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I’ll be a jelly filled donut at Carnival time!

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‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ – “I am a jelly filled donut!”- said JFK in his famous speech in June 1961 which became a joke since a Berliner is a doughnut. The day after President Kennedy made his famous proclamation, Berlin cartoonists had a field day with talking doughnuts.

The misconception

There is a misconception that Kennedy made a risible error by saying “Ich bin ein Berliner” the claim is made that Kennedy referred to himself not as a “citizen of Berlin”, but as a “jelly donut” or “jam doughnut” , known in parts of Germany as a “Berliner“. Kennedy should, supposedly, have said Ich bin Berliner to mean “I am a person from Berlin”, and that adding the indefinite article ein to his statement implied he was a non-human Berliner, thus, “I am a jelly doughnut”. However, the indefinite article ein is omitted when speaking of an individual’s profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did. Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, “Ich bin Berliner” would not have been appropriate! According to the German History Museum, the theoretical ambiguity went unnoticed by Kennedy’s audience. Luckily no intelligent native speaker of German tittered in Berlin when J.F.K. spoke, just as no native speaker of German, or one who does know this language would titter if someone said, Ich bin ein Wiener or Hamburger or Frankfurter.

What Kennedy (or the person who wrote his speech) did not know, but could easily have found out, was that such citizens never refer to themselves as ‘Berliners.’ They reserve that term for a favorite confection often munched at breakfast. So, while they understood and appreciated the sentiments behind the President’s impassioned declaration, the residents tittered among themselves when he exclaimed, literally, “I am a jelly-filled doughnut!”

Krapfen, Berliner, pancakes 

I always recall the phrase of Mr President when Carnival time sets in in Germany because of the fantastic offers of the Berliners at the baker shops. You can’t resist to buy only one but at least fives filled with different cream fillings. Eating them I am sure I will be soon as fat as a jelly filled donut. And who said that Lent is a time of fasting? 

A Fasnacht, (Fastnacht or Fassenacht, Fasnet) Krapfen, Berliner whatever is it called is a fatty donut treat served traditionally on Fastnacht Day (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Lent starts. In old days Fasnachts were made as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat, and butter, which were traditionally fasted from during Lent.

Commonly Berliners or Krapfens are round, rather than having straight sides, and they are filled with jam or cream filling. A predominantly German and Central European doughnut made from sweet yeast dough, fried in fat or oil, with a marmalade or jam filling and usually icing, coated or dusted by powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar on top. They are sometimes made with chocolate, champagne, custard, mocha, or advocaat (egg liqeueur filling), or with no filling at all. The filling is injected with a large syringe after the pastry is fried.

The donut claim has since been repeated by media such as the BBC (by Alistair Cooke in his Letter from America program), The Guardian, CNN, Time magazine, and The New York Times; mentioned in several books about Germany written by English-speaking authors, including Norman Davies and Kenneth C. Davis and used in the manual for the Speech Synthesis Markup Language.

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I love Philadelphia

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I have to share a secret with you I like to cook with Philadelphia cheese despite its higher fat content. However the cream cheese is meant to be consumed fresh, I like to use for baking and cooking. Once you try it you will realize that its taste differs from other cheeses which are cooked or prepared by soft cheeses such as Brie and Neufchâtel (Philadelphia cheese is more comparable in taste, texture, and production methods to the French Boursin and the Italian Mascarpone).

Before “I let” the Philadelphia “enter” into my kitchen I’d made some research and I found out that according to the American food processing company ‘Kraft Foods’ the first American cream cheese was made in Chester, New York in 1872 by American dairyman William Lawrence. In 1880, “Philadelphia” was adopted as the brand name, after the city that was considered at the time to be the home of top quality food in the USA. But the technique was already well known to have been in use in Normandy since the 1850s, producing cheeses with higher fat content than the US model and Philadelphia cream cheese had been suggested as a substitute when petit suisse was not available. To cut it short here are my own recipes:

Salmon with Philadelphia cheese

Ingredients: 50g stale sliced white bread or bread crumbs, zest of 1 lemon, 4 salmon filets, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 spoons of soy sauce, 1 tbs of honey, 150 or 200 g Philadelphia Light cream with Chives, 200 g mixed salad leaves, lemon slices to garnish

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 180°C, 350°F. Place the bread in a food processor and blend into fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest. Grate garlic. Pour soy sauce in a bowl, add honey and grated garlic to it. Smear salmon with the garlic flavored soy sauce then spread the salmon fillets with a thick layer of Philadelphia and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Top with the flavored breadcrumbs, lightly pressing them into the Philadelphia. Roast in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until cooked. Serve the salmon with salad leaves and slices of lemon.

