Luisa Weiss's Blog
May 31, 2016
Without further ado, I present to you the cover of Classic German Baking! When you hold the book in your hands, you'll see and feel that the title is embossed and that the cute little cake pan is both embossed and in matte foil.
Getting to a final cover on any book can be a lengthy, dramatic process, but especially so with illustrated books like cookbooks. Still, I had a feeling that Ten Speed Press, my amazing publisher, wouldn't disappoint me and I was right. I knew pretty early on that I didn't want a photo on the cover of the book and I'm still so happy and grateful that the publisher, my editor and the designer were game to try some other options. To help the designer along, I sat down at my desk one morning and spent about seven hours doing Google Image searches for everything relating to German and Austrian baking, culinary history, historical lifestyle items and ingredient packaging. I collected the best and most beautiful - and relevant - image links into one very long email and sent it off (hoping that the designer wouldn't think I was the most annoying, meddlesome author ever). It was really important to me to call attention to the kind of visual information that Germans and Austrians take for granted but that feels so integral to the subject. For example, the fact that blue and white are emblematic of the German kitchen, the elegance of the script that adorns antique porcelain kitchen canisters, or the Bauhaus-ian colors and patterns on my beloved Bollhagen ceramics.
A few months later, a variation on the cover above appeared in my inbox. I felt that the illustrator had nailed the design almost on the first try. There were just a few small tweaks to be done before it was final, like getting everyone to agree on the right reddish orange color of the line elements, figuring out which illustration would be the best (the first go-around featured a slice of a fancy torte with a cup of tea, then it changed to a braided, sugar-spangled loaf that I was quite partial to, but we finally settled on the classic cake mold you see on the cover now), and ironing out the minutiae of the dots, whirls and lines. What I like best about the cover now is how well the design straddles the old-fashioned and the contemporary. It feels classic without being fusty and, my most fervent hope, will age well.
A final funny anecdote about the title and subtitle: Agreeing on the title was surprisingly painless. We played around with a few options, but both my editor and I separately - and simultaneously - came to the conclusion that for this book, the simplest, most declarative title would be best. We felt so accomplished! A title without any blood, sweat and tears - amazing. And then, dear reader, and then: the subtitle. I think that a minimum of 38 emails were exchanged in our attempts to nail the subtitle. Oh, the variations we tried! For example, just agreeing on "Pfeffern��sse to Streuselkuchen" - hoo! Which were the German recipe names that would resonate most with potential readers, which ones were most traditional and therefore wouldn't irritate or alienate a native speaker for whom the subtle regional differences could be quite glaring, and which ones, quite simply, were the easiest to pronounce? Then there was the construct of the sentence itself. It wasn't just me and my editor working on this one, no, the sales and marketing team had their brainstorming caps on, too, and so back and forth, back and forth it went until one day - not even so long ago! - we finally lit upon the formulation you see on the cover above.
It's always so funny, at the end of a long, involved project like this one, to look back and see which decisions ended up being the most difficult ones and which ones were surprisingly easy. I would have never guessed that the subtitle would be the source of so much angst. Still, all those back-and-forths were worth it to get a cover, title, and subtitle that all feel just right. What do you think? I so hope you like it.
May 30, 2016
I may have been at this blogging thing for almost eleven (gulp gasp whuut) years, but I have still not figured out how to make gravy look good. In my defense, I swear I wouldn't inflict these photos on you if it wasn't for a good cause, namely your dinner. Maybe even your dinner tonight!
The recipe comes from a "young kitchen hand" at a restaurant in Melbourne called Attica. Amandeep - we are not told his last name, hrmm - made (makes?) it for staff meal. Well, if this is the restaurant's staff meal, I can only imagine the restaurant's actual offerings. It's totally luxurious - chicken bathed in a thick and creamy yogurt marinade, cooked in copious amounts of butter, then finished with heavy cream. Ground almonds thicken the creamy, nicely spiced sauce, which is almost better than the chicken itself. You will want to eat every last drop of it. Luckily, the recipe makes a lot of sauce. (I left out the chiles in the vain hopes that my child would join us in eating this delectable dish, but he was not having it, no sirree, though I will hardly complain about that, because it just meant more butter chicken for me and his father. Next time, ooh, next time, I cannot wait to use the chiles and really let this baby rip.)
The only (other) change I made to the recipe, which really is absolutely perfect as is, was to add frozen peas at the end so that I wouldn't have to also make a vegetable for dinner. Yes, I am lazy! I am also a broken record. Forgive me. (Eleven years, people.)
And with that I leave you to your shopping lists and Memorial Day cookouts. But tomorrow, the official cover of Classic German Baking awaits you! See you then.
