Archive for November, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

These days, I feel like we are jumping from holiday to holiday. Starting with my birthday, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving and soon, my favorite of all, Weihnukkah! (That is what I call the combined holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah, as seen on this lovely illustration for the Jewish Museum Berlin.)

Thanksgiving will probably be the greatest feast of all of these, for which we decided to make a big meal entirely from scratch. Apart from the lack of guests, this is definitely the most traditional Thanksgiving we have ever had. None of the ingredients is pre-bought and or coming from a fabricated mix, and unsurprisingly we spent 2 days practically entirely in the kitchen. I could and want to write a million things about what we made, what issues I ran into and so on, but I should rather picture-spam you instead.

Herb butter for the turkey.

So much butter for a turkey!

Braised leek with lemon sauce

This recipe is surprisingly pointless, but the combination of leek and lemon sauce is awesome.

Beer and cheddar battered shrimp

We finished about half of them before this photo was produced… they are just so tempting.

Sweet potato and sausage stuffing

Stuffing is so stuffing!

Green bean mushroom casserole

I had no idea that this is a traditional dish. We dressed it up by using shiitake mushrooms, and I love it that way.

Biscuits

Biscuits are about my favorite thing in the world. It is especially good either with cranberry sauce or with gravy.

Cranberry sauce

It may take a little while to make (but only a little!), but the end result is so much better than anything in the stores.

Gravy

We got a super nice turkey, which ended up making a super nice gravy too.

Chocolate hazelnut tart

The danger of making things one day before is the impossibility to resist eating it beforehand…

Classic pecan pie

Pecan pie is the quintessential American pie for me (after all, apple pies exist everywhere). It’s lazy, easy and delicious. Though I went through the trouble to do make a vodka pie crust.

Overall, including turkey

I did my best to arrange the whole thing in a pretty way for serving, but honestly, Thanksgiving food is not exactly made for the eye. It’s for the stomach!

A plate with a piece of everything

It’s really hard to get just a small piece of everything… also note that I grabbed my favorite piece of any poultry – the wing! Hahaha.

Ah, Thanksgiving. What are you grateful for? To me, I recently feel like there are a million things. After giving myself a little break from a fairly unpleasant situation, I have this sudden feeling that the world is very beautiful and that I am glad and – well – grateful about their existence in the world. My latest favorite sob story from the interwebs strangely expresses this feeling quite well (so it’s fiction but honestly who cares). Also, if you are reading this, I am grateful for you too. ^^

The recipe would not feed 6 people

Today’s food post needs almost no explanation. The truth is that the recipe I found is virtually perfect. I followed it to the T, including the half an hour waiting time for the batter. Having only 4 eggs available, I recalculated all the ingredients to 2/3 of the original, and there are only very minor things one could improve: I used a small frying pan to make these (which was a very good idea, flipping is much easier!) and had to make 5 pancakes. Since the last pancake lost some of the original fluffiness, ideally I should have split the batter in two bowls before adding egg whites and raisins, but oh that is too much of a hassle.

Actually a tiny portion because I ate so many while cooking.

Amongst all pancakes, my favorites are super thin crepes, super thick pancakes and, even more than those, Kaiserschmarrn. The huge amount of eggs makes the pancakes almost as fluffy as pancakes which necessitate baking powder to puff up, and raisins are amongst my favorite things in the world. Most definitely I will want to make these again, even though they are a little more involving than pancakes and crepes.

I think I have learned to cook them to perfection now.

Concerning the title – the recipe says that this amount would feed 4-6 people. 4 sounds just perfect, and certainly there is not enough for 6.

Is it OK for gifts to be ugly?

Yesterday, I suddenly realized that I have no gift for the nice person who will take me in today so I can avoid sleeping at a hostel. I have been planning to bake a pie for her weeks ago and have even procured all the necessary ingredients (copious amounts of pumpkin puree that is) but then I realized that the pie dish is at somebody else’s house. (When you bring a pie to someone’s house, it’s kind of hard to claim the pie dish back when the pie has not been finished after all! I trust those people to bring the pie dish back to us one day though… they are extremely polite.)