Filo pastry with salmon

Ingredients • 250 g Philadelphia cheese• 100 g smoked salmon, chopped • black pepper to taste • Grated rind of ½ lemon • 8 sheets of filo pastry • 3 tbsp oil

Instructions: Mix together the Philadelphia, salmon, black pepper and lemon rind and leave to one side. Lay the filo pastry sheets on top of each other and cut into 3 equal strips to give 24 strips in all. Oil the top layer of filo, place a teaspoon of the Philly mixture on the end of each strip and roll up into a cylinder, then pinch the ends into a cracker shape. Brush with a little oil and place onto an oiled baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strips of filo until you have 24 crackers. Bake in a preheated oven, Gas 6, 200 C for 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve warm or cold as a party bite or as a starter.

Tips: Use chives to tie around the cracker ends. Substitute the lemon for a teaspoon of horseradish sauce.

Pork Stroganoff with Philadelphia cream cheese

Ingredients: 2 tsp sunflower oil, 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 250 g sirloin steak trimmed and cut into thin strips, 200 gs baby mushrooms, halved, small glass of white wine (about 120ml), 5-6 pickles, 100 g Philadelphia Light, 1.5 tsp Dijon mustard

Instructions

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry until soft, remove from the pan and set aside. Turn up the heat and quickly brown the beef strips. Add the mushrooms and cook until their juices start to run then add the onions back again. Add pickles and the white wine and let it bubble to reduce a bit. Stir in the Philly and the Dijon mustard until smooth. Serve with rice and fresh vegetables.

In the year of the Dragon

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Two days before the Chinese New Year my friend Na Sun asked me the favor to help her to do the shopping. It was my pleasure to go with her. On our way for the shopping mole Tian and Ching joined us so finally instead of taking care of our business we landed at a new stylish bar the Bubble tea (down-town of Münich) in order to discuss what to cook and how to decorate the tables for the party. Meanwhile we were sipping our shakes (by the way mine was fantastic) I grabbed the opportunity to learn more of the year of the Dragon.

I am sure everyone knows the fact that according to the Chinese traditions each year is dedicated to an animal. 2012 ushers the year of the Water Dragon. According to my Chinese friends it means that the water exerts a calming influence on the Dragon’s innate fire. Moreover the Water Dragons are more open to other people’s opinions than other Dragons which give them the ability to channel their personal charisma into real leadership qualities. And meanwhile last year the year of the Rabbit was characterized by calmness and tranquility, the Year of the Dragon is marked by excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The Chinese New Year will bring lots of energy, vitality, unbridled enthusiasm, and optimism.

According to the crystal ball (and Na Sun, who is very superstitious) the year of the Dragon will also be lucky for anyone thinking of starting a business or initiating a new project of any sort because money is easier to come by for everyone, whether it’s earned, borrowed or received as a gift. Consequently we can expect the economic downturn to ease up a bit in the coming year. Fortunes can be made but they can also be lost: Keep in mind like all good things, the Year of the Dragon will come to an end and you will be held accountable for unreasonable extravagances.

My Chinese treatment, the menu, the decoration and the party

When the big day has sat in I helped Na to dress the table which was not as easy job as you think because we had to take into consideration many aspects such as that that in traditional Chinese art and culture, the black, red, blue-green, white and yellow are viewed as standard colors and all have some special meanings.

You can’t do any harm if you use the red because it is the most important color in China. It was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune. So that windows and doors are decorated with red color paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “good fortune” or “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.

The second important color is the yellow which was used to be the color of the emperors, only he was entitled to wear it, however nowadays it is the color of the progress, fame and efficiency.

The black according to the Chinese traditions was the color of respect and the dignity.

