Author: Kathy Hunt

walnut stollen

Walnut Stollen for the Holidays and Every Day!

Last December I checked Germany’s Dresden Stollen Fest off my quirky bucket list. Long before watching a 6,332-pound bread ride through Old Town in a horse-drawn cart, I’d consumed this sweet baked good. A yeast bread, stollen usually refers to the sugar-dusted, dried fruit- and almond-studded masterpiece that I saw paraded through the streets of Dresden. In spite of the presence of dried fruit and its popularity at Christmastime, don’t confuse stollen with fruitcake. It is a sweet bread, not a cake, and has several versions including mohn or poppy seed and the ground walnut that I grew up eating. In Germany this bread dates back to the 15th century but it didn’t appear as a Christmas treat until 100 years later. In my case it feels as though I’ve always known and loved this sweet. While my mother was not a big fan of the kitchen, every holiday season she would break out her baking pans and make several loaves of the soft, sweet and buttery “nut roll” or stollen. For someone who claimed …

stack of cookbooks

The Annual Cookbook Review: Books to Give, Get and Gobble!

Although I write and buy books and cookbooks, I am always amazed by the tremendous number published every year. Who does cookbooks? Celebrities, celebrity chefs, musicians, athletes, bloggers, restaurants, farmers’ markets . . .. The list goes on and on. With so many new books on store shelves—and seemingly more coming out each week—it’s tough to know which ones will satisfy and which will leave you hungering for something more substantial. To help separate the filets from the hot dogs, the Bordeaux from the Two-Buck-Chuck, it’s the annual cookbook review! Included this year are baking books, a cocktail guide, vegetarian, Italian, German, Mediterranean and English cuisines as well as several food writing books and a graphic novel-like book. Happy shopping, reading and cooking! The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) If you want to learn the proper way to mix, bake and decorate a myriad of cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, breads, pastries and candy, reach for The Baking Bible. Perfect for bakers of any skill level, this comprehensive, IACP Award-winning cookbook …

pickled herring on brown bread in Denmark

Further Fish Tales: Now It’s “Herring!”

By now most know the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” In my case it takes a village of friends and family to launch another book. Two Fridays ago a wonderfully supportive group whom I’m honored to have as part of my village celebrated the publication of my nonfiction book Herring: A Global History. Part of Reaktion Books‘ Edible Series, Herring  explores the historical, economic, cultural and environmental impact of this small, omega-3-rich, silvery fish. When people hear the topic of my book, they invariably ask the same thing. “Herring?” There are always a few who misunderstand and ask, “Hairy?” No, I didn’t write about hirsute people but I’m sure that would be a fascinating topic, too. Once everyone is on the same page about the subject, we get into what attracted me to it. After the publication of Fish Market I had a wealth of knowledge about seafood. I also had a desire to share more about a specific, historic and fascinating fish, the Atlantic and Pacific herring. Although a …

Herring – A Global History

Though tiny, the herring has played an enormous role in history. Battles have been waged over it. International economic alliances have formed over it. Major cities owe their prosperity to it. Political powers have risen and fallen with herring’s own rise and fall in population. How can this all be attributed to this unassuming little animal? In Herring: A Global History, Kathy Hunt looks at the environmental, historical, political, and culinary background of this prolific and easily caught fish. Over the centuries, herring have sustained populations in times of war and hardship, and the fish’s rich flavor, delicate texture, and nutritious meat have made it a culinary favorite. Its ease of preparation—just grill, broil, fry, pickle, salt, or smoke and serve—have won it further acclaim. Engaging and informative, the book features fifteen mouth-watering recipes. It will appeal to food lovers, history buffs, and anyone who has ever enjoyed a British kipper, German Bismarck, Dutch matjes, or Jewish chopped-herring. Buy on Amazon Series: Edible Hardcover: 208 pages Publisher: Reaktion Books (October 15, 2017) Language: English ISBN-10: 1780238312 ISBN-13: 978-1780238319

cinnamon pie crust sticks

Cinnamon Pie Crust Sticks Like Nana Used to Make

A few weeks ago I attended a food journalism conference where editors told the assembled writers, “No more grandmother stories.” Everybody has a grandmother. No one wants to hear about her anymore. The timing couldn’t have been stranger. Just that morning, while wandering around Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, I came across something that I hadn’t seen or thought about in years, something that reminded me of my paternal grandmother, whom I also hadn’t seen in years and about whom I’ve never written. A relic from early childhood, they were strips of pie crust dusted in cinnamon sugar. At the Market they were called “cinnamon sugar pie fries.” When I was a little kid, they were ‘scraps of leftover pie dough that Nana had decorated with cinnamon sugar and baked.’ Now I think of them as cinnamon pie crust sticks. Unlike many food writers, I don’t have charming stories of baking with my grandmothers or mother. By the time that I was old enough to whisk eggs or roll out dough, my maternal grandmother was gone …

