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Strawberry cupcakes with whipped chocolate ganache frosting || vegan

June 10, 2014

It’s strawberry season! At least here in Germany, those red cuties can be found everywhere at the moment. At the supermarket, the farmer’s market, or on top of cupcakes. These cupcakes here, for example.

A few months ago I found a recipe for vegan strawberry cake and wanted to try it as soon as there were fresh strawberries available again. So I baked  cupcakes out of the batter, topped them with whipped chocolate ganache frosting and some more beautiful strawberries. People at the Kü-Ché liked them pretty much, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you :)

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Strawberry cupcakes with chocolate frosting (adapted from Kurryleaves) || vegan
makes 12 cupcakes
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups sugar
0,75 tsps baking soda
1 pinch salt
3/4 to 1 cup strawberry puree (about 300g strawberries)
1 tsp vanilla
3/8 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
200g dark (vegan) chocolate
30g vegan butter
150g vegan whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
100-200g strawberries for decoration
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners and set aside.
  • Put dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt) into a bowl and mix until combined.
  • Put strawberry puree, vanilla, vegetable oil, and white wine vinegar into another bowl, mix, then add them to the dry ingredients. Gently fold in just until combined, try not to overmix.
  • Fill the batter into the prepared paper liners and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove them from oven and let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
  • For the frosting, chop vegan chocolate roughly and put into a metal bowl. Add butter, whipping cream and vanilla and set over a pot with hot water. Let everything melt in the waterbath, stirring occasionally.
  • When melted, remove bowl from the pot and let the chocolate mixture cool down to room temperature.
  • When cooled to room temperature properly, the mixture should be still liquid or at least soft. (If not, add more vegan whipping cream and melt again, then let cool to room temperature again.)
  • Carefully whip up the cooled chocolate mixture until light and fluffy.
  • Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then add a strawberry for decoration. Enjoy! :)

Cheesecake bars, inspired by Thilo’s russian pluck cake

April 10, 2014

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My former flatmate Thilo used to make this unbelievably yummy cake called “Russischer Zupfkuchen” (Russian pluck cake, roughly translated) and ever since he moved out, my other flatmates requested I should bake it. He always just threw all ingredients into a bowl, eyeballing the amounts, never measuring anything exactly but always got a beautiful and tasty cake. Wonder how he did that, lots of experience perhaps?

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When doing some research about the origin of russian pluck cake, I figured out that it does not really seem to be a russian cake. What’s funny is that there are said to be cakes like this one in some regions of russia, but apparently they’re called “German cake”.

Soft cheesecake with a crumbly chocolate crust, sprinkled with the remaining chocolate dough plucked into chunks, that’s basically what russian pluck cake is. It is pretty popular here in Germany, people tend to like the combination of cocoa and moist cheesecake filling, especially my flatmates. So I made a whole baking tray and cut the cake into nice handy bars. Turns out that I like cake bars, somehow. You can cut them into smaller bars and eat them piece by piece, enjoying every crumb, or just dig in, if you’re in a hurry and late for an exam like me this morning.

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Enough of the cake shape philosophy, here’s the recipe. As I am not as talented and/or experienced as Thilo, I wrote all the measurements down for you.

This version of russian pluck cake is rather heavy on the eggs and the vanilla, my flatmates seem to like that, but I think you could also vary  a little with the ingredients.

Cheesecake bars with chocolate crust
makes one baking tray
Ingredients – for the crust:
250g butter
400g flour
50g cocoa powder
3 tsps. baking powder
200g granulated sugar
2 eggs
for the filling:
1 kg low-fat quark
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
3 tbsps. vanilla
250g butter, melted
250g granulated sugar
60g corn starch, sifted
3 eggs
  • Put flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and granulated sugar into a bowl and mix well. Add 2 eggs and 250g butter (cut into small chunks) and knead until everything is combined. Roll batter into a ball, cover with clingfoil and cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Line a baking tray (mine was about 55cm x 36cm) with baking paper, set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 175 degrees C/350 degrees F.
  • For the filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until homogenous.
  • Roll 2/3 of the dough out on the prepared baking tray, form a surrounding edge. Pinch the crust a few times with a fork.
  • Pour the cheesecake filling onto the prepared crust and spread evenly.
  • Pluck the remaining dough into chunks (or use cookie cutters to portion it) and put them on top of the cheesecake filling.
  • Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. When cooled, cut the cake into bars and enjoy!

