eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Category: BREAD + BUNS

Laurel Kratochvila’s Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

I don’t even remember how it started. It must have been a few years ago when my man and I welcomed a new tradition: coffee dates. Whenever we find time to take an hour off work, we squeeze in a dark Italian espresso or a creamy cappuccino, happily enjoyed in one of the countless cafés in our area. And on Saturdays – overly excited by the luxury of having plenty of free time – we often stretch it into a lunch-teatime-aperitif date. Just the two of us, chatting about whatever’s on our mind, no plans or duties, just lingering until we decide to move on.

On one of these dates, we went to the new Shakespeare and Sons / Fine Bagels. The book shop and bakery used to be close to where we live, but the two owners, Roman and Laurel, had to transfer their cafe and literature business to a new location. That was the first time I tried Laurel’s absolutely outstanding chocolate rugelach, which blew my mind and made me want (or rather have to) meet the woman behind this treat.

When we met, our chat led to a Meet In Your Kitchen feature (including my beloved rugelach recipe), but most importantly, I found a woman who’s a great inspiration. Laurel loves food, she’s obsessed with baking, she’s gifted with an unbelievable amount of energy, and when you talk to her, you can see her beautiful soul. She’s honest, critical, and crazy enough to overcome her fears and jump into the next adventure. Nosh Berlin is her new baby, a Jewish food week, starting March 17th. It’ll be a week packed with talks, feasts, and Jewish food. I already booked my tickets for two events, Molly Yeh is coming on the 22nd and I didn’t dare to miss The Gefilte Ball on Thursday. You can find the program of all the events below or on the Nosh Berlin website.

When I met Laurel for a coffee a couple weeks ago to hear everything about her exciting events, I nibbled on my obligatory rugelach and she chose a new creation, her current obsession: a marzipan-ribboned challah knot. She looked so happy whenever she took a bite of her yeast bun that I thought, I need this recipe. Laurel is a nice person who loves to share, I didn’t even need to beg her. And here it is, fluffy yeast buns, not too sweet, generously filled with marzipan, and so good, that I ate five of them in a day and a half. Laurel only uses egg yolks, melted butter, and water in this recipe. She uses bread flour, however I replaced it with white spelt flour that comes to use in all of my baking recipes. I had to add a little more flour and I think that a bit more wouldn’t have harmed the texture, but helped the knots to keep their shape a bit better and avoided cracks on the surface. As you can see in the pictures, my knots turned into roundish buns in the oven. I didn’t mind, challah knot or bun, I love Laurel’s latest creation.

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Nosh Food Festival

– Friday, March 17th – Kiddush: North African Jewish dinner by Yuval Belhans and Mayaan Meir

– Sunday, March 19th – The Nosh Market at Markthalle Neun
Oma and Bella: Movie and a Nosh at Babylon Berlin

– Monday, March 20th – The JCC Krakow presents Jewish Polish Food History. Talk and a tasting

– Tuesday, March 21st – What Jew Wanna Eat? Amy Kritzer, visiting chef from Austin, Texas, presents creative Passover cooking. 

– Wednesday, March 22nd – Molly Yeh and Luisa Weiss: Cookbooks, Blogs, and Jewish Baking

– Thursday, March 23rd – Nosh Berlin and Shtetl Neukölln present The Gefilte Ball. Talk and demo with Jeffrey Yoskowitz of The Gefilte Manifesto followed by a klezmer ball.

– Friday, March 24th: Night of Shabbat Supper Clubs

There will also be a couple talks on various Jewish food topics at the Fraenkelufer Synagogue and a showing of Cafe Nagler with a presentation on pre-war Jewish cafe and restaurant life. Additionally, there are Jewish cookery classes all week at Goldhahn and Sampson in Charlottenburg.

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

If you decide to double the recipe, use only 9 egg yolks, which is Laurel’s original recipe.

Makes 7 challah knots

organic egg yolks 5, plus 1 egg white, beaten, for the glaze
butter, melted and cooled, 40g / 3 tablespoons
water 175ml /3/4 cup
bread flour (or white spelt or unbleached wheat flour),  410-480g (3 cups plus 2 tablespoons – 3 2/3 cups), plus more if the dough is too sticky
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
fast-acting yeast 1 1/4 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
marzipan, cut into 7 pieces, 150g / 5 ounces
poppy seeds 1 tablespoon, for the topping

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and butter. Add water and whisk until well combined.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour (410g / 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons), sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the liquid mixture and, using the paddle attachment, mix for about 1 minute until combined. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead for about 10 minutes. I use setting ‘4’ on my KitchenAid. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky, but mind that it should stay soft. If you prepare the dough by hand, keep kneading an extra few minutes. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60-70 minutes or until spongy. When you poke the dough, the indentation of your finger shouldn’t spring back.

Punch the dough down and then turn out onto a floured work surface. Give it a quick knead to form it back into a ball and then cut 7 equal pieces. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Once rested, roll the dough into logs (about 25cm / 10″ long) and then gently press flat. Lay a strip of marzipan lengthwise down the middle of the flattened log (using my hands, I first rolled each piece of marzipan into a long log) and then fold the log lengthwise in half, so you have a marzipan-filled log (see first picture). To fold the log into a knot, make an overlapping circle and then wrap the upper end under and then up through the middle (see first picture).

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F (convection setting).

Once all 7 knots are folded, transfer to the lined baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg white. Laurel puts a little simple syrup in the egg glaze to add some extra sweetness, I left mine plain. Let them rise for about 30 minutes or until puffy. Glaze the challah knots with egg whash a second time then sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the challah knots are golden brown and shiny.

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

The past week has been crazy and the best way to put my weary mind at ease, is to dig my hands into a ball of yeast dough and knead, and knead, and knead. You can punch and roll it, letting all your energy out until you’re exhausted; or you can knead it gently to calm down and feel the pale ball softening slowly between your fingers. Yeast dough is forgiving, it accepts whatever mood your in, and it gets better the longer – and harder – you work with it.

The dough for today’s babka had to deal with a lot of energy, I must have looked like a boxer training in my kitchen. And it turned out to be the smoothest, silkiest yeast ball my marble counter tops have ever seen. To make babka, you have to be patient, the dough has to rise overnight in the fridge before it transforms into a braided beauty. But then, if you time it well and start early on the second day, you can enjoy the most fragrant cake on your Sunday breakfast or brunch table. And if you don’t feel like hassling and hurrying, just take your time and bake it for teatime.

I already shared a babka recipe here on Eat In My Kitchen, last year’s Blueberry Lemon Cheese Babka was a hit, not only on my table. This time I wanted to use poppy seeds for the filling to resemble the famous German Mohnstrudel. It used to be one of my childhood’s favourites, preferably generously filled with the dark, black seeds. For my filling, I stirred in a handful of raisins, which is also very common in Germany, they make it a bit fruity. But we’re not done yet, I have another addition: chopped white chocolate; divine! It’s subtle, you can barely taste the little milky bites, but it makes the filling juicier, fudgy in some parts, which is a great contrast to the fluffy cake. For the shiny finish, I used a sticky sugar glaze and I didn’t even wait for it to dry, the first slice of a warm yeast cake is always the best.

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

Mind that the babka has to rise twice, the first time overnight (for about 8 hours) in the fridge.

Makes 1 loaf cake.

