Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Joy of mostly German Cooking

One of the things I had meant to do with this last week off work was to hit the cookbooks and rejig some of the bad eating habits of November and December into something more varied and healthy. What I actually did was buy a couple more cook books, including Anja Dunk's 'Strudel Noodles and Dumplings', and eat a lot of cabbage (sautéed in butter).

Try as I might I don't get very excited about cooking for one person, maybe that's partly because there are so many things I want to do with my time at the moment that cooking just for me is often low on the list. There may also be a slightly sulky element because things I want to make serve 10, and are best eaten on the day they're made. (I'm very specifically thinking about a yeasted marbled chocolate cake I saw in 'Classic German Baking' last night).

This weekend I had family to cook for though (it's my mothers  birthday tomorrow so I cooked lunch today, a nice reason to make a proper effort) and Seville oranges to deal with. I should have made marmalade a week ago when I got the oranges, but put it off. I enjoy the process once I've started on it, but the prospect of both the chopping, and the cleaning up afterwards is not entirely alluring, it also means being tied to the kitchen for hours.

For something that would be a nod towards a birthday cake as well as a good Sunday lunch pudding I had a good look through 'Classic German Baking'. I wanted an apple cake, of which there are plenty to choose from, but one which would be a little bit special. I found it in the apple-almond cake. It's special because you use almond paste in the batter, and a bit of an effort because I needed to make the almond paste. It's essentially marzipan, but commercial marzipan in the U.K. has to high a sugar to nut ratio for a lot of German or Scandinavian recipes.

I've always meant to make my own marzipan, mostly to see if it's worth the effort. The effort part came in not being able to find any blanched almonds in town so having to skin hundreds of the dratted things myself. Not that I had anything better to do whilst I was keeping an eye on the marmalade. It's not a difficult job, just a dull, slightly fiddly, slow one. Anyway, I did it, and made the paste (other ingredients, almond extract, sugar, rum, and water). Now I know what I'm doing I'd have ground it a little longer, and kept it a little drier.

My mother used to make her own marzipan when we were very small children, without the benefit of a food processor - we lived on an island without mains electricity, or neighbours, so she says she had the time. It's much easier with a good processor.

The point I think I meant to get to is that you then grate the almond paste into melted butter and beat it together for this cake. It makes an amazing texture and flavour. The almond paste gives more depth of flavour than just using ground almonds would, and a particularly nice moist but firm crumb. The whole thing feels like just the right step up from an everyday cake without going over the top. There is a recipe for it Here.

More or less everything else I cooked came from Anja Dunk's 'Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings' which is a fabulous book. I waited patiently for years for decent books on German food (in English) to come along, and finally that patience has been rewarded. This one isn't particularly traditional, but it's based firmly in tradition.

The roast pork with caraway and marjoram was splendid, buttered leeks with parsley and more caraway are already a favourite (as good as a quick supper on their own as they are a side dish), but the kale with apples, onions, and all spice was today's winner. Kale is one of those things I know I should eat, this is the kind of recipe that makes sure I do.


  1. I like being in the kitchen for those simple recipes with repetitive tasks. Overused word of the moment - mindful, but I do find it relaxing and helps me switch off. Really enjoyed reading this post.

    1. I love it when I actually get started on them, and when I'm cooking for other people, and agree they're the perfect jobs for helping me to relax. I just don't feel motivated to do them if it's only me eating. The Anja Dunk book is particularly good though, it's just the food I'm in the mood for, and encouraging me to get back in the kitchen and try newish things again.

  2. Hurrah for German cookbooks! I love the Luisa Weiss book (although her proofing times for the yeast recipes seem rather off) and have baked so many delightful things from it. The Christmas chapter alone is worth the price of the entire book. Really looking forward to Dunk's book as well.

    1. I haven't made anything yeasted from it yet, but generally prefer a good description of what something should look or feel like when it's proved, because times do vary so widely - I used to live in an incredibly cold house where you absolutely could not bake bread in the winter unless you were willing to wait 3-4 hours for every rise... im wonder what to do with the rest of the almond paste, I think there might be cookies that would hit the bill.