Amandeep's Butter Chicken
Adapted from the NY Times
1 �� cups full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 �� tablespoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 pounds chicken thighs, on the bone
�� pound unsalted butter
4 teaspoons neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 medium-size tomatoes, diced
2 red chiles, like Anaheim, or 1 jalape��o pepper, seeded and diced
Kosher salt to taste
��� cup chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade
1 �� cups cream
1 �� teaspoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons ground almonds, or finely chopped almonds
�� bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed
1. Whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala and cumin in a large bowl. Put the chicken in, and coat with the marinade. Cover, and refrigerate (for up to a day).
2. In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil until it starts to foam. Add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, and cook until the onions start to brown.
3. Add the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chiles and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, about 10 minutes.
4. Add the chicken and marinade to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.
5. Stir in the cream and tomato paste, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Add the almonds, cook for an additional 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.
May 10, 2016
Another soup, I know, but you're going to want to know about this one for the warm days of spring and summer. I got the recipe from Aglaia Kremezi's Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, which was published almost two years ago, but which I only got my hands on last week when Aglaia came to Berlin to launch the book. Aglaia lives on Kea, in the Greek Cyclades, is the author of several books on Greek cuisine and, together with her husband Costas, runs dreamy-sounding cooking vacations. Bucket list alert!
Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts is a really thoughtful assembly of recipes not just from Greece and Italy, but also Turkey, France, the Balkans, and the Middle East. But it's also a very personal book, full of Aglaia's favorite recipes collected over the years, like the stuffed vegetables she grew up with as well as the simple loaf of bread she and Costas eat every day. I can already tell it's going to become one of those books I just keep in the kitchen so that I can cook from it all the time.
The first recipe that I made from the book was this Turkish yogurt soup that's thickened with rice and cornstarch and streaked with soft leafy greens. The soup is traditionally made with Swiss chard, but on our Saturday morning market run, I found some nice-looking baby spinach to use instead. Just about 30 minutes after getting home, lunch was ready to be served. I know that for some, the sound of "warm yogurt soup" will not be appealing, but please trust me - it's delicious. The dried mint, pepper flakes and olive oil drizzle give the light, creamy soup liveliness and pep. The cornstarch and rice helps give it body, and the water-thinned yogurt base is just the right level of sour. It's so refreshing. I served it with nice sourdough bread and a big salad to eat afterwards and we were all very happy. Well, "we" the adults. Hugo refused to even try the soup, but we found out afterwards that he had a fever. He gets a pass!
I've been loving our Saturday routines recently. I wrote a little bit about it on Instagram. Our weekends used to feel scattered and grumpy. But since instituting this new rhythm - market, playground, cooked lunch at home in the dining room, not the kitchen - things have changed rather dramatically. Things run more smoothly, we all feel calmer, saner and happier. Funny how such a seemingly small thing can have such impact. Do you have any routines or weekly traditions that you feel have helped your family harmony? I'd really love to know.
Aglaia Kremezi's Warm Yogurt Soup with Grains and Greens
Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts
Serves 3 to 4
1 bunch Swiss chard or several bunches spinach or baby spinach
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 onion, chopped
3 scallions, white and most of green parts, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup/50g white rice or 1 cup/160g cooked wheat berries or pearl barley
1 cup white wine
5 cups water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups/480ml plain yogurt (not Greek)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried mint
Crushed red pepper flakes
1. Wash and trim the chard. Cut the leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into bite-sized pieces. If using, spinach, wash and chop. If using baby spinach, wash.
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and scallions and saut�� for 3 minutes. Add the chard stems, if using, and saut�� for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saut�� for another minute or two. Add the rice or wheat berries/barley, stir well, then add the wine and water. Add salt to taste, bring to a boil, and reduce to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the chard leaves or spinach/baby spinach. Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the greens are very tender. Remove from the heat.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of cold water. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt with the cornstarch slurry. While whisking, pour in a ladleful of hot soup. Slowly add 2 to 3 more ladlefuls of soup, whisking until the yogurt mixture is pretty hot. Pour it back into the soup pot, return to low heat and cook, stirring, until it almost boils. Add black pepper and the dried mint. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Serve, drizzling each bowl with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkling with red pepper.
Amelia Morris' Corn, Chile and Potato Soup
Ruth Reich's Spicy Tuscan Kale
Rice and Peas and Broth and Cheese
May 3, 2016
A nice little recipe to have in your back pocket for those days when dinner needs to be cozy and comforting, but also quick. It comes from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now, which is not just a great collection of recipes that manage to be both (mostly) simple and yet also sophisticated, exactly like her NYT column, but also makes me nostalgic for the good old days of cookbooks, when they were printed with regular fonts on normal paper, with a few glossy pages of photos gathered together in bunches. The Internetization of cookbooks has tired me out a little. Look at me, out in my yard with a broom.