For the dough

plain flour 275g / 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon, plus more if it’s too sticky
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
fast-acting yeast 1 1/2 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 60ml / 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
organic egg yolk 1
butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes, 75g / 1/3 cup
oil, for the bowl

For the filling

milk 210ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
cinnamon 1 teaspoon
orange zest 1 teaspoon
poppy seeds, cracked, 125g / 1 1/4 cup
raisins, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes and squeezed gently, 40g / 1/3 cup
white chocolate, chopped, 100g / 4 ounces

For the glaze

water 60ml / 1/4 cup
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup

Day 1 – in the evening:

For the yeast dough, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

Whisk the milk, egg, and egg yolk and add along with the butter to the flour mixture. Knead for about 10 minutes, starting with the dough hooks of a stand mixer and continue kneading and punching with your hands for a few minutes until you have a soft and silky ball of dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour, but mind that it stays soft. Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge overnight.

Day 2 – in the morning:

Take the dough out of the fridge and let at sit at room temperature for about 1-2 hours.

For the filling, in a medium saucepan, bring the milk, sugar, cinnamon, and orange zest to the boil. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the poppy seeds, and let it soak for 5 minutes. Stir in the soaked raisins and let it cool.

Butter an 11 x 24cm / 4 x 9″ loaf pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. On a floured counter top, roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a 28 x 40cm / 11 x 16″ rectangle. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 2cm / 3/4″ rim, and sprinkle with the white chocolate. Starting from one long side, roll up the dough tightly into a log. Pull and press to seal the end onto the roll and place the seam at the bottom. Using a sharp long knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise (see 5th picture). The cut sides facing up, press together two ends and lay one half of the log over the other, continue until you end up with a twisted plait (2nd picture). Push the end together. Tuck the ends underneath the babka and, using the large blade of a knife, lift the loaf and transfer quickly to the prepared pan. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place (I keep it on the heater) for about 60-90 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional oven). For the glaze, in a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to the boil and let it cook for 2 minutes, take the pan off the heat and set aside.

Bake the babka in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Mind that depending on where you push it in, there will be melted chocolate on the skewer. Take the pan out of the oven and brush the top immediately with the syrup (use all the syrup). Let the cake cool for about 10-15 minutes before you remove it from the pan. Enjoy slightly warm or cold.

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

We spent our Christmas in the Mediterranean, a premier for me, we normally stay in the cold North. I decorate our tree and the rest of the apartment according to my annual passion for wintery kitsch, and I eat duck, German potato dumplings, and usually (always) too many cookies. 2016 was different, we decided to go to Sicily first and spend a few relaxing days in the heart of the Archaeological Park of Agrigento (I’ll share my impressions with you next week). Malta was next on our itinerary, and with it came along lots of sunshine, rough seas, long walks in the countryside, and my wonderful, crazy Maltese family. It was loud and silly, we ate and drank too much wine in front of my Maltese Mama’s gorgeous crib in Msida, and I was happy.

I learned that a proper crib is an important part of the Maltese celebration, and I’m talking about cribs of rather large dimensions, well equipped with colourful figures, various animals, a real stable setting made of rocks, and most importantly, an impressive light installation to represent the firmament. Every house leaves the main door open, so that passersby can peak through the glass door to admire the re-enacted scenes of Jesus’ birth. I’ve seen impressive installations that leave no doubt that the Maltese take Christmas very seriously.

Being under the hot Mediterranean sun in the coldest season of the year has many advantages, my vitamin D resources are definitely recharged. Everything is fine as long as you stay outside the house, inside it’s freezing cold. A country where the temperature barely drops below 16°C (60°F) doesn’t really have to think about those few days of sharp chill. But a person who’s used to central heating – me – has to get used to the fact that the bedroom (and the bathroom!) can actually feel much colder than the air outside. I coped and complained, but our sunny walks along the lush green Dingli cliffs definitely made up for it.

And I’ll never forget our New Year’s Eve in Gozo, we stayed at a beautiful farmhouse at the border of the village of Qala. We had a gorgeous room, with a large terrace and the most stunning views of the islands of Comino and Malta. We ordered 3 (!) pizzas from the local Maxokk bakery, bought a bottle of local red wine from my friends at Meridiana, and just sat on the sofa, amazed by the peace in front of our eyes.

I had never seen Malta like this, so green and in full bloom. My past travels covered everything from March to October, but I always avoided the winter months. I’d love to show you pictures, but I was on a mission, I didn’t touch my camera, I stayed offline most of the time, and I slowed down my pace drastically. So there are no pictures, but lots of beautiful memories of time spent in nature, silent, without any disturbing technical devices.

However, when we came back to Berlin, I noticed a slight feeling of dissatisfaction, I missed my Christmas. To make up for my nostalgic longings, I decided to have a Christmas week in January. In the past few days, I baked Christmas cookies and my boyfriend had to listen to me singing along to Christmas carols. My celebrations found their festive peak in a Christmas dinner for two with slow roasted duck (I used the recipe from my book), red cabbage with spices and apples, and German potato dumplings. Now I’m cured and we can move on with our lives – also in the kitchen.

My latest post-Christmas kitchen project led to a hearty yet airy focaccia, topped with thickly sliced red onions roasted on top of the dough in lots of olive oil and a generous amount of aromatic Swiss Gruyère cheese. It’s pure comfort food. I cut a thick slice off the warm bread and enjoyed it on a chair that I placed close to the heater. I doubt I ever appreciated central heating as much as I do now.

If you’re looking for some more focaccia inspiration, take a look at these recipes:

Fig, Chèvre and Honey Focaccia

Emiko Davies Florentine Grape Focaccia

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

Focaccia with Grapes, Rosemary and Sea Salt

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Makes a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia

For the dough

plain flour 500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 (7g / 1/4 ounce) envelope
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1 heaping teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons to oil the baking sheet

For the topping

Swiss Gruyère cheese, or any aromatic hard cheese, coarsely grated, 100g / 7 ounces
red onions, thickly sliced, 2
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the lukewarm water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and knead on medium-high speed for a few minutes until well combined. I mix it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the mixer bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Oil a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ baking sheet.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for 1 minute. Using your hands, stretch and spread the dough on the oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (convection setting).

Using the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger, punch around 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough. Arrange the sliced onions on top of the dough, pushing the slices gently into the dough. Pour the remaining olive oil over the dough and onion and into the holes. Sprinkle with the cheese and a little flaky sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown. Sprinkle with crushed pepper and enjoy warm or cold. The focaccia tastes best on the first day.

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Tahini Date Cake with Whipped Cream

Tahini Date Cake

Welcome 2017! May you bring peace, love, and patience to our lives.

On one of the last days of 2016, we gathered a group of friends from Florence, Israel, and London around our long wooden dining table. To keep it cozy, I cooked Swabian Käsespätzle, the famous homemade egg noodles layered with lots and lots of cheese and soft, golden brown onions. This meal is so rich and comforting, it’s perfect for a cold winter’s night. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t find it addictive. Although it’s a classic Southern German dish, I’ve heard quite a few Italians claiming that Italy is its true place of origin. However, my guests from Florence tried it for the first time and they were enraptured.

My guest from Israel inspired me to bake a cake with one of his home country’s most popular products: tahini. I made a fruit cake, similar to an English teatime loaf, but I replaced the butter with tahini and olive oil. To say that it was good would be a total understatement. Light, with a soft hint of tahini, it was delicious, especially in combination with the chopped dates that I stirred into the dough and the sesame seeds sprinkled on top. I served this rustic looking beauty with lightly sweetened tahini whipped cream, we were all smitten.

Tahini Date Cake

 

Tahini Date Cake

Tahini Date Cake

Makes 1 cake

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
baking powder 1 tablespoon
freshly grated orange zest 1 tablespoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
tahini, mixed well, 75ml / 1/3 cup
mild olive oil 75ml / 1/3 cup
milk 90ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
large organic eggs 4
pitted dates, roughly chopped, 100g / 3 1/2 ounces, plus a few chopped dates for serving
white sesame seeds 1 tablespoon, plus more for serving

For the tahini whipped cream
(the tahini whipped cream serves 4, you’ll have to double the amount for the whole cake)

heavy cream 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar, to taste
tahini, mixed well, about 1 tablespoon

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting) and butter a 20cm / 8″  springform pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the tahini, olive oil, milk, sugar, and eggs for about 1 minute until well combined (I mix it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid). Stir in the flour mixture and continue mixing until no traces of flour are left. Stir in the dates and pour the dough into the prepared springform pan. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden and spongy. Check with a skewer, it should come out almost clean. Let the cake cool for a few minutes and take it out of the pan.

