausanne (“Lausanner Torte”). Well, it’s been a while since I made this cake, so I kind of wanted to make one of those. On the other hand, I’m trying to pursue my quest to bake my way through the Professional Pastry Chef. So I rifled through the book, looking for some way to incorporate both desires. And I found a way. Actually, a twofold way 😉

First, I found a recipe for short dough (German: “Mürbteig”). Almost all German decorated cakes (Gâteaus) have a bottom layer consisting of short dough. It helps transferring the cake from a storage plate into a display case, prevents the cake from “soaking through” and adds some nice texture and additional flavor to the cake.

And then, of course, I used the recipe for buttercream, which, in my opinion, is a lot better (nicer to work with and better in taste) than my “old” recipe.

As is the case with most decorated cakes, the Gâteau Lausanne requires a lot of preparation work. First of all, I had to bake all the layers. The picture on the left shows the Mise-en-Place for the sponges. In this case, they consist of almond paste (substituted for Marzipan), egg yolks, sponge cake crumbs, chopped hazelnuts, ground chocolate, flour, egg whites, sugar, and a handful cherries for one of the three layers.

The process of making the batter is rather elaborate. First, almond paste and egg yolks are beat together. Then, egg whites and sugar are beat together until they form stiff peaks. One third of the meringue is stirred into the egg yolk/almond paste batter, the rest is being folded into the mixture together with the dry ingredients. Then, two layers are spread in a circular shape onto a baking sheet and baked.

The third layer gets a topping of cherries before being baked. This will be the middle layer of the cake that adds some “fruityness” to the cake.

Next up was the short dough layer that would provide the base for the cake. After mixing the dough, I rolled it out, transferred it to a baking sheet and cut out a round shape of the size of the cake. No, this is not a huge cookie cutter, it’s the very versatile baking ring. You’ll see more of it later on.

Spreading out baked layers on the (preferably tiled, and of course clean) floor immediately after they came out of the oven is a “technique” that I learned from my master in Germany. It keeps the layers moist, they start “sweating.”

After they cooled off a bit on the floor, I stacked them using my new and fancy tiered cooling rack to let them cool completely. So, here are the four baked layers of the cake, baked and waiting for the next day to be assembled into the Gâteau Lausanne (they spent the night wrapped in plastic to prevent them from drying out).

The next morning, I prepared everything for the filling – a vanilla cream that is similar to pastry cream but different. The filling consists of egg yolks, milk, gelatin and vanilla pudding powder, cooked in a double boiler. While those ingredients are cooked, egg whites and sugar are whipped to stiff peaks. The stiff meringue is then folded into the hot vanilla mixture.

Here, again, the baking ring is of great use. I put the first sponge layer upside down on an aluminum cake sheet and cut it into a regular round shape using the cake ring. Then half of the still warm/hot vanilla cream is poured into the ring, on top of the first sponge layer.

The cherry-topped layer is put upside down on top of the first layer of vanilla cream, then the rest of the warm cream is poured into the ring.

At last, the remaining sponge layer is put on top of the cream layer, also upside down. Then, the “filled” cake has to sit and cool off, the cream has to set. That takes a couple of hours at room temperature. Putting it into the fridge or freezer is not an option because the cream layers would start to “sweat” and soak through the sponge layers.

Once the cake was cooled off, I started preparing the buttercream. Here, my little (haha) kitchen aid is whipping butter and margarine.

While the fat is whipping, I am preparing Swiss Meringue on the stove. Egg whites and sugar in a double boiler, and I use a hand mixer to not get a sore arm…

A thermometer is also a very handy tool if the recipe calls for heating the meringue to 120ºF… Once it has reached this temperature, the bowl is removed from the heat and the meringue is whipped further until it has cooled off. Then it is stirred into the butter. This makes a very very nice buttercream that has an awesome texture and tastes fantastic. It’s flavored with a little bit of vanilla extract and, in this case, a little bit of Rum.

Now it’s time to free the cake from the ring. But before we can do that, we have to put the short dough “crust” layer on top of the cake and then flip the entire cake upside down. Then we can “cut” the cake “out of the ring.” And this is what it looks like. Naked, so to speak.

A first (very thin) layer of buttercream is applied to “close” the surface and provide an even surface for the second and final layer of buttercream. As you can see, the vanilla cream was not sufficiently set, so that it’s bulging out a little bit. I had to remove the buttercream layer and redo it after it had been in the fridge for about an hour…

The second layer is also applied rather thin on top, and a little thicker around the side. A nice little tool, shaped like some kind of a comb helps creating a neat pattern around the cake and remove excess buttercream. Then I used a little paring knife to shave of some chocolate shavings off a Baker’s chocolate square.

