Archive for the 'Cooking' Category

St. Patrick’s Day aftermath

Okay, actually we didn’t do anything for St. Patrick’s Day, but we went out for brunch and saw tons of green-themed people in the subway. I especially like these green ballerina tutus for little girls, but for the most part, I am shocked at how everything is so uniformly bright green.

It looks exactly the way it should.

Nevertheless, Pip sent me a recipe for oatmeal soda bread, and I figured it would be nice to try out some new bread again. I made it with whole rolled oats and whole wheat flour, so it promises to be very healthy, especially with the neglectable amount of salt and sugar put in.

Two similarly shaped objects.

The bread turned out pretty much like I expected – very fragrant and delicious, but also very dense. From the photos you can see online, my bread is probably exactly the way soda bread should be. It goes best with a huge dollop of jam on it, and perhaps this is also a good time to take out the Nutella, hahaha. Overall, I thought it was a nice bread but not the type I go crazy for (think banana bread). Since the bread only lasts for like a day or two, it’s also not very practical, especially when you make such a huge one like virtually every recipe suggests. I think I will stick to fruit and yeast breads in the future.

I didn’t think I was ever going to do that…

Ever since we made the New York Times chocolate chip cookies, we are convinced that there must be a reason why some of their recipes become huge fads all over the internet. This bread is one of them, and again, it did not disappoint. In all honesty I am still looking for the perfect baguette or the perfect everyday bread, but this bread achieved something I never would have expected: the perfect artisanal bread. It’s at least as good as the bread you get in restarauts before your meal and goes perfectly with olive oil. In fact, I could barely stop myself from eating the entire loaf at once (that is 1 1/2 pounds of bread, mind you!)

The bread tastes just as hipster as the picture suggests.

Somehow the bread ended up baking very fast, and it may have been a good idea to stick to a lower oven temperature or simply take out the bread earlier. However, everything else seems to have turned out perfect; the dough seemed to have the perfect consistency and the crust was exactly like I expected. The bottom just got a little too burnt but the top is beyond great. I wonder if I am ever going to go for another recipe, but at least the incredible easiness of making this bread inspired me.

I must go through iterations of all spreads – butter, nutella, jams etc. to see if there is anything which rivals olive oil.

With that said, I am getting more and more convinced of the Smitten Kitchen blog, making it at least to the top 5 recipe resources (along with, Simply Recipes, Just Hungry and Serious Eats). Her posting on this bread was definitely helpful. I may even buy the book one day. It is the no.1 bestselling cookbook in Amazon though, so that is a little crazy.

Similar but not the same

I have a can of azuki bean paste (oh my goodness, I love it so much!) and tons of glutinous rice flour. (Actually I think I had 3 pounds, out of which one is now used.) The Chinese version, yuanxiao, is made with the flour, water and bean paste. The Japanese version, daifuku, is made with the flour, water, sugar and bean paste. However, besides the fact that I made ichigo daifuku (i.e. the daifuku have a strawberry in them), the difference between the two are huge.

It didn’t actually take that long to make these.

Yuanxiao are cooked in water and then also served hot in a sweet soup (in my case, I was lazy so I just diluted some brown sugar in the soup). This means that you make a dough which consists mostly of rice flour (and some water), which needs to be at the right consistency to wrap the bean paste in. If it’s too watery, it will stick and not hold its shape; if it’s too dry, it’ll break easily during the wrapping process. I figured out that having a slightly dry dough is fine, because you can just use water to fill the cracks. Speaking of cracks, amongst the 25 or so I made, only 2 ended up breaking apart during cooking. That’s pretty good for a first try, I would say!

It didn’t actually take that long to make these.

For the ichigo daifuku, you make something like a batter with a 1:1 water to flour ratio and add sugar more or less to taste (overall, I roughly had a 1:1:0.7 ratio). I was so terrified of this production process. I microwaved the batter for roughly 7 minutes and let it cool down while wrapping the bean paste around the strawberries. It’s a thankless and surprisingly boring task. Later I forgot about the mochi for a little too long, so the wrapping of the final mochi layer was probably also harder than necessary. But, surprisingly the end product ended up fairly round after all!

Yuanxiao used to be my favorite dessert of all times, but all in all, ichigo daifuku are better. The combination of strawberries, red bean paste and mochi is absolutely unbeatable. I love mochi, strawberries and red bean paste separately, but the combination is probably the most godly food in existence. To me.

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 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.


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.

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 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.