Whip the cream with a little sugar until stiff, adjust sweetness to taste. Add the tahini and whip for a few seconds until well combined. To serve the cake, cut it into large pieces, add a generous dollop of the tahini whipped cream, and sprinkle with chopped dates and additional sesame seeds.

Wrapped in cling film, this cake stays moist for a couple days.

Tahini Date Cake

 

Tahini Date Cake

 

Tahini Date Cake

 

Tahini Date Cake

 

Tahini Date Cake

Lime Scones & my last book launch event in Washington D.C.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

When we left our hotel in New York in the early morning it was still dark and I was too tired to realize that my Eat In My Kitchen book tour would soon come to an end. But after six weeks of being on the road in Europe and the US, I was somehow ready to close one of the most exciting chapters of my life in America’s capital, in Washington D.C.

We celebrated the birth of my first cookbook with true feasts, in Berlin, Malta, London, New York, and Washington and there are no words to describe how I felt during this trip. It made me the happiest and – after a few weeks – the most tired person at the same time. To be able to write and publish a book, to travel and share my thoughts about these pages filled with my recipes makes me very thankful – and humble. I didn’t know what to expect when my book was published on the 4th October, I didn’t know if people would like or reject it. I just tried my best to create a collection of recipes that someone who loves cooking would pick up for inspiration. To see all the love, support, and positive response that this book keeps getting, is more than I ever dreamed of. I met so many incredible food-loving people at all my book launch events, we discussed with each other, we ate and drank Maltese wine together, and we gathered around the table, just like we do in my own kitchen. People keep asking me which event I enjoyed the most, but I can’t even answer this question. Each celebration was unique, each of them was filled with countless magic moments, each event made my heart stop and jump, out of anxiety and pure happiness. Each celebration is a huge gift to my life.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Lime Scones

Washington felt a bit like the calm after the storm (please keep in mind that it was the week before the sobering elections!). New York is restless and that’s how we felt, but in D.C. we got treated to the relaxing amenities of the wonderful Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel and a luxuriously elegant room. We also had more time than expected, so we decided to jump on the hotel’s bikes to ride to the Embassy of Malta in Washington and meet the ambassador, Clive Agius, the generous host of the last Eat In My Kitchen book launch event. It was only a quick visit to the embassy before we drove on – this time in the ambassador’s car – to his private residence where our celebration was going to take place the next day. When I saw his house from afar, I knew that we had yet another unforgettable launch ahead of us.

The ambassador’s house is located in a picturesque residential area a little outside the center. The quiet streets lined with old trees, their leaves painted in gold, orange, and red, it was an Indian summer’s dream, almost too beautiful to be true. The house could have been straight from a fairytale, I couldn’t help but think of Little Red Riding Hood. The coziest cottage, warm and welcoming, just like Mr. Agius’ lovely family who shared their home with us. Mrs. Agius was so kind to let me use her kitchen to prepare the dishes for our big night and Vs Adass, the sweetest man who’s been the residence’s indispensable helping hand for two decades, assisted me. It was the only launch where I cooked and it went more smoothly than expected.

That night we treated ourselves to a scrumptious dinner at Le Diplomate, a relaxed French style Brasserie serving classics of exquisite quality. A glass of Champagne, clams, burger (the best in town), and a nice bottle of wine from Crozes Hermitage made us forget about the struggles that you face once in while when you’re on a book tour. It was heavenly. My culinary highlight was the bread served with our meal. Homemade sourdough bread, baguette, and a fruit and nut loaf that were so good that I ordered a bunch of them for the next day’s book launch.

Lime Scones

One of the breakfast treats I enjoyed during my stay in D.C. inspired me to share today’s recipe. It was a wonderfully crumbly, fragrant lemon scone. In my recipe, I replaced the lemon with lime and added vanilla. It’s one of the best scones I ever made, delicious for breakfast and perfectly fitting for my Sunday teatime.

My last book launch event was the most intimate of all of them. We sat at the fireplace, it was warm and cozy, a glass of wine in our hands, and we spoke about food. First, we picked up on our tradition of having a talk between me and my interviewer – my boyfriend took on this role that night – and then we moved on to an open discussion. And Washington, you impressed me, your people like to talk and ask questions! In no other city was I asked so much about my book, but also about food in general, I loved it. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms, thank you for your curiosity!

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

This night wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of Clive Agius and his lovely wife and daughters. Thank you so much for sharing your home with us and our guests. Thank you Karl Chetcuti and Meridiana Wine Estate for filling our glasses, Marisa Dobson for helping me organize our event, and Corinne Thompson for capturing all the beautiful moments in your pictures.

So, the Eat In My Kitchen book is out and it made it onto several Best Cookbooks of Fall 2016 lists (New York Times, InStyle US, Epicurious), you can see all the reviews here. I’m happy, relieved, and I’ll definitely need some time to process all the excitement that came over my life in the past few months. The best place to do this is my kitchen in Berlin and in Malta. I want to get back to my routine, my normal life. I hope you had fun joining my book tour here on the blog and on Instagram and Facebook. My post-book tour life will bring back recipes and posts from my kitchen, very relaxed, and a slower pace.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Lime Scones

Lime Scones

Makes 6 scones

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
cream of tartar 2 teaspoons
baking soda 1 teaspoon
fine sea salt 3/4 teaspoon
freshly grated lime zest 1 1/2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
unsalted butter, cold, 60g / 1/4 cup
freshly squeezed lime juice 2 tablespoons
milk a bit less than 120ml / 1/2 cup
vanilla bean, split in half and scraped, 1/2
organic egg, lightly beaten, to glaze, 1

crème fraîche, clotted cream, or butter, for serving

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (conventional setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and lime zest. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined.

Add the lime juice to a measuring cup and fill with milk until it measures 120ml / 1/2 cup. Add the vanilla seeds and whisk quickly. Add to the flour mixture and, using a large spoon, mix until just combined.

Scrape the dough onto a floured kitchen counter, dust your hands with flour, and flatten the dough until it’s about 2 1/2cm / 1″ thick. Using a 6 1/2cm / 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter, cut out 6 scones, reshape the dough for the last 2. Transfer to the lined baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash, and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden and risen. Sprinkle with additional lime zest (optional). Enjoy preferably warm with crème fraîche, clotted cream, or butter.

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

 

Eat In My Kitchen book launch

Ricotta Beetroot Doughnuts, New York and my 4th book launch

New York Book Launch

The monotony of clouds and waves kept me in a daze while we crossed the Atlantic, but then, when I finally spotted Nova Scotia from high up in the skies, I was as excited as a little girl. Soon we’d land in New York JFK, to open the last two chapters of my overwhelming Eat In My Kitchen book tour. New York and Washington DC had been on my itinerary for months, but to know that I’d be there in just a few hours gave me shivers.

This trip was emotional, which I got used to after weeks of being on the road in London, Berlin, and Malta, my emotions seem to be tied to a rollercoaster. And now New York, this city filled with so many dreams and visions, vibrant, loud, and bright, it never rests. As we stumbled out of the subway, packed with all our bags and suitcases (I took a few pounds of Maltese sea salt with me), my view was drawn to the sky, along the shiny facades of the city’s famous skyscrapers. Jet lagged, happy, and with an espresso in my hands, I felt breathless as I stood on the vibrant streets of Greenwich Village.