The green specially combining with the white gives people stamina, endurance, and it is also the color of rebirth-spring and if it is mixed with red it will bring an especially good luck and fortune. (How ended up our table decoration see the pictures)

The menu

Na Sun told me that in Sanghai (from where she is originated), on the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Several foods are consumed to usher in wealth, happiness, and good fortune. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and for exchange they receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

The menu

Starters: Marble tea eggs

Ingredients: 4 eggs, 1 tablespoon sesame salt, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 whole star of anise, 3 teaspoons smokey tea (Earl Grey tea), sesame salt

1. Boil eggs for twenty minutes over a low heat. 2. Cool in water. 3. When they are cooled enough, drain eggs and tap the shells all over with the back of a spoon until shell is completely cracked. 4. Return eggs to pan, cover with cold water, salt, soy, star anise, and tea. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer very slowly for 2 to 3 hours. 5. Turn off heat and leave eggs in liquid for 8 hours. 6. Drain the water from the tea eggs, leave in their shells until ready to use. Keep well wrapped in the fridge (up to one week) until ready to serve: carefully peel the eggs. The white of the eggs will be marbled with dark lines. 7. Cut into halves or quarters. Serve with sesame salt.

A tossed salad of leaves and fresh herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon, chervil) can be served with this dish, as a simple garnish or side salad. A quick mix of 4 tablespoons of olive or hazelnut oil, whisked with 1-2 tablespoons of reduced cider and 1 teaspoon of lime juice, provides a dressing for the leaves.

Chinese soup

Ingredients: Chinese rice noodles, 8 chicken wings, 1 chicken breast, Tandori spice, 1 whole garlic, Chinese radish, stem of the bamboo, ginger, coriander. Pinenut, lemon gras, chicken bouillon, 1 star anise, black pepper, chilli paprika, 1 pinch of sugar, few cloves, 1 leek, soy sauce, fresh soy

1.Cook the chicken wings and breast in boiling water with the bamboo stem and Chinese radish. 2. Add the whole garlic and leek, flavour with salt and pepper, and star anise. 3. Add the bouillon, season with one spoon of soy sauce and lemon grass. 4. When the chicken is tender, rinse and discard the bones. Keep it warm. 5. Cook the Chinese rice noodles with the fresh soy. Sieve and keep it warm over boiling water. 6. Fry the chicken breast in some vegetable oil and season it well with the tandori. Chop into very thin slices. 7. Strain the stock, discarding the onion. 8. Serve the soup „layered”, in each bowl, make a nest from the rice noodles, then pour over the bouillon, also adding the cooked soy sprouts, ground pinenut, fresh spring onions and one dumpling for each person (wonton) just before serving. Put some hot chilli paprika seeds on the table and add some more pinenuts. This makes a very tasty soup.

Cucumber and meatball soup

Ingredients: 200 gr ground meat, 1 fresh cucumber, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 egg, 200 gr fresh soya beans, 1 chicken bouillon, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, salt and pepper, fresh spring onion, red pepper flakes

1. First prepare the meat balls. Sauté the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon oil and mix into the ground meat. Season with salt, pepper and add some Hungarian paprika powder. 2. Beat the egg, add to the mixture. Stir the ingredients together well. 3. Mould into ball shapes by hand. 4. Prepare chicken broth and it is boiling drop the balls in. 5. Wash the cucumber but don’t peel it instead cut into small cubes. Add to the soup. 6. Add 1 or two spoons of the soy sauce and the fresh soya beans as well. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat balls are tender (after 10-15 minutes) serve the soup garnished with chopped fresh spring onion.

Mean dishes: Chinese chicken bites with broccoli

Ingredients: 2 chicken breasts, chicken spice mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 broccoli, 4-5 carrots, 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 200 gr rice, salt and pepper, 2 tbs mirin or rice vinegar

1. Clean the vegetables. Wash broccoli. Cut into small florets. Chop carrots. 2. Sauté the finely sliced chicken breasts in the 2 tablespoons of oil until nicely browned. Season with salt, pepper and chicken spice mixture. Set aside. 3. Sauté the broccoli and carrots together in butter. 4. Season with curry powder (optional) and add two tablespoons of soy sauce and flavor with mirin. If necessary add some water. 5. Prepare rice in the usual way with a bit of garlic. Put the chicken back in the pan and warm through with the vegetables. Serve with rice.