The soup, made with canned tomatoes and an array of warm spices, is made creamy with coconut milk instead of cream, so it's good for the vegans or lactose-intolerants in your life (use coconut oil instead of butter to begin with if it's a dietary necessity). We are neither vegan nor lactose-intolerant, but found this soup almost compulsively good. The balance of flavors was so perfect that it was hard not to go back for thirds. ("We", that night, was me and Hugo, so it is child-friendly - just leave out the chile powder if necessary). Sometimes cumin can get a bit much, you know? But here, smoothed out by the coconut, and balanced by the coriander and curry powder (I use this one, which is excellent), it was just right.
I was feeling ambitious the night I cooked the soup, so I also made Melissa's suggested accompaniment of whole wheat parathas, but they were a little fussy. Next time, I'd make grilled cheese, as I usually do with tomato soup, and call it a day.
Oh and next time, I'd also do what Melissa suggests as an alternative topping to the chopped herbs (missing from our plates because as soon as the soup was ready I suddenly got very hungry and needed to sit down and eat rather than chop anything else) and toast some coconut chips, mix them with sea salt and drop them on top of the soup for a crunchy contrast. You should definitely try that.
NB: This is not a thick tomato soup; it's meant to be thin, but not watery. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup coconut cream, which I left out when I made it. You can add that if you'd like, for a richer soup, or you can add less water (3 cups instead of 4) if you prefer.
Melissa Clark's Curried Coconut Tomato Soup
Adapted from Cook This Now
Serves 2 to 4
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch chile powder
1 large can (28-oz) diced tomatoes
1 regular can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut cream, optional
Chopped fresh cilantro, mint or basil, for garnish
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the curry powder, coriander, cumin and chile. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and 4 cups of water (3 cups, for a slightly thicker soup) and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Using an immersion blender, pur��e the soup until smooth. Whisk in the coconut milk (and coconut cream, if using) and check for seasoning. Let the soup simmer for another 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped herbs.
April 29, 2016
This post is brought to you by my iron-deficient blood which periodically makes me crave red meat, like, sit-straight-up-in-bed-practically-slavering-for-an-8-ounce-steak-crave, if you know what I mean. (In German, anemia is also called Blutarmut, which translates to "blood poverty", which always makes me think of my poor little blood walking around with a kerchief on its head, like the Little Match Girl, asking for alms. But I digress!)
I was recently sent a copy of Tasting Rome, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. It's a gorgeously photographed collection of recipes gathered from every corner of the sprawling wonder that is Rome. To be specific, as written in the introduction, [Rome's] "peripheral, graffiti-clad neighborhoods, patrician districts, archeological parks, neighborhood bakeries, artisanal gelato shops, dimly lit cocktail bars, chaotic markets, and innovative restaurants." While I hardly need another recipe for spaghetti cacio e pepe or my most beloved of Rome's recipes, rice-stuffed tomatoes, I am always, always, always interested in the other recipes, the ones I didn't grow up with or, even better, have never even heard of before. And on that count, as on many others, Tasting Rome totally delivers.
I love that Katie and Kristina include recipes from the Libyan Jewish community in Rome, like a dish of stewed fish with ample amounts of hot pepper, cumin and caraway, served over couscous, or chicken meatballs seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and pistachios. A book on Rome is of course not complete without recipes for offal and in Tasting Rome, a whole chapter is devoted to chicken gizzards, pork liver and tongue. The cocktails reflect contemporary Rome and its electric nightlife. The recipe for pizza bianca is accompanied by a photograph so fetching that I keep finding it difficult to not stick my hand through the page to get at the pizza.
If you need them, all the classics are covered (vignarola, carbonara, cacio e pepe, suppl�� and so forth). But the recipe I want to tell you about today is a slightly less exalted one, though no less delicious. Long-simmered beef is shredded and stewed in a spicy, oniony tomato sauce, then served in a soft white bun (move over, meatballs!) or ladled over a piece of nice sourdough bread. It's classic Rome food, really, making leftovers shine in a new and humble way. (Though it's a new one for me - and my mother, incidentally!) When I first saw the recipe, in all its beefy glory, my poor blood and I sat up a little straighter.