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Apple & almond tart

April 2, 2014

apple and almond tart 03

I’ve never been good at saying goodbye.

Last week I quit the job I had been working at during the last year. I had been working in the kitchen there, nothing special. But nevertheless I’m going to miss my coworkers, the way they made me laugh and have fun during work. To make farewell a little sweeter, I brought cake – no big surprise, is it?

As spring is arriving with its beautiful fruits, I made cupcakes with strawberry frosting. Also, I baked my ultimate chocolate cake, and I tried something new: an apple & almond tart.

apple and almond tart 01

Whole-grain crust with a hint of cinnamon, a layer of marzipan covered under the last of fading winter’s apples. A few caramelized almond slices on top and done is this simple but good tart. Ready to be enjoyed in its crumbly, juicy and sweet yummyness (is that a word, yummyness? Anyway, I hope you know what I mean to express). And it is able to bring comfort, to make people smile, even at rather sad occasions.

Apple and almond tart
makes one 22cm tart
Ingredients:
180g whole grain flour
120g + about 30g butter
60g + 3 tbsps. granulated sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3-4 apples
100g marzipan
2 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. kirsch
2-3 tbsps. sliced almonds
  • Put flour, 60g granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon into a bowl. Cut 120g butter into cubes and add them to the other ingredients, then carefully knead everything together until you have got an even dough. Taste and if you’d like a stronger cinnamon flavor, add remaining cinnamon. Try not to overknead the dough, just until all ingredients are evenly combined. Roll the dough into a ball, cover with clingfoil and put into the refridgerator to rest for half an hour.
  • In the meantime, clean and core the apples and slice them thinly (about 2-3mm thin), then set them aside.
  • Put marzipan, powdered sugar and kirsch into a bowl and knead until everything is combined. Take the marzipan batter out of the bowl and roll it into a circle of about 20cm.
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F. Line a 22cm cake pan (I used a springform pan) with baking paper or butter it and set aside.
  • Take the chilled dough out of the refridgerator and put it into the prepared cake pan. Press it flat into the pan to form the crust, make sure to form a little surrounding edge.
  • Put the marzipan circle on top of the crust and then stab a few times with a fork through the marzipan and crust layer.
  • Place the apple slices on top of the marzipan layer and top with the remaining 30g small chunks of butter.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, then take out of the oven and let cool.
  • Put 3 tbsps. granulated sugar into a pan and heat on the stove carefully. When just caramelized, add sliced almonds, mix, and quickly decorate the cake with caramelized almonds before the caramel hardens.

apple and almond tart 02

kitchen stories: Apple Cupcakes with Matcha frosting || vegan

March 18, 2014

apple cupcakes 03

Sweet, moist, yummy. I think that describes these Apple Cupcakes I baked today pretty well.

Topped with Matcha frosting and some candied apple peel they got their finishing touches to be served tomorrow. The slightly bitter note of Matcha complements the sweet and fruity apple taste in a nice way, and my flatmates seem to like these cupcakes. If you want to try one yourself, come to the Kü-Ché tomorrow afternoon:

Kü-Ché at neun10räume
Moltkestraße 11, 35390 Gießen
Germany
open 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.

For those of you who do not happen to be around Gießen tomorrow, why don’t you bake them yourself? I translated the recipe of the cupcakes for all of you non-German speakers into English, although the recipe is not mine, all credit goes to Lillifred at chefkoch.de.

Super moist apple muffins || vegan
makes about 20 muffins
recipe from here
Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 medium apples, shredded (I kept the peel and candied it for decoration!)
1 medium apple, cut into cubes
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup sparkling water
1 package (about 3 tsps) baking powderoptional: frosting or other toppings
  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees C and line a cupcake baking tin with paper liners.
  • Put all ingredients except for the cubed apple into a bowl and mix with a handmixer until combined.
  • Add the apple cubes and fold in.
  • Fill the batter into the prepared paper liners and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Decorate with frosting, if desired. Enjoy :)

apple cupcakes 02

Bean’s – Organic Café in Hanover

February 23, 2014

Take the urban flair of a coffee shop, the coziness of a tiny, cute bakery, mix in some friendly staff and put the whole thing into a medium-sized two-story space in Hanover Mitte. Add organic ingredients, good coffee – et voilá: Bean’s since coffee is what you get.