Pastry bag and star tip (size 10) are used to pipe little mounds of buttercream on top of each piece.

Cherry halves help pepping up the appearance and will taste nice later.

And finally, another two cherry halves and little stems, as well as a leaf finish off the decoration of the cake.

This is how it looks on the inside: Three layers of “almond sponge” and two layers of vanilla cream on top of a short dough crust that is “glued” to the bottom sponge layer with some cranberry preserves. It is a rather light cake because it almost contains no fat (only the buttercream icing contributes to the actual fat count). Also, the texture is very light and fluffy because of all the meringue that was folded into the sponges and the cream. A nice summer cake that you can have a second piece of without having to have a bad conscience 😉

The final product in “artistic” presentation.

Gâteau Lausanne. A good old friend of mine…

Gâteau Lugano

•May 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well, it’s been a while! Again. Seems like I have to start every blog post with these words, nowadays… But after the comprehensive exams are finally over (the semester already ended a couple of weeks ago) I hopefully will find the time to bake and blog more often, again!

Today being Memorial Day (Happy Memorial Day, folks!) provided me with the ideal opportunity to show off get into the baking again. For several weeks, I was planning this day. Well, not this particular day, today, but just any day I would start baking again. I wanted to do it right, I wanted to start the baking season off with something worthy. In order to pursue this goal, I rifled through the Professional Pastry Chef, looking for something special. And I didn’t have to search for long. I was particularly looking forward to finally start working with the chapter “Decorated Cakes,” and that was where I found the recipe for the Gâteau Lugano.

Now, you might ask, “what the heck is a Gâteau?” Well, I keep telling my friends here, that it’s really just a fancy French word for cake. But that’s only half the truth. It is what in German would be called “Torte.” This is a special kind of cake, usually consisting of several layers of some kind of sponge, filled with buttercream, cream, custard, etc. and frosted with one of those. The frosting then usually gets “fancied up” a little bit with all kinds of decorations, chocolate ornaments, fruit, etc. Some sources on the internet refer to Gâteau as being a special type of French cake. But let me tell you that not only the French have mastered the art of baking Gâteau(s). Germany, Austria, and Switzerland also have a long and rich tradition in creating those decadent treats (and thus, the German language has its own word, the aforementioned “Torte” to describe those cakes). Now, there you have it.

A few years back, when I first learned my way about making Gâteaus, I would practice all summer long, during summer break. Staying at my parents’ house provided me with a (fairly) large kitchen, all my wonderful tools, and a crafty kitchen aid – I also call her mom. She and I would sit on the patio, basically every day, having a sip of espresso with a delicious piece of cake, enjoying the view over my little home village. I plan on recreating these moments in my new home, here in Maine, on my porch, which, unfortunately, doesn’t quite have the view but still offers a nice flair.

Maybe I should loose a word or two about the other part of the name: “Lugano.” That’s a city in southern Switzerland, close to the border to Italy. A lot of the recipes that I used to do at home came from Switzerland because my master had been working there, a long time ago. Actually, one of my favorite Gâteaus is the “Lausanner Torte” which is also named after a Swiss city, just about 170 miles east of Lugano. It is similar in the fact that the sponge is made with marzipan (which is made out of almond paste).

Anyway, back to the actual baking. Since I wanted to bring the cake to a little BBQ we were having at a friend’s house, this afternoon, I started yesterday, baking the sponge. Not just any old sponge, the recipe called for “Cocoa Almond Sponge.” You might think that this is just a regular sponge with a little bit of almond flour and cocoa. Wrong. It’s much more fancier than that. I needed to make Almond Paste. Well, that finally provided me with an excuse to buy a food processor, so I’m not too sad about the fact that it was somewhat more work…

The Almond Paste recipe on the other hand called for blanched almonds. Our health food store did not have blanched almonds, so I gut regular raw almonds and blanched them myself. The process sounded easy enough (had to look it up on the internet, never done this before…), just place the almonds in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit for a minute (and not more than a minute!), then drain them, give ’em a cold shower, and then slip them out of their skins. It turned out that one minute is apparently not enough to loosen the skins, so I had to do it all over again. It still was a hassle. Well, not really, just took a lot longer than anticipated. Once peeled, excuse me, blanched, I had to put them in the food processor, and grind them up. Then add some powdered sugar and simple syrup. Of course, I added too much simple syrup (the recipe said “gradually add the simple syrup,” which I happily read over), so I had to compensate with some more almonds. It was still pretty runny but I didn’t care since it would end up in the sponge, anyway.

