eat in my kitchen

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

Category: BREAD + BUNS

Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns and the blissful lesson of taking a break

I started writing a new book eleven months ago. Actually, eleven and a half months, it was Christmas Eve. The moment I decided to dive into this intense adventure again, I couldn’t stop writing down one recipe after the other. It felt like the dishes had been inside my head, waiting impatiently to come out. And all this happened during Christmas 2017, my man thought I was crazy. At a time that’s supposed to be calm and serene, surrounded by our sparkling Christmas tree and piles of cookies, listening peacefully to angelic carols, I stuck my head into my recipe notebooks and discussed undiscovered flavor combinations with my mother. By New Year’s Day, I had an exaggeratedly long recipe list together and felt ready for a new book – and a holiday.

While I wrote my first book, Eat In My Kitchen, I often crossed my limits, I refused to respect them and felt totally squeezed out by the end of it. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I asked for help and found the best kitchen assistant I could have asked for. He made the whole process of cooking and shooting a book far more smooth than I thought was even possible. He also took care of an impeccable playlist filling my kitchen with the most energizing tunes and making me dance around boxes of vegetables and bowls of cooked dishes. But most importantly, he taught me to take a break once in a while. We often went to a tiny coffee shop around the corner for an espresso and a chat to clear our heads. We started working on the book early February and since then I managed – more or less – to stick to this new ritual in my life: allowing myself to take a little break every day.

Sometimes, after an early morning cooking session followed by an extensive shopping tour for meat, fish, and vegetables, we’d get a bit more excessive and head over to a Berlin bakery famous for swirly buns. Whenever I felt tired and empty, a bite of their spongy cinnamon buns put me back on my feet and felt better than the most sumptuous meal in the world. That’s the bliss that you can find in food – and in a break – it will always impress me how good it feels.

It’s been a while since I cooked or baked for the blog, and for months now I had a flavor combination on my mind that I wanted to turn into a sweet treat and share: peanut butter and plums. We need to hurry, it’s getting late, plum season reached its end, but you can still find some very ripe, sugary stone fruits at the markets. I decided to combine the duo with a recipe that Sofie Wochner from Marigold restaurant in Rome shared with me last summer. The Danish pastry chef treated me to the most wonderful, fragrant cinnamon buns in her kitchen, so I took her recipe for the yeast dough and turned it into Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns.

I will keep you posted about my new book, but it’ll still take a lot of time until it comes out, as a book does when you want it to be a part of what you truly are. To be continued …

 

Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns

Mind that the dough has to rise in the fridge overnight before you bake the buns.

Makes 10 swirly buns

For the dough

500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
75g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 (7-g / 1/4-ounce) envelope fast-acting yeast
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
255ml / 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, lukewarm
1/2 beaten large egg (about 25 ml)
60g / 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided into 6 portions

For the filling

250g / 1 cup creamy peanut butter
200g / 1 cup light brown sugar
300g / 2/3 pound pitted fresh dark plums

For the topping

1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. Add the lukewarm milk and 1/2 beaten egg and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes or until smooth. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes then continue mixing, adding the butter, 1 portion at a time, incorporating each portion of butter before adding the next one. Continue mixing on medium speed for another 3 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

Take the bowl out of the fridge and let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1 hour. Line a 24 x 18cm / 10 x 7 inch baking dish with parchment paper.

For the filling, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Cut the plums into small cubes.

Knead the dough for 30 seconds with your hands. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour then transfer the dough to the floured surface and, using the rolling pin, roll it into a 33 x 33cm / 13 x 13 inch square that’s roughly 0.5cm / 1/4 inch thick. Spread the peanut butter mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 2cm / 3/4 inch border, then sprinkle the plums over the peanut butter, gently pushing them into the peanut butter. To fold the dough, divide it into 3 rectangles, don’t cut the dough, just leave a thin mark on top of the peanut butter. Starting with the long side of one of the rectangles and dusting off excess flour, fold the first third of the dough up and over the middle third of the dough, then fold the other outer third of the dough up and place on top of the 2 layers of dough to end with 3 layers of dough. Using a very sharp knife, cut the layered dough into 10 slices.

Quickly pull and stretch each slice of dough then twist into a long spiral, close in a loose knot, and transfer to the prepared baking dish. It’ll be massy, don’t worry, you can sprinkle any peanut butter and plums that fall out on top of the buns once they are arranged in the baking dish. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let them rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F.

