Hey peeps! Hope you had fun and calorie laden Thanksgiving! Since my folks were out of country I pretty much had a date with Netflix, yikes I know bad choice. When I started this blog I was not very sure what I am gonna post except I knew I wanted uncanny baked goodies from all over the world and add some unexpected flavors where one would least expect it. My personal favorite up until now has been these Danish puff loaf with Black Pepper Crust and Rose Jam. Baking for me is a journey which keeps on evolving as I learn about different cultures and people around us.
I have been looking into Nordic and Eastern European countries for my inspiration these days. Don’t get me wrong I love French Patisseries but; I like to me bit more adventurous with my baking these days. Just like my life I am a risk taker and hard-core adventurous. While reading through one of my favorite blogger David Lebovitz’s article I came across this exemplary cookbook Classic German Baking, chock full of German baking recipes exactly like I wanted to try. And along with the book I met this acclaimed Blogger Luisa Weiss through her blog The Wednesday Chef.
There are two kinds of book(for me), one with oh so beautiful pictures that you start dreaming of making those delicate pastries but it gets scary and well dream remains a dream. Others are once filled with old school classic goodies which as you turn every page you feel that you practically have started living in it and you want to make each and every one of it. This book falls in the second category and I already am looking forward to a book which in few months will be covered in flour, sugar and butter.
Ms. Weiss used to be a cookbook editor before turning to an author, so needless to say book is brilliantly edited and is sui generis in the world of German Baking. These are the recipes made by generations of grandma which were passed down only within families. Holding the book and one thought that crossed my mind was the feeling of hitting some jackpot (I know you would say I am exaggerating but it hit the perfect spot of what I was looking for). I may belong to this generation but when it comes to certain things I am old school, handwritten card makes me happier than an electronic wishes, same goes for book versus an ebook or a love letter to some dinner date. This book makes me happy, reading small stories behind each recipes instead of just a long description of flavors, makes me not only want to recreate the same magic in my kitchen but also live those magical moments.
Yes the names are long and scary but book comes with its English name and a perfect pronunciation guide at the end. Well the lack of photos for every recipe might deter you from not picking up the book but once you start reading it, pictures will be your second thought. Book does contains other photos of Germany which are a pleasant edition (all of the recipe photos can now be found on her website here).
Extensively researched recipes and from this first baked cookies, which were delightful to make and perfectly sweet I could say that although recipes may be classic German they are bound to become holiday classic at my home too. This book is a perfect adventure which I am looking forward to. From kuchens to tortes and yeasted sweet cakes, you will find it here with recipes both given in volumes and grams. Learn about rich history of German baking and create your own little stories, whether it’s a simple cake like Butterkuchen( butter almond cake) or a tall bundt cake like Marmorierter Mohnkuchen(marbleized poppy-seed cake).
I am a jam hoarder, it is one thing I always get when I visit another country or place, so my recent trip to Puerto Rico you can pretty much bet on that not one but two (Guava and Tamarind). When I saw the photo of bright jam cookies in the book call Eisenbahnscnitten (EYE-zen-BAHN-schnitt-enn), I was like huh what? well, just say almond cream jam bars (it actually means railroad track bars pretty neat right? I quickly read through the recipe and she suggested using a tart jam I was sure that Guava would be a perfect fit.
Now as always I was brainstorming about adding some spice to the shortbread like base with Anupa and she came up with the best idea of sprinkling paprika and salt over it. I am sure you are going head over heels to why would someone add them to a perfect cookie. Well we as children back in India would have found memories of eating raw guava with generous sprinkle of red chili powder and salt. It is like street food you find in tourist places, small vendors sell them. You are bound to find it anywhere you go across India, all kinds of fruits/ veggies like mangoes, pineapple and cucumber literally drowning in that spicy mix. First thing I did was grab a spoonful of jam, sprinkled it with paprika, a pinch of Himalayan sea salt and I was transported to my childhood.
This recipe is little long (for cookie you might think) but rest assured it is easily doable. Three simple steps, make the base, stack and pipe the almond cream. You could be a happy camper gobbling up some these cookies with a cup of coffee and practicing saying Eisenbahnscnitten. I am sure that after eating these cookies you will find the names seductive and charismatic.
And to say the least I am already making another German classic which I dare not to change a thing about! Let me know down below if you can guess what that would be. I made Christbrot, an easier cousin of famed stollen (here).
P.S. This is a great book for gifting!
Recipe from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss
Makes 50 cookies
- 500 grams/ 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 150 grams/ 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 300 grams/ 21 tablespoons unsalted butter (European recommended), room temperature
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 lemon, zest
- 2 teaspoon water, cold
- 350 grams/ 1 cup plus 2 tablespoon guava jam (apricot and red currant are good options)
- 360 grams/ 12 ½ ounces almond paste (available in well stocked grocery store and Whole Foods)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 egg whites, room temperature
- 1-2 teaspoons paprika
- 1-2 teaspoons flaky sea salt like Himalayan or fleur de sel
- In a large bowl add flour, sugar and salt, whisk together. Add butter and using fingers work in it. As you are working add egg, zest and water. Don’t overwork, just until combined.
- Divide the dough into two (use scale if you have one), tightly wrap with a plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, upto a day.
- Preheat oven to 350° F and line a 9 by 13 pan with parchment paper which acts a sling later.
- Take the dough out of fridge and wait for few minutes and start rolling to fit the pan. Use a flour parchment to avoid sticking.
- Prick the dough with fork and then using a sharp knife lightly score into 4 strips lengthwise.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and immediately cut through the score line. Place the pan over a cooling rack and wait 10 minutes, remove the base using parchment as a sling and cool completely. Repeat this with other piece of dough.
- Warm half (175 grams/ ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) of jam in a saucepan just until little loose. Using a brush over one piece and sandwich it with other piece. You should have 4 long sandwich cookies now.
- Grate almond paste if hard in a big bowl, add honey, sugar, butter, salt and egg whites. Whisk using a hand mixer until it is smooth and well combined.
- When it is thick enough to hold its shape, transfer to a piping bag with star piping tip like wilton #2D.
- Pipe the almond cream around edges, starting with one corner and you will end up with empty center.
- Warm the remaining jam and spoon it into empty space.
- Transfer these bars to a baking sheet and broil for few minutes, just until you start seeing brown ridges. Be careful and don’t burn it.
- Remove and place the baking sheet on cooling rack. Sprinkle it with paprika and sea salt. Let cool completely.
- Slice each crosswise into 1 inch pieces. Store in an airtight container in a single layer. Stay fresh at least 1 week and up to 2 weeks.
I have not been compensated for writing this review. I bought the book, meet the author for a Q and A and fell in love with German baking culture.
Note: Guava jam can be found where Caribbean or Latin American groceries are found.