In this picture (the only one during the baking of the sponge, unfortunately, I was a little stressed out…), the almond paste is whipped together with an egg white. Then, a couple of eggs were separated, yolks and whites whipped separately, with sugar, of course, then stirred together, and at last, some flour and cocoa powder were folded in. Unfortunately, the recipe called for sponge layers, so I baked the sponge in a baking ring, but had to cut the layers, afterwards. Next time, I’m gonna bake three separate sheets, that’s a lot easier (not having a proper knife to cut the layers…)

Well, that was pretty much all the prepping I could do, yesterday, so I just covered the sponge and let it sit over the night.

This morning, I prepared the butter cream. Real butter cream. The recipe I learned in Germany was a shortcut – nice and easy while still pretty good and close to the original. Today, I decided to go with the recipe in the book. It is a little more work, but turns out WAY better. You have to beat egg whites in a bain-marie (fancy French word for a bowl over a pot with boiling water) until they reached 120ºF, then further whip them away from the heat until they are cooled off. In the meantime, butter and shortening (I used margarine, readily available at your local grocery store…) are creamed together, and everything is beat together once the egg whites are cool enough. In the picture, the “final two ingredients” for the Gâteau are waiting for me to finish the cake.

So, first off, I cut the layers of the sponge (no, I did not do a nice job at that but anyway…), cut a little round piece out of the top layer and spread (quite) some buttercream on the bottom layer. Yes, I used way too much buttercream. But, hey, I’m in America! Look at those German Chocolate Cakes or any old Carrot Cake, and there will still be more frosting in/on those…

Well, then the middle layer came atop the bottom layer, and the bottom part of the cake was iced with buttercream, as was the little top part, by the way. Yes, you can still see crumbs looking through. That doesn’t really matter, a second layer will be applied. The first layer helps keeping everything in place so that it is easier to give the icing a nice smooth finish. After applying the first layer, both parts went into the fridge for 30-45 minutes.

Oops, forgot to take pictures in between. Here, both parts are ready to be assembled. Let me explain what happened since the last picture. The small top layer was iced again, then with the aid of a cooling rack, a nice cocoa pattern was sifted on top. Finally, lightly crushed sliced almonds were applied to the sides. to pretty everything up. Then the bottom part got its second layer of icing, also some almonds on the sides, and then I imprinted marks for 20 pieces. That makes the decorating (and the cutting afterwards) a lot easier!

Yes, this step was obvious, the small part goes on top of the big part. Duh. And yes, I screwed up a little bit with the pattern. Cooling rack was too far away from the top layer. Well, I’ll know better, next time!

The rest of the buttercream went into a piping bag, and each piece was decorated with a nice little mound of buttercream. Now, the cake’s startin’ to look pretty, ain’t it? But wait for it – that’s not all!

Here we go, strawberry quarters! Well, actually a lot less because the strawberries were HUGE! So I just cut off the tips, and sliced them in half, then quarters. Good enough? Not quite! Something’s still missing.

Now, that’s it! Those two strawberries really made a difference, didn’t they? But wait, there’s still something missing! A glance in the book revealed that Bo Friberg used Strawberry greens to make things less red. Darn, I had discarded all the greens. But wait, I still had almond paste in the fridge! Would it be firm enough to be formed into leaves? Would I have green food coloring to make actual nice green leaves? The resolution right after the break!

Haha. OK, enough fooling around. I put out the almond paste, it was quite firm but not enough to actually put it into some shape. So, I took some confectioner’s sugar, and kneaded that into a little chunk of almond paste. And then some more sugar. Then I discovered green food coloring in my kitchen cupboard (bought that around Christmas for decorating cookies, I guess…), and kneaded some of that into my little chunk of now freshly created marzipan. Yes, you read correctly, marzipan. That’s what it takes: Almond Paste, Powdered Sugar, Simple Syrup. There you go, make your own marzipan. Pretty awesome…

Without the proper equipment (marble counter top, cookie cutters, marzipan tools), I had to improvise a little, but I got it to work, eventually.

Here’s the first attempt to make two leaves. Turned out that those were WAY too big. Even though the strawberries were quite on the bigger side, they looked kind of forlorn next to those huge leaves. So, I started over.

