I don’t want to turn this blog into a aggregator, but these recipes and photos are too amazing no to share. The direct blog link is here. I am thinking of adding a special page to function as a hub for my information sources, like a visual bibliography. My blogging 101 class has my brain spinning.
Cookies appear in abundance during holidays. For some reason they always seem to be the more intense recipes to perform. The Linzer is a jam filled sandwich cookie whose simple beauty masks its complicated beginnings.
Linzer cookies hail from Austria where Linz is the third largest city in that country. They are the diminutive form of the torte that first became popular in the 1600s. These delectable treats have traveled throughout all of Europe and settled in the U.S with our immigrant ancestors.
Black Currant jelly, jam, or preserve is the traditional filling for the cookies. In the States raspberry is the most common filling in commercial packages. Honestly though, use your favorite flavors. The buttery almond dough compliments any flavor.
The original recipe comes from Meine Gute Landküche and uses traditional jams and jellies for the filling. I didn’t have whole grain flour for the original recipe and have had to tweak it. The recipe is in Euro measurements. There is no conversion as I was gifted a German metric measure and ALDI offered digital kitchen scales at the start of the Holiday season. The recipe below is the one that I used to compensate for the lack of ingredients.
- 125 grams Butter
- 50 grams Sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 200 grams all purpose flour
- 50 grams finely ground Hazelnuts
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- a pinch of ground glove
- a pinch of cinnamon
- 100 gram jelly
- 100 gram powdered sugar
Beat butter and sugar till fluffy. Stir in egg.
Mix flour, nuts, baking powder, and spices together. Gradually add to the butter mixture until a smooth dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat over to 355°.
Roll dough out 4 milimeters thick. Cut out shapes with the cutter. Place on baking paper lined tray. Use the smaller punch to cut centers of one half of the large cookies. Bake on middle rack for 10 minutes.
Cook tray on the baking rack for a few minutes then remove individual cookies to the tray to finish cooling.
Gently heat your choice of jelly or jam until it becomes spreadable. When the cookies have cooled spoon the jelly or jam onto the complete circles. Sprinkle powdered sugar onto the cutout tops and lay on top of the jellied round. Allow the jelly to reset to glue the cookies together.
My choices for jam were Holunderflüten (above) and Strawberry Rhubarb (right). The Holunderblüten jelly softened fast and needed to reset a little before I could put it on the cookies. The jams cooperated nicely.
The recipe makes only 24 full cookies.
With the advent of mega marts and big box grocery stores selling everyday foods in bulk and a diminished personal home garden experience in America, our palates have shrunk compared to that of our parents and Grandparents. In other words, unless the Food Network makes an ingredient popular we all get the same kinds of vegetables and fruits from the store. The most exotic we might see is cara cara (blood) oranges, jicama, and some bok choy. The variety is a bit better in a health food or whole foods store. And it is definitely better at a farm market. Still, nothing compared to the variety of produce that my own parents had.
Growing up, one of the things that my mother always reminisced about was the Elderberry wine or cordial one of her mysterious ancestors, a great aunt of mine, made. My mother grew up in Dearborn, a bedroom community outside of Detroit. A large German enclave settled there and kept many traditions alive. I don’t think of Detroit as a hotbed of organic gardening but I guess if you want to eat you plant fruit trees instead of lilac bushes. And that is what many of her relation did. Enter the Elderberry.
When ever Seed Catalog Season rolled around (right after Holiday Goodies Catalog season) my mom would day dream out loud about planting Elderberry trees. My dad was of course skeptical as the red and black current (Johanisbeer) experiment went no where fast. We had a mulberry tree when I was very little and if Elderberries were like Mulberries I was on board. There are not and we did not get any trees. As I am researching German foods and I am finding so many interesting, if bizarre, flavors I am feeling quite bold in my experiments. Enter the Elderflower.
