All posts tagged: bread

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 …

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. …

A Fall Favorite, Persimmon Bread

In recent years I have begun to think of fall not as the season of pumpkins but as the time of another gorgeous, orange globe, the persimmon. Thanks to my friends Frank and Jane, who have acres of prolific fruit trees, I have easy access to this rare and often overlooked autumn treat. Early Americans could pluck small, squat American persimmons straight from their branches. As luck would have it, I can, too. Today, though, most people consume one of two larger, Japanese varieties, the tomato-shaped Fuyu or the oblong Hachiya. Both possess a mild, honeyed, pumpkin flavor and can stand in for pumpkin in breads, pies, tarts, puddings and other desserts. When picking persimmons, I look for unblemished, reddish-orange fruit that’s so plump it looks as though it will burst through its skin. This is will be a ripe, flavorful persimmon. Hard, yellow-to-pale orange fruit I leave on the tree limb or in the produce bin. These unripe persimmons possess an unpleasant, astringent taste that can only be remedied by freezing them. Hence the …

Frisian Sugar Bread for Easter & Beyond!

I may have visited the Netherlands twice, roamed around the Dutch-influenced areas of Belgium as many times and even have Dutch friends but, until recently, I’d never tried Dutch Frisian sugar bread. A specialty of the northern Dutch province of Friesland, suikerbrood or sugarbread features spices and a generous amount of the large, coarse, stark white sugar known as pearl sugar. As you might expect from a food with “sugar” in its name, this is a sweet bread. Yet, I wouldn’t call it overly saccharine. Eaten at breakfast in the Netherlands, it has a warm, honeyed flavor on par with Danish pastries and cinnamon rolls. When I compare it to such cloying breakfast staples as syrup-soaked pancakes, waffles and French toast, I find this bread to be mild and pleasantly sweet. Although not part of the pantheon of European Easter breads, Frisian sugar bread would be a fitting addition to any Easter brunch. For those abstaining from sweets or baked goods during Lent, it will be a delicious way to break these fasts. For everyone …

Snegl, Kannelbullar, Schnecken: Amazing Cinnamon Rolls

Snegl, kannelbullar, schnecken, skillingsboller or just plain old cinnamon roll. Almost every country has its own take on this pastry and it seems to have become my mission in life to sample each one. Yeah, it’s one tough mission. The variations are small but compelling. Denmark tops its snegl, which means “snail” and is an apt description of this swirled roll, with a thick layer of icing. Made from confectioner’s sugar, its sweetness balances out the heady cinnamon and adds beauty and succulence to the bun. Norway’s skillingsboller bears a strong resemblance to the Danish snegl. Most Norwegian bakers use a little less icing than their Danish counterparts. However, the result is just as delightful. Cardamom transforms the Swedish kannelbullar from a standard cinnamon roll to something far more complex and ethereal. Capped off with a sprinkling of pearl sugar, it, too, is a delight to see and eat. Some countries add raisins to their rolls. In fact, that’s how my mission got started; I thought that I’d purchased a pain au raisin for breakfast …

Bavaria-Inspired Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

Thanks to this winter’s intense cold and frequent snows, I’ve been doing a fair amount of armchair traveling, looking at trip photos, thumbing through travel books and imagining slightly warmer times. One book that’s especially piqued my interest is a biergarten cookbook. Picked up on a recent trip to Germany, it includes a recipe for something that I’ve long enjoyed but never made at home, soft pretzels. I cannot recall the first time that I ate a pretzel. I can, however, remember my initial bite of German brezel. Purchased at a jam-packed Christmas market in Cologne, it was softer and more bread-like than what I habitually bought at home. Unlike the dry, chewy pretzels consumed at my office desk, this didn’t leave me parched or with an indigestible ball of dough in my stomach. Unfortunately, the cookbook that I carted across the Atlantic does not contain a reliable pretzel recipe. What it offers contains too little liquid, too much flour and too few directions. Starting from scratch, I came up with the following Bavaria-inspired recipe. …

Check out Czech Trdelnik

Imagine a golden, cylindrical pastry reminiscent of a cinnamon roll, that is, if the cinnamon roll was roasted on a spit over an open flame and then twirled through a mixture of sugar and ground nuts or cinnamon. Got that in mind? Then you’ve got a trdelnik. A specialty of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this yeasted dough treat can be found in bakeries, at food stalls and street carts. In Prague no outdoor market is complete without at least one trdelnik stand. Hearty yet surprisingly light in consistency, trdelnik makes for a delightful breakfast, afternoon snack or dessert. A longtime fan, I’ve eaten it for lunch and, on one desperate night, as dinner. Because I don’t own an outdoor spit or tabletop rotisserie, my first stab at trdelnik was with my kitchen range. Since I didn’t think to buy a trdelnik form in the Czech Republic, I had to figure out a way to help the pastry keep its round shape. I couldn’t wrap the dough around water glasses, place them upright on a …

What to Do with a Boatload of Bananas? Banana Ice Cream-Banana Date Bread Sandwiches!

What can I share about bananas that hasn’t been said a zillion times already? They’re curved, yellow-skinned and white-fleshed with microscopic, black seeds running through their centers. They’re high in potassium and Vitamin B6 and more or less fat-free. They’re also soft, tasty and perishable. But I bet you already knew that. If you’ve ever eaten one in the tropics, you realize how spectacularly sweet and rich locally grown bananas taste. You likewise understand that this tropical fruit doesn’t come in one color and size only. Red, orange, golden yellow or green-striped, they vary in size from around 2 1/2 to 12 inches. Bananas originated in Southeast Asia. Perhaps this is why the best bananas I’ve eaten have been along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The length of a pen, their diminutiveness belies their powerful, candy-like flavor. As much as I love dessert, I’d happily skip ice cream, cake or pie and cap off my evening meal with one of these little gems. Why all this talk of bananas? Thanks to over a dozen ripe …

Scrumptious Fruit Scones

I love my morning ritual of coffee and whole grain toast with peanut butter and preserves. Yet, as soon as I step onto British soil, I ditch this duo for a pot of hot, black tea and a rich, slightly sweet fruit scone. Loosely defined as a small, soft, plain cake, the scone is a staple of afternoon tea. If you can track down one that’s warm and fresh from the oven, it’s also a heavenly, albeit filling, breakfast treat. Although I think of scones as quintessentially English, they’re actually a Scottish specialty. Depending on whom you talk to, their name comes from the ceremonial Stone of Destiny at Scone Abbey in Scotland or from the Scots term “sconbrot,” meaning fine white bread. Originally made from oats and triangular in shape, they were fried on a griddle. Today flour-based scones come in a variety of shapes and are baked. While I prefer plump, dark raisins in mine, they can be either sweet or savory. Among the lovely things about scones is how fast and easy …