The recipe comes from the Mordi e Vai stand in Testaccio Market. You start with a piece of beef shin, but I actually ended up using a piece of brisket, because that's what the butcher had and it was perfect, too. You simmer it with some aromatics for a couple of hours. Alternatively, because this is a dish that is meant to recycle leftover beef, you could simply use leftover brisket or leftover pieces of beef from a previous meal. Either way, the meat must be shredded, and some of the soft carrots that you cooked with the beef, roughly chopped. Then you make a simple tomato sauce, flavored only with onions, marjoram and hot pepper. Once the spicy sauce has thickened, the shredded meat and carrots are stirred into it and simmer together until it's all one big, aromatic stew.
I loved making it from start to finish, salting the beef, the long and gentle simmer, the two-forked shredding, and the light stewing in tomato sauce. This is slow cooking at its best; simple and uncomplicated. And what is more satisfying than turning tough old cuts or sad leftovers into something juicy and irresistible?
If you had (or have!) a grandma whose specialty was brisket, like I did, let me tell you something. This dish tastes like Grandma's brisket died and went to heaven. The sum of the toothsome shredded beef with its soft little pockets of fat and connective tissue simmered into submission, the addictively spicy tomato sauce, and the sweet and tender carrots, not to mention how good the savory juices soaking into a nice piece of soft bread are, is actually more than I'm able to describe.
You can blame that on me being out of practice, I guess. Or blame it on the anemia! It makes me light-headed and a little woozy. I guess I'm just going to have to go make another batch.
Tasting Rome's Carne alla Picchiap��
Adapted from Tasting Rome
Serves 4 to 6
1 pound beef shin or brisket
1 cup dry white wine
10 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or 1/2 tablespoon dried
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1. Salt the beef all over and place on a plate. Refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
2. Place the beef in a large pot with water to cover. Over low heat, slowly bring the water to a very gentle simmer, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Once the water simmers, add the wine, carrots, 2 of the onions, whole, the peppercorns and the cloves. Cook at a low simmer until the beef is fork tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Transfer the meat to a plate and shred it with two forks. Coarsely chop the carrots. The rest of the cooking liquid can either be discarded or reduced to a broth, if desired. It should be strained before serving.
3. To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, dice the remaining onion. Cook the onion with a pinch of salt in the oil over medium-low heat until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the marjoram and hot pepper, stir a few times, then add the tomatoes. Cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced a bit, about 15 minutes.
4. Add the shredded beef and carrots to the tomato sauce and mix well. Cook for another 15 minutes. Serve immediately as a sandwich filling on soft bread, served over a slice of crusty bread, or as a stand-alone dish.
April 27, 2016
Dearest readers, forgive me for my long radio silence. I was working on the first and second pass of Classic German Baking and was felled by a hideous case of the flu (the real thing, against which I was not inoculated and which swiftly infected everyone else in my household, so once I got better, after TWO FULL WEEKS in bed because the flu, that no-good jerk, then morphed into bronchitis, for the love of Pete, I had to play nurse to first my son and then my husband, leaving precious time for anything else). But we are all better now and the book is almost finished, with just a little time left before it wings its way to the printer. And over here, I find myself staring into the entirely predictable and yet no less jarring void that accompanies the end of any all-consuming creative project. It's a welcome void, one I've longed for, no doubt, and yet it's still a little...unnerving. But no matter. Life calls, as does the gym, not to mention all the recipes I have to tell you about and I can't wait to get back into writing here.
In gratitude for your patience, please accept this photo of a weeks-old baby Hugo posing alongside an absolutely epic yeasted bread that my beloved Joanie made for us as a celebration of his birth almost four years ago and that I recently dug up because I mention it in the book and I needed to jog my memory. If you look closely, you see that the loaf is in the shape of a swaddled baby and is studded not only with raisins, almonds and walnuts, but also has little balls of marzipan tucked in here and there. Isn't it insane? It was as delicious as it looks, though part of me would have gladly embalmed it to save it for the rest of my life. Who needs cute onesies and baby books when you can have this kind of baby gift? Sigh.
See you back here very soon.
February 24, 2016
Sometimes a lady just wants to make a batch of muffins without a pad of paper and a pen and a scale and a million bowls and all the other accouterments that have been necessary in the kitchen for the past year and a half. Sometimes, too, a lady just wants to make a batch of muffins without thinking about whole grains and alternative sugars and all the other buzz words of the contemporary food world. And sometimes, that same lady just feels like baking something that one is going to be able to eat within the hour.
A couple of sweet potatoes had been gathering dust on my counter for weeks. Last Friday, in a fit of kitchen activity (a pathetic attempt at the nirvana that is this), I roasted them but then didn't use them in any meal. They sat in the fridge over the weekend, while Hugo - who's at home with bronchitis - labored through the worst days of the fever. His appetite was nearly nonexistent, but I wanted to get some calories into him. Then it hit me. Muffins! Sweet potato muffins.
