Friday, March 17, 2017

Baked Dutch Cheesecake on a Weekday Afternoon

After I got sidetracked for a while, today I thought I would ease back into things with something simple and delicious – a lovely Baked Dutch Cheesecake with Quark. Just the thing for a weekday afternoon.

Quark, or fresh cheese, is one of many dairy products that is rather popular in lots of European countries, such as the Netherlands and Germany. While the Dutch call it kwark, and the French refer to it as fromage blanc, we call it Quark in German, but, basically, it is the same product. We can by it with different levels of fat content - varying from 10% to 40% FDM (fat in dry matter).

Mixed with fresh saisonal fruits or berries, Quark makes for a nice and healthy dessert, loaded with protein and minerals, It can also be enjoyed as a spread for your favorite sliced bread. Or mix it with herbs from your garden and serve it as a wonderful dip for fresh veggies or boiled new potatoes. But Quark really shines in all kinds of cheesecakes.

Cheesecake is one of my absolute favorite cakes. The flavor is sweet and tart, it is lemony and creamy. It is always a treat. It is also really so simple to make, so great for a baking novice, with but a few ingredients that are not much trouble to procure - that you might even have lingering around in your well-stocked fridge.

There are a lot of different recipes for Dutch Cheesecake out there, baked or un-baked, with fruits or berries, with a puff pastry or cookie (speculaas) dough base. We prefer the baked kind. The other day I came across a lovely Baked Dutch Kwarktaart and after I sufficiently tinkered around with a recipe, I finally settled on this no-fuss version which I like, rustic look an all, some days that´s all I need to make me happy.

Baked Dutch Cheesecake (Gebakken Hollandse Kwarktaart)

  • one round of good-quality, all butter, puff pastry (storebought or homemade rough puff pastry) to fit your round springform pan (about 26 cm or 10 inches)
  • 5 eggs (L), free-range or organic
  • 250 grams superfine baking sugar
  • the scraped seeds of one vanilla bean or 2 tsps natural vanilla sugar
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • finely grated zest from one organic lemon
  • 500 grams Quark*

  1. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a round measuring about 30cm.
  2. Butter your baking pan, line the bottom of the pan with a round of baking parchment.
  3. Transfer the puff pastry to the baking pan.
  4. Chill for 10 minutes until completely firm.
  5. Then preheat your oven to 200° Celsius (400° Fahrenheit).
  6. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, lemon zest and quark.
  7. Take the baking pan from the refrigerator.
  8. Pour the filling into the puff pastry lined baking pan.
  9. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the filling is set and golden.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack, unmold and serve either cold or at room temperature with or without powdered sugar.

If you cannot get hold of Quark* you can  make it yourself. Quark is a mild creamy cheese without the sour taste of yogurt. It is a soft un-aged cheese and is NOT the same thing as cream cheese or cottage cheese. It is also distinct from ricotta because ricotta is made from scalded whey. It usually has much lower fat content than cream cheeses and has no salt added.


  • 1.5 l  milk (try and use organic milk in this recipe)
  • 0.5 l  buttermilk (organic is definitely best in a recipe like this but do not use low-fat buttermilk. It will not work well)

  1. Pour both milks in a heavy pan and bring up to 38° Celsius (100 °Fahrenheit).
  2. Cover the pan and let it sit at room temp overnight.
  3. The following day, the whey should have separated from the milk solids.
  4. Line a colander with cheese cloth, knot the four ends together and suspend the bundle for a good three hours over a bowl to catch the whey. 
  5. Untie the know, spoon out the Quark – it should be "dry", the consisitency should look like a cross between cream cheese and yogurt. 
  6. NOTE: For cheesecake, let it drain a little longer. Or add some freshly cut chives, Italian parsley, lemon zest, finely mashed garlic, salt, and pepper and you have a basic herbal quark (Kräuterquark), a great spread right on your favorite bread or roll.