New York Book Launch

Ten days on the East Coast allowed me to dive deep into this magical city, to meet and get to know so many people and to enjoy some of the most delicious treats. I hadn’t seen my dear friend and editor Holly La Due in more than a year, and to step into her office on Broadway for the first time, to finally meet the entire team of Prestel Publishing that worked on my book, almost made me cry. And we ate – constantly! There was so much to discover, so much to try, it felt like traveling the world through food, but in one city. My palate enjoyed the most amazing Jamaican curry, Cuban stew and pies, Korean BBQ, Indian treats, and American classics. Our breakfasts were luscious, every day: The richest Challah French toast, fluffy blueberry pancakes, huge muffins, crunchy cookies, fudgy brownies, perfect bagels, fine lobster roll, juicy burger, creamy clam chowder, and generously filled sandwiches. New York is heaven on earth if you love food. The quality is outstanding, proven by the fact that we didn’t experience a single bad meal, I can recommend almost every restaurant we went to as you can see in my list below. One of the treats that struck me on our last day was a gorgeous pink doughnut at Bryant Park Holiday Market filled with ricotta and covered in sticky beetroot glaze. This combination is so good that I decided to come up with my own recipe and share it with you. My version is a soft and spongy oven-baked yeast doughnut refined with orange zest and sprinkled with pistachios. Next time I’ll fry them in oil, which adds that extra rich flavour plus calories.

New York Book Launch

There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot, so as we ate our way through Manhattan and Brooklyn, we also got to walk on the elevated High Line, a 1.5 mile long city garden. It’s an impressive green oasis along the closed tracks of the West Side Line. I couldn’t miss Tiffany’s, the melody of the film classic in my head, I pulled my boyfriend into the sparkling shop on Fifth Avenue after we took a little break at Central Park. We managed to see a live performance and also Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency at MoMA, and a fantastic show at The Met Breuer, by James Kerry Marshall called Mastry. And visiting Kenzi Wilbur at Food52‘s holy test kitchen in Chelsea (picture below) was another highlight. It was quiet when we approached the 9/11 memorial, as I stood there for about 10 minutes, in silence, I noticed how all the sadness and anger I felt turned into peace at one point. It’s a place that reminds us that love is the only way, and not hate.

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

I came to New York to present the Eat In My Kitchen book, at a wonderful book launch feast at Maman NYC and at a cozy book signing event at the beautiful – and so tempting – Whisk kitchenware shop on Broadway. It’s my first book, and to have had these two unforgettable celebrations in New York makes me feel very humble. I can’t thank everybody enough who’s been involved in both of the events. Maman is a stunning space with high ceilings in TriBeCa, founded by Michelin starred French chef Armand Arnal, Elisa Marshall, and Benjamin Sormonte. They are the sweetest team and they did everything possible to turn our event into a very special night. Chef Hetty McKinnon from Arthur Street Kitchen, and author of the cookbook Neighbourhood, prepared the recipes from my book for this special event. She’s a precious gem, as a chef and as a friend. My trusted partner Meridiana Wine Estate shipped their glorious Maltese wine over the Atlantic just for our event – our American guests are already thinking about how they can get hold of this wine from Malta in the future. Marisa Dobson is the power woman who helped me so much, organizing all my events in the US, and she introduced me to Baked (see the list below). Photographer Maria Midões is the lovely woman who captured the magic of our night at Maman in her gorgeous pictures. I had a dream team in New York, accomplished by the support of my wonderful publisher Prestel and of my boyfriend. He made me enjoy every second of this trip – especially breakfast, lunch, and dinner – at least twice as much. You can’t create a book on your own, but you also can’t send it out into the world on your own. Thank you, my friends!

New York Book Launch

This trip was all about people and food. We sat at the table with so many inspiring people, publishers, bloggers, food lovers, and journalists, fans of the Eat In My Kitchen blog and book, family and friends. We ate and drank wine, we discussed, laughed, and spoke about food, art, books, and culture; and about politics – it was two weeks before the sobering elections. So this trip had to sides, we felt our excitement, the excitement of two travellers exploring a new terrain, but we could also feel that there was something in the air. The people around us, and even the two of us, were anxious and had premonitions that the future might not bring what we all hoped for, a world without a US president who disrespects people, women and men, who humiliates people because of their sex, religion, skin colour, and culture. Today we know better. I always saw the USA as a vibrant melting pot of cultures, and I admired the country for this reason. To exchange ideas and traditions is fruitful, and not frightening. We are what we are because we evolve, we learn from each other, we need each other to widen our mental horizon. History, especially the not so distant German history, has shown what happens when we build walls, mental and physical walls, when we separate ourselves from the others. I feel pain when I hear the words of the newly elected American president, his words disgust me. But I don’t want to feel scared, I want to believe that deep inside we all know what’s right and wrong. We know compassion, we know that all the hate spread throughout our human history didn’t create anything good, just more destruction. It frustrates me to see that a single small minded, greedy and bitter old man can shake so many people, all over the world. But frustration doesn’t help, that’s democracy and democracy only works when we communicate, so let’s keep the dialogue going.

New York Book Launch

Here are some of my favourite food spots:

Manhattan

Baked TriBeCa, American bakery (they bake Oprah Winfrey’s favourite brownies)
Maman TriBeCa, coffee, bakery, and events
Tina’s Cuban Cuisine
Luke’s Lobster East Village (the best lobster and crab roll and clam chowder)
Clinton Street Baking (New York Magazine voted: the best blueberry pancakes)
ABC Kitchen (their spinach, chèvre, and dill pizza is a revelation)
Stick With Me (Susanna Yoon’s finest confectionaries)
Black Seed Bagels (delicious tuna melt and salmon bagel!)
Pondicheri New York (acclaimed Indian restaurant)
Food market at Bryant Park, especially The Doughnut Project
Salumeria Biellese Deli (the best sandwiches lusciously filled with Italian prosciutto and cheese)
Blue Bottle Coffee
Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
Jongro BBQ (Korean BBQ, be prepared for loud! music)
Russ and Daughters
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Hot Pot Under de Tree in Harlem (Jamaican Diner on Frederick Douglass Boulevard)

Williamsburg – Brooklyn:

Khao Sarn (delicious Thai soups and papaya salad)
The Rabbit Hole (cozy breakfast spot, try the challah french toast with strawberry mscarpone!)
Extra Fancy (American restaurant, seafood and burger)
Peter Luger Steakhouse (reservation needed!)
Vanessa’s Dumpling House

New York Book Launch

Ricotta Beetroot Doughnuts

Makes about 16 doughnuts plus doughnut holes

For the dough

plain flour 325g / 2 1/2 cups, plus about 2 tablespoons if the dough is too sticky
fast-acting yeast 1 1/4 teaspoons
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon
orange zest 1/2 teaspoon
milk, lukewarm, 155ml / 2/3 cup
butter, melted and cooled, 20g / 1 1/2 tablespoons
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
organic egg 1

For the filling

fresh ricotta, whipped, 250g / 9 ounces

For the glaze / topping

icing sugar 200g / 2 cups
beetroot juice 4-5 tablespoons
unsalted pistachios, chopped, a small handful
orange zest 1 tablespoon

For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Whisk together the milk, butter, vanilla seeds, and egg – the mixture should be lukewarm – and add to the flour mixture. Knead on medium speed for a few minutes until well combined. The dough should be soft and moist, but not sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough has almost doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for 1 minute. On a lightly floured countertop, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s about 1cm / 1/2″ thick. Using a 7 1/2cm / 3″ round cookie cutter or glass, gently cut out circles and transfer them to the lined baking sheets. Using a 3 1/2cm / 1 1/2″ cookie cutter or shot glass, stamp out the smaller inner circles and arrange them around the doughnuts on the baking sheet. If you use a smaller cookie cutter for the inner circles, the hole in the middle will close while baking. Cover with cling film and let rise in a warm place for about 25-30 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 365°F (conventional setting).