Easy Cantonese Duck

Ingredients: 2 duck breasts, 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil, 1 portion Chinese noodles, 2 onions, 2 carrots, 1 red pepper, 1 ginger, 1 tablespoon corn starch, parsley, salt, pepper, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon tabasco

Follow the same process with the duck as with the turkey with pineapple recipe. 1. Over a high heat fry the breasts in a non-stick frying pan for 15 minutes. Then remove from the heat and put into the oven and roast for a further 15 minutes at 220C. 2. Clean the vegetables and boil them in hot water for a short time. 3. Cook the noodles as well. Put them aside and keep them warm. 4. Prepare soy sauce, mix with tabasco, salt and pepper. 5. Prepare bouillon and if necessary thicken with corn starch. When the duck is crispy and golden brown cut into slices and serve hot with the noodles, vegetables and the gravy.

Fish with Chinese cabbage

Ingredients: 4 slices of cod filet, half of a Chinese cabbage, 100 gr smoked ham, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil, salt and pepper

1. Sauté the chopped cabbage in the hazelnut oil for 15 minutes. 2. Pour white wine into a pan, add cream and lemon juice (half of the lemon). 3. When the cabbage is soft, add smoked ham. 4. Fry the cod in hot oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Put fish on a plate, surround with the cabbage. Serve with fried potatoes.

Desserts

Asian people don’t consume that much sweets than the Europeans or Americans however they have some delicious fluffy dessert specialties what I adore for instance the Water chestnut cake which is a sweet Cantonese dim sum dish made of shredded Chinese water chestnut. When served during dim sum the cake is usually cut into square-shaped slices and pan-fried before serving. The cake is soft, but holds its shape after the frying. Sometimes the cake is made with chopped water chestnuts embedded into each square piece with the vegetable being visible. One of the main trademark characteristics of the dish is its translucent appearance.

Mantou which often referred to as Chinese steamed bun/bread.

In size and texture, they range from 4 cm, soft and fluffy in the most elegant restaurants, firm and dense for the working man’s lunch. (As white flour, being more heavily processed, was once more expensive, white mantou were somewhat of a luxury in preindustrial China.)They offer with condensed milk.

Green tea cake  (I know it is more popular in Japan but I love it)

Ingredients: 2 large eggs, 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 Tbsp matcha (green tea powder), 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preparation:

Cream butter in a bowl. Add sugar in the butter and mix well. Gradually add beaten eggs and stir well. Sift flour, baking powder, and green tea powder together and add the flour to the egg mixture. Pour the batter into a buttered loaf pan. Bake in preheated 340 degrees F oven for about 30-40 minutes.

Two fancy Belgian cakes

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When I followed a special cooking course in Belgium for two years at “Syntra” bakery school, I became addicted to two delicious cakes: the Javanais and the Miserable. Not only because the sponge cake based cakes were light and fluffy but also because the cream fillings were excellent. And on the top of that to make them were the easiest job ever. Here are the secret recipes from my confectioner teacher:

Javanais

Ingredients: 8 egg whites-30 g glucose-75 g of marzipan-30 g flour- 370 g milling (a mixture of 180 g ground almonds and 185 g of glucose)

Filling: 1 dl water – 400 g semolina sugar- 2 egg yolks – 1 egg – 500 g butter, softened – and coffee espresso

Chocolate ganache: 2 1 / 2 dl cream, 300 g of chocolate

Preparation of the biscuit
Prepare the white, raw marzipan. Add the flour and cornstarch to it, and finish the cake base with the melted butter. At the same time, mount the other egg whites with 25g of sugar. Pour this mixture into the first mixture and finally stir everything together in order to obtain a homogeneous dollop. Pour the composition of a lightly greased baking plate. Smooth with a metal spatula. Bake at 200 ° C for 8-10 minutes. This gives you a cookie 20x30cm (for a Javanese you need only 18×12 cm).

Buttercream: 1. Mount eggs with the sugar. Boil water and sugar together at 120 ° C 2. Pour this mixture over the sugar mounted eggs constantly mixing the batter. Let it cool. When it is completely cool, add the butter 3. Then stir into cream the coffee extract or coffee “espresso”.

Ganache to cover: Bring the milk to a boil then add butter. Remove from heat and slowly add the chocolate. When the chocolate is completely melted, the ganache is ready for use.