Brush the buns with the egg wash then bake for 25 minutes, cover the top with aluminum foil, and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Rub the warm buns with 1 tablespoon of butter and let them cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

 

 

Meet In Your Kitchen | David Kurtz & the best Cubano Sandwich in San Francisco

David Kurtz

A food loving friend of mine who lives in San Francisco told me, if you come to California, you must (!) meet David Kurtz and visit his Homage restaurant in Downtown. I trust my friends, especially when it comes to food, so I emailed David that same evening, not only receiving an answer that he was looking forward to cooking with me, but also to showing me around his hometown and spending a day together to give me an insight into his charismatic city that has so many faces.

The first thing that people think of when it comes to San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge and – if you talk to bread obsessed foodies and Instagrammers – the famous Tartine Bakery. The bakery is a temple for baked goods that one shouldn’t miss, the bridge, however, is a moody diva that is hard to catch. San Francisco is a place of extremes when it comes to the weather, a fact that I had totally forgotten about and wasn’t really prepared for. You can be spoilt with blue skies, sunshine, and summery temperatures in one second, then walk two blocks and be swallowed by mist and end up shivering in the cold. It was a bright afternoon as we drove to the famous bridge, impatient excitement in our faces ready to capture its majestic elegance, yet to find ourselves fighting against thunder and rain as we arrived was sobering. Needless to say there was no bridge in sight, but seeing the clouds climbing the hills behind the bridge and filling the bay with darkness and lightning faster than one can run was just as impressive.

David Kurtz

The day we met David offered this exact spectrum of experiences, in food, weather, and sceneries. We started at the chef’s wonderfully relaxed, casual, yet elegant Homage restaurant, a culinary gem tucked in a little side road surrounded by high office buildings. It’s a tranquil oasis in the center of the vibrating buzz of this city. Sitting outside at one of the bistro tables, with a glass of Californian wine in my hand and a scrumptiously dripping sandwich on a chopping board right in front of me, was one of the best memories that I took home with me from this trip. This sandwich, the Cubano, is truly addictive and so famous that, according to David, it would cause a riot if he ever dared to take it off the menu. Imagine the best homemade baguette brushed and grilled in tasty pork fat (homemade lard), filled with succulent anise braised pork shoulder, hot smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, dill pickles, and even more pork fat. It’s the best sandwich I ever had in my life.

But before I could take a big bite of this unforgettably delicious lunch snack, David and I met two days before to prepare the dough for the bread in his kitchen and give it time to rise and rest. It was a Saturday morning and David and his lovely assisting, coordinating, and always helping ‘right hand’ Anja welcomed me and my film crew at Homage. David has the kind of voice and aura that calms you down immediately, whatever instructions he gave, I gladly obeyed and followed, enjoying to learn how to make the restaurant’s beautiful baguettes and also being introduced to David and Anja’s friends and suppliers at the utterly stunning Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The market is their weekly shopping date, it’s a mecca for fresh produce. I’ve seen quite a few markets in my life, but this one is impressive, not only due to its setting right at the bay, but first and foremost because of the freshness and variety of the produce that the farmers offer at their stands:

Tomatoes kissed by the sun in all shapes, sizes, and colors; a sea of polished peppers; fragrant bundles of cilantro, basil, bay leaves, mint, and purslane; farmers’ stands specialized in beans (like Romano and Cranberry Beans), or figs, 8 or 10 different kinds of figs gently laid out in baskets, or a stand putting the spotlight on plums, peaches, and nectarines, run by a woman with the sweetest smile, Aomboon Deasy. Each person, each stand at the market focuses on the prettiest crisp fruits and vegetables, celebrating its taste and beauty. One stand in particular left me in an awe: piles of Baby Curly Kale, Red Russian and Dino Kale, green and red dandelion, each leaf packed with so much pungent flavor that you want to nibble them straight out of the baskets (which we did).

I found the perfect partner for my market visit, David and I love food so much so that when Anja gave me a beautiful flower bouquet at the market, both David and I started eating the petals. Like I said, when he tells me in his trustful voice “Meike, you can eat this”, I’ll eat it! But apart from flowers and greens, I also tried the crunchiest spicy kimchi, candy-sweet September strawberries (a luxury for a German girl who’s used to a rather short season of this fruit in her own country), ripe dates right off the vine, and the Rebel Within, a savory muffin filled with a soft boiled egg, sausage, Asiago cheese, and spring onions. It was heaven.