Bake the doughnuts and the doughnut holes for about 6-8 minutes or until light golden and still soft. If you’re not sure, take out one doughnut and cut it in half to see if it’s baked through. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely. Cut the doughnuts in half and spread each bottom with about 1 heaping teaspoon of ricotta.

For the glaze, whisk the icing sugar and beetroot juice until smooth, the mixture should be quite thick. Using a teaspoon, sprinkle the glaze generously over each doughnut and doughnut hole. Immediately sprinkle with pistachios and a little orange zest.

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

 

New York Book Launch

meet in your kitchen| Shakespeare & Sons, Berlin and Laurel’s Chocolate Rugelach

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

“They both slow you down. They’re both transportive. They both smell good. They can both be enjoyed at the same time” – Laurel’s words, when I asked her what she likes about the connection of food and books.

I’ve enjoyed sweet treats made by Laurel’s hands for many years, but it took a while for us to meet personally. Together with her business partner Roman, the young woman from Boston runs Berlin’s popular Shakespeare & Sons and Fine Bagels – a heavenly place for English books, bagels, cookies, rugelach, and cakes – all in one store! Originally, they started their Berlin business in a cozy space in Prenzlauer Berg that was, conveniently, quite close to where I live. But two years ago they had to move and I lost my dear store. A recent coffee date at their gorgeous new store in Friedrichshain brought back memories and awoke the idea to meet the stranger behind all these amazing sweet goods. It was actually a chocolate rugelach – possibly the best rugelach I ever ate – that made me get in touch with Laurel that same day. Her rugelach is gooey, chocolatey, sweet and juicy, it’s so good that you basically have to order one after the other. When we met later, Laurel told me that her dear friend Sanam used to say that every rugelach sticks to your hips for seven years. If something tastes so good, I don’t care about my hips, it’s worth every pound!

Laurel is a self-taught baker with a weak spot for anything baked and sweet, a trait of her food loving family. Especially the women are quite gifted and know how to impress the hungry crowds at their kitchen tables with homemade cookies, cakes, and breads. Luckily, for generations, this passion has been passed on to the young ones.

Although she calls herself a shy bird who prefers to stay behind the scenes, when I saw her roll out the puffy yeast dough, dishing out stories about Israeli and American rugelach, I didn’t believe it at all. Laurel sounds like a pro who must have a cooking show one day. I enjoyed watching her spread the dark chocolate filling lusciously over the orange flavoured dough so much, that I almost forgot how hungry I was. Luckily, it only took 15 minutes and she pulled out the most fragrant warm rolls in front of my camera – and then they went straight into my mouth.

Shakespeare and Sons also have the English Eat In My Kitchen book on their shelves!

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

Laurel’s Chocolate Rugelach

For the dough

7 cups / 910g bread flour
2/3 cup / 130g granulated sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup / 225g butter
1 1/3 cups / 315ml milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
zest of 1 orange

For the filling

3 cups / 600g of sugar (this can be substituted for demerara or even muscavado for a stronger flavor)
2 1/4 cups / 270g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups / 415g butter

For the egg wash

2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and yeast. When that is mixed in, add salt and whisk again. In a saucepan, melt butter on low heat and then remove from heat. Add milk and whisk. Add vanilla and eggs and whisk. Pour liquid mixture into the flour mixture. If using a mixer, mix until incorporated with the paddle attachment, then switch to a dough hook. Knead with the dough hook for 5 minutes. If mixing by hand, mix well with a wooden spoon and then turn out onto a floured surface and kneed well for about 7 minutes. It’s a very stick dough however, so it’s best to use a machine. Put the kneaded dough into a well-greased bowl, cover with a wet cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise for about an hour or until your fingerprint in the dough doesn’t spring back.

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

While your dough is rising, make the filling. Mix sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. Melt butter and pour on while hot. Mix well. Set aside to cool. You can cool it faster in a refrigerator, but be careful not to let it sit in the fridge for too long. It will turn into a solid block.

Turn out your dough onto a floured surface and cut it into 3-5 balls, depending on how large you want your rugelach. There’s no need to punch down the risen dough, as the rolling will do that for you. Roll out one of your dough balls into a perfect circle about 1/2cm / 1/4″ thick. Spread your filling evenly and thinly across the dough, being careful not to tear the gentle dough. Use a pizza cutter to trim the edges and to divide the dough circle into about 12 triangles, like pizza slices. Now starting from the outside of the circle, roll up your rugelach so they look like little croissants. Place on a baking sheet.

When you’ve done this for all of your dough, brush your rugelach with an egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, drizzle with simple syrup. Oh damn, now you get to eat them.

This recipe also freezes beautifully. I usually bake up as many as I want and put the rest of the unbaked rugelach in the freezer to take out and bake as I need them. (Think about the possibilities here. Seriously. Lazy winter weekend mornings in bed and then…poof…15 minutes later you’ve got gooey hot rugelach in your kitchen? This is a maximum pleasure recipe so it’s a wise move to keep them on hand). Just give them a few minutes to thaw before you throw them in the oven.

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

How does an ex-physicist decide to start a bagel shop? When did you come up with the idea? Did this idea grow over years or was it a spontaneous decision?

Ha, I don’t know if I’d call myself an ex-physicist. I’d say I got the physics degree and ran. The bagel shop happened out of pure, selfish necessity. I found myself living in the first-class bagel desert of Berlin and, frankly, I was hungry. I tried to assimilate, I swear. Ate broetchens, croissants, muesli…you name it. What can I say? They weren’t doing it for me like a bagel and cream cheese does. I’ve always been a home baker, wasn’t particularly focused on anything else at that point in my life, and it just struck me as something to do. So pretty spontaneous.

At your peak, you baked 350 bagels every day on your own before you put your team together. You offer 25 different bagels at your shop, sweet and savoury. What fascinates you about this popular bun with a hole in the middle?

The bagel is a creature of the diaspora. At this point, it’s as much American as it is Polish-Jewish. It’s spent the last hundred years moving out of the basement-level New York bakeries, getting softer and bigger, and landing on breakfast plates the world over. At the same time, bagels are no longer created with the same reference point or even a nod to their history, and I think it’s important to maintain standards. What I like about a proper bagel is the deliberate chewiness and the impractical hole. The hole serves only to gush cream cheese and soil your clothes. And yet it’s got to be there. More surface area for the flavorful skin. So it’s not an easy food. But it’s such a good food.

Both of us share a passion for rugelach, can you tell us a bit about the difference between American style rugelach and the traditional recipes rooted in Israel?

Ok, so the kind of rugelach I’m familiar with from back home (Boston) are more of a gently flaky cookie made with a cream cheese or sour cream dough and a filling of jam, chopped nuts, raisins, and cinnamon sugar. The dough is a royal pain to work with, but worth it. Meanwhile the rugelach you’d find in Israel are generally from a yeasted dough and reach the level of chocolate-y gooeyness that solicits involuntarily obscene vocals from those eating them. Or maybe that’s just me. This is disloyal to my upbringing, but I’m just going to say it: there is nothing better than an Israeli rugelach. The clouds of bees in the shuk in Jerusalem agree with me.

What makes the Ashkenazi baking tradition so special to you?

A hundred years ago, my great-great grandmother and her sister made their living baking breads and challahs in a village on the outskirts of Warsaw. All the women in my family are wonderful bakers and this is a way of maintaining and honoring a longstanding food tradition. The mandelbread recipe I use in the store goes back at least four generations. I’m not sure how the ancestors would feel about the double-whammy of reverse migration and return to the kind of baking that for them was a tough necessity and for me a cutesy, artisinal hobby-turned profession, but that’s 21st century privilege for you.