Dressage cake: Layer vanilla cookies before covering them in butter cream to coffee. Gently press each slices to avoid air pockets. Cover with another layer of butter cream. On top, pour over the ganache (make a thin layer), and smooth evenly. Put Javanais for a few hours in the refrigerator. If the cake is very hard, use a serrated knife, trim the edges straight and cut the cake the number of pieces you want (large or small). Top with chocolate coffees.

Miserable

For the meringue:
6 or 7 egg whites (use egg yolks for butter cream below)
3.2 oz white sugar
8 1/2 oz. ground blanched almonds
8 1/2 oz. white sugar
1.6 oz flour

Beat egg whites, adding sugar slowly, until they form soft peaks. Mix ground almonds, sugar and flour together. Then gently fold egg whites into the almonds until well incorporated. Prepare two loaf pans: grease and flour them and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom. Divide almond meringue between the two. Bake at 375 degrees for about a half an hour or until set and just starting to turn brown. Immediately but gently turn out of pan and remove the parchment paper. Let cool.

Butter cream:
6 1/2 oz white sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/3 c. very strong coffee, cooled to room temperature
1/2 lb. butter at room temperature

Put sugar and egg yolks in sauce pan. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks the colour of lemon. Slowly stir in the coffee. On a medium flame, whisk the mixture until small bubbles appear (temperature 165 or 170 degrees). Quickly remove from flame and immediately pour into a glass bowl. Let cool until it reaches room temperature. With a beater, beat the egg mixture with the butter until the mixture becomes creamy. It will take a little bit of time (5 minutes or so) for it to pass from the curdled stage to the creamy stage.
Place a layer of meringue on a platter, fill with the butter cream. Place second layer on top. Lightly sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Keep refrigerated until needed. Take it out of the refrigerator an hour before serving.

Honeyed Gerbeaud with white cream

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The honeyed gerbeaud is a typical Hungarian Christmas dessert, but people consume it throughout of the year. The precious recipe is more than 150 years old.

The Gerbeaud legend

The company was started in 1858 by Henrik Kugler, the third child of a confectionery dynasty. He acquired his knowledge and experience mostly during his journeymanship in eleven European capitals including Paris. After returning home he opened a confectionery first at József Nádor place in Pest which was soon accounted for as one of the best in Pest. Among his specialities were Chinese and Russian tea specialities as well as his icecream creations which were soon named “the best ice in Pest”.

In order to be closer to the city center, in 1870 Kugler moved the store to the present place to Vörösmarty tér. The customers of that time most favoured his coffees, coffee liqueurs and candy. But Kugler Pies and Mignons (French fancies) were also well known, because for the first time it was possible to take them home, wrapped in a paper tray. In 1882 while travelling Paris, Kugler met Emil Gerbeaud and immediately recognized his talent and spirit of enterprise. In 1884 Kugler invited him to Budapest to declare him to his associate. Later, Gerbeaud took over Kugler’s store piece by piece and retained the original name.

Emil Gerbeaud, who was also descended from a confectionary family, was born in Geneva (it belonged to France in that time). He gained his experience in Germany, France and England. He performed a number of innovations, e.g. by expanding the selection with numerous products like butter creams, Parisian crèmes, hundreds of kinds of short cakes, candy and kirsch candy (cut tongues, cherry cognac). To offer this broad palette to his clients, he hired a number of employees for sales and service. By the end of 1899, he had about 150 employees, many of whom only came to Budapest to learn and work with Gerbeaud. Due to his sense of business, bit by bit he equipped the bakery with modern machinery. Thus, the name Gerbeaud became a phenomenon for quality and bakery art. Since his clientele loved the paper boxes for takeaway pies (that were already introduced by Henrik Kugler), Gerbeaud continued with this tradition and started to design these himself.

Gerbeaud became internationally acclaimed. He was invited as a jury member both to the Brussels world fair (1898) and to the Paris world fair (1900), whereat in Paris he was awarded the Legion of Honour. He was further awarded numerous national and international prizes.

When Henrik Kugler died, Gerbeaud founded a public company named Kuglers Successor Gerbeaud PLC to carry on the business. Since Gerbeaud set value on modern working conditions, he used automobiles alongside horse carriages from 1909 on. For the interior design of his confectionery, in 1910 Gerbeaud took advice from Henrik Darilek who mainly used marble, exotic woods and brass. The ceiling’s stucco was created in the rococo style of Louis XIV of France. The chandeliers were inspired by Maria Theresa of Austria. The guests were offered as French tables as well as secession ones which Gerbeaud had delivered from the world fair in Paris. But World War I was felt but the company survived even that.