David Kurtz

After the ‘hard work’ at the market and in the kitchen, we spoilt ourselves with a little feast at Nopalito, David’s favorite Mexican restaurant. They cook delicious organic classics, like ceviche verde, enchiladas de mole con pollo (shredded tender chicken in a deep rich chocolaty sauce), and grilled fish tacos, all washed down with Michelada, Mexican beer with tomato, jalapeno, orange, lime, and salt – which was quite an experience. And after the meal we went for a walk at Golden Gate Park, where we were supposed to forage for forest snacks that one can find in a city if you keep your eyes open, but we chatted the time away. Wrapped in dense mist hanging heavily in the air, I was amazed by the beauty of the ever changing weather and the surprising scenes that it causes, and by David’s philosophy and thoughts about the food that he celebrates at his restaurant.

Homage is a very, very special place that I’ll always go back to when I’m in San Francisco, because of David and Anja, because of the food that’s created and put together by the chef and his team with so much love and attention to detail in every single ingredient, because of this warm atmosphere that welcomes you as soon as you open the heavy door flanked by the restaurant’s black facade, an atmosphere that makes you never want to leave again. And if you want to take a piece of it with you, you can grab a jar of the homemade pickles, jams, or a bottle of the wines and beers brought to Homage by David’s friends, a bunch of people who find satisfaction in creating products of outstanding quality, just like David. And thanks to them we enjoy treats that taste so good – maybe because of the last ingredient that David listed in the recipe for his Cubano sandwich that he gave me: Love.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey,  for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

David Kurtz

David Kurtz’ Baguette and Cubano Sandwich

David mills the grains for the flour that he uses for this recipe himself, however you can also use store-bought flour. It’s recommended to work with grams instead of cups, as it’s important to use precise measurements for this recipe.

For the baguette

Makes 3 baguettes

519g water (lukewarm)
30g honey
23g SAF instant yeast
875g all purpose flour
60g fresh whole wheat flour
Or if available
23g hard red wheat flour
23g soft white wheat flour
14g rye flour

157g good quality lard (cold)
20g sea salt

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, using a fork, combine the water, honey and yeast, let it sit for a couple minutes.

In a large bowl, combine all the flours, add to the yeast mixture and, using the hook, mix for a few minutes or until well combined. Add the lard and, using the hook, continue kneading for a few minutes or until the dough has come together. Add a little more flour if it’s too sticky or, if it’s too firm, add a little (!) more water. Add the salt and continue kneading until well combined and firm. Form a ball, place in a clean bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough sit in a warm place for 1 hour. Turn the dough completely over releasing built up CO2 and let rise again for another hour, covered with a damp towel.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and divide equally into 3 pieces. Roll into smooth balls and let bench rest for 10 minutes under a damp cloth. When fully rested, take one piece of dough and stretch and pull it into a longish rectangular shape (about 14×5.5″ / 35x14cm). Carefully flip 1 long side over until it reaches the middle of the rectangle, mind that no air is trapped in the fold. Then flip the opposite long side over, so that you end up with 3 layers of dough folded on top of each other. Using your fingers, pinch the fold all the way to seal well. Gently roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then carefully, but quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet (the pinched fold should be on the bottom side). Continue forming the remaining 2 baguettes and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, transfer the baking sheet to the fridge, and let the baguettes rest in the fridge overnight, further developing flavor and retarding the yeast activity.

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C (convection setting). Take the baguettes out of the fridge when the oven is hot and ready.

Spray the baguettes with a little water and bake for 6-12 minutes or until the crust is golden, spraying them with water once or twice while baking. Internal temperature of the bread should be 210°F / 100°C when fully baked.

For the Cubano sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

1 large piece of fresh baguette, cut in half
Dijon mustard
Whole grain mustard
2-3 thin slices hot smoked ham
1.5 ounces / 40g Swiss cheese (one that melts well), thinly sliced
2-3 anise pickled spring onions (or fresh spring onion), thinly sliced
2-3 dill pickles (gherkins), cut in half
5-7 ounces/ 150-200g braised pork shoulder (preferably cooked with anise and citrus), pulled or shredded
Good quality lard (pork fat)
Love, most importantly

Heat two heavy pans, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat.

Spread the inside of the baguette with Dijon and whole grain mustard. Lay the ham on the bottom and topside of the opened baguette. Arrange the cheese, spring onions, and pickles on top of the ham. Spread the braised pork shoulder on top and close the baguette. Brush one pre heated pan with fresh lard, carefully place the Cubano onto the pan’s surface and brush more lard onto the top of the baguette. Squeeze, or press the Cubano with the other preheated pan directly on top of the sandwich. Cook in the pan, on medium heat, turning once, for a few minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust of the bread is golden brown and crunchy.