In no time you can be enjoying a delicious tart that is a perfectly suited for a weekday afternoon, rain or shine, it can even be considered a healthyish afternoon (or breakfast) treat.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Monthly Cooking Event for a Cause - Über den Tellerrand kochen, Bonn (Germany)

Here is just a little up-date of another delightful cooking event to better the integration of immigrants and refugees from many different countries into German society. As a group, we meet up every first Sunday of the month to cook and bake together in the afternoon and then enjoy the fruits of our labor in the evening. There is a ton that we can learn from each other and for the particpants is it always fun to discuss Syrian culture while chopping an onion or to talk about the education system in Eritrea while rolling out some cookie dough. At the same time, we discover unknown dishes, recipes, tastes and flavors and venture into the unknown, we make room for new perspectives and different points of view. And we even manage to re-discover our own traditions, maybe with a new twist or a fresh interpretation! That´s what I would call a successful team effort.

On Sunday we enjoyed various dishes. As the theme for the evening was Kurdish Food, we started the dinner off with a traditional Kurdish Red Lentil (Nîsk) Soup - the ingredients included white rice and red lentils, onions, cumin, red lentils and fresh coriander - as well as tomato paste and red pepper paste.

We then had Falafel with chopped vegetable saladFalafel, of course, is the ultimate Middle Eastern street food, the name of which probably comes from the word pilpel (pepper). It used to be made in two ways: either as it is in Egypt today, from crushed, soaked fava beans or fava beans combined with chickpeas, or, as it was made on Sunday, from chickpeas alone. The basic components of the Middle Eastern Side Salad were cucumbers and tomatoes dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. The vegetables were all diced: the size of the pieces varies depending on personal preference. Some cooks prefer to dice the vegetables very small, other cooks prefer a more chunky texture. This kind of salad has different names throughout the Middle East. It is a refreshing side dish that compliments all kinds of main dishes and can be served with any meal – even breakfast

Then there were platters brimming with Hummus, the Middle Eastern dip made of chickpeas and silky tahini sesame paste as the base. Nicely finished off with chopped herbs, paprika and olive oil.

Ibo from the Syrian city of Afrin and "his crew" prepared Kurdish Kebab Banjan (fried eggplants, flattened meatballs, tomatoes all layered into baking dishes and then cooked in the oven) and homemeade Ayran (jogurt, water, a bit of salt and garlic).

And, of course, we had some sweet treats in the shape of cookies for dessert.

As always, hugh thanks to all the wonderful participants, sponsors, organisation team (including Anke Krämer and Sara Meiers) and the Katholische Familienbildungsstätte Bonn for letting us cook in their wonderful kitchen!

We will be cooking and baking again on the first Sunday in April - be prepared to learn more about some delicious food and seasonal desserts from many different parts of the world!

For more information, feel free to take a look at the FB page for the Über den Tellerrand kochen, Bonn group here and follow along, if you like!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - February 2017 Recipes

With some delay we are breathing new life into The Cottage Cooking Club. Over a period of six months, once a month 8on the 28th), members and guest bloggers will post their pics and comments of and on the food that they cooked from River Cottage Every Day – "RCED“ (for all) and/or River Cottage Love Your Leftovers - "RCLYL" (optional). Both cookbook are by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The recipes will not be chosen by me, participants will choose as many OR as little as they want each month, make one soup or ten dinners or three desserts, whatever they prefer. Then they put together one post at the end of the month and let the rest of the group know what they think of the dishes that they prepared. Are they worth trying? Do the recipes work as written? Any suggestions on changes?

Together, as a group, we will cook as many of the recipes from the book(s) as we will manage during a six-month period - so no matter whether we have cooked all recipes from the book(s) or just a fraction, we will conclude our activities - as far as these two book are concerned - at the end of July 2017.

For my February post, I started with one of my favorite light lunches – a quiche/savory tart. There is one on page 328 called „Gill´s poached Leek and Blue Cheese Tart“, and Hugh names this tart to be a „River Cottage classic“.