So I needed a new strategy, and was so incredibly glad when I discovered that we have a glass of cherries stocked at home. Note to self: Get more of these cherries next time I am at Trader Joe’s, they are absolute life-savers. The truth is that, for some reason, the chocolate and cherry combination is absolutely irresistible. When I started off as a young baker, most things I have baked never really turned out right. Nowadays I got much better, but at the time, the only thing that truly worked for me was chocolate cherry cake. It is beneficial to get a recipe for which the dough is moist and chocolate-y and nice, but even if is not, the strong taste of chocolate and the moisture of the cherries can make up for sub-par baking skills and/or a bad recipe. I might be biased because this is my favorite baked good from childhood, but there is just something about it that makes this particular cake ubiquitously beloved. Unless you hate chocolate or cherries of course, but who would do that? Note to self 2: Tell Tessamon about this.

It so happens that I am not entirely happy with this recipe. The dough came out really really watery, and I really ought to skip some of the milk, but taste-wise and consistency-wise, these muffins are absolutely perfect. They might not look extremely pretty, but they are the most moist muffins I have had in awhile, and everything in it goes well. I have used Hershey’s cocoa which has a strong chocolate taste as well as chocolate morsels which allow for a nice, gooey surprise if you bite into a piece. It is also important to get rid of the cherry juice so the dough will not turn into mush, but apart from that, this is a fail-safe recipe. I mean hey, my watery mess turned into a great muffin after all!

A silly picture. Diet Snapple and salad courtesy of the department.

I assume that it is because of the general lack of cherries in a glass, but there aren’t very many good recipes for chocolate cherry cake in English. I pulled one of the many you can find on chefkoch.de and painstakingly converted all the measurements into cups. Here’s the result:

  • 1 glass cherries
  • A little less than 100g of chocolate morsels (eyeballing is fine)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 Tsp cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tsp sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil

Recipe-wise it’s quite simple. Mix all dry ingredients together (except chocolate morsels and cherries), make sure to sift everything. Beat eggs and add all other wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix carefully, add chocolate morsels and cherries at the end. Bake at 395F.

Baking for the occasion is my favorite thing

In fact, a good part of this blog’s postings probably comes from baking for some event, like going to someone’s house or – much more often – because it’s some special day. St. Martin’s Day is apparently only really a big thing in specific regions in Germany, so I have never really known much about its traditions. All I knew was that they have parades on the day, and that it is Pochi’s name day! 😀 This year, I stumbled upon a posting on chefkoch.de where they talk about food traditions on St. Martin’s Day (apparently a goose is being prepared), and I decided to make one of these Weckmann. They are also called Stutenkerle but I really don’t like that name as much.

Speaking of Aiya!, I have now received two books I recently bought, the Just Bento Cookbook and the BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook. The former probably needs no introduction since it’s basically the Just Bento website in book form, the latter is going to be my introduction to sewing for total beginners. The book doesn’t have a lot of content, but so far it will be just enough for me, I believe. Everything else is in my other sewing book (huge encyclopedia-style thing) as well as on the internet.

But I digress. Most of all, Aiya! is a food blog right now, so onto the goodies. Yeast dough seems to be way more popular in Europe than it is anywhere else. Most of all, I think this is because yeast is perceived as an unpleasant taste on this side of the continent. It seems to me that yeast is super popular in sweets in Asia as well as in Europe because kids grow up with the taste of yeast. It is in our bread and all kinds of other daily dishes – Dampfnudeln, Hefebrezeln, steamed buns either with meat or sweet fillings etc. etc. But in the US, most of these yeast items have not survived for reasons I don’t quite understand. Even pizza typically doesn’t taste very yeasty here.

There are alternatives to yeast (quark and oil), but for me, if I want to make something traditional, it just has to be made the traditional way. The horror! I am terribly afraid of yeast doughs because I don’t use yeast very often. Considering how well these Weckmänner have turned out, perhaps this is a good first step to making more yeast things! They got rather crispy and brown on the outside, but the very inside was warm and fluffy, thank goodness.

