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?
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.
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:
50g cocoa powder
3 tsps. baking powder
200g granulated sugar
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
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?
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
180g whole grain flour
120g + about 30g butter
60g + 3 tbsps. granulated sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. kirsch
2-3 tbsps. sliced almonds
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
opening hours: monday – saturday 8.30 am – 8 pm
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
|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
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.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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)
160g powdered sugar
90g finely ground almonds
90g egg whites
30g granulated sugar
7g poppy seeds
|for the fillings:|
50g poppy seeds
1-2 tbsps. sugar
4 tbsps. milk
20g butter + 40g butter
1 tsp. kirsch
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 !
An interesting sensation is craving something you’ve never tried before. Imagine, you’ve never baked nor eaten something but suddenly, out of nothing start to feel an urgent need to eat this particular something. That’s exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago.
Believe it or not, I had never made banana bread before. Although banana bread was somehow familiar to me (due to several food blogs), it never occured to me to bake some myself – until this aforementioned moment when I suddenly craved a sweet, freshly baked, preferably still warm slice of banana bread. With walnuts. And the heartyness of whole grain flour.
So that’s what I baked. And the result was perfect – comforting, yummy feel-good food. Exactly what I needed right now between getting up early in the morning, going to work, trying to concentrate during lectures in the afternoon and trying not to fall asleep while studying in the evening. I adapted Elise’s banana bread recipe from 17andbaking.com (one of my all-time favourite food blogs, by the way :)), substituted the flour with whole grain flour and used brown sugar. The result didn’t even last for one evening – my friends seemed to like it – so I had to bake another loaf for taking pictures.
| Whole Grain Banana Bread
makes one loaf
4 ripe bananas*
1/3 cup butter**, melted
a little more butter for buttering the loaf pan
1/2 cup brown sugar*
1 egg**, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract*
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups whole grain flour
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
** I prefer organic eggs and butter