These ones, adapted from a recipe by Beth Hensperger, are about as straightforward as they get. You make a simple, lumpy batter out of mashed sweet potatoes, milk, oil and eggs, baking powder, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg, and a little sugar. Dollop this into the muffins tins and then you sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar. The muffins bake up into very tender, very moist specimens, with a lovely little crunch from the sugar on top. With just cinnamon and nutmeg flavoring the batter, you can really taste the sweet potatoes' earthy flavor. I folded walnuts into the butter, which I loved, but Hugo told me he didn't like them. For what that's worth.
The whole thing, from making the batter to sitting down and eating them, took just under an hour. And unlike some muffins that deteriorate within a day, these ones keep well for the next day (I just left them on the counter, in fact), when they make an excellent breakfast. You know how some (most?) muffins are actually just cake? These ones are decidedly not cake. They aren't too sweet, despite the topping. Plus, they were so, so easy.
And that's all I want these days.
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sweet potatoes, roasted until soft and cooled
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1. To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 400��F/200��C. Spray 12 standard muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray, or butter them, or line them with baking papers.
3. In a bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt.
4. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and milk, and whisk until smooth and well-combined. Mash the cooled sweet potatoes until relatively smooth and add to the oil mixture. Continue whisking until completely blended. Add the flour mixture and stir until just evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the nuts until just evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Do not overmix.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the muffin tops evenly with the topping. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins and serve them warm or at room temperature. The muffins will keep for one additional day. Once fully cooled, they can also be frozen.
January 20, 2016
Maja has a way with a piping bag! These cocoa-flavored meringue cookies are called Russisch Brot and are really crisp and not too sweet. Great for little children, and snackers of all ages.
Thank you so much for all of your amazing questions about writing Classic German Baking, both here and on Instagram! I'm going to answer a whole bunch in this post and then I'm going to go into more detail on other questions in subsequent posts. This is a pretty long one, as is, so get yourself a hot drink and get settled.
Actually, before I get started, because there seems to be some confusion about this in some corners: Classic German Baking is being published by Ten Speed Press, which is an American publisher. The book is in English. If we are lucky, foreign publishers may buy the foreign rights, in which case it will get translated into other languages.
Okay, let's start with the easy questions:
"Is there a release date planned yet? Hoping we'll have the book in time to make the lebkuchen dough."
The book will be published on October 18, 2016! So you'll definitely have cookies in time for Christmas.
"Will the book use cups, ounces or grams?"
The book is being published with both metric and Imperial measurements.
"What are you suggesting as an American substitute for Quark?"
I don't suggest a substitute, but I do provide a very simple recipe in case you can't find Quark near where you live. The Quark I've seen in the US is much looser and creamier than German Quark, so it requires some straining before use in baking. If you make your own, you can control the level of moisture in the Quark very easily. I've heard that using nonfat Greek yogurt in place of Quark can work in some recipes, but we can't get that here and anyway, I prefer to use the real thing, especially since making your own Quark is so easy and fun. However, if there are any volunteers out there who want to attempt one of my K��sekuchen (cheesecake) recipes with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of Quark for me sometime in the next week, let me know in the comments!
"I am wondering if you will also have recipes for breads to make in bread machines? We got a fantastic bread machine which we use 3 times a week. Also, will your book have recipes w/alternatives to wheat flours, such as rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, teff, chickpea etc."
I don't have a bread machine and I'm not familiar with them at all. However, almost all of my yeasted recipes use instant yeast, which is also known as bread-machine yeast, so I think that with some tweaking, you'll probably be in business. Since this is a book about traditional German baking, the most "exotic" flour you'll find in the book is buckwheat flour, which is used in a delicious whipped cream torte. There are a few regional recipes that require white spelt flour, and of course there are many recipes that use a mix of rye and wheat flours. It was very important to me that this book deliver a solid collection of classic recipes made exactly the way German bakers make them, and producing results that any German grandmother would be happy with.
The dark horse of the book, Sachertorte, which is, as I wrote in the headnote, something I always thought was sort of a dusty old thing that tourists go to Vienna to eat and secretly find slightly disappointing, but then I dove deep into Sachertorte development and discovered that it is actually the only cake I would like to eat on my birthday for the rest of my life. It is BEYOND. It was also one of two chocolate birthday cakes that I made when Hugo turned 3 last June, the lucky little boy, hence the hippo(?)-shaped candles above. The surface of the cake is not normally supposed to look that lumpy, but we didn't have pur��ed apricot preserves that day...tsk tsk!
Now let's get into the nitty-gritty.
"Are most of the recipes things you have always loved to make or recipes you tried and developed specifically for the book? Did you have any total flops? Does the publisher also test the recipes? How much of a say do you get in things like the cover photo and overall look of the book?"