They are holding hands.

Would I make these again? Heck yes. They are somewhere between cake and bread – you can eat them as one item out of a meal, as breakfast or as a snack, which makes them so much more versatile than your usual sweet baked good. Of course it’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but certainly they feel comforty.

Halloween is also about making pumpkin items

Can you believe that this pumpkin pie and the one below come from exactly the same recipe? There are various reasons for that. The pumpkin puree I got in Germany back then was very sour, very orange and ultimately very strange. Also, I think that brown sugar comes in many different colors, where this pie’s brown sugar is strangely darker.

It’s a dark pie.

I also was not able to get ground hazelnuts from the store, so without the extra hazelnut layer, the pie was essentially a very old-fashioned pumpkin pie. It has only one layer of creamy pumpkin-ness and as it is so for most pumpkin pies, it’s very soft and almost spent an hour in the oven to set. Personally that is exactly the way I like pumpkin pie, although the hazelnut layer would have provided some additional sweetness which I found a little lacking this pie. Well, in theory you are supposed to eat them with whipped cream after all! (But I am too lazy to whip cream, especially considering how unhealthy it is.)

Nevertheless, after less than 24 hours, only a bit more than half of the pie is left!

My favorite aspect of Halloween

Pumpkin carving! Ever since I did it at a friend’s house for the first time (this one), every year I have been looking forward to pumpkin carving. It is perhaps the only thing about Halloween that I like.

This year, I proudly present Misha and Rodion!

I originally thought we would get some design off the internet, but when it was decided that we’ll try to carve them, I was worried about the design. I hope we were able to capture Misha’s fluffiness and Rodion’s quintessential stripes. Apart from that, these were actually relatively easy to carve, which is the way I prefer them – cute and simple!

The pumpkins we bought from Trader Joe’s actually had a huge amount of seeds in them. Did you ever know that baked pumpkin seeds are disturbingly addicting? I couldn’t stop eating them as soon as I had one in my mouth…

Halloween owls have orange eyes

It appears that these owl cupcakes, made from Oreo’s are all over the internet. They come in different forms and shapes, but I got mine from here but even if you follow the credits, you would still have a hard time finding where the original idea is from, although these look pretty legit.

The first link I have posted shows all kinds of variations of owls, most of which were made with Oreo’s, like mine. In my opinion, the secret to especially cute Oreo owls is a colored nose (not just yellow) and slightly sad-looking eyes which are very close to each other. The recipe I used is really strange (it uses milk, apple cider vinegar and oil?) but came out as a perfectly moist cupcake base. This is especially serendipitous because I tried to follow the recipe exactly, but with all those eggs, milk and oil I thought it was way too much liquid and not enough flour. I ended up dumping in almost another cup of flour into the dough (it was perhaps 2/3 cups or so?) and voilà, it was the perfect cupcake. In this respect, I am not perfectly sure if I can recommend this recipe. It is certainly odd.

When eating, the trick is to quickly disassemble the toppings to achieve the smallest amount of guilt.

Later, when I ate parts of a base, I was surprised at how moist and pleasant the texture was, but it wasn’t sweet enough and tasted like flour and cocoa powder more than anything else. (I also used dark cocoa powder, turning the cupcake almost black.) However, after I added a butter+sugar+chocolate frosting, it had pretty much exactly the right sweetness to it. Not too much but certainly also not too little. The power of frostings are terrifying. I don’t usually like making cupcakes because of the frosting – it’s like a muffin but less healthy and more complicated to make? – so a cupcake has to offer something special to make me desire wanting them. Like cute owl shapes.

Just like in the recipe, my cupcakes use M&M’s which I actually think are a tiny bit too large. Smarties would have been best! Taste-wise, the nuttiness of the M&M’s are quite perfect though, and wonderfully compliment the Oreos.

I quickly ran out of brown M&M’s so the rest have blue eyes.

In some miraculous event, the end result turned out to be pretty and cute at the same time. I am astonished and probably will never make these again because I am afraid I might not be able to reproduce its goodness. Who knows?