Other than switch to goat cheese, I did not tinker with the recipe. Make this one, it is a winner, we loved it. The leeks are available year round but are particularly nice during the colder months and they become really tender and sweet when cooked with butter and water prior to being added to the pastry shell. Other than the cooked leeks, there is cheese and eggs and cream – what is not to like about that?! Oh, I did add some of my beloved herbs, chives and Italian parsley to the filling.

The second recipe had to be a treat, of course, for some reason February was the month of treats. On page 384 there is Hugh´s recipe for „Easy Rich Chocolate Cake“. And what an indulgence that is. I love what Hugh says about this cake „Everyone should have a little black cake in their culinary wardrobe, and this is mine“. Now this is mine too.

With 8 ounces (225 grams) of deep dark good-quality chocolate (70%), same amount of butter, eggs, sugar, ground almonds and very little flour (I always use spelt flour), this is a wonderful recipe. I have made it three times since I first laid my eyes on it and every single person that tried it, loved it.

The third recipe is nothing spectecular but I like the fact that it was included in this book. On page 339 there is a rather simple recipe for „Apple Compote“ or apple sauce that we should all have in our recipe repertoires. With just two ingedients, this is ceratainly a great way to use those apples that have been lingering in your fruit bowl or in the fridge or wherever you keep them for a while now – personally, I like to add a healthy dose of Ceylon cinnamom to mine and if the apples are not too juicy to begin with, I also add a generous splash of natural apple juice. Other than that – this is a nice recipe to know.

The fourth recipe has become a staple in our house ever since I have made this (identical recipe) for the first time from River Cottage Every Day Veg. The recipe for „Beet and Walnut Hummus“ on page 127 is perfect this time of year with beets being widely available.

With toasted fresh walnuts, dry-fried and ground cumin seeds, bread crumbs, garlic, lemon juice, a mild olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and tahini (that versatile sesame seed paste) - to lend an extra layer of flavor – this is certainly a different kind of hummus. So vibrant, so delicious and one of my favorites. I like to serve the beet and walnut hummus as a starter, dip-style, with warmed tortilla triangles. If you are a beetroot lover and if you are looking for a different and eye-catching recipe to try, then this hummus is for you.

The fifth recipe for this month were the „Green Beans and Tomatoes“ – another recipe that is identical to the one found in River Cottage Every Day Veg. My kids adore this dish – in winter I always use good-quality canned tomatoes, in summer fresh garden tomatoes that I will peel beforehand. And I like to always add a good pinch of Italian peperoncini to the olive oil – to give this dish that extra kick. A bit of spice never hurt green beans and tomatoes.

Recipe number six is another treat and THE reason why one should not hesitate to buy this book. I know there is a ton of red beet chocolate treat recipes out there but this one is simple and utterly delicious, our kids love these „Chocolate and Beet Brownies“ on page 397.

Moist and with a slight tinge of burgundy, not too sweet and a never-fail-recipe that is wonderful as is but made even better (if I may say so myself) with the addition of a thin layer of unsweetened crème fraîche and poppy seeds.

Go ahead, make it, you know you want to.

My seventh recipe for this post was the "Beet and Cumin Soup with Spiced Yogurt" (page 274). This comfort-style soup definitely tastes like a true River Cottage recipe - the flavors are familiar and comforting and we enjoyed this burgundy, earthy winter soup.

Again, if, like us, you enjoy beets in every imaginable way, you should try the soup while beets are widely available and reasonably prized in winter (at least around here). The Spiced Yogurt is a wonderful element of the soup but you should not limit its uses to this soup, drizzle it on rôtisserie chicken or serve with pita bread and veggies.

Last but not least, the "Honey Whole-Wheat Cake" (page 386) is a must if you are looking for a comfort-style cake with the definite taste of honey. Make sure to use a mild variety of local runny honey (if possible) that you enjoy, or it will overpower the cake.

