30 January 2012

Custard twirls - 'Puddingschnecken'

These little pastries are sold in pretty much every bakery in Germany. They are a favourite for breakfast or with coffee or tea in the afternoon. Of course, variations of these twirls also seem to be a staple of the continental breakfast around the world. Very similar pastries can be found in a lot of other European countries and Germany certainly cannot claim copyright for this recipe. However, they are fairly traditional and certainly tasty enough to be included in this blog. In German these twirls have another strange name. Puddingschnecken literally translates as custard snails. But don’t let this put you off. The custard-type filling makes the twirls particularly moist and sumptuous. They are relatively easy to make and they freeze well and can be defrosted and reheated in the oven very quickly. The recipe below makes about 15 custard twirls.

For the dough:
500 g plain flour
20 g fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dry)
80 g sugar
Seeds from one vanilla pod
2 eggs
120 ml lukewarm milk
100 g melted butter

For the filling:
65 g corn flour
500 ml milk
80 g sugar
Seeds from one vanilla pod
100 g raisins soaked in rum (or apple juice)
 2 tbsp orange marmalade

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and mix with all the other dough ingredients. Knead thoroughly for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth and fluffy ball of dough. Put in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until it has roughly doubled in size.

In the meantime make the filling. Mix the corn flour with the sugar and vanilla seeds. Add about 80 ml of the milk and whisk well. Make sure there aren’t any lumps. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil. Add the corn flour mix and boil for about 1 minute, whisking continuously, until the custard has thickened. Leave to cool. I usually place some cling film on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. When the custard has cooled down (it can still be lukewarm) mix in the raisins.

Roll out the dough thinly into a rectangle of about 40 by 60 cm. Spread the custard mixture on top evenly and thinly. The filling should not be too thick or it will ooze out when rolling and cutting. Roll up from the shorter side of the rectangle. Cut carefully (I use a sharp serrated knife) into twirls about 2 cm thick. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Take care not to apply too much pressure when cutting, so the filling stays in place and the twirls keep their shape.

Bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes (or until golden brown on top). In the meantime smooth the marmalade through a sieve and mix with a bit of warm water. Take the twirls out of the oven and brush with the marmalade whilst still hot. This gives them a nice shine. Eat within two days or freeze.

29 January 2012

Sand cake - 'Sandkuchen'

The ‘special’ ingredient in this recipe is not sand but corn flour, giving this cake its specific ‘sandy’ texture. To be honest (and as can be seen on the picture) this cake is nothing special, but the most basic of cakes. The Sandkuchen, however, is a very old and traditional recipe and the process of making the batter is quite different from other basic sponge cakes. The addition of corn flour, as well as whipped egg whites and melted butter, make it particularly fine and light. Its flavour is buttery with a subtle hint of lemon. It keeps for at least a week if stored in a tin and it tastes good with a cup of coffee or tea.

I mentioned another one of my attempts at making sand cake in my previous post. It all went wrong, because I filled too much batter in the cake tin and it ended up flooding my entire oven. Beware – this recipe contains very little baking powder, but it rises like crazy. Don’t be tempted to overfill the tin – about half full is enough. Instead of filling all the batter into my large loaf tin, this time I baked one large and one small loaf. This was just about right and there was no need to scrub the oven afterwards.

4 eggs and 2 additional egg yolks
300 g sugar
Finely grated zest from one organic lemon
2 egg whites
200 g flour
150 g corn flour
1 level tsp baking powder
320 g melted butter

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and the sugar in a food processor or with an electric whisk for at least 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Whisk the egg whites to firm peaks and carefully fold into the egg mixture. Mix the flour, corn flour and baking powder and also fold into the egg mixture in stages (with about 4 additions). Make sure all the flour has been mixed in well. Finally, stir the melted butter (this can be slightly warm, but should not be hot) into the batter and combine well.

Pour the batter into greased and floured baking tin (do not overfill!) and bake for about 1 hour in the preheated oven at about 175 degrees. Prick with a match or wooden skewer to ensure the cake is baked all the way through.

Leave to rest in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. When the cake is cold dust with icing sugar or decorate with chocolate (recommended). Wrap well in foil or store in a tin and this will keep for at least a week.

28 January 2012

Linzer tart - 'Linzertorte'

New year, new recipes. Having been a bit slack over Christmas and the New Year – enjoying cakes and biscuits baked mostly by my parents for a change – I commenced my baking two weekends ago. I had only had a baking break of three weeks (and I did make a poppy seed cake and fruity crumble cake on Christmas Day, so it’s not that I didn’t practice at all), but it all went to pieces. My first cake of 2012 was the famous sand cake (Sandkuchen), but it went so wrong. It started off OK and the cake rose beautifully. But it just rose and rose and when it had covered most of my newly cleaned oven I had to take drastic measures that I don’t want to go into. The second cake I made was my mother’s excellent apple cake with a sour cream topping. This tasted good, but it just didn’t look anywhere near as nice as my mum’s, so it didn’t make it into the blog, either. Finally, this weekend, my baking started to recover. Following a German baked cheesecake that almost hit the mark, the Linzer tart came out top. So here it is: my first recipe of 2012.

Obviously, the Linzer tart is not German, but Austrian. However, it is an extremely popular cake all over Germany and in the south in particular. There are two basic variations of this cake. One is made with a sponge-cake type batter and the decorative grid is piped on. The other, and arguably most original and traditional variant (as in my recipe below), is made from pastry and the decoration is rolled out or cut instead. Although the Linzer tart is eaten all year round, I think it is particularly pleasant in the winter with its subtle flavour of cloves and cinnamon. In order to achieve the typically crumbly and soft texture it is important to wrap the tart in foil and cling film and to let it rest for about a week before it is consumed. The ‘original’ Linzer tart is characterised by a filling of red currant jam (called ‘Ribisel’ in Austria). As this is not widely available in the UK I usually use raspberry jam instead. Any jam or fruit jelly will work well, but I think one with a red colour looks best.

This recipe is for a 28 cm spring form:

For the pastry:

300 g plain flour
300 g ground nuts (a mixture of almonds and hazelnuts is best)
250 g sugar
1 egg and one extra egg yolk
300 g butter
2 large pinches of ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

For the filling and decoration:

250 g jam (red currant, if available, or raspberry)
1 egg yolk

Quickly combine the pastry ingredients. Wrap in cling film and leave the pastry to rest in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Roll out about 2/3 of the pastry and add to the greased spring form (press down evenly with your fingers if required). Roll the remaining pastry into a thin sausage (about the thickness of a pen). Line the circumference of the spring form with a length of this sausage to form a rim (this will prevent the jam from oozing out). Spread the jam on top of the cake and then use the remaining strips of pastry to decorate with a grid-like pattern. Brush the pastry rim and grid with egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 50 minutes.  

Leave the tart to cool, then wrap in aluminium foil and cling film and leave to mature for about one week (or at least 2 days).