Tag Archives: german

Zwetschgendatschi. German Plum Cake.

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Want to know what gets me really excited? Getting packages in the mail.

I have a thing for online shopping. That is, when I do shop. I don’t spend a lot of money but when I do get around to making purchases, I find it much more exciting to buy them online. It’s like getting a present in the mail! One might think that ordering items from the comfort of your home is a good way to over spend but I actually think it helps me spend less. The problem with shopping in person is that, for me at least, it tends to lead to impulse buys or buying something I don’t even want at all, mainly because of pressure from sales people or false advertising. No, none of that with online shopping. I get to spend hours and hours comparing prices, reading reviews, and looking for coupon codes. Some people like to call it a waste of time…but I like to call it smart shopping.

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Now, that leads me to a package I received in the mail yesterday. Oh how I was excited for this one. I had been waiting a good 6 months for these to go on sale. What are they? Dates! Like, the dates you eat. Those brown little shrivelled things that you find in your supermarket in clear plastic containers next to the produce aisle. Yeah, I know it’s weird that I was excited to order dates online. But these were fresh, just picked dates, soft, moist, and juicy. So it was really disappointing when I finally opened up my first date to take a bite out of it and found a long pale maggot squiggling it’s way out onto my hands. Yup. Maggot.

At first I was completely put off by the thought of eating even one date after that, let alone the full 8 pounds that I had bought. But I guess the fact that they’re organic made up for all the grossness of it. That’s the one thing about organic produce though, you never know what you’re going to get. As well, I think waiting 6 months for a fruit to come into season just to be put off by a little bug is a bit silly.

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Which now, finally, brings me to this lovely Zwetschgendatschi. Which is really just a long, fancy, German word for “Plum Cake”. However, Zwetschgen are the German name for Blue Plums, also known as Prune Plums or Damson Plums. Correct me if I’m wrong. However, these little, oblong plums only come into season around here during the end of summer and knowing me, I love to buy way too much produce that’s in season because well, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

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The recipe I have today is a typical recipe for this cake that you can find all over Germany. From what I’ve been told, it’s a popular cake to be had at ‘kaffee und kuchen’ time in Germany. Yes, coffee and cake time, a meal eaten between lunch and dinner, mostly on Sundays or really whenever you feel like coffee and cake. Why don’t we have this in Canada? It seems like it would be a very beneficial meal to get you through the day.

So, back to the actual recipe. This cake isn’t what you’d really think of as a “cake”. The base is made out of a slightly sweet, yeasted dough, topped, with fresh plums, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and a streusel topping. Also, serving with whipped cream is a must. It’s both light from the tanginess of the plums as well as substantial from the dough. Without the streusel, I’d say would make for a delicious breakfast, whipped cream optional.

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Zwetschgendatschi (German Plum Cake)
Makes about 8 servings
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Apple and Blackberry Kuchen and Delicious Days’ Zwetschgendatschi

For the dough:
350g/ 3 cups all purpose flour
50g/ 1/4 cup sugar
1.5 tsp dried yeast
125ml lukewarm milk (2% or Homo)
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g/ 1/4 cup soft salted butter

For the Filling:
Approximately 25 small Damson Plums or half of that if using regular plums
100g/ 1/2 cup brown sugar
50g/ 1/2 cup slivered almonds

For the Streusel:
50g/ 1/4 cup flour
50g/ 1/4 cup cold, salted butter, diced
50g/ 1/4 cup brown sugar

Cream or egg for egg wash

Line an 8.5 inch x 12 inch tray with a piece of parchment paper. You may also use a slightly bigger tray if that’s what you have.

To make the dough, stir yeast into warmed milk and let stand for a few minutes until foamy. Either using a stand mixer with the dough hook or by hand, combine the flour and sugar in your mixing bowl and stir in milk, eggs, and vanilla. Knead for about 5 minutes with the machine or about 10 by hand on your counter. If the dough is very sticky, add a little more flour, a tbsp at a time. Knead in the softened butter until the dough looks springy and doesn’t stick to the bowl or your hands. Form the dough into a ball and place into a buttered bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place, to rise for about an hour and a half or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prep the plums by slicing them into quarters, lengthwise. Make the streusel topping by combining the 3 ingredients with your fingers until the butter is mixed in well with the flour and sugar, to form a crumbly mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 350˚F.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick and slightly larger than your tray. If there is too much dough, just trim off the sides and use the leftover dough another time (I rolled out my extra dough and spread softened butter and sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon over to make cinnamon buns).

Press the dough into the tray and up the sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of brown sugar and place the plums on top, skin facing down, tightly next to each other. Sprinkle over the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and the streusel topping. Next, sprinkle the slivered almonds over top. Let the Kuchen sit for 15 minutes for the dough to rise a little and then brush with egg wash or cream if you have it.

Bake on the middle rack for about 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes. If the top is browning too much, cover with a piece of foil.

Enjoy warm with a side of fresh whipped cream.

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Laugenbrezeln without the Laugen and some culture

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Yes! We finally got around to making german pretzels. I had been waiting a long time to do this and I’m glad that we did. Last Sunday Christoph and I made it a plan to make Laugenbrezeln, traditional German pretzels, made with lye. The only problem was that we didn’t have the lye and therefore they weren’t authentic. But since Christoph is German I guess you can still call these pretzels German…sort of. Though, I guess you could also call them Chinese pretzels since I’m Chinese. German/Chinese pretzels? Chinman pretzels? Germese pretzels? Nevermind.