It is worth noticing that the recipe calls for whole-wheat flour and ground almonds (I left the skins on) and according to my experience if you want a more pronounced taste of almonds, you could toast them before you process them to make your own almond meal. You can also make this recipe with spelt flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder as well - I tried it and it works.

What I really liked was serving this cake warm, with some Greek yogurt and fruit (whatever is in season) alongside. You can re-heat a slice and enjoy it as breakfast cake (very fashionable these days) as well. The ground almonds keep this teatime treat moist for a day or two (well, if it lasts that long).

In conclusion, I hope that my post will convince you to join us for a month or two or even the remainder of the six-months, who knows, there is still time...For more info, pls go to The Cottage Cooking Club site here.

So far, I (family also) have enjoyed cooking from RCED - the tastes feel comforting as many of the flavor compositions are similar and identical to the RCEDV that we cooked from what now seems like a lifetime ago.

To me, springtime always feels like the right time for new hope and fresh projects!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread - A Teatime Treat

Just a quick post about one of those perennial favorites, shortbread. Or more specifically, the rather pretty looking disc of Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread with a decorated glaze and then cut into elegant triangles. One look at this pretty dessert the other day and I knew that it was calling my name.

Shortbreads are very easy to make. Basically, you just need three ingredients (sugar, butter and flour), then roll out the dough, trim it and shape it, so it is perfect if you want to make a quick dessert or teatime treat. Personally, I like to add a bit of fine sea salt to the dough – that salt adds a little extra something, and takes shortbread from being a bit bland into being rich and buttery. If you have enough time, you should make sure that once you shaped the dough, it should be chilled for about half an hour to an hour, then put into a fairly low oven and left to turn a golden color.

Shortbread should be crumbly, dense and rich. The rather generous amount of butter gives it its melt-in-the-mouth texture. Shortbread relies on really good-quality unsalted butter for its flavor, so don't skimp on this. It's also important to keep a light hand. Overworking the dough will develop the gluten in the flour and make the shortbread tough.

For this recipe, I chose to mix plain wheat flour and rice flour for a very softer texture, but you can use all purpose flour for a slightly crunchier result.

Shortbread can be eaten on its own or crumbled and used as a base for tarts or cheesecakes. You can make strawberry shortcakes by serving a sandwich of shortbread filled with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

This recipe includes grapefruit zest in the dough. Unlike lemons, the pungent taste of grapefruit often becomes lost when baked. That’s why you need lots of zest. And then the icing is a nice complement to the zingy dough. These cookies pair perfectly with coffee and tea!

Grapefruit-Vanilla Shortbread
(recipe inspired by Anna Posey)

Ingredients for the Dough
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest (organic or untreated if possible)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla sugar (or use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup AP (plain) flour
  • 1/4 cup rice four OR use 1 cup AP (plain) flour in total
  • a pinch of fine sea salt

Ingredients for the Icing and Toppings
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • dried hibiscus flowers, rose petals and cornflowers (optional - please NOTE: use only organic, untreated and edible flowers)

In Addition
  • a 9-inch (23 cm) tart/quiche pan with removable bottom or use a springform pan

  1. Lightly butter your baking pan. Line bottom with a round of baking parchment, then butter again.
  2. Pulse grapefruit zest, vanilla sugar (extract), 1/2 cup butter, and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a food processor until smooth and homogenous. 
  3. Add flour(s) salt; pulse just to combine. 
  4. Press dough evenly into prepared pan, smoothing top with a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 180° C (350°F).
  6. Prick shortbread all over with a fork and bake until edges are golden and center is pale but firm to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes.
  7. Remove band from pan and immediately cut shortbread into 16 wedges. Let cool.
  8. Whisk grapefruit juice and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a small bowl until smooth.
  9. Spread a thin layer of icing over shortbread with a small offset spatula, leaving a thin border of crust exposed. 
  10. Top as desired (optional).
  11. Let sit about 15 minutes to allow icing to set. 
  12. Retrace cut marks.
NOTE: Dough can be pressed into pan 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Then bake the following day.