Having fallen in love with Waldmeister (sweet woodruff), I figured the flavor from the Elderflower should be compatible with my taste buds. My pen pal sent me a jar of Elderflower, Holunderblüten, jelly. It was not love at first taste. Straight out of the jar it is astringent and resinous like bitter honey. The sweet is almost sickening, like large amounts of honey. The color is a pristine pale apple jelly color. Not one to let things go to waste and cognizant of the fact that somethings need other ingredients for accompaniment, I set to work. Before you run you have to walk. In other words, before you get too carried away use it for its intended purpose first. And that was the key! Elderflower jelly needs the fat from the butter and the body from the toasted bread to offset its less than desirable traits. Also, the American palate really needs to warm up to some of the stranger flavors out there. And this isn’t even all that strange!
Once you get used to the flavor, it has a zingy tang that brightens up toast for breakfast. The flavor is light unlike honey. I am wondering how I might like it on oatmeal. I hate oatmeal but I need to eat more of it. Of course I could be asking for a whole bunch of trouble with that combination.
Elderflower is taking a hold in America in the alcoholic beverage industry in a liqueur for mixers and cocktails. I do hope that the Foodies here will help to revive the flavor and its usage so that it is no longer relegated to an antique American culture.
Gefüllte Eier, filled eggs, are called Deviled Eggs in the United States. They are a staple of holiday, funeral, and picnic luncheons in the States. Due to the symbolism associated with fertility, they are most prolific in the Spring with Easter buffets.
The traditional American Deviled egg is made with Mayonnaise, plain yellow mustard, a splash of white vinegar and is sprinkled with a garnish of paprika. Pretty standard WWII rations stuff. Pretty boring too.
I found many German styled variations online and settled on one for which a. I had all the ingredients and b. would be a soft introduction to the American palate. German flavors are sharp, strongly aromatic, and burst on the tongue that is not always a welcome change to mouths accustomed to bland foods.
This variations is Bavarian Sweet Mustard (imported), Horseradish, Salad Dressing (sweet mayonnaise), capers, caper juice and garlic powder with a finely chapped fresh parsley garnish. When I made the platter I made both the Traditional American style and my take on the German Style. Both were a hit.
Well, I have been making deviled eggs since I was 5 (about 40 years). It is one of those recipes for which measuring is not necessary anymore as it is all relative to the amount of yolk retrieved from the halved eggs and the flavors one prefers. The process determines amounts in this case.
- Start with your egg yolks. In a medium sized bowl, use a fork to slightly mash the yolks.
- Add mayonnaise or salad dressing one tablespoon at a time until you have a dry kind of thick paste.
- Add by the teaspoon the Sweet Bavarian Mustard, most likely a ration of 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise/salad dressing to 1 teaspoon mustard.
- Then add horseradish a very little bit at a time.
- Use only enough caper juice to loosen the mixture so that it is easy to spoon into the open halves of the egg whites.
- Take a small taste and adjust the flavors accordingly. Keep in mind that the fresher the horseradish the less you will have to use.
Spoon into the egg whites, garnish with one caper and a slight sprinkle of parsley. Plate and serve.
We love deviled eggs! The connotation of funeral buffet food notwithstanding, our house doesn’t get sick of eating them. The chef gets tired of making them.
It is early here in the States, we are a bit snowed in and today is day 1 of my mid winter break. It is also day 11 of Blogging University with WordPress. You will have noticed the new tag appeared a few days ago. I joined #blogging101 to continue to improve the writing, build community and, most importantly, help me understand the more technical aspects to building a better blog. The advantage for you, besides the more professional product, is that it reminds me there is more to my blog than food. Though you all seem to like those posts much better than anything else.
Today we were directed to daily prompts. But the page had a HUGE banner for the photo challenge put out by WordPress. The topic was Alphabet. And Holy Duh!, I never ever wrote that post about the header for the blog. I always meant to. I got sidetracked by food. But then, don’t we all?
The technical term for portraits of a typographical family is Exemplar. It is a Latin word that simply means example. When you are studying typography or learning calligraphy, your first assignments will be the make exemplars of you favorite fonts. I am a sucker for fonts. Specifically, I am a sucker for English and German foundries (the company that makes the font). But I have also had a weird obsession with specific characters since I was a kid. One of them is the letter G because my maternal grandparents surname is Gerbstadt (anglicized). When I took German in High School, I learned that there are more than 26 ways to write letters. My other favorite letter is ß, eszett.