There are close to 120 recipes in the book. Some are ones that I have been making and/or eating since I was a small child and those recipes were passed on to me by close family friends and then tweaked until I was happy with them. Many more are classic German recipes that are largely very well-known here nationally or regionally and that I developed based on a ton of different sources and a good amount of my own taste. Because Maja and I sourced our recipes from all over the place - ancient cookbooks, contemporary ones, the Internet, friends and family and so on - there were plenty of flops during the testing phase. I remember with particular distaste a hideously over-egged lemon cake, a flat and greasy almond-quark cake, and a grainy and leaden chocolate Gugelhupf. Gah! And then there were many more recipes that weren't outright flops, but just not good enough to make it into the book. We, to put it lightly, ate a lot of cake (and cookies and bread) over the past 18 months.
The publisher does not officially test the recipes - as with most publishers, in the United States at least, the author has the responsibility to provide well-tested recipes. But my editor and some of her colleagues have baked several recipes from the book so far in their free time and have been very happy with the results. Yay!
As for the last question, I am part of the decision-making process for the look of the book, exterior and interior, but it is very much a group effort. Each department, so to speak, has a say: sales and marketing, design, obviously, editorial, and me. It's collaborative.
"Sounds like you've thoroughly tested the recipes in Germany, but my understanding is that US butter, flour, etc taste and bake differently than European ingredients. What will be your process for testing these recipes with US ingredients?"
Over the many years that I've been baking here in Germany, I've used standard German 405 or 550 flour for American all-purpose flour and the results in my cookies and cakes baked from American recipes have always been just right. So when I started testing recipes for the book, I stuck to using those flours as much as I could and am pretty pleased with the reports I've been getting from my testers in the US and from the recipes I tested myself on recent trips to the States. German butter, like all European butters, is higher in fat than US butter so I note in the book that, if possible, you should use imported butter that has a higher butterfat content, especially in recipes where butter is a starring ingredient. But all of the recipes in the book will also work just fine with standard American butter.
German baking replies heavily on fresh yeast, which can be tough to find in the US (though I hope this book changes that!). It makes for exceptionally puffy and delicious yeasted goods. When I could justify not using fresh yeast in a recipe, I called for instant yeast, which is the same in Germany as it is in the US, where it is also known as bread machine yeast. (Active dry yeast does not exist here in Germany and does not work reliably, in my opinion. So I have many warnings throughout the book not to use it.) However, German baking powder works differently than American baking powder, so I have a large supply of American baking powder here in Berlin which I used to test the entire book (I also use it for any other baked goods I make). Same goes for vanilla extract - I buy it in the US and then keep a stash here which I use every time I bake. In other words, the book was written largely for the American baker and the recipes should all work as written. One caveat, of course, is that depending on your location and the temperature and humidity of your location, your doughs may require a tiny bit more moisture or flour. As you learn to work with yeasted doughs, you'll learn to recognize if they need a few drops more water or milk, or another sprinkling of flour.
"As a fellow writer, I'd love to know what the process was like collecting and narrowing down particularly "German" recipes, and for particularly for you, someone who has had many 'homes,' including Germany, what that felt like."
Luckily, German baking, while a vast, vast subject, has its clear mega-hits, so I always knew that the book would have to include a lot of things, like Schwarzw��lder Kirschtorte or Linzer Torte (which is Austrian, to be precise), for example, that I didn't grow up with personally, but that were sort of archetypal and essential to the book. Because German baking is such a thing, for lack of a better word, and in no place more strongly than right here in Germany, it wasn't particularly difficult to collect recipes. In fact, we could have easily made the book twice as long as it is. Narrowing down the recipes to include was something I did largely based on my own taste. For example, I'm not a huge fancy cake or torte person, so I edited the selection of those for the book quite carefully, while I absolutely adore yeasted cakes and could rarely keep myself from slipping one more recipe in. Several of the recipes I've grown up with, like Springerle, Basler Leckerli, and Pflaumenkuchen, were included not just because of nostalgic reasons, but also because they are just so good.
I relied a lot of Maja's input, of course, which was invaluable, but also on the taste of trusted friends and bakers, who insisted, for example, that Franzbr��tchen, squashed cinnamon buns, a regional specialty from Hamburg, or Streuselschnecken, iced streusel-topped sweet buns, be included. Then I spent a lot of time thinking about what American readers would be interested in making, what would be challenging to them, or comforting, or a revelation. That led to me including a recipe for standard white breakfast Br��tchen, because everyone who visits Germany raves about them, to an aged Lebkuchen dough, to illustrate how entrenched baking traditions are here, just to mention two. It's really important to me that this book educate, illuminate and explain certain aspects of German culture, as well as food traditions, because I think that providing cultural context is really crucial when it comes to food. And then there were the fun decisions, based solely on deliciousness and ease of preparation. The slam dunks, so to speak. Maja and I both fondly remember those many happy moments when we first dug into something freshly baked and it felt like the heavens were opening up as we ate. Those were the easiest things to include and the ones we're still making on a regular basis, like the best Marmorkuchen (marble cake, Maja's family's recipe) I've ever had and my beloved Gugelhupf.