This zesty teatime shortbread has a beautiful crumbly texture, plus zingy grapefruit and warm vanilla flavor. Tart grapefruit gives refreshing flavor to these but if grapefruit is not your thing, you could try using another citrus fruit like blood oranges (the market stalls are brimming with blood oranges around here right now), oranges, lemons or clementines. Very simple, but wonderful and so welcome after a heavy meal!

Shortbread cookies fill the kitchen with a wonderful buttery freshly-baked smell. So simple and easy to flavor with your own choice of vanilla, lemon zest or even lavender. And believe when I tell you, that kids will love making them too.

And last but not least, in this recipe, "a few textured and vibrant toppings gussy up a tender, buttery, and ultrasimple shortbread".

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Roast Tomato Soup with Pearl Barley - Comfort Food in a Bowl for a Chilly Winter´s Day

A lovely Roast Tomato Soup with Pearl Barley is a wonderful recipe to warm your heart and soul during the winter months. A rich, thick soup brimming with flavor is more than a meal in itself. In our house, soup is lunch or dinner, I usually serve it as a meal, not to start a meal.

Roast Tomato Soup with Pearl Barley

Ingredients for the Soup
  • 2kg (4½lbs) large ripe tomatoes, washed, halved, cores removed
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
  • 2 large red onions, peeled, quartered
  • few sprigs fresh oregano
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250ml (9fl oz) vegetable stock (or more, depending on how thick you like your soup)
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) single cream (optional - I always use 10% cream suitable for cooking)
  • few drops balsamic vinegar (optional - itry to use a good product with a bit of natural sweetness)

For the Pearl Barley
  • 250 gram of cooked Barley (according to package instructions)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
  2. For the soup, place the prepared tomatoes, garlic, onions and oregano into a large roasting pan and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Drizzle with the olive oil, and roast in the oven for about 40 to 50 minutes.
  4. Remove from the pan from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
  5. Mash the garlic with the back of a fork, and discard the skins.
  6. Add the tomatoes, onions, mashed garlic and stock to a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.
  8. Using a hand-held stick blender, blend until smooth.
  9. If the soup is too thick, add more stock or cream.
  10. Add a little balsamic vinegar, to season, if you like.
  11. Add the cooked pearl barley (reserve some for sprinkling on top of the soup - optional), salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  12. Divide the soup between serving bowls and top with reserved pearly barley and/or some fresh cress.

This recipe is perfect even for out-of season tomatoes. If the tomatoes are really lacking in taste or sweetness, you could dust them with a little bit of confectioner´s sugar prior to roasting them. The addition of some Aceto Balsamico as well as using the red onions instead of white onions also helps to improve the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Make a big batch of this comforting soup, enjoy and share and stay warm this winter! It is cold out there!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

River Cottage Every Day - Online Cooking Club

Dear Members of the Cottage Cooking Club - after a few months hiatus, we will be resuming our online cooking club activities on February, 1st, 2017. We will be cooking from River Cottage Every Day - "RCED" (for all) and River Cottage Love Your Leftovers - "RCLYL" (optional).

The rules for the cooking club will be easy and rather more like "non-rules". We will cook as many of the recipes from the book as we will manage during a six-month period - so no matter whether we have cooked all recipes from the book or just a fraction, we will conclude our activities at the end of end of July 2017.

While the official starting day will be February 1st, all regular or occasional "guest" members (if I may call them that way) will only be asked to post once a month (six times in total) on the 28th of each month. The Cottage Coooking Club therefore will only have six posting dates Feb. 28th, March 28th, April 28th, May 28th, June 28th until July 28th when we will conclude our activities.