And BAM, there you go! Nice little Strawberry leaves. Funny, they look exactly like the marzipan rose leaves I used to decorate my wedding cakes with. Haha. Well, maybe if time allows, I’m gonna try to do different kinds of leaves. For now, those have to suffice.

And here you go, the final product! I think the leaves just made it perfect. It’s been almost a year since I produced my last genuine Gâteau. I tried one around Christmas, but that didn’t turn out to be very good. A little on the dry side, not very fancy, just a little fantasy cake, nothing more. This one is different. It’s the real thing. Made me feel really really good after finally finishing all the little details. I’m back in the game. Wait for more to come!

Oh, you wanna know how it tasted? I think it was pretty decent. Maybe one or more of the people who ate a piece are gonna leave a comment, I tend to not judge my own work 😉

The final product in “artistic” presentation.

I give you: Gâteau Lugano. It’s good to be back…

Braided White Bread

•April 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well, it’s been a while. I apologize for that. It’s the end of the semester, again. You know, the time when all hell breaks loose, and your life starts to develop one of its own… Anyway. Today, I just felt like doing something. Creating a real product. So I decided to rifle through the bread section of The Professional Pastry Chef. I didn’t have to turn too many pages until I found the next recipe to catch my eye: Braided White Bread. That sounded terrific because I just love to make yeast doughs and form braided loaves. As a matter of fact, this recipe takes 10 pages to explain and illustrate how to braid bread in different ways. I was hooked. And since the one-half recipe was for three 18 ounce loaves, I decided to try three different kinds of braids.

So, the recipe told me to dissolve the yeast in warm milk, and then add salt, bread and cake flour, and sugar. Then I should mix everything together till the dough formed a ball. And only then I should add the butter. As weird as that sounded, I decided to give it a try. Well, I should’ve trusted my guts: First, the dough was really really firm, and my poor little KitchenAid had to put in a lot of effort to knead the ball.

And after I added the butter, the poor little machine had a hard time incorporating the butter into the dough. Note in the book: Add the butter with the other ingredients…

At some point, I decided to finish off the dough by hand. I’m getting kinda nervous whenever my KitchenHelper starts smelling a little awkward… E voila, the dough is ready to proof. I even did the window test, this time. First timer!

It’s always such a pleasing feeling when the dough has risen…

Then came the interesting part: braiding the loaves! I decided to start with a Two-string braid. That starts with, you’ve guessed it, two strings, nicely pounded and rolled out. It’s a little complicated to describe the process, so I’m just gonna show you some (pretty badly colored) pictures.

Awesome, isn’t it? Took me a while and the internet to figure out what I was supposed to do. Unfortunately, there were no pictures for the two-string braid in the book. Just a very short description. And I’m still not really sure if I really did the right two-string braid. There are several possibilities. I just used the method that was closest to the description in the book…

Well, the Three-string braid is easy. Everybody knows how to do that. Right? C’mon, everybody has done that when they were small and played with dolls… Haha.

Anyway, on to the Four-string braid. Here, things get really interesting!

I was really really really proud of that guy. It looks much more sophisticated than the “regular” three-string. I can’t wait to try the higher-order string braids…

After the braiding, I had three different white bread braids on my sheet pan: Two-string, Three-string, Four-string from left to right.

After having done the three loaves, I still had 2.5oz of dough. Conveniently enough, there is a variety of different rolls that you can make with the same dough. The simple Knot, and the Double Loops seemed boring, I felt adventurous. So, I went for the Twists. Never heard of them but they look quite cute. Starting with a single string, the steps are as follows:

After brushing the loaves with egg and proofing them for 20 minutes, they went into the oven.

10 minutes later, they already looked nicely goldish. I put the Twist roll in so that all four things were done at the same time.

And indeed, after another 15 minutes, the three loaves and the roll had a very nice golden-brown color, and were ready to be taken out of the oven.

The roll was immediately consumed with leftover Sloppy Joes – de-licious! Look closely at the picture of the three braided loaves, the difference lies in the details! The three-string is the flattest braid of the three. While the two-string is a little out-of-shape (it was my first, I’ll be more careful, next time!), you can see that the three-string has a “valley” in the middle, and the four-string has very prominent “hills” lined up. Very nice…

And delicious! The somewhat chewy texture actually reminds me a little bit of Bagels. I will have some bread for breakfast, tomorrow. With peanut butter and jelly. It’s a shame that I’m out of cream cheese…

The final product in “artistic” presentation.

Braided White Bread. What else is there to say?