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I came across this place last week after shopping for some vintage tableware and decided to take a short break there. Turns out this was a really good decision, as they serve really delicious drinks and snacks – all from certified organic produce – in a warm, welcoming ambiente. Beautiful hot chocolate, steaming rooibos tea and the best poppy seed cake I’ve had in a long time was what we tried.

They serve the usual range of coffee varieties like plain coffee, cappuccino, espresso, latte macchiato and several flavoured coffee drinks plus about 10 tea specialties and homemade hot chocolate (white or dark). The latte macchiato I had tried some time ago had a very smooth milk froth and good-tasting espresso, which in my opinion is a key factor characterizing good cafés. They also offer several cold drinks, freshly made sandwiches, a soup of the day and house-baked cakes, if I remember correctly. Prices are affordable, I’d say a little cheaper than at well-known brands like Starbucks, and if you keep in mind that all ingredients are from organic produce, that’s really reasonably priced.

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What I also liked about this café was the stylish, lounge-like but still comfy interior in combination with simple decorative details like the display with coffee syrups for sale or the guestbook-wall on which customers are invited to write feedback directly onto the wall. I apologize for the quality of the pictures, as I did not have my camera with me, all I could do was taking some snaps with my cell phone.

So if you appreciate good coffee from organic produce in a comfortable, fresh ambiente, Bean’s in Hanover might be worth a try.

Bean’s since coffee
Heiligerstraße 4
30159 Hannover
opening hours: monday – saturday 8.30 am – 8 pm

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Valentine’s Day Cupcakes (vegan)

February 5, 2014

Recently, I’ve become involved in a few new and very interesting food projects. The first one is the Kü-Ché, the student-run Café which I wrote about last year, remember? I’m baking for the guests every week now, and it truly is a lot of fun. I love spending time there, serving my baked goods to friends and guests and having an afternoon without stress every week, some comfort time in between exams and other duties.

The second project is a vegan website, an online guide to local vegan restaurants, a cooking show and a recipe database which will hopefully launch sometime soon! Although I am not a vegan myself (“just” vegetarian), I do see the advantages of a vegan lifestyle in addition to ethical reasons. For example, a vegan nutrition is much more eco-friendly (plant-based food causes significantly less water use and pollution with greenhouse gases in comparison to foods from animals), especially if it is based on seasonal & local foods.

So I thought this vegan website would be a fun & interesting project to participate in, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. And although I’m not so familiar with vegan baking yet, I realized how tasty the results can be. Try these Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry frosting and come see for yourself  - they’re sooo good, believe me. At least that’s what friends & guests at the Kü-Ché said ;)

They would also be great for Valentine’s Day, if you’d like to bake something for that occasion. Pipe the frosting from the middle of the cupcake towards the outside, and voilà – cupcakes looking like pink roses is what you get ;)

Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting || vegan
cake batter recipe adapted from deliciouseveryday.com
makes 20 cupcakes
Cupcakes – Ingredients:
60g dark (vegan) chocolate, chopped into rough chunks
275g plain (all purpose) flour
45g cocoa powder
3 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1¾ cups (450ml) coconut milk
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1¾ cups (350g) brown sugar
1¼ cups (320ml) sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Preheat oven to 160 degrees C and line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  • Put chopped chocolate in a bowl onto a water bath and heat until molten.
  • Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  • In a second bowl, combine coconut milk, vinegar, brown sugar, sunflower oil and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and whisk until barely combined. Add the molten chocolate – make sure that it’s just warm, not hot! – and whisk again until combined.
  • Fill the batter into the prepared paper liners and bake for 25min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Meanwhile, you can prepare the frosting:
Chocolate “ganache” & Frosting – Ingredients:
125g dark (vegan) chocolate
30g coconut milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
250g vegan butter (at room temperature)
300g frozen raspberries (defrosted)
1 – 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
optional: sugar pearls
  • Melt chocolate chunks and coconut milk in a bowl on top of a water-bath. When molten, whisk until smooth and spread about 1 tsp of the mixture on top of each cupcake. Let dry completely before frosting.
  • For the frosting, strain the thawed raspberries through a very finely meshed sieve to get a puree without seeds.
  • Cut the vegan butter into in small pieces, put them into a bowl and beat with a handmixer until creamy. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and continue beating.
  • Add raspberry puree spoon by spoon, mixing continuously.
  • Add vanilla extract and taste – if the frosting is not sweet enough, add the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
  • Fill the frosting into a piping bag with a star tip or rose tip and pipe frosting onto the dried ganache on top of the cupcakes. If you want to, decorate with sugar pearls.