It was important to me to include regional specialties too, so we did a lot of delving into regional cookbooks and websites for inspiration. I hope the book reflects an interesting cross-section of German baking for people who are totally new to the subject, but also to old pros.
"I'd love to hear about the editing process, particularly the developmental edit."
On the manuscript due date, I sent off the file via email to my editor. Then I stared in stupor at a wall for about an hour. No joke. It took me about four days to bring myself to open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate, I was just so drained. While I worked on celebrating my hard work (or lying sleeplessly in bed at night freaking out about some recipe that I should have included or some wording that suddenly seemed really wrong), my editor worked on the manuscript for several weeks, marking it up with questions and comments both big and small. (Like, "Why do you require a timer for this here but not there?" or "I hate raisins! :)" or "Let's move this long digression on the difference between East German poppy seed fillings and West German poppy seed fillings to page XYZ".) When her developmental edit was done, I got the manuscript back and had a few more weeks to work on answering her questions, accepting or rejecting her changes and adding last-minute recipes that either occurred to me or to her (pretzels!). I also feverishly tested several more recipes and incorporated those changes. When that was finished, the manuscript went back to my editor who looked over everything and then passed it on to the copy editor.
Right now, I'm waiting to get the manuscript back from the copy editor so that I can find out just how many times I wrote "poppyseed" instead of "poppy seed" and how many instances of the conversion of the weight of ground almonds from Imperial to metric are not entirely accurate. Welp! This is the nit-picky part of the editing process, where one lives in terror of a mistake slipping through or an inconsistency not being caught and one has fever dreams about hordes of angry Amazon reviewers tearing your carefully written book to shreds in less than a year's time. Good times, in other words! When I'm done working through the copy edit, the manuscript goes back to my editor who will then have someone input all the final changes before sending the file off to design, which will convert that final Word document into the design program and pair my words with the photographer's images. After that, the thrilling moment of seeing first pass pages awaits (in other words, seeing the book laid out in designed pages and no longer as an old, black-and-white Word document).
Round 1 of the Silesian poppy seed roll, getting brushed with butter. I think this may be one of the most-tested recipes in the book, even though it was pretty great right from the start. I just can't quit it, I guess. In fact, it's on the docket for next week again.
And finally, from Instagram:
From @awhofsy: "Do you give the recipes to other people to test?"
Yes! Many, many other people! Maja and I made most of the recipes in the book multiple times, both together and separately, but I had dozens of testers in the United States working on the recipes as well. Still do, in fact.
From @maitlowe: "What were the easiest, hardest and most rewarding parts of writing the cookbook?"
The easiest thing was having Maja in my kitchen. I'm pretty particular about who I share my kitchen space with, but Maja and I fit together right away. In fact, I got so used to having her around that now when I'm working in the kitchen alone, I feel an actual empty space where she's supposed to be. The hardest thing was getting started. The project seemed so huge and insurmountable at first that it took me quite a bit of time just to jump off the springboard. The most rewarding thing has been reading through the manuscript now that it's almost completely done and feeling deep in my belly that I'm so proud of how the text of the book has turned out. As I mentioned in the previous post, I actually want to own and bake from this book forever, even if it hadn't been written by me.
From @_emilywenzel: "Did you ever perfect your Stollen recipe?"
This is the only question to which I will give the following answer: You'll have to buy the book to find out! :)
January 18, 2016
A few of you have written to check if I'm doing okay. Thank you so much for your sweet notes. I'm doing just fine. December was a blur of working on the developmental edit of the German baking book, which is now officially titled Classic German Baking (ready your bookshelves!) and then the utter madness of the holidays. We stayed at home in Berlin, hoping for a quiet break, and ended up hosting countless breakfasts, lunches, and teas with friends and family from out of town. The dishwasher ran once a day and the days flew by. It was lovely and fun, but not what I'd call restorative. So January is turning out to be a slow one for me and I'm very grateful for it.