What’s the hardest part of running your own bakery?

Not eating all the cookie dough.

Are there any Shakespeare and Sons plans for the future, apart from books and bagels?

Right now I’m working with several other people to organize a Jewish food week called Nosh Berlin. It’ll be from March 19-26 2017. There’s never been an event like it here and people are really coming together. To kick it off, we’re partnering with The Breakfast Market at Markthalle Neun to have a Jewish breakfast market with everything from bagels to blintzes to jachnun to Ethiopian dishes, and more. The idea is to get as much wonderful Jewish food together in one place as possible. We’re drawing from local chefs and home-cooks as well as folks from abroad. Then throughout the week there will be events all over the city, from popup dinners to cooking classes to film showings to readings. So everyone should set aside a lot of tummy real estate for that week.

You grew up in Boston, you’ve lived in Kathmandu and in Prague, and you’ve called Berlin your adopted home for more than 5 years. What do you like about the capital? What inspires you in this city?

What I like about this city is how easy it is to do your own thing here. It’s a place with very little open judgement about life choices and success seems to be measured differently than where I grew up. And that has provided me and a lot of other people with the room to make slightly unorthodox dreams reality.

What do you like about the connection of food and books?

They both slow you down. They’re both transportive. They both smell good. They can both be enjoyed at the same time.

Can you tell us a little about the history of the house and store where you opened the new Fine Bagels/Shakespeares and Sons shop?

So the building in Friedrichshain where we’re currently located was built in 1962 as a bookstore and apartment building. Since it was in East Germany, it was a state-run bookstore until the fall of the wall, at which point it was privatized. To this day, old Berliners are always popping in to wax nostalgic about their memories of the bookstore from back in the day. If you walk into the store, you’ll noticed a raised portion to your left. It sits on top of a Cold War bunker that was built-in. Meanwhile, all of the built-in bookcases are original. They were covered in terrible particle board from the early ‘90s and when we tore it down, there was the beautiful original wood shelving. It’s a big space so we’re able to accommodate the bakery kitchen, the cafe, and the bookstore. It was a stroke of luck to get it.

You say that many women in your family are passionate home bakers, what did you learn from them? And what about the men in your family?

We’ve got some sort of cruel genetic predisposition to a sweet tooth running down both the paternal and maternal branches of my family. So there was always someone baking sweets. Cookies, cakes, quick-breads. My mother in particular is a home-made obsessive and passed that on. Particularly chocolate chip cookies, kugel, and zucchini bread. One grandmother was always making the most divine Toll House Cookies you’ve ever tasted and the other one was all about blueberry pies and cheesecakes. Would you believe it if I told you my maternal grandmother was an early adopter of the Weight-Watchers program? Shocking.

As for the men, well, at least a lot of them are good dish washers. That’s all I’ll say.

If you had to name one dish from where you grew up, back home in Boston, that you miss the most, what would that be?

Honestly, just an onion bagel and cream cheese from Rosenfeld’s in Newton Center. I’m absolutely devoted. They’re the best. And good seafood, of course.

Which are your favourite baking cookbooks and why?

My absolute favorite is Inside the Jewish Bakery. There are no pretty pictures, but it’s the most accurate and comprehensive survey of Jewish-American bakery recipes I’ve ever seen. It’s full of history and storytelling and extraordinarily detailed instructions. And that’s what it should be. The authors, Norman Berg and Stanley Ginsberg, both made their careers in these very bakeries and know better than anyone what they’re talking about. It’s my ultimate reference point.

Where do you find inspiration for new recipes for the Fine Bagels’ menu?

Mainly I try to wheedle old family recipes out of the elderly. Other than that, I go home and visit the old-school bakeries and delis around where I grew up. I’m not really trying to do anything so innovative. I’m more interested in preservation.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

Meike, this is entrapment! If I told you it was someone outside of my family, what would the family say? If I told you it was someone within my family, they’d think I was playing favorites. I’ll whisper it in your ear, but you can’t tell the internet. It’s my own neck I’ve gotta think about.

What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

Chocolate chip cookies with my mother. You hang around hoping to lick out the bowl long enough you inadvertently learn to bake.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin?

The fairly new Bread Station on the Maybach Ufer does the best sourdough loaves I’ve ever had. They’ll schmear up a hot broetchen with salted butter and comte for you and it’s heaven. Merle’s Roti and Rum near Yorkstrasse is divine…piles of hot roti, spicy curries, and homemade ginger beer. Heno Heno in Charlottenberg is worth the trip across town. Homey don buri, sour plum onigiri, and herring nigiri appetizers. Lon Men’s Noodle House on Kantstrasse and Agni on Prenzlauer Allee are two other favorites.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

Joan Nathan. She’s the queen.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

A proper Nepali dal bhat tarkari. It’s the most wonderful food in the world. I bothered a lot of people into teaching me to cook while I lived over there and it’s still my favorite thing to make. A shout out of gratitude here to Saraswati Pangeni, Sudeep Timalsina, and Nirajan Tuladhar.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

Childhood favorite? French toast. Grown up favorite? French toast.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I’m a kitchen misanthrope. Mainly because I’m clumsy. My ideal cooking scenario is having a friend hang out a safe 4 feet away from the cooking. They will gossip to me and drink wine while I make everything. Some days, like yesterday, this is not far off from the reality of my professional kitchen. Can’t say if that’s a good thing or not.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Planned. I live in permanent fear of not making enough food for my guests. This has never happened, but I gotta stay vigilant.

Which meal would you never cook again?

Latkes for 100 people. I smelled like a fry trap that fell into an onion field and my skin broke out in zits like a pubescent boy. Brutal.

Thank you Laurel!

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

 

Laurel's Chocolate Rugelach

meet in your kitchen | Emiko Davies’ Grape Focaccia & her life in Tuscany

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata-2

Our long wooden dining table has seen many luscious lunches and dinners. It has its scars and scratches and I’m sure that a few of them came from an unexpected meal with friends a few months ago. It must have been spring, I was still busy proof reading my book and I was rather stressed. What was supposed to be a one hour snack with a friend from Malta turned into a little Friday feast, with three friends, salads, cheese, and salami, and with a few more bottles of white wine than one should open (and empty) on a Friday afternoon – but who cares, we had a wonderful time. We laughed so much that I managed to relax and forget my duties for a few hours – and it was the start of this meet in your kitchen feature.

One of the friends who sat at my table that day was my dear Heilala. Whenever we meet, we get lost in long conversations. Between nibbles of cheese and sips of wine, she told me about a friend from her school days who just published her first cookbook and had also gone through all the excitement that comes with the adventure of being a book author. Her friend lives in the heart of Tuscany, in Florence, once the breeding ground of breathtaking Renaissance art and architecture. If you’ve seen it once, you’ll never forget its magical beauty. So Heilala told me that her friend lives right there, in this Italian paradise with her Italian husband and their little daughter, she writes a food blog and as I found out later, she’s already at work on her second cookbook – she’s called Emiko Davies.

I knew Emiko, not personally, but I’ve been a huge fan of her work for quite a while. Her recipes, her writing, and her photography have depth, every single aspect of her work shows that she’s knows what she’s talking about. Every picture she shares speaks of the beauty that surrounds her. If you live in a place that’s so full of history, culture, and evolving traditions, where the fine arts have flourished for centuries, you can only grow. The former art and history student dug deep into Florence’s culinary traditions. Like a scientist, she observed, read, and learned about the original cooking and baking of this part of Tuscany, a region that’s so versatile and rich. Florentine, The True Cuisine of Florence is a declaration of love, of someone who has experienced the city from the outside and has now become a part of it.