Prepare with love and serve immediately with a large sliced pickle.

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

Watch my interview with David in San Francisco in September 2017:

Thank you, David!

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

Camembert and Pear Challah

A lot of cracking and aching was going on in the oven while I watched my camembert, pear, and thyme challah bake. At one point I got worried that my braided bread was going to explode. It rose and expanded on all sides, it looked more like a challah pancake than the elegant breaded loaf I had in mind. Maybe I filled the single yeast dough strings a bit too generously with ripe – and stinky – cheese and chopped crisp fruit, but I had a feeling that the recipe needed it. So I trusted, which is always the only sensible thing a baker can do when the object of attention doesn’t perform as expected.

To my surprise, it worked out in the end and the shape still reminded me of a Hefezopf – the German name for challah. I used my classic plain challah recipe and replaced the sugar with honey. It’s common in Germany to use butter and milk for this kind of bread, instead of water and vegetable oil, which you usually find in traditional challah recipes. I like the added richness coming from the dairy products, I find it tastier. Seeing as the fruit and cheese bring in even more juice and moistness, I could have made the dough a bit drier, added more flour to help it keep its shape. But the final texture was so nice, soft and spongy, that I’d rather accept the pancake-look than ending up with a dry Hefezopf.

If you don’t feel like camembert, you can also go for any other aromatic cheese that melts well. I already have a raclette challah in mind, next time. And I’m sure that apricots or peaches would also do a pretty good job instead of the pear. So feel free to experiment, but keep in mind, the juicier the fruit, the more it’ll soften your dough.

This challah is a perfect picnic, brunch, or Saturday lunch treat, preferably accompanied by fresh fruits, wine, and a selection of cheese and prosciutto. A green salad with juicy tomatoes also goes very well with it.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

Camembert, Pear and Thyme Challah

When I baked my challah, it was a very hot day. So the butter in the dough literarily melted in my hands and turned braiding into a fiddly task. The single braids stretched quicker than I reacted, I was too slow. If you also happen to go for this recipe on a day with high temperatures, to avoid stress and frustration, try to work quickly when you braid the loaf. Keep the braids a bit shorter to begin with, due to the filling they’ll expand in length.

Makes 1 large challah

honey 2 tablespoons
butter, melted, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons
milk, lukewarm, 150ml / 2/3 cup
organic eggs 2
plain flour 520-550g / 4 cups – 4 cups plus 4 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon

For the filling

aged camembert, cooled and cut into thin strips (it’ll be a mess if it’s too soft), 250g / 9 ounces
medium to large firm pear, cored and cut into tiny cubes, 1
fresh thyme and a little rosemary (the needles, chopped), a large handful

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
water 1 tablespoon

Stir the honey into the hot melted butter and whisk until combined, let it cool until it’s lukewarm. Add the milk and eggs and whisk, the mixture should be lukewarm.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the milk-butter mixture to the flour mixture and mix for about 5 minutes or until well combined and smooth. If it’s too soft and sticky, add a little (!) more flour. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for about 3-5 minutes or until you have a soft and silky ball of dough. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C (100°F) warm oven, for 60-70 minutes or until almost doubled in size. If it’s a hot summer day, you can let the dough rise at room temperature (that’s what I did this time).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When the dough is puffy and almost doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide into 3 parts and roll them into longish, but not too thin sausage sausage shapes (see picture above). Flatten each piece of dough until it’s roughly 7.5 cm / 3″ wide. Divide the camembert, pear, and herbs between the 3 pieces of dough and spread, leaving a little rim all around the filling. Fold over each piece of dough, roll it gently, and seal the overlapping side and ends well. The filling should be completely wrapped inside the dough.

To braid the bread, work quickly, as the dough stretches. Lay the ends of the dough rolls on top of each other at one end and braid them tightly. If they become too long and thin, squeeze them together a little. Bend both ends of the bread under the loaf and quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 40-50 minutes or until fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (conventional setting).

For the glaze, whisk the egg yolk and water and brush the top of the challah. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and spongy. When you knock on the challah’s bottom, it should sound hollow. Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting the bread into thick slices.

The challah tastes best on the 1st day.

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

 

Camembert and Pear Challah

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