Eszett is a ligature. That means that two consonants sit close enough together in a line of type to be linked. For readability and fitting type to a column of text ligatures are often designed as a separate character. Th and Fl are two very common ligatures in English. Long s and z, ss, and sss, are the most common in German.
In documents around the 1700s you will find a letter that looks like a fancy F in the middle of words. I first encountered it in patriotic papers of the American Revolution where George Washington’s name looked as if it was spelled Wafhington. That is the long s form we are talking about. Why did they use that? I don’t know, probably to accommodate letters in a line of print. It was confusing as a kid and most likely was the source of my fascination with fonts. I’d always loved calligraphy, writing seemed like magic. But the way letter fit on a page… that’s typography and that was an intriguing mystery.
Wikipedia says that the oldest documented use of eszett was in 1300 AD. The rules for using it have been inconsistent and in dispute ever since it’s first usage. The eszett is almost extinct in print these days. I don’t know why, it is a beautiful letter and in our modern era there is no justifiable lament of its cost. Back when Gutenberg invented the printing press all the letters were formed from cast iron, thus, a typography design house is called a foundry. The shapes were carved, then cast then mounted on tiny wooden blocks and set in trays for ease of use to the typesetter. (The person who set individual letters on the lines to be printed in the press.) Iron cost money, wood blocks cost money and the more dividers in a tray for the setter to pull from, the greater the likelihood of an error. Today we have all manner of digital print. The eszett should be making a comeback. But then… cursive writing is falling out of form as well. The art of German lettering is fading.
The eszett is a beautiful letter. But I am biased because my other two favorite letters are s and z.
There are several languages across the globe that use a typographic device of a dot above letters to indicate a change of pronunciation. In Hebrew it is a dagesh, a dot that indicates a long or short vowel pronunciation or, as in the case of consonants, a change from b to v or s to sh, ch to ck. In German, this device is called an umlaut, two dots side by side that appears only over vowels to indicate a pronunciation change.
In early print works you will find a bizarre combination of A and E written together, æ and Æ. Or, most often just side by side. Two reasons for this, one is so that no one would have to carve the umlaut shapes for casting for the smallest point sizes. And two, because in print the umlauts would be indistinguishable from inconsistencies in paper or voids in the inking process. The umlaut is a tough character for a printer in the best of circumstances. With the advent of typewriters which print at a consistent point size, German typewriting machines could have separate keys for each umlaut vowel. In print when there is no umlaut designed for the font, these letters are translated as ae, oe, ue. This influence is noticeable in English spelling, such words as doe and glue, though the pronunciations have changed over time from the 1500s and again from British English to American English. Having read an article a long time ago on why we still spell knife with a k that is my supposition at any rate.
The Ö and Ü pronunciations, standing alone, are simply elongated versions of the original. In the above example möglich is pronounced with a long o as in moo. Fühlen and Grüßen are pronounced with a long u as in the English word glue the eszett is a double s like hiss.
The Ä, standing alone as in Städte is a long a as in the English hay. when paired with another vowel, changes puts the emphasis is on the a sound, long with the English y, clipping it a bit as in the English word Hey!
The Latin et , and , is the source of the ampersand. I suspect this was the first contraction for the explicit purpose of making the typesetter’s job easy. Given the liberal and artistic use of the ampersand in decor I surmise it is the most favored typographical device.
The ampersand is the ligature of e and t. Again, to make the typesetter’s job easier and get the words to fit the lines with uniformity, the ampersand is a space saving device. A separate block for e and a separate block for t in this two letter word would read funny. So to eliminate the gap between them which is imposed by the block spacing of the point size the two letters became one. This also reserves the use of the e and t for regular words, enabling the typesetter to achieve larger blocks of printable text.
It is also why the & is used instead of and. The one character frees up three in the printing process. While it is not a strictly German design device, the exemplar above let’s me give a shout out to my favorite song on the album Seben Leben . And no discussion on typographic notation is complete without it.