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…

Perhaps my favorite German dish

Personally I think that Sauerbraten is a fail-safe dish. You can do with it whatever you want, and there are a million ways to make and eat it. I used yet another recipe and especially picked this one for its amazingly high content of vinegar. The meat came out really sour (more so even than last time I made it) and the sauce was too. I added a bunch of raisins, upped the amount of jam and put a big chunk of brown sugar into the sauce, resulting in an almost perfect sweet and sour sauce. With that said, I used ginger snaps instead of Soßenkuchen (or any other Lebkuchen) as some American recipes describe, so the addition of sugar and other spices was probably necessary to begin with. Even though added flour turned into clumpy failures, luckily the sauce also turned out well.

Since this is a Rhineland style Sauerbraten, we are having it with apple sauce and apples.

The making of the rest of the Sauerbraten was surprisingly simple. For the marinade all you need to do is the dump the meat into the ingredients. Afterwards, browning the meat can be a challenge, but it’s ultimately a rather common technique. Afterwards, the whole thing stays in the oven for a million years, open-ended. Hence, in terms of cooking technique, the only ‘interesting’ aspect is the sauce, really.

Rodion is not actually too interested in this food though.

You have to let the marinade stay for a few days at least (I only had 2 1/2 days in this case!), and the roasting takes many hours. However, apart from that the production of this meat is not even all that time-consuming. It really is the perfect dish for a leisure Sunday. Instead, I used the rest of the time to make Spätzle – for the first time in my life! I have previously only known canteen-food-style Spätzle which were pre-made and always have this very strange consistency, I don’t even know how to describe it. Only a few years ago I have finally been invited to some people’s house who made those Spätzle from scratch – the traditional way of course, with flour, eggs and water. They were so awesome! I totally wanted to do this too.

They taste exactly the way I remember them.

I liked how the Spätzle came out taste-wise, but more eggs (perhaps 4 eggs for 300g of flour) could probably have been beneficial to the recipe. After all, I ended up adding way more water than what the recipe called for in order to achieve the same dough as the Youtube videos show. I googled some videos to see how you cut these Spätzle into the water… and it’s quite an experience! It’s hard without the proper material, and the result was impressively uneven – but who cares? Small pieces of Spätzle taste just as good as large ones, and they go absolutely perfect with the Sauerbraten sauce.

I am so looking forward to the leftovers for lunch. Also, photos of the production process are uploaded to Flickr.

I love Mad Men

There are tons of Mad Men type dinner meal propositions on the internet, for example for the new start of the season. Instead of birthdays and name days and christenings of children that people don’t get anymore these days, we invent new means to have a celebration because we are neither interested in religious holidays nor those involving not-truly-memorable historical days of the killing of people. In some sense, Mad Men figures as an ersatz religion. All these meals include some sort of 60s style food, but one dish is always, always present. Certainly it is the meatloaf Betty is making several times during the show.

Call me Betty Draper… uh…Francis?

Nowadays I like using Punchfork to find recipes I like because it’s so hip and 2.0. Also it regularly links to blogs like Simply Recipes which I like. I am not sooo big of a fan of Smitten Kitchen somehow, and I don’t even remember which recipe it was that I disliked. But there was one. I didn’t like Paula Deen’s as much and wanted to avoid all versions including bacon. It had to be a meatloaf with a barbecue-like glaze. In the end, it was a meatloaf with 2/3 ground beef and 1/3 ground pork, based on Alton Brown’s (whose glaze I followed to the T) and Simply Recipe’s, both of which are rather similar. But the best and most scrumptious recipe seemed to be the one on Epicurious, and the spices I used for the meatloaf were inspired by this.

Some veggies are necessary!

I think the result was quite delicious and I’d make meatloaf again any day. It’s a convenient type of food, very juicy and not too dense, and it fills you up beautifully without making you feel lethargic. Just perfect for a family dinner.

Pasta is so photogenic

In fact, I have made banana pancakes and crêpes lately, but since they are sort of boring, I ended up having two postings of pasta one after another. But, pasta is the best! My relatively large amount of cauliflowers and broccoli needed to be made into something, and then I also bought arugula… So what better can you do than combining them? This pasta is not a sauce unlike my last pasta and includes real tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. Since the taste of cauliflower and arugula is relatively soft, I decided against putting in any onions or red bell peppers (that’s for next time when I’ll be making an arrabiata!), so the only addition to this is shredded parmesan on top and garlic (which is doing wonders to this dish).

The vegetables are even nicer with non-long noodles. 

Today, I was actually worried about not having enough food in the fridge to last till Thanksgiving. How wrong I was. I still have parsnips, eggplants, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, haricots verts, mushrooms, bok choy and a cabbage. That makes something like 8 meals, and since I will be eating out some too, it’ll easily last till next Wednesday. Oh, and pears.