The recipes will not be chosen by me, you choose as many OR as little as you want each month, make one soup or ten dinners or three desserts, whatever you can. Then put together one post at the end of the month and let all of us know what you think of the dishes that you prepared. Are they worth trying? Does the recipe work? What would you change?

When chosing the recipes that you prepare each month, I ask you to let yourself be guided by seasonality and availability - what are the foods that YOU can find in YOUR area?

To get started and to get a feeling for the RCED cookbook, I made two recipes - the "Beet and Cumin Soup with Spiced Yogurt" (page 274) and the "Honey Whole-Wheat Cake" (page 386).

While I will not go on a length about those two recipes, I will say so much. They both definitely taste like true River Cottage recipes - the flavors are familiar and comforting and we enjoyed both.

If you like beets, you should try the soup while beets are now widely available and reasonably prized in winter (at least around here). The Spiced Yogurt is a wonderful element of the soup but you should not limit its uses to this soup, drizzle it on rôtisserie chicken or serve with pita bread and veggies.

The cake is a must if you are looking for a comfort-style cake with the definite taste of honey. Make sure to use a mild variety of local honey (if possible) that you enjoy, or it will overpower the cake. It is worth noticing that the recipe calls for whole-wheat flour and ground almonds (I left the skins on) and according to my experience if you want a more pronounced taste of almonds, you could toast them before you process them to make your own almond meal. You can also make this recipe with spelt flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder as well - I tried it and it works. What I really liked was serving this cake warm, with some Greek yogurt and fruit (whatever is in season) alongside. You can re-heat a slice and enjoy it as breakfast cake (very fashionable these days) as well. The almonds keep it moist for a day or two.

I sincerely hope that I have managed to inspire you to cook along with me for the next six months. It is lonely cooking through all these cookbooks on my own...and I would LOVE to have some lovely company! So, dust off the covers of your RCED and perhaps the RCLYL and let´s start cooking as many of Hugh´s dishes from them as we can fit into our lives and share with the ones we love.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Festive Baking - The Sultan´s Stars

Wishing all of you my friends and faithful readers and all of your families a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Or as we say around here "Frohe Weihnachten und Festtage!" These festive times would not feel right without a little sweet recipe from my kitchen.

Of course, for obvious reasons, stars are a very popular choice for Holiday creations and I was inspired to bake my lovely Sultan' s Stars during our recent visit to an amazing Medieval Christmas market.

For my Sultan´s Stars you need to make a simle rich dough raised with yeast. The dough is flavored with butter, vanilla and lemon zest. To finish the stars, I brushed them with some egg yolk mixed with a bit of milk and topped them with thinly sliced almonds (you could also opt for chopped ones) and pearl sugar. They were a delicious addition, as they toast during baking to provide some crunch and flavor contrast.

I also added a small handful of raisins and sultanas to add some additional sweetness to the dough. Entirely optional, of course, but this is a nice addition if you enjoy dried fruits in your baked goods. I am pleased to say this all worked very well, and the result is an easy, fun recipe that will leave you with light, sweet and fragrant festive stars to enjoy during the holidays.

Sultan´s Stars

  • 500g strong flour or use AP (plain) flour
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • 1/4 l tepid milk
  • 50g butter, unsalted, melted
  • 50g superfine (baking) sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg (M), free range or organic 
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • zest of half a lemon (organic/untreated)
  • a handful of sultanas and/or raisins
  • 1 egg yolk (M), free range or organic mixed together with 1 tbsp milk
  • slithered almonds (or use chopped almonds)
  • a bit or pearl sugar

  1. Sieve the flour in a bowl and form a pit.
  2. Put the crumbled yeast in the pit of the flour, add the milk to the yeast and stir together.
  3. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes in a warm place.
  4. Add the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, egg, salt, and lemon zest to the flour mixture and knead for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
  5. Add the raisins/sultanas if using and kneed some more.
  6. Transfer the dough to a greased medium bowl.
  7. Cover and let the dough rest in a warm place until it has doubled in volume (for another 60 minutes).
  8. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper (or use your Silpat baking mats).
  9. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a well-floured work surface and use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many stars as possble.
  10. Cover the stars and let them rise again for 15 minutes.
  11. Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F).
  12. Brush with the beaten egg yolk/milk mixture and sprinkle with almonds and pearl sugar.
  13. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden.
  14. Let them cool on a cooling rack and enjoy. They are best eaten while still warm.