Rule No. 2: Be patient! – a guide to macarons part two

January 1, 2014

Happy, happy to bake again. Sitting at the kitchen table, listening to Fewjar, now and then looking at the small sweet dollops on the counter in front of me.

They’re sitting neatly on the baking tray, waiting to go into the oven. It was not an easy journey for them to get there, struggling over roasted almonds and a lack of egg whites, but finally they made it into nice drops of batter, now waiting for their surface to get firm. In a short while, they’ll rise inside the oven, get their cute little feet and finally a filling worth of their taste, indulgent and sweet.

poppyseedmacarons01

Macarons it is, once again. By now, I baked these poppy seed macarons several times, each time improving the recipe a little bit, until everyone of my critical test-eaters (including my boyfriend, my friends, flatmates and me) was satisfied.

Developing a recipe takes much patience, and that is also one thing necessary for making macarons. It’s been more than two years now since I posted my first guide to macarons, and now I want to share an updated version with you, plus my first own macaron recipe.

Please note that I’m still just a passionate home-baker and no professional, so I can’t guarantee these tips are 100% correct!

ingredients

The first step to making sophisticated macarons is to make the batter as perfect as possible. Therefore you should consider a few things concerning ingredients.

EGGS:

  • For the right consistency of the batter, you need to measure the egg whites exactly. Separating the eggs a day (or at least a few hours) before making the batter and chilling them inside the fridge until you use them makes it easier to weigh the egg whites exactly and make perfect macarons.

ALMONDS:

  • When making macarons, you need peeled, very finely ground almonds. If they’re only roughly ground, the surface of the macarons won’t be completely smooth. So it’s helpful to sift your ground almonds with a very fine sieve. If necessary you can also grind them a little more finely with a food processor. When grinding the almonds, be careful not to overmix or you might end up with almond paste. A few recipes suggest processing the almonds together with the powdered sugar to avoid getting almond paste.
  • Another point concerning almonds is that – depending on your climate – it is helpful to dry the ground almonds in the oven for a few minutes (at about 60-80 degrees Celsius; be careful not to roast them!), if the surrounding air in your kitchen is too humid. For making perfect macarons it’s crucial to have a specific moistness of the batter – I failed at least half a dozen times due to humid air on rainy days and not drying the almonds thoroughly.

technique

The second key point for making perfect macarons is the right baking technique. There are several things that might affect the looks of your macarons, so here are a few tips on common problems considering the surface and shape of macarons.

If your macaron shells are cracked, your oven temperature might be too high. Just try to bake the next batch at a lower temperature, even if it is below the temperature in the recipe as each oven is a little different!

For avoiding bubbles, you need to smoothen the batter after folding in the almond-sugar mix into the meringue. You do that by using a bowl scraper and scrape the batter very carefully until smooth and rather liquid (test by taking some batter up on the scraper and letting it “fall down” into the bowl – if it doesn’t fall in chunks but runs smoothly, it’s good!) but be careful not to over mix and break down too much of the meringue!

For a smooth and even surface, the consistency of the batter needs to be right. If you mix or even beat the meringue for too long, its flufflyness will dissolve, so fold in the dry ingredients very carefully. But the batter also needs to be liquid enough so that the unbaked macaron’s surface can flatten after being piped onto the baking paper sheet. You achieve this consistency by carefully scraping the dough inside the bowl with a bowl scraper until it falls down in ribbons (as described above – see “avoiding bubbles”). However, if the macarons don’t flatten on their own, try to move the baking tray from left to right or back and forth to smoothen the macarons’ surfaces.