uncooked lime-marinated swordfish kebabs

Grilling Lime-Marinated Swordfish Kebabs

Want a quick, crowd pleasing seafood dish for your next summer cookout? Try lime-marinated swordfish kebabs. Officially, I created this recipe for my seafood cookbook Fish Market (Running Press, 2013) but I’ve made variations of it for years. Lime appears often in my seafood cooking. I love the slightly sweet, clean flavor of this citrus and how it adds complexity and life to fish and shellfish. That dash of green zest on a white-hued fish isn’t bad, either. When I can’t find sustainable, North Atlantic handline or harpoon-caught swordfish, I substitute another firm, white fish. That can be anything from Pacific yellowfin or longtail tuna and mackerel to U.S-sourced snapper, mahi mahi and striped bass. When making this and any other seafood dish, I consult Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to ensure that I use sustainable fish. Because I’m always a little concerned about losing chunks of my fish kebabs to a scorching hot grate, I lay these skewers on lightly oiled tin foil before placing them on the grill. If you’re not the worrying …

slice of peanut butter pie

Perfecting Peanut Butter Pie

Growing up outside of Pittsburgh, I always assumed that peanut butter pie came from my part of the country. Every picnic my family attended and almost every restaurant where we ate offered a version of this rich sweet. Some bakers made it with a classic pie dough. They spooned the no-bake filling into the crisp crust and served the dessert at room temperature. Others lined their pie pans with graham cracker, shortbread or Oreo cookie crumbs, added the peanut butter mixture and refrigerated or froze the pie before serving. Each type—crunchy yet velvety or crumbly, hard and cold—had its diehard fans. The variations didn’t end with crust and consistency. Toppings ranged from chopped peanuts, shaved chocolate, cocoa powder or more cookie crumbs to whipped cream, chocolate glazes, or, my least favorites, overly sugary caramel, banana or strawberry sauces. No matter what differences existed, people gobbled up this dessert. In spite of my home turf’s love of this pie, Western Pennsylvanians cannot claim it as one of their own. Peanut butter pie has its roots in …

peach puff

Got puff pastry and peaches? You’ve got dessert!

It’s probably no surprise that a lot of my recipe ideas come from travel. Unusual ingredients that I’ve tasted, signature dishes that I’ve tried and local recipes that I’ve acquired all influence my cooking. Although I gravitate to far flung locations, I do find inspiration closer to home. A perfect example is this spring’s obsession with puff pastry and stone fruit. A few Saturdays ago I went to Philadelphia to meet up with an old friend. Since I’d done something extraordinary and actually arrived early, I popped into a little bakery selling pastries and a small assortment of breads. What better place to kill time than in a food shop? While the almond croissants and pain au raisins looked lovely, what caught my eye were the “apricot boats,” glistening ovals of puff pastry topped with halved apricots and pearl sugar. So simple. So elegant. Why didn’t I ever think of doing that? Anything that easy and enticing I had to make. First, though, I should have a taste. So, with a box of apricot boats …

jam-filled plunderhörnchen

Is it a doughnut? A croissant? No, it’s a plunderhörnchen!

Plunderhörnchen or, to quote several German baking websites, “plunder croissant” or “plunder squirrel.” What better name for a treat that’s shaped like a croissant, glazed like a doughnut, tender like a roll, baked like bread and jam-filled like a croissant-shaped, doughnut-bread-roll. I would love to share a fascinating origin story for plunderhörnchen. However, all I have are basic facts. In Germany and Austria plunder is a yeast-leavened dough used in sweet baked goods. Unlike croissant dough, plunder contains eggs. It also has less fat in it than other pastry doughs. As for the designation “plunderhörnchen,” like whoopie pies, snickerdoodles and other unusually named treats, it remains a mystery. So, too, does the reason for calling it a ‘squirrel.’ What’s not a mystery is why I came across it so often while traveling in Germany. This pastry is light, portable, convenient and delicious. You can take it on the train, munch on it as you walk and never worry about crumbs, greasy fingers or sticky frosting. As with doughnuts, people generally eat this roll at breakfast. …

ven pongal

South Indian Ven Pongal. It’s Not Just for Breakfast.

I always feel a little sheepish about discussing Indian foods. Obviously, I am not Indian nor do I have a long, rich history with this cuisine. Until a 2009 trip to Delhi and Rajasthan, my understanding came from the cookbooks of Madhur Jaffrey and local Indian restaurants. What I lack in background, though, I make up for with my passion for the country and its diverse, vegetarian-friendly cooking. Whenever I try an intriguing, new dish there, one that I may not find back in the States, I track down the recipe so that I can make it on my own. The latest of these at-home recreations is South Indian ven pongal. During a recent trip to Chennai Air India had offered a scoop of ven pongal as part of my in-flight, vegetarian meal. The hotel where I stayed also served it as part of its breakfast buffet. After trying and liking it on the plane, I made a beeline for it at the buffet table. For the next eight mornings I skipped the glazed, fruit-filled …