18 February 2012

Buttercake - 'Butterkuchen'

Buttercake, consisting of a fluffy yeast-dough base and topped with sweet and crunchy sliced almonds, is very traditional and often served with afternoon coffee or tea. If at all possible, the cake should be baked and eaten on the same day and it tastes best when it is still a little bit warm. The cake is very simple and easy to make, but its flavour is very delicate and it is not too sweet. Some single cream or whipping cream is poured on the cake when it comes out of the oven, making it moist and enhancing the buttery flavour. I really recommend using fresh yeast for this, as the yeasty flavour is central to this cake and dry yeast just does not taste quite as good. I buy my fresh yeast in larger batches on ebay, where it is sold by a number of professional bakers in England. The yeast I received was always very fresh and of excellent quality and arrived within a day of buying it. I immediately cut it into 20g portions when it arrives, wrap it in tin foil and keep it in the freezer. 

This makes one square or rectangular cake of about 25 by 25 cm or 20 by 30 cm. It cuts into about 12 slices. The recipe can easily be doubled  for a larger cake tin.

For the dough:

250 g plain flour
60 g sugar (or more, if you like it sweeter)
20 g fresh yeast (or one sachet dry)
125 ml milk
1 egg yolk
30 g butter

For the topping:

50 g sliced almonds
50 g sugar
50 g butter, cut into small pieces
100 ml single or whipping cream

Combine the flour and the sugar. Dissolve the fresh yeast in the milk and pour on top of the flour. Leave to stand for about 20 minutes. Add the egg yolk and melted butter and knead for a few minutes until you have a soft and fluffy ball of dough (if using dry yeast, just combine all dough ingredients straight away). Cover and leave to rise for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Roll out the dough to fit your baking tin or tray (this should be greased). Leave to rise again for about 30 minutes. Punch some holes in the dough with the handle of a wooden cooking spoon (or use your fingers). Top the cake first with the sliced almonds, sprinkle on the sugar and finish with the butter, cut into very small pieces. Bake at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes. If you use a cake tin with a loose bottom I recommend placing this in a baking tray to avoid melting butter dripping into the oven.

Remove the cake from the oven and carefully pour on the cream – I punch a few more holes in the cake before I do so, to ensure that the cream is absorbed into the cake. Leave to cool slightly and eat while still warm. 

12 February 2012

German Cheesecake Р'Käsekuchen'

German cheesecake is quite different from American-style cheesecake, which is most common in the UK. The German version is always baked and its main ingredient is quark – a soft cheese with a considerably lower fat content than Philadelphia cheese. The flavour of German cheesecake is not dissimilar to the American version, but its consistency is a lot lighter and fluffier. Until a few years ago quark was not really available in regular supermarkets in the UK. Now it is sold almost everywhere. I baked this with the non-fat version (making up for this with the addition of melted butter), but the more fatty curd cheese, which is similar in texture, can also be used. The amount of butter in the mix can be reduced in this case. I have read (but I have not tried this yet) that quark can be replaced with strained yoghurt if it is nowhere to be found. Thick yoghurt is placed in a sieve lined with a thin cotton tea towel and left to strain in the fridge overnight. The resulting consistency resembles that of quark. I am sure this will work, but I also think that the flavour will not quite be the same.

German cheesecake is one of my favourite cakes. It keeps for a few days and it can be varied according to taste. The very basic version, without any flavouring or additions, tastes great. The flavour can be altered with the addition of grated lemon peel or vanilla seeds or extract. Fruit can also be added. In winter, raisins or slices of poached pears are good. In summer, a handful of raspberries, blueberries, cherries or apricots make for a fruity alternative.

This makes one large cheesecake – I used a spring form with a 28 cm diameter.

For the pastry:

250 g plain flour
130 g cold butter
75 g sugar
1 egg yolk (plus two tbsp cold water, if required)

For the filling:

750 g quark cheese
65 g plain flour
175 g sugar
4 eggs
100 g melted butter

Quickly knead all pastry ingredients into a ball of dough. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 45 minutes. Grease a springform tin and line it with the thinly rolled out pastry.

For the filling divide the egg yolks from the egg whites. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Mix the egg yolks with the quark cheese, flour and sugar. Add the melted butter and mix well. Finally, thoroughly fold in the whisked egg whites. You can add some vanilla seeds/extract or some grated lemon peel to flavour the cheesecake mixture. The cake in the picture contains some rum-soaked raisins and vanilla.

If using, add some raisins or fruit to the pastry shell. Add the cheesecake mixture and smooth the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for about 60 minutes at 180 degrees. Make sure the cake does not get too dark on top. If it does, it can be covered with some aluminium foil.

The cheesecake can rise quite a lot and tends to sink a bit in the middle when it cools down. I have found that it sinks less if it is left in the switched off oven for a while to cool down slowly (maybe open the door a little bit). Leave to cool completely before cutting.

7 February 2012

Flaming Hearts - 'Flammende Herzen'

I baked these flaming hearts with Valentine’s Day in mind. They keep fresh for quite a few days, so it doesn’t matter that this is a bit early (although I doubt they will survive until the 14th). Flammende Herzen very much remind me of my childhood. They are a real 1980s thing and my mother sometimes bought these for us in the bakery to eat in the afternoons. Needless to say that they are quite tasty. I think you can still find them in quite a few bakeries, but they have lost some of their popularity to muffins and to other more fashionable cakes. 

Flaming hearts are traditionally filled with either jam or a chocolate filling. For the latter, the use of German nougat is most common. As discussed already in my Spitzbuben (Rascals) recipe I posted before Christmas, this praline paste is not commonly sold in the UK, but it can be substituted with a range of alternatives. In this case just a regular chocolate spread, like Nutella, would also work OK (although a filling that firms up seems preferable and will probably look better). As I used my last pack of German nougat for this batch of Flammende Herzen, I will soon experiment with homemade praline paste, made like a ganache with cream and melted chocolate and some pure hazelnut butter. Taste-wise, I think, this would come pretty close.

This recipe makes about 20 large double biscuits.

For the biscuits:

250 g very soft butter
120 g icing sugar
4 egg yolks
300 g plain flour
Seeds from one vanilla pod or some vanilla extract

For the filling:

Either jam, mixed with a bit of water and slightly warmed up
Or chocolate spread
Or nougat or a praline paste replacement (see above)

To decorate: melted chocolate or chocolate cake covering

Whisk the butter with the sugar and egg yolks until light and fluffy. Add the flour in a few additions and combine well, but don’t overmix the batter or whisk too hard. Fill the batter in a piping bag and pipe evenly sized biscuits onto a baking sheet covered in baking paper. Put in the fridge for about 10 minutes to let them firm up a bit. Bake in the preheated oven at about 170 degrees until the edges turn slightly golden (about 10-15 minutes).

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Don't try to remove the biscuits too quickly, as they are quite brittle when warm. When the biscuits are cold, sandwich them together with your choice of filling. Melt the chocolate or cake covering and dip one side of the biscuits in the chocolate. Leave to dry and then store in a tin.