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Instead of the lye we used a baking soda bath to simmer the pretzels in before they were sprinkled with pretzel salt. Which by the way, is pretty much impossible to find in Toronto and instead we resorted to buying a frozen pack of New York style pretzels at the local FreshCo. and took the pack of pretzel salt from there. I really wanted that salt. If I could have somehow acquired the lye in a similar fashion I would have done it but no luck, food grade lye isn’t easy to come by in Canada and now that I think about it it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea for me to use it. Caustic solutions don’t go well with my skin or any person’s skin for that matter.

First, make the dough. It’s a stiff dough so it’s best to knead by hand. IMG_1144

Then pass it to your partner, if you have one, so they can do some of the work,

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portion the dough into 12 equal pieces,

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let the dough rest for 5 minutes

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roll into 22 inch long ropes, making the ends skinnier,

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twist,

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shape,

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and press ends.

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We then had to let our pretzels rest for an hour outside in the cold since we didn’t have enough room in our fridge. Make sure no squirrels or other furry animals run off with your dough! Once a skin had formed we simmered the pretzels one by one in a baking soda solution and sprinkled with pretzel salt and baked them for 15 minutes.

Pretzels, finally!

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So, what is that picture of that yellow lumpy stuff at the top? It’s cultured butter actually. Yes, I made butter and it was easy. I’ve been wanting to make cultured butter for a while now and never knew where to buy good cream. The cream we get at the grocery store happens to have additives such as carrageenan, gums, colours, and a whole bunch of other nasty stuff. This wouldn’t do for my butter so I ended up at the health food store in Kensington Market where I picked up a few cartons of Hewitt’s 35% whipping cream. Pure cream. The other addition to this butter was yoghurt which you add to the cream and let it sit in a warm place for 12-18 hours. This time allows the good bacteria in the yoghurt to grow and essentially sour the cream. It sounds weird but I’ve been culturing foods for the past few months and it really is quite simple. The culturing gives the cream a slight tang which is exactly what you want to elevate the flavour of the cream. Next step is just to whip the cream until it breaks and the fat separates from the buttermilk. Mix it up a few times with cold water, salt it and you’ve got delicious, fresh, homemade cultured butter.

Starting to get grainy,

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the whipped cream will split and look just as unappetizing as this,

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strain off the buttermilk and save it for another use, then wash the butter with ice cold water

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the butter will come together into one hard lump.

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Then what do you do with the fresh pretzels? You slather them with as much cultured butter as you possibly can. It’s the holiday season after all and there’s really no point in watching your diet now. At least that’s what I tell myself to make myself feel better for all the butter and sugar I’ve been consuming over the past month…year…years.

German Pretzels (Soft Pretzels)
Makes 12 large pretzels
Adapted from this version by Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef

2 tbsp butter or margarine (I used Becel Vegan margarine)
2 tbsp instant yeast
1 tbsp brown sugar
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1/2 cup baking soda
Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Mix the yeast, sugar, and margarine in a large bowl with 2 cups of warm water. Add in half the flour  and the wheat gluten and combine. Add in the salt and the rest of the flour minus 1/2 cup of the flour. The amount of flour you will need depends on the humidity of your kitchen. You may need more, you may need less. The dough I made ended up being a little too stiff and dry so I recommend using less at first. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Cut into 12 portions. I used a scale to get my pieces equal in weight. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, covered with a tea towel.

Next, roll the dough into 22 inch long ropes, wetting your hands if the dough is too dry to roll. I would recommend rolling the dough out longer than 22 inches. Shape into a pretzel shape and press the ends down to stick to the dough. Let rest for 30 minutes uncovered at room temperature then 1 hour below 4˚C. I set them outside since I had no room in my refrigerator.

Bring a large pot filled with 1.5 litres of water to a simmer and add the baking soda. Be careful as the baking soda tends to sputter.

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Carefully drop one pretzel at a time into the baking soda bath and simmer gently on each side for about 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with pretzel salt. Once you have simmered and salted 4 of the pretzels, place into the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the pretzels are a rich dark brown colour. Transfer to a cooling rack and eat slathered with butter and spicy mustard while still warm.

Cultured Butter
Makes about 1 cup of tangy salted butter
Adapted from this recipe from the Traveler’s Lunchbox

500 mL of good quality heavy cream (35% fat or higher)
3 tbsp full fat good quality plain yoghurt
Ice cold water
Salt, to taste

First, combine the cream with the yoghurt in a glass or metal container. Cover with a piece of paper towel or a tea towel and let sit in a warm place for 12-20 hours. My batch took about 20 hours to get to where I wanted it. If you live in a warm region then this should only take about 12 hours. The cream will be slightly thicker and will smell like yoghurt and should taste slightly tangy. You can now refrigerate the cream until it’s cold, up to 24 hours if you will not be churning that day.

Either whip the chilled cream with a stand mixer, hand mixer, by hand if you feel like it, or with a real butter churner if you have one. Mix on medium speed until the cream holds stiff peaks. Turn the speed down to low and keep mixing until it starts to go lumpy and the fat separates from the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides and mix for another 10 seconds or so. Using a large spatula or slotted spoon, press the fat clumps to the side of the bowl and carefully drain off the buttermilk and save for another use. Keep pressing the butter to get the milk out and drain as much off as possible. Next, add some cold water to the butter and mix and knead the butter with a fork. The water will turn a milky colour, drain this off. Keep adding cold water to the butter while mixing, kneading, and draining until the water runs clear. Drain off all the water and knead the butter again to squeeze out any water inside the butter. The butter will now be quite hard and cold. I let it sit, covered, for about 2 hours until it softened up a bit. Then add your salt of choice to taste and scoop into a ramekin, roll into parchment, or shape into moulds.

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