Gerbeaud died on 8th of November, 1919, and left the store to his wife Ester who headed it until 1940. The shop retained the name “Gerbeaud” ever since, except for the time between 1950 and 1984, when it was renamed “Vörösmarty”. In 1995, German businessman Erwin Franz Müller bought the confectionery and had it renovated extensively. The traces of the last 50 years have thus disappeared, and today the Café shines in the style as built by Emil Gerbeaud. Café Gerbeaud is noticed as of the greatest and most traditional coffeehouse in Europe. In 2009 Café Gerbeaud opened its second confectionery in Tokyo, Japan.

Honeyed gerbeaud by my grandma

Ingredients: 500 grs flour, 350 grs +3 tbs powdered sugar, 300 grs of butter, 50 ml milk, 4 tbs honey, 3 tbs rum, 3 tbs flour, 2 eggs + 3 egg yolks, 2-3 tbs sour cream, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 pack vanilla sugar

1. Mix all the dough ingredients together and knead it well. You should get a firm, not soft, but well shapeable dough so if needed use more yoghurt or sour cream to make a good dough.

2. Cut the dough into 4 or 5 similar pieces. Grease the medium sized baking skillets, put on baking papers. On floured surface, roll out one of the dough to the size of the baking skillet then place it on. Roll out the second piece of dough and so on. Heat the oven to 180 C (350F) and bake the cake (two at ones) for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are light-brown. Take the cakes out from the oven and allow to cool until the cake is firmed completely at least for one hour. 3. Meanwhile prepare thick white cream from the 3 egg yolks, 3 tbs of flour, vanilla sugar and from half liter of milk. Stir constantly when cream is thick enough let it cool.

4. Mix together 200 gr of butter with 150-200 grams of powdered sugar and add 3 tbs of rum. Mix ingredients together until frothy. Add it to cooled cream. Smear cream evenly each layers.

5. Keep cake in the pantry until next day. The honey cake needs time to soften not to mention that it is always tastier next day. Cut into narrow, oblong slices and serve! You can cover the cake with chocolate fondant but it is optional!

You can be sure it will be the biggest hit of your festive season!

 

To close 2011 with the elegant Dobos torte

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The origin of the Dobos torte

Dobos cake was first introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885; Franz Joseph Ist and his Empress Elisabeth were among the first to taste it. The cake soon became popular throughout Europe as it was different from all others. It was simple but elegant, as opposed to the multi-layer, flaming cakes of the age. Its other secret was the use of fine butter cream, which was very little known at that time; cake fillings and frostings were usually made with cooked pastry cream or whipped cream. The chocolate butter cream and the batter of the cake were both invented by Jozsef C. Dobos (1847–1924) the famous confectioner.

Dobos travelled around Europe and introduced the cake wherever he went. For a long time he kept the exact recipe confidential, until 1906 when he retired and gave the original recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

By today Dobos Torte is well known everywhere in the world and there are more than one hundred recipe variations. It is a commonly made torte in the upscale hotels, restaurants and pastry shops of all over the world.

The recipe

The torte is a five-layer sponge cake, layered with chocolate butter cream and topped with thin caramel slices. The sides of the cake are sometimes coated with ground hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts or almonds but the original cake is without coat, since it was a slice of a big cake. Dobos’ s aim was to make a cake that would last longer than other pastries, in an age when cooling techniques were limited. The caramel topping helps keep the cake from drying out.

Serves 12

Ingredients: 6 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus more for baking sheets, 1 and hulf cup all purpose flour, plus more for baking sheets, 1 cup sugar, 6 large eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon pure almond extract, hazelnut simple syrup, caramell buttercream, caramel for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350, with rack in center. Butter two 12 by 17 inch rimmed baking sheets. Line bottoms with parchment paper, butter parchment, and sprinkle with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside. 2. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water, whisk together sugar, eggs, and salt until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. 3. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the whisk attahment, and beat egg mixture on high speed until very thick and pale, 6-8 minutes. Gently transfer mixture to a large shallow bowl. 4. Sift in two-third of the flour in two batches, folding gently after each addition. In a small bowl, combine melted butter and extracts, and add to egg mixture in a steady stream as you sift in the remaining flour, fold gently and divide batter between prepared baking sheets, smoothing tops with an offset spatula. 5. Bake until cakes are springy to the touch and lightly golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before inverting cakes onto rack, and remove parchment paper. Cut each cake into three 5 ¼ by 11 ¼ inch, rectangles. 6: lay one rectangle on a flat work surface. Using a pastry brush, soak with a little less than ¼ cup simply syrup. Using an offset spatula, spread 1 cup buttercream evenly over the top. Place another rectangle on top, and continue until you have five cake layers soaked with syrup and topped with buttercream. Spread remaining buttercream over sides of cake, and smooth the top and sides to form a neat block. 7. Regfrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, sprinkle chopped caramel over the top.

