Monday, December 9, 2013
Lebkuchengewuerz is very popular in Germany over the Christmas holidays. It's a spice mix that is a milder form of gingerbread flavors and also include small amounts of anise and fennel.
Some interesting facts on the spice combinations that make up the mix from wikipedia:
There is no set mixture which makes up Lebkuchengewuerz, instead every baker is free to make up their own. One, traditional mixture is called "Neunerlei" mix, which stands for nine spices which are the perfect praise of God: The Holy Trinity, the three elements (earth, air and water) and the three spheres, Earth, heaven and hell.
When I see these little packets in the stores around Christmas time, the hoarding begins and I always stock up my USA kitchens with some of these.
I've used them in candy, cookies, ice cream and even in hot beverages like cocoa and mulled wine. S0 of course it was time for a French Macaron test drive.
Friday, December 6, 2013
This is the last post in my series. This week we have already visited markets in Cologne, Germany and Colmar France. Stay tuned later in the month when I will be back in Germany and looking for new interesting markets to cover.
Freiburg, a beautiful university city straddling the Dreisam river, is only 40 minutes from Basel, Switzerland by train which explains it's good weather. Located on the edge of the Black Forest, Freiburg is also known for it's vineyards.
Walking into town from the train station, I passed the beautiful Columbi hotel, bordered by a park..Even though it looked serene and picturesque, someone had left a box of disposable needles at the edge of the park. Hmmm...
The Christmas market is spread out over three areas, the Rathausplatz (city hall square), Franziskanerstrasse and at the Kartoffelmarkt (Potato Market). Unique items to buy are delicious vinegars, syrups and liqueurs made from fruit from the Black Forest. Also straw shoes (also pictured at the top of this post) worn in days gone by are still made and sold. They have a popular use as house shoes.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Over the many years I lived in Europe, I have visited countless Christmas markets in many different countries. Last December I posted a little series on this here blog that turned out to be pretty popular among you readers. The posts highlighted markets in Strasbourg, France, Basel, Switzerland and Munich, Germany and were cycled from an expat blog I used to author.
This year I picked three more cities for your viewing pleasure. We've already visited the many markets of Cologne, Germany. I will be traveling home to Germany for a few weeks over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Undoubtedly there will be more holiday posts from there. In the meantime, I thought I would kick off the season with three more of my favorite past visited places to haunt Christmas markets.
The medieval town of Colmar is almost a 40 minute train ride from Strasbourg. Although it's much smaller, it boast five picturesque Christmas Markets. When I was reading up on the history of the city, I read that Charles the Fat held a diet there in 884. Whaaa?
After a bit of digging, I found out that the other meaning of diet is a political assembly. There was no dieting for me in Colmar. The markets were bursting with too many regional goodies to sample. Another city that went back and forth under German and French rule, both languages are spoken here.
Colmar has the driest climate in France (making it the Alastian wine capital) but of course it was pissing rain the day of my visit but I soon forgot about the weather because I was so charmed by this lovely city.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Over the many years I lived in Europe, I have visited countless Christmas markets in many different countries. Last December I posted a little series on this here blog that turned out to be surprisingly popular. The posts highlighted markets in Strasbourg, France, Basel, Switzerland and Munich, Germany and were recycled from my old expat blog.
Back by popular demand, this year I picked three more cities for your viewing pleasure. I will be traveling home to Germany for a few weeks over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Undoubtedly there will be more holiday posts from there. In the meantime, I thought I would kick off the season with three more of my favorite Christmas markets.
I lived in Cologne for a few years. At first, part time, as I was commuting between Munich and Cologne for work. Then Dr. B and I ended up living there full time.
There are a lot of great things to see and do when you are in Cologne. Although once described as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Cologne was largely destroyed in WWII and not reconstructed to it's former glory like some other cities in Germany. There are some incredible pieces still left, like a Mikveh from the middles ages and the most obvious, the Cologne Dom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also worth mentioning are the Stumbling Blocks. These are found all around the city in front of houses where people who were deported by the Nazi lived. They remind me of putting a lost piece of the city back. Very moving.
I always said Cologne is a great place to spend a weekend. Now, since we live 45 minute outside the city, I like to go for the day to shop. Cologne has six main Christmas markets all very different, some unique.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Even thought it's a holiday weekend, I am skipping my usual end of month post where I publish a round up of all the funny blog posts that made me laugh this month and posting this in honor of World AIDS Day on Sunday December 1.
A freaky thing keeps happening to me on my weekly visit to the costal Long Island town where my mother lives. Every time I drive by the store front that used to by my childhood dance studio, the song Bad Bad Leroy Brown comes on the radio.