The work on the book is not yet over. I'm waiting to get the manuscript back from the copy editor because I have countless little fixes here and there to make, testing notes to incorporate and final cuts to make. To give you just the tiniest glimpse of what the past 18 months have been like in terms of recipe testing on the cookbook, here's just a small selection of the hundreds and hundreds of recipes we - my intrepid assistant Maja and I - tested. It's funny to look back at these photos now. It's like gazing at a beloved relative. They all seem so familiar and easy to me now that I've made them dozens of times. I can't wait for the book to be published for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that I'm really looking forward to baking from it myself. For the rest of my life!
Bite-sized Elisenlebkuchen, flourless and rich with nuts and marzipan.
Two-month-aged (yes!), old-fashioned Lebkuchen dough. These cookies, once baked and cooled, get enrobed in chocolate. They keep forever and get more and more delicious as they age. I'm obsessed. Worth mixing the batter in October, I swear.
Hessian potato cake studded with caraway and bacon. Can't remember the number of times this was made - we loved it immensely.
Zimtsterne, only the fussiest cookie known to man. So crisp-chewy and wonderful that they're worth the effort, though.
Yeasted dough, number 6,754. I can make this stuff in my sleep now.
Russischer Zupfkuchen, not Russian at all, but much loved all over Germany. Cocoa crust, sweet Quark filling, more cocoa crust on top. Yeah, it's pretty great.
Yeast dough number-who-even-cares-anymore. Still beautiful, each time I make one.
I'd love to keep you posted and updated on the book as it goes forward. Do you have any questions about the process that you'd like me to write about? And soon: bonus recipes for you to try!
Happy new year to you all. xo
November 26, 2015
I am in Boston right now, visiting my family, and it is Thanksgiving, of course, and we are invited to my father's second cousin Bob's house, where Bob's daughter Julia and her newborn daughter Sylvia will be present, so if you're doing the math, Hugo gets to meet his fourth cousin today, and how many of us can claim to have ever met our fourth cousin? Hugo has been "writing" shopping lists for the baby all week. We are all very excited.
My stepmother Susan and I have made two pies to bring - her fantastic apple tart, which, according to her notes, she's been making at least since the 1970s (it's a tarte sucr��e shell filled with freshly made applesauce and topped with thin slices of apples decoratively arranged, then run under the broiler and glazed), and an experiment of sorts, a free-form galette filled with spiced, sliced persimmons (nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, orange peel).
What I'm really writing to you about today is salad. And while I understand that following the description of two Thanksgiving pies with a post about salad might seem, what's the word, unfair, bear with me. This is no regular salad.
I'm talking about Melissa Clark's recent recipe for a tangle of radicchio and arugula dressed with a tangy, garlicky, creamy dressing (buttermilk! tarragon! lemon juice!) and tossed with slices of delicata squash that have been roasted with honey and chile (or smoked paprika, as I used, in case you have small eaters in your home who don't want to eat 'picy things) until sweet and fudgy.
Sounds good, right? I am here to tell you it is even BETTER than you think it will be. We had it for lunch today (incidentally, it's sort of the perfect pre-Thanksgiving lunch, since it's fresh and satisfying without being too heavy) and basically spent most of lunch exclaiming, out loud, to each other, about how good it was. Bitter greens, sweet-spicy squash, creamy-sour dressing���you see what I mean? Oh, and roasted pecans, too! Soft, crunchy, cool, delicious.
I happen to think delicata squash might be the most delicious squash, sweet and nutty, and it's definitely the easiest to deal with. If you can't find it, I would substitute slices of kabocha squash (or hokkaido, for you Europeans). Melissa calls for smoky chile powder (like New Mexico or chipotle), which will give the squash some lovely heat. I substituted sweet smoked paprika, for that same smoky flavor, but no heat. Whatever you do, make sure you don't skip the dressing, which ties the slightly unwieldy and boisterous greens together with the squash wedges just beautifully. And the roasted pecans! If you don't have them, I guess you could use walnuts, too. Just don't skip the nuts entirely.
And with that, friends, I'm off to have a cup of tea and go give thanks, for, well, everything. For you too. xo
2 delicata squashes (10 ounces/280 grams each), halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
1 tablespoon honey
1 �� teaspoons kosher salt
�� teaspoon smoky chile powder or smoked sweet paprika
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
��� cup/80 ml buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 small head radicchio, cored and shredded
4 cups arugula
��� cup/85 grams chopped toasted pecans (see note)
1. Heat oven to 425 F/220 C degrees. In a large bowl, toss squash with honey, 3/4 teaspoon salt, chile powder or paprika and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, lemon juice, tarragon, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the garlic. Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) oil.
3. In a large bowl, combine radicchio, arugula, squash, pecans and scallions. Toss in buttermilk dressing; taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Note: To toast pecans, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until they deepen in color and turn fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool before chopping.