These Sultan´s Stars should be enjoyed with steaming glasses of your favorite tea, strong coffee, cocoa or a homemade mulled wine (Glühwein) that you spiced with cinnamon, cloves and star anise or even warm grape or apple juice. I would also quite happily much on one of these on a chilly winter evening too!

Hope you are spending a peaceful Christmas & Holidays with family and friends!
Ich wünsche euch ein schönes und besinnliches Weihnachtsfest und Feiertage im Kreise all eurer Lieben!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Mor Monsen's Kake – Norwegian Cake for Christmas

Norway’s  well-known Mor Monsens Kake (Mother Monsen’s Cake) is a rather classic Norwegian Christmas cake flavored with lemon zest and garnished with almonds, currants, and pearl sugar. It has been a beloved cake since the 19th century, ever since a Norwegian author wrote what is believed by some to be the first Norwegian cookbook. Hanna Winsnes, in her 1845 book entitled: Lærebog i de forskjellige Grene af Huusholdningen (which, apparently can be loosely translated as A manual On The Different Household Chores), included a recipe for this cake and attributed it to Mor Monsen (Mother Monsen) – whoever that lovely, inspiring person might have been.

This is a simple buttery cake that is a rather nice contrast to all those rich, sweet, spicy Spekulatius (speculoos), Printen, and Lebkuchen (ginger bread cookies) at this time of year. It is perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, but also wonderful with your morning coffee and utterly perfect after you made it home collapsing under the sheer weight of all those shopping bags from the last minute shopping and/or grocery spree.

All it takes to make this wonderful cake is creaming butter and sugar together and adding the lemon zest as well as the other cake ingredients, then spreading it all into a buttered and floured sheet pan. Sprinkle with almonds, currants, and pearl sugar, then bake. During baking, it will puff up a little, and some of the dried fruit and slithered nuts will sink down into the batter. Once golden, remove from the oven and cut into pieces – diamonds or triangles are the traditional shapes and you will have a cake that is simple yet elegant, already cut into serving pieces.

There are a lot of versions of this recipe out there and it was a bit unclear which flavor should be added to the batter. Naturally, cardamon came to my mind but in the end I settled for a bit of vanilla and some lemon zest – as I am really partial to that pairing.

Mor Monsens Kake - Mother Monsen´s Cake

  • 225g butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 225g superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic
  • 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla sugar OR ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • zest of ½ organic (untreated) lemon
  • 130g AP (plain) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 25g blanched almonds, slithered
  • 40g currants
  • 20g pearl sugar

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
  2. Grease and line a deep baking pan (30 x 20 cm / 12 x 8 inches).
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  4. Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl.
  5. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Stir in the vanilla (sugar or extract) and lemon zest, then fold in the flour.
  8. Spoon the batter into the baking tray and spread level.
  9. Sprinkle over the currants, almonds and pearl sugar.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  12. Cut the cooled cake into diamonds or triangles to serve.

This is a quick and easy recipe to make, using mostly store cupboard and fridge ingredients. It can be stored for a few days in an airtight container, but also freezes very well for those times you fancy a bit of cake at short notice.

It is always nice to have an easy recipe up your sleeve and, personally, I like to make this Norwegian coffee cake when I am looking for an easy cake with those familiar flavors of vanilla and lemon as well as serious buttery goodness.

So as they say in Norway – Gledelig Jul! Or as we say around here - Frohe Weihnachten!