Caramel buttercream

2 ¼ cups of sugar, ½ cup water, ½ cup of heavy cream, 3 cups of unsalted butter, room temperature, 9 large egg whites, 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium pan, heavy saucepan bring 1 ¼ cups of sugar and the water to a boil, over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystals from forming. 2. Continue cooking, without stirring, until caramel is dark amber, swirling pan colour evenly. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in heavy cream in a steady stream stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let it cool.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until fluffy and pale, set aside. In the heatproof bowl of electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water, gently whisk together remaining cup sugar and the egg whites until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved about 3 minutes.

Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes. Increase speed to high, whisk until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium low, add butter, ¼ cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Switch to the paddle attachment. Add caramel mixture, beat on lowest speed until smooth, 3-to 5 minutes. If using the same day, set aside at room temperature, covered with plastic. Of refrigerate in an airthight container up to 3 days. Before using, bring to room temperature, beat with paddle attachment until smooth.

Caramel

Makes about 1 cup

Unsalted butter, for baking sheet, ½ cup sugar, 3 tbs water

Butter a baking sheet or line it with a silpat. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves, wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystals from forming. Continue cooking, without stirring, until caramel is dark amber, swirling pan to colour evenly. Remove from heat.

Immediately pour caramel onto prepared baking sheet. Let it until hardened and completely cool, coarsely chop. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use, up to 1 day.

Hazelnut syrup

Makes about 1 1/8 cups

½ cup of sugqar, ½ cup of water, ½ cup of hazelnut liqueur,

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, bring sugar and water to boil, swirling to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, cover and let it cool completely. Stir in liqueur. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and sttore in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Fire-tongs bowl party

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Yesterday we had a Christmas party in the university and of course the highlight was, as it is always in winter time in Germany, the famous Feuerzangenbowle-the Fire-tongs punch. 

The popularity of this drink has been boosted by the 1944 German film comedy Die Feuerzangenbowle. In that historical time it was a traditional drink of some fraternities who also called it Krambambuli as the red colour was reminiscent of an eponymous cherry liqueur from Danzig. Since the 1980s, the movie has gained cult film status at many German universities. During party-like showings in university auditoriums in early December, students bring props to participate in the movie’s action similar to audience participation in showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For example, the audience will ring alarm-clocks whenever an alarm-clock rings in the movie and use flashlights when in the movie Hans Pfeiffer uses a pocket mirror to pinpoint the location of the Goths on a map behind the teacher’s back in order to help a fellow student in history class. In 2006, more than 10,000 students participated in this tradition in Göttingen alone but here in Münich the fire-tongs punch stands are open every day until next year.

The procedure

The fire-tong punch is prepared in a bowl, which is set on fire and drips into mulled wine (a red wine combined with spices and it is served warm). The procedure is similar to a fondue set, because Feuerzangenbowle is also prepared in a bowl, which is usually suspended over a small burner (rechaud). The bowl is filled with heated dry red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel, similar to mulled wine. The Feuerzange was originally a pair of tongs, but nowadays it is common for a purpose-designed metal grate mounted on top of the bowl to hold the Zuckerhut (sugarloaf or literally “sugar hat”), a sugar cone around seven inches long. The sugar is soaked with rum and set alight, melting and caramelizing. The rum should have at least 54% alcohol per volume in order to burn properly. More rum is poured with a ladle until all the sugar has melted and mixed with the wine. The resulting punch is served in mugs while the burner keeps the bowl warm. For some the ceremony is more important than the drink itself, celebrating the gathering of friends and conveying a notion of mellow-Gemütlichkeit.