“le pied” – getting the little foot of the macaron shells right:

  • Try to pipe the macarons in a “blob”, not in a swirl. You do that by holding the piping tip about 3mm over the baking paper sheet, then carefully press a little batter onto the sheet while lifting the piping tip another 2-3mm. The batter should come out of the piping tip in a flat, round drop. Shortly before your macaron is large enough, stop squeezing out the batter and carefully remove the piping tip from the macaron with a smooth, swirl-like movement so that the vanishing batter-stream evenly unites with the whole macaron. This way, you keep the surface as flat as possible.
    By piping the macaron in a “blob”, you prevent air bubbles in the batter so that the macaron rises evenly, which is – as far as I experienced – important for getting “le pied”.
  • Let the macarons sit for a while before baking and let their surfaces dry until a skin has formed (this usually takes about 10-20 minutes; test by carefully touching the surface of an unbaked macaron – when the batter does not stick to your fingertip anymore, they’re ready to be baked) so that the macaron shells can rise evenly.
  • If you live in a cold and humid climate, it might be helpful to preheat the baking trays (for example putting them into the oven while preheating the oven) before piping the macarons on it. In my experience, the heat from the tray helps the macarons dry when the surrounding air is too humid or too cold.

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I hope these tips are helpful to you and will help you to make sophisticated macarons, for example this first creation by kawaii kitchen:

Poppy seed & marzipan macarons
makes about 40 shells (=20 macarons)
Ingredients:
160g powdered sugar
90g finely ground almonds
90g egg whites
30g granulated sugar
7g poppy seeds
  • Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.
  • Sift powdered sugar and ground almonds into a bowl. Add poppy seeds, mix and set aside.
  • Put egg whites into a clean bowl and start whipping them with a handmixer. As soon as the first bubbles appear, add half of the granulated sugar. Continue beating until it starts to get foamy and then add the remaining sugar. Beat until glossy and stiff peaks remain when removing the (switched off) hand mixer.
  • Add half of the ground almonds, poppy seeds and powdered sugar to the egg whites. Carefully fold them in with a rubber spatula with about ten streaks.
  • Add the rest of the almond mixture and continue carefully folding in until there are barely no streaks of white left.
  • Scrape the batter down inside the bowl with a bowl scraper until the batter falls down in ribbons (see description above -> avoiding bubbles).
  • Fill the batter into a pastry bag with 0,8-1cm diameter round tip. Pipe macaron shells (about 2,5cm diameter) onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave at least 4cm space between the individual shells as they will rise!
  • Let the macaron shells dry for about 20 minutes, until a skin has formed and the batter does not stick to your fingertip anymore when carefully touching the macaron’s surface.
  • In the meantime, preheat oven to about 165 degrees Celsius.
  • When a skin has formed on the macaron shells, bake the first tray for about 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven) until they have risen, their little feet have formed and they don’t look like unbaked batter anymore.
  • Remove from oven and bake the next tray. Let cool completely before removing the shells from the baking paper.
    While letting the macarons cool, you could make the fillings!
for the fillings:
Ingredients:
50g poppy seeds
10g semolina
1-2 tbsps. sugar
4 tbsps. milk
20g butter + 40g butter
100g marzipan
1 tsp. kirsch
  • For the poppy seed filling, put 20g butter and milk into a small saucepan and heat carefully until the butter is molten.
  • Add semolina, poppy seeds and one tablespoon sugar, whisk until combined.
  • Taste and if necessary, add the remaining tablespoon sugar. Set mixture aside and let cool. When cooled down, it should have a spreadable consistency.
  • For the marzipan filling, cut marzipan into small pieces, add kirsch and knead until homogenous.
    Cut 40g butter into small pieces and knead into the marzipan until well combined.
  • Spread poppy seed filling onto half of the macaron shells, and the marzipan filling onto the remaining half of the shells, then put together two shells with different fillings.
  • The macarons taste best when cooled for about 2-3 hours in a sealed box inside the fridge :)

If you have any questions considering macarons, feel free to ask, but keep in mind that I’m also just an amateur baker who experimented with macarons a little bit :)

Until then, I wish you a happy new year and lots of love, baking, health and joy in 2014 !

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