Heide Sand Cookies

•March 21, 2010 • 1 Comment

Isn’t that nice? While looking for the next recipe to try out, I stumbled across an ancient German classic: Heidesand. Yes, it’s German. That’s why it sounds weird. It’s pronounced “huy-deh-sund.” Or something like that. I’m not very good at trying to write in English syllables how to pronounce German words. Oh well, I’m a physicist, not a linguist (little inside joke, I guess).

Anyway. Heidesand means heath sand. Weird? Maybe. The origin of this German treat is the Lüneburger Heide (Lunenburg Heath), and people thought that color and texture of those cookies are very similar to the heath sand found in the Lunenburg Heath. So they named them after the actual heath sand. Enough with the history lesson, let’s get on to the food.

Yupp. Not much in there. Flour and powdered sugar, already sifted together. Vanilla and lemon juice for the flavor, butter to stick everything together, pink decoration sugar for the eyes, and apricot preserves to make things less dry. Where did I get the pink sugar from? Well, technically, I couldn’t get it at all. All I found was red sugar. So, I just put it in a blender, together with some regular granulated sugar, and hit the button a couple of times. With that procedure I ended up with very finely granulated pink sugar. Preserves are not a good choice for baking, by the way. At all. Jam is way better. Well, I already had preserves, so I stuck with it…

Kneading everything together at low speed. You don’t want the flour to form gluten. Otherwise, the texture will be chewy, not sandy. Don’t overbeat it!

Once everything sticks together, I formed a ball and refrigerated it. Otherwise it’s not workable. The dough has to be firm to be rolled into ropes.

Here we already have the ropes, and they are already rolled in the homemade pink sugar. They are about 5cm in diameter, which I think is a little to thick. The cookies are just a little too big that way…

The ropes are then cut into cookies, about 9mm thick. Again, this is pretty thick, the cookies will be pretty huge. 6-7mm would probably be enough. Then I made little dents in the larger ends of the cookies (using a melon baller…) and filled them with apricot preserves. Now, I stated before that preserves are a bad choice. And here is why: preserves have little chunks of fruit in them. You don’t want to have those chunks because it’s a hassle to get just the right amount of apricot into those dents, whenever there comes a fruit chunk out of the piping tip…

After about 15 Minutes @ 375ºF the cookies are done. Nice and golden with a little apricot eye and a pinkish caramel border.





The final product in “artistic” presentation.

Heide Sand Cookies. Ain’t they beautiful?

Soft Gingerbread Cake

•March 2, 2010 • 2 Comments

I love tea cakes. They remind me of the weekends at home, a long long time ago. My mum would bake a fresh tea cake, every Saturday. As kids, my brother and I had to take a bath on Saturdays. When I would come out of the bathroom, the entire house would smell like freshly baked cake. When the cake had finally cooled off a little, we were allowed to have a piece with a glass of milk. I was just reminded of these fond memories, when I entered my kitchen – it still smells like freshly baked cake.

Well, after the puff pastry, I didn’t really know what to do next. So, I asked a couple of friends, yesterday, if they would like to request something. Adam finally decided on Soft Gingerbread Cake. It’s not the season, but then, it’s tea cake, not actual gingerbread. It is a very spicy cake, flavored with brown sugar, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and ground cardamom. Sounds delish? Indeed, it is!

The only ingredients missing in my kitchen were cardamom and half-and-half, so I decided to make a store-run. While at it, I also bought a Bundt cake pan. Finally! I was looking for an occasion to finally get one of those.

Well, what is to say about the cake? It’s a simple batter, nothing fancy. Instead of the traditional method, creaming together fat and sugar, adding the eggs and stirring in the dry ingredients, the recipe called for beating the eggs with sugar, adding the dry ingredients and beat in the butter at last. I believe that this is actually the better strategy. The batter felt very stable, the cake was rising pretty nice in the oven, and the result looks really delicious and appetizing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I only made half the recipe in order to not overfill the pan. Turns out that I could easily have made the entire recipe, the pan is large enough.

After about 45 Minutes, the cake was all done, leaving the entire house smelling really really good. How to test for done-ness? Poke the cake with a finger; if it bounces back it’s done. If your finger leaves a dent you should probably bake it some more…

Yes, it looks beautiful on the inside. The crust may be a little thick but that’s ok. The cake is wonderfully moist inside, and very spicy. It tastes really really good. Reminds me of a German classic, “Gewürzkuchen…”


The final product in “artistic” presentation.

Soft Gingerbread Cake.