The curiosity and persistency of this food loving woman fascinated me – even more so after I found out that we share a beloved friend. We only got in touch last week, but I immediately knew that I wanted to meet Emiko in her kitchen. For know it’s just a virtual meeting, but I’m planning to visit her next year, in real life – to be continued.

All pictures in this post are taken by Emiko Davies.

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

 

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

Schiacciata all’uva | Grape focaccia

from ‘Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence’ by Emiko Davies, published by Hardie Grant Books

For one or two fleeting months of the year from September to October, the appearance of schiacciata all’uva in Florence’s bakery shop windows is a sign that summer is over and the days will begin to get noticeably shorter. This sticky, sweet focaccia-like bread, full of bright, bursting grapes, is a hint that winemakers are working hard at that moment harvesting their grapes and pressing them. 

These days, it is usually made with fragrant, berry-like concord grapes (uva fragola) or the more traditional sangiovese or canaiolo wine grapes. These grapes stain the bread purple and lend it its juicy texture and sweet but slightly tart flavour. They are also what give the bread a bit of crunch, as traditionally the seeds are left in and eaten along with the bread. Avoid using red or white seedless table grapes or white grapes for this – they just don’t do it justice in terms of flavour or appearance. If you can’t get concord grapes or it’s the wrong season, try replacing them with blueberries. It’s completely unorthodox, of course, but it’s a very good substitute, giving you a much closer result than using regular table grapes.

Makes 1 large schiacciata, serves 6–8

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
20 g (3/4 oz) fresh yeast, or 7 g (1/4 oz/2 1/2 level teaspoons) active dry yeast
400 ml (131/2 fl oz) lukewarm water
75 ml (21/2 fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) concord grapes (or other black grape)
80 g (23/4 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon aniseed (optional)
icing (confectioners’) sugar (optional)

Preparing the dough

This can be done the night before you need to bake it, or a couple of hours ahead of time.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and create a well in the centre.

Dissolve the yeast in some (about 1/2 cup or 125 ml) of the lukewarm water.

Add the yeast mixture to the centre of the flour and mix with your hand or a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the water little by little, working the dough well after each addition to allow the flour to absorb all the water.

Add 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the dough and combine.

This is quite a wet, sticky dough. Rather than knead, you may need to work it with a wooden spoon or with well-oiled hands for a few minutes until it is smooth. Cover the bowl of dough well with some plastic wrap and set it in a warm place away from draughts until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. If doing this the night before, leave the dough in the bowl to rise in the fridge overnight.

Assembling the schiacciata

Separate the grapes from the stem, then rinse and pat dry. There’s no need to deseed them if making this the traditional way.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

Grease a 20 cm (8 in) x 30 cm (12 in) baking tin or a round pizza tray with olive oil. With well-oiled (or wet) hands, divide the dough into two halves, one slightly larger than the other. Place the larger half onto the greased pan and with your fingers, spread out the dough evenly to cover the pan or so that it is no more than 1.5 cm (1/2 in) thick.

Place about two-thirds of the grapes onto the first dough layer and sprinkle over half of the sugar, followed by about 30 ml (1 fl oz) of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of aniseed.

Stretch out the rest of the dough to roughly the size of the pan and cover the grapes with this second layer of dough, stretching to cover the surface. Roll up the edges of the bottom layer of dough from underneath to the top, to seal the edges of the schiacciata. Gently push down on the surface of the dough to create little dimples all over. Cover the top with the rest of the grapes and evenly sprinkle over the remaining aniseed, sugar and olive oil.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the dough becomes golden and crunchy on top and the grapes are oozing and cooked.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and enjoy eaten with your hands. If you like, dust with icing (confectioners’) sugar just before serving – although this isn’t exactly traditional, it is rather nice.

This is best served and eaten the day of baking, or at the most the next day.

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

You’ve lived in many countries and experienced a variety of cultures in your life, your mother is Japanese, your father is Australian, your husband is Italian and you grew up in Beijing. How has your diverse cultural identity influenced your life and cooking?

Moving around a lot and identifying with different cultures, I grew up not feeling like I was particularly attached to just one place. I think this made it very easy (perhaps even necessary – at least that’s how I felt about it when I was 20!) for me to pick up a suitcase, buy a plane ticket and move to a new country to learn a new language and discover the new culture. I am also pretty sure this travel and experience partly contributed to me being an adventurous eater – always willing to try anything once. From the beginning, I understood that food is a way to connect with and understand a new culture – if, for Florentines, their number one beloved comfort dish is a warm panino made with the fourth stomach of the cow (it’s known as a panino al lampredotto), then you can be sure it’s one of the first things I tried – and fell in love with too!

What do you love the most about Florence? Do you find anything difficult to connect with?

There are many sides to Florence and the longer I live here, the more I discover another aspect! When I first moved here, it was so easy to fall head of heels for Florence – especially for someone who studied art and art history as I did! Everywhere you look, the place is touched with the Renaissance and the most important artists in history, it’s like one giant museum. That’s what drew me in. And it’s what drew a lot of expats to Florence, so there is a large expat community with many similar-minded people, who are all here for similar reasons (love, food or art, usually!). I made friends easily here and felt really at home, ironically (as I always feel more at home amongst expats). But having said that, I find it’s really difficult to make friends, really good friends, with Florentines. That’s been a struggle. I ended up meeting and marrying one, but I have to say, he’s quite different from the typical Florentine man!

Was it easy to become a part of the Florentine way of life?

I think yes and no. Living it the historical centre of Florence, visiting the local butcher or fruit vendor or bakery for your shopping, the same bar for coffee every morning, you begin to get to know your neighbourhood and they begin to know you, it becomes your little world. I’ve met some wonderful people this way, and this feeling of a neighbourhood or quarter is something I love about Florence – something that I hope everyone who still lives in the centre continues to cling on to, as tourism tends to take over in a city like Florence. On another aspect, since having a child, I can see the cultural differences coming out more than ever! My parenting ideals are much more anglo-saxon and more often than not they seem to clash with the ‘norm’ here!

Your husband is head sommelier at the Four Season’s Michelin-starred Il Palagio, do you find it inspiring that both of you work in the fields of the culinary pleasures of life?

Always. We work in two quite different worlds – I write about and cook homely, traditional food, while he has, for the past five years or more, worked solely in fine dining and wine. But at home we always cook together and we have a similar appreciation for good food and good ingredients, cooked properly. He inspires me and helps me in ways he probably doesn’t know.

You say that “Italian cuisine doesn’t exist, there are many cuisines”. Why do you think regional cuisine is so diverse in Italy?

There are many theories, but the simplest answer is history. Italy is actually a very young nation – it was unified in 1861, that’s little more than 150 years ago! But the traditions, dialects, dishes and ways of life of each region are ancient. In many cases, even the differences you’ll find from town to town are huge. This is what makes Italy such a fascinating place – it’s not really one country to discover but so many different places, which means it’s almost a new cuisine in every town you visit.

On your blog, you mention an author called Pellegrino Artusi and his cookbook, known in English as Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, published in Italy in 1891. Can you tell us a bit about this book and why it fascinates you?

Italy had only been unified for 30 years when this book – documenting 790 “Italian” recipes – was published. It became the sort of cookbook every household acquired and had sitting on the shelf. Artusi himself was from Emilia-Romagna but he spent much of his life in Florence, so many of the dishes are Tuscan, or familiar to Tuscans. But it wasn’t meant to be a regional cookbook, it was more like an encyclopaedia of recipes for the “modern” housewife. I love it because it’s not only a snapshot into what Italian food was when the country was newly unified, but also because many of the recipes are still made the same way, so it’s a fantastic reference for traditional recipes. It’s a good read, too, Artusi is witty and at times hilarious in his anecdotes that accompany recipes.