Tonight was a night for comfort food. Yesterday was my best friend’s first Yahrzeit, death anniversary. It was a hard enough week with that happening but to wake up to the news of David Bowie’s passing was really just too much. The only response is comfort food.
In the stash of magazines I got for Christmas, all three magazines had quite a few soup recipes. Many soups recipes! Since we are also under severe Winter Weather Advisory, I scoured the pantry to see what kind of German soup I could whip up. My house hold HATES celery. But… it’s what I went with after looking over the recipes. So we have a Winter Comfort Plate of celery soup, smashed roasted potatoes and baked salmon filet. While not strictly German, the inspiration is there.
- 3 stalks celery, coarse chopped
- 1 large onion, coarse chopped
- 1.5 cups white wine
- 1 cup garlic infused beef stock
- 1 tablespoon ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon tarragon
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- salt & black pepper to taste.
- Half and half to thin it to the consistency you prefer.
Sweat the celery and the onion in a saucepan. Add the white wine and reduce. Add herbs and spice, cook down just a little more. Then add in the beef broth. When the celery in tender put it in the Vitamix™ and whiz it to a creamy consistency.
The “crouton” is an asiago puff snack from ALDI. Garnished with a celery leaf.
Smashed Baked Potato: this is a leftover side dish. We had some Honey Gold Klondike potatoes left over from the night before. They were boiled through and through. Today I used a fork to break them down the middle and then smashed them into even patties without breaking them all apart.
Spread olive oil on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Lay the potatoes on the salted oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and more ground mustard. Top with shredded cheese and bake at 400.
Baked Salmon: standard cooking applies. The filet was salted and peppered, drizzled with olive oil and layered with lemon slices. When the potatoes are done, reduce the heat to 350 and bake the salmon for about 25-35 minutes.
Just before the salmon was plated, the other elements got a slight nuke to heat them up to temp again so that everything was warm when it hit the table.
The nice thing about this was that it went well with tears. Usually it is impossible to eat when you have been crying. But we all managed to have dinner, cry a lot and not have upset tummies afterward.
I started this blog to help me share the things that I learn about the country from which my family emigrated. Exploring the culture that speaks to me, that I speak poorly, Germany calls to me and has since I was a child. Born in America, I feel that the perspective I have is watered down at best and marginalized at worst. There is a huge chunk of American culture that comes directly from Germany. Historic missteps meant hiding and the horrific corporatization of the culture meant homogeneity for the German families who settled here. In this era of renewed nationalism (thank you Teddy Roosevelt, *notice the irony) i feel even more passionate about the subject.
We are experiencing blind nationalism on a scale that threatens to reduce America and Americans to the kind of people we have always fought against. We used to be the anti-colonization front. We used to be the defenders of liberty. We are slowly sliding into the intolerant, bigoted shoes of those historic enemies we fought.
My Immigrant Ancestors™ came here for a variety of reasons. Over time, their stories have been watered down and in some places entirely removed from our family history. The only parts of our culture that remain are how we eat and how we celebrate holidays. As Jeff Smith used to say the best way to know people is through the culture: food, music, and stories. But mostly food. So that is my primary focus. As I am highly motivated by music as well, I would like to explore that here. But mostly the food and the traditions that illustrate German culture.
This year, my goal is to post more than 12.5 articles. My yearly review came in and that is the size of it. I post a little over once a month on average. Almost all of them have photos which was one goal so, yay! But I do need to post more. And I need to dig more. I need to spend more time with books and less time with Netflix. So in 2016 I hope to have a better handle on the subject, more frequent posts, and a better sense of the German community.
To that end, here are some fun places on the Internet I would like to recommend, my favorite food blog on WordPress
some of my favorite posts at wordpress:
And some of my favorite places on the internet for German recipes and products
These are Martha Stewart’s no fail Sugar Cookies with a twist. In addition to the ingredients you will need for the cookies, you will need one package of Dr. Oetker’s waldmeister flavored Götterspiese.
Apparently Jell-O™ is called Götterspiese in Germany and literally means food of the Gods. Who would have thought? Can’t say that I disagree. I love clear gelatin desserts. Waldmeister, as we saw last New Year’s, is a sweet woodruff flavored food item. It is herbaceous and has an under tone of cream cheese or marshmallow flavor. So as an addition to a cookie dough you get a gentle green tint and a luxurious cream cheese flavor without adding the calories and making adjustments to the recipe.
As Götterspiese powder does not have added sugar that American Jell-O™ has, you are not adding additional refined sugars to the recipe.
Follow the recipe as directed. When you have your butter and sugar creamed (left) you will add one package of Waldmeister Götterspiese powder. Cream this into your mixture again to evenly distribute the flavor and color (right).
The rest of the recipe can be finished as published. I definitely recommend the fridge time. Short dough needs to be rather solid to roll out properly and make transferring the cut out cookie to a baking sheet.
After the dough has chilled, roll out as you normally would. Cut out the cookies. Bake. Watch these closely so that you don’t get golden brown tips on the points. You will notice that with the baking process the color will fade a bit. I wanted pastel cookies to fit another photo shoot but these turned out much more pale than I wanted. So….
The quick fix to get a brighter cookie is a waldmeister glaze. I boiled one quarter cup of water in a microwave safe measure cup and added one half of the remaining Götterspiese packet to the boiling water. Once it is dissolved use a silicone brush to glaze the cookies and brighten the color while they are sitting on the cooling rack. Allow the glaze to soak into the cooked dough and apply one or two more coats as needed. If the cookie bakes just a few seconds too long the flavor gets lost to the darkened dough. I ended up with three layers of glaze to get the color that I wanted. And the flavors really popped!
Use a standard Royal Icing to decorate. If I could have found a larger millimeter pearl nonpareil to sit at the base of each leaf to stand in as the holly berries then these would have been perfect. But I am a perfectionist and have to let some of that stuff go, especially since I am limited by product availability.
They turned out great as they were and everyone was really impressed with the flavor. I was relieved that the taste was not off-putting to the non-German foods eating friends.
December 31st is New Year’s Eve, as we all know. In Germany, the eve of a new year falls on St. Sylvester’s Day and is thus known as Silvester. I’ve been listening to SWR 4 at work for a few weeks to avoid losing my mind in the stillness. And I have been quite confused. So I asked my pen pal. And all I got was Silvester is New Years Eve.
So time to head to the wiki cupboard and see what is on the shelf. As she is not particularly religious I see why I didn’t get the answer I was looking for. St. Sylvester was ordained a priest early in Christendom by Pope Melchiades and was around for Constantine’s conquest of most of the known world. Two years after Constantine’s success, Sylvester became Pope and oversaw the Council of Nicea through his representatives to the conclave. He died on December 31st in the year 335. Not much is known about this Pope. Most of what is written was written centuries after his death and seem to be a fiction, revolving around his relationship to Constantine and his conversion. It would appear that the supremacy of the Pope over Emperor’s was set in Silvester’s healing Constantine of Leprosy. Constantine gave Silvester and the Roman Church Rome and he made his center of power Constantinople (not Istanbul).
How Sylvester’s feast day became associated with fireworks and feuerzangenbowle and a bizarre type of fortunetelling called “Bliegiessen” is still a mystery to me. However, the consumption of Glühwein, is not.
Glühwein is a rich red wine infused with mulling spices. Typically I find them too overpowering with the flavor of clove. So this year I picked up Apple Punch from the Christkindl people. You will recognize it from the Apple Cake post. Silvester marks the start of the deep cold. Or rather, it would if there wasn’t so much damn climate change. Fire bowls and spiced wines are the typical beverage for winter time parties.
I am not brave enough to try the feuerbowle (fire bowl) yet. I have seen it done well and without flare ups at Alpine and Bavarian festivals. However I am not sure that I am ready for the investment in equipment.
Another traditional Silvester experience is the fondue & raclette. ALDI had some raclette cookware for the holidays. As no one really knows what they are for there are a good many left in the discount aisle. Now that I have some idea, I will have to run in and get one tomorrow so that I can report back later. Since we mostly all know what fondue is I won’t bore you with that one unless I find a truly amazing cheese experience beyond a bit of port and cheddar. I am not a fan of that combo. But oh well.
If anyone here has some great Silvester recipes they would like to share then drop a line. I know it is too late for this year’s celebration but we have 12 months to prepare for the next!
Going into this new year, one of my goals is to not get hung up about posting things seasonally. For one as I work full time it is almost impossible to have the time to research let alone execute recipes in any sense of the word. For two, I do not wish to add to anyone’s stress level, including my own, by thinking “I read/posted this now so it has to be done this year.” The only time that urgency is involved is when ALDI gets its limited stock in. Get it before its gone is my motto. The most important reason to not be hung up about posting to preempt a season is to encourage me to seek the near future.
I have been mentally in survival mode, living minute to minute. And while it is true that we are not guaranteed the next day, never mind the whole year, we can rob ourselves of the joy of anticipation by putting unhealthy stress on the now. I nearly killed myself this year and was so worn out we almost didn’t have Christmas at all. When Summer gets here it will be so short that it would feel like a crime to rush through it stressed out about getting recipes accomplished. So with these thoughts in mind, I am looking at the blog now, not so much to plan the current season, but to germinate ideas for the next & preserve the undertaken culinary adventures.
So let’s have a look at this holiday platter, shall we?
ALDI has changed it’s packaging for a good deal of the German imports thus the Lebkuchen was late getting here. I have to confess, when it didn’t get here with the rest of the Christmas snacks I was so bummed I didn’t want Christmas to come at all. It came late. And it was delicious!
Lebkuchen: covered in a vanilla ice or a dark chocolate and sitting atop the traditional oblaten (unconsecrated eucharist host material) is probably THE most quintessentially German Christmas cookie. The most widely known and the only legitimately authentic Lebkuchen comes from Nüremberg. If it isn’t labeled Nüremberger, it isn’t worth eating. Or a huge fine for commercial bakers who claim authentic and don’t have the burgermeister meisterburger seal of approval. As it should be. I’ve had some that has done no justice to the reputation of German baking. These from ALDI are the real deal. Only the packaging has changed so as to not freak out the general American populace.
Butter Spekulatius: These gems are made from a rolled dough and mold pressed into the shapes of a peasant woman and peasant man. I am linking to the madhausfrau’s site for the downlow on her trip to market. German cookies are rich with spices. I believe what we get is calmed down for the wimpy American palate so ours were a creamy butter flavor with a snappy break. There are very delicate and don’t survive the shipping well. And they certainly do not survive the ride home when you forget that these delicate gems are in the car. Oopsie!
Based on a Dutch recipe, the cookies are made similarly to Springerle. No, I am not brave enough to attempt those either. But I so want to! They really do melt on your tongue and dunking them is a bad idea. The cookie is so thin that the least bit of moisture makes it fall apart completely. But they are a mouthful of heaven!
Stollen: I think everyone’s Oma made this. I actually have several friends who posted their successful stollen endeavors on facebook this year. I’ve had stollen in the past. It was awful. A rum soaked fire going down with a medicinal aftertaste…. no thank you! I am not a boozy person. And I think that the cheap rum used to make this in the past was the culprit. Also, a 7 year old is not really supposed to enjoy the booze fueled Holiday adventures that were the 1970s. That bad stollen taste never left my mouth. So when ALDI gets these in, I avoid them.
Lesson learned for the new year: Never let a past experience be the only experience. Aside from the realization that tastes are different from childhood to adulthood, there must be an understanding that there are bad bakes and good bakes. These weren’t good bakes. These were AWESOME bakes! The dough is based on a brioche recipe so it wasn’t heavy in your stomach. The filling was a combination of golden and dark raisins, nuts, and almond paste with a HINT, I repeat, a HINT of orange peel. While the loaf was heavy in the hand, it was definitely delicate going down. And moist. I know, people hate that word. But moist is so much better than coarse and dry. Each slice was velvety smooth!
Waldmeister Sugar Cookies: Skeptical of the execution but excited for the results, this was the best sugar cookie I ate all season.
Come back for the next post to see how this cookie was made.