The first time I got chills because right before the song came on, I was thinking about my wonderful dance teacher who owned the studio and died of AIDS. How much fun I had studying and performing with him for years.
The second time I heard the song driving in the same vicinity, I just smiled. The third time it happened I teared up and just knew it was a sign from him. One of my favorite dance routines he choreographed for us was to Bad Bad Leroy Brown. I still remember some of the moves.
I remember clearly how devastated I was when my mother told me he had died of AIDS. This was at the peak of the crisis and I was in the middle of muddling through it with friends and colleagues. One more beloved person to add to that horrendous body count.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
I may be the last one to jump on the Thanksgivukkah train but there was no way it was going to pull out of the station without me aboard. What a fun challenge to create a hybrid Thanksgiving/Channukah treat. Since the first night of Channukah falls on Thanksgiving, these will be on the table for the first and last time for 77,000 years! A once in a lifetime blog post opportunity.
A couple of weeks ago Facebook friend mentioned his wife was going to make pecan pie rugelach and the wheels started turning. As delicious as that sounded I wanted to try something different, so pumpkin pie it was.
I make my pumpkin pies with homemade puree but I was fresh out and at this time in the season there was not a sugar pumpkin left in sight anywhere. So I caved and bought the can. And you know what? It wasn't so bad.
Monday, November 25, 2013
As I write this, these delicious nuggets are sitting in my fridge waiting their turn on the Thanksgiving dessert table.
When planning my Thanksgiving meal, I try to be practical and first take inventory in the fridges and cabinets to see if there is anything to inspire me as well as use up. I scored when I found a tub of homemade salted caramel and an excess of white chocolate chips. Perfect ingredients to make truffles.
I dressed them up in copper disco dust and edible gold, then added a shot of rum to get the party started. These were hands down some of the best tasting truffles I have ever made. You can swap out the rum for amaretto or cognac for an even sexier version.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
The sage in my garden is out of control and still going strong. Every weekend I expect it to be dead but each time it surprises me with its hardiness. So there's plenty of sage around and I am hoping it lasts until Thanksgiving.
However when I saw a powdered version in the market, there was no escaping buying it to put in French macaron shells. I've been experimenting like crazy lately with new French macarons flavors so please excuse the fact I just posted macarons last week. These were worth squeezing in before Thanksgiving.
Obviously I had to round out the taste with sumptuous seasonal flavors. More than one was in order. I roasted some sugar pumpkins recently and had the pureed result on hand. A splash of bourbon makes everything better, Thanksgiving desserts especially alluring.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
For years I've always envied the little pumpkin shaped cakes I've seen on blogger and food sites. I finally bought myself two of those mini bundt pans to pull off this little pumpkin cake miracle and of course, they sat in my pantry for over a year.
Since I had the idea for Thanksgiving this year to serve platters of small size treats for dessert (so everyone can taste everything without taking a whole piece of cake or pie then inevitably able only able to take a few bites), it was time to try to pull off this mini pumpkin cake feat myself.
I had leftover buttermilk from a huge cupcake making marathon and some pumpkin puree I made with the first sugar pumpkins I spotted this season. So I put them together to make a pumpkin buttermilk pound cake. The density of pound cake works great when working with cake molds.
After the mini bundts were baked, I used a sharp knife to trim the excess cake off of each one and glued the two halves together with some leftover buttercream (also from the above mentioned cupcake marathon.) I cooked up a batch of heavy glaze I used on my Day of the Dead Skull Cake, separated and tinted it with paste food coloring. I used one color to cover the cakes and then drizzled contrasting colors on top. I wanted a more free form, Jackson Pollock technique, instead of imitating perfect pumpkins. I got a little carried away with the drizzle method and there may or may not be stripes of colored frosting all over my kitchen walls.
Friday, November 15, 2013
These were a big leap of faith for me. I had thought about using Indian spices again after making these fennel macarons. However, after a few "eews" over my smoked paprika mac post (not by anyone who tasted them btw, they were deeelish) I was a bit hesitant.
Seeking warm spice fall flavors to use in making French macarons, my love for Indian food and spices plus a recently discovered, mostly forgotten about packet of garam masala sitting in my pantry all collided and convinced me to give this a go as a macaron flavor. Past "eews" be damned, l'm so glad I did. These came out great.
The shells are a bit savory but the sugar in the filling balances them really well in flavor.
I wanted something fruity and gentle for the filling so I added fresh pureed mango to vanilla buttercream. I have to get out of my buttercream filling rut but I had a ton leftover from a cupcake making spree. Adding a second element like mango is a sad excuse for creativity and happens way too often on this here blog but it does add another tangy, sweet flavor layer to the macaron.