Why do you think that there are many Florentine dishes that didn’t change much since medieval times?

Traditions change very slowly in Florence! They have this saying here, la squadra che vince non si cambia, or the don’t change a winning team. It’s a bit like the phrase, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Partly there’s that at play, it’s the proud nature of Florentines to continue to prepare and eat their all-time favourite dishes more or less the way they’ve been prepared for centuries. There’s also the philosophy to cook the local ingredients that have always been available for Florentines, and to use the long-time staples of the cuisine – bread and olive oil being two of the most important! These have been around for a long time and are still what humble, earthy Florentine cuisine is based on.

Can you imagine living in Tuscany for the rest of your life?

For the same reason that I’ve always found it easy to pick up and move, I can’t really imagine being in one place forever! But I’ve lived in Florence longer than any other single place on the planet, so that’s already quite an achievement! Italy is not an easy place to live in, despite the romanticism and beauty. I think that we are lucky to have the option to be able to live in two wonderful countries – Australia and Italy – whenever we want. For now, it’s Italy’s time.

Florentine, your first cookbook, came out in March this year. At the moment you’re working on your next book, Acquacotta, which will be about the cuisine of the southern Maremma area of Tuscany. It will be published exactly a year after the first one. Why did you decide to start working on the new book immediately and what feels different now, after the experience of the first book?

It came about quite quickly because we were living in Porto Ercole, in southern Tuscany for six months last year, well before Florentine came out, and it was just such a beautiful place I knew it had to be shared in the form of a cookbook! So I contacted my publisher and we talked about the pitch for a couple of months and came up with Acquacotta. She was aware that starting to work on it while I was living there would be the best way to bring it to life, so essentially I started working on Acquacotta while I was still finishing Florentine. It’s been difficult to juggle between the two and ‘switch’ from one to the other when Florentine finally came out, but the experience of the first book has helped me feel much more confident about the second one – from the recipe testing to the writing to the photographs, even how the recipes were made and shot. It really helped that I have the exact same wonderful team from Florentine working on this book too, it felt really good and seemed to just make itself, almost!

Your photography is stunning, do you prefer taking the pictures of your dishes yourself?

Thank you! I still feel like I have a long way to go – my background is in analog film photography, and I still feel like I struggle with digital photography, especially the editing part. I’m self-taught for the most part. For my blog, I take all my own photographs, but for the cookbook I took the location photographs, leaving the recipe shots to a wonderful photographer Lauren Bamford. In Australia, a cookbook is really a team effort, with one professional looking after each and every aspect of the book. For the recipe shots, I wanted to make sure the dishes looked completely authentic and real – just like how you’d find them in Florence. So I cooked them myself (with some help from my husband Marco and a home economist) and while I was busy in the kitchen, Deb Kaloper, an absolute magician in food styling, styled the dishes and Lauren Bamford took the photographs. It was a dream to work with them.

How do you develop new recipes for your book and your blog? What inspires you?

What inspires me most is travel and seeing how a place – its landscape, its history – is so strongly connected to the food that is made there and vice versa. It’s why I am so interested in regional Italian food. In Florentine I wanted to share how the food in this city belongs entirely to Florence – not just Tuscany. It’s not Tuscan food. It’s Florentine food. And for Acquacotta, which is still about Tuscany, I wanted to show people how different Tuscan food is when you come to a place like the Maremma – more isolated, less touristy, hidden, and full of beautiful, rugged landscapes, mountains and the sea, which inspire the food. For the blog, I talk about not only dishes that I’ve found in old cookbooks or tasted in a new place, but also create some travel pieces for people who might be coming to Italy on holiday and want to avoid touristy food and know where to taste the real deal.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

In every day cooking, it’s probably my husband. Everyone who likes to cook for other people knows that the best thing about cooking is making something that you know someone else will love! In developing recipes for the blog and my books, it’s usually some old cookbooks that inspire me to try new dishes – aside from Artusi, I also love Ada Boni’s 1921 cookbook, Il Talismano della Felicita’ (known as The Talisman in English) and Elizabeth David’s Italian Food. I’ve discovered some other older cookbooks recently that I have at my bedside table too, like Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed and Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book.

What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

I can remember a few mud pies when I was very little, but from memory the first real food I made was scrambled eggs. My grandmother in Sydney taught me how to make them, using real butter and showing me how to take them off the heat when they’re still soft and wobbly, just before they look ready so you don’t risk overcooking them. I still make it the exact same way.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Florence?

My favourite food market is Sant’Ambrogio. It’s a local market on the eastern edge of town. It’s not huge but it’s got everything you’d ever need and more. Plus there’s always a nice neighbourhood vibe there, and we have a little ritual of stopping off at the news stand, then going to a pastry shop for coffee and a mid-morning treat. It’s the little things. Many of my favourite restaurants are in the same square as the market – Caffe Cibreo is a really pretty spot for coffee or lunch, and the buffet lunch at Teatro del Sale is one of my favourite food experiences in Florence. Pasticceria Nencioni a little down the street is a wonderful, tiny pastry shop and right next to the market, Semel, a little hole in the wall panino shop, makes a fantastic quick lunch – a crunchy roll with maybe some anchovies, fennel and orange (my favourite one) and a small glass of wine.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

It’d probably be my mum, I’d ask her to make me my favourite Japanese dishes – cold somen noodle salad and chargrilled baby eggplants if it’s summer, miso soup with clams, her sushi and sashimi platters. Whenever I’m home I always request sukiyaki or shabu-shabu (a hot pot dish where each diner cooks their own food in the bubbling pot in the middle of the table) at least once.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

Food that is unfussy to make (i.e. easy for the cook) and easy to share (i.e. fun and informal for the guests) – a creamy chickpea soup or a steaming pan of freshly tossed vongole and spaghetti, a roast of some sort (a whole roast fish or chicken are my favourites), stuffed with lots of herbs on a bed of roast potatoes and cherry tomatoes so you have the main and side dish in one. Dessert, either an after-dinner stroll to the gelateria or some whipped, coffee-laced ricotta with homemade lady finger biscuits to dip.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

I loved everything as a child, but in particular I loved Japanese food and Japanese sweets – anything with sweet red bean paste is my weakness! They’re still my favourite, most comforting foods, but it’s very hard to get good Japanese food in Italy so I wait until I’m visiting my mother to indulge in it.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I like the social aspect of cooking together, when you’ve got something special planned and there’s a lot to do, it’s nice to have someone to chat to while you’re chopping, or kneading or stirring all day. But when I get the chance to have some time to myself (rare these days, with a three and a half year old around!), I like to be alone in the kitchen, cooking is very therapeutic and relaxing, almost meditative, for me. That’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the cooler weather, so I have a good excuse for long, slow cooking and baking, my favourite ways to cook.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

I do like both, but I think I might be rather good with improvising a meal! One of my best food moments was pulling together a totally improvised meal for my very new boyfriend (so new I probably couldn’t even call him that!) from a practically empty fridge. I made him pasta with broccoli and garlic. He took one bite and said “I’m going to marry you.” And he did.

Which meal would you never cook again?

I don’t know if there’s something I’d never do, but probably things I’d change the next time I tried it. For me, right now, being a mother and writing cookbooks, I have to be a bit picky with what I cook when I have the time to do it, so I tend to lean towards low maintenance, unfussy, simple dishes. Things that are fiddly and require every minute of my attention are things I avoid lately – caramel, for example, is something I may not try for a while!

Thank you Emiko!

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

 

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

 

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

 

emiko_schiacciata8-Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

 

Emiko Davies' Schiacciata

 

emiko_schiacciata11

 

emiko_schiacciata9

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: