Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Eve Countdown Clock Torte

If you have any mulled wine leftover from Christmas, may I present a most delicious and beautiful way to use it up. This torte consists mulled wine cream sandwiched between two layers of chocolate meringue-like cake. The clock topping is made from marzipan. 

The chill time on this baby is 3 hours. So make the cake before you tackle the clock topper. If you are short on time or not making this for New Year's eve, you can also leave the top plain, adding a dusting of cocoa powder. To get into the New Year's Eve spirit,  the clock is minutes from striking midnight. Oh the anticipation.

This recipe is from a German cooking magazine. I switched things up with the directions and created a fancier clock than was pictured in the magazine. Also this cake demands a cake stand. I was shocked to discover (queen of props here) that I did not have a color appropriate one to style the cake for the photos so I went with a cake plate.

Monday, December 28, 2015

German Lucky Pig Bread with Plum Jam Filling

Over in our part of Europe, after Christmas edible lucky pigs are everywhere. Pig shaped bread, chocolates, cakes, and marzipan clutter the markets and bakery windows. Pigs in non-edible forms such as statues, piggy banks, paper napkins and decorative table accessories are also on display.

For centuries in Germany and Austria and other parts of Europe, possessing large amounts of pigs was a sign of wealth.

Last year I was not in Germany for New Year's. Marzipan pigs are hard to find in the USA so I made my own

If you are planning your New Year's holiday menu, consider adding traditional lucky pigs to the list. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Dove Cupcakes

Merry Christmas everyone! I'm late with this post but these were just too pretty not to share. You can also make these Christmas Dove cupcakes for your New Year's celebration. Just change out the fondant ribbon and flower color combo to gold and silver or use blue for the flowers. Or just switch up the colors for your favorite combination.  You get the idea.

I love the idea of serving peace doves to bring in the new year.

I was inspired to make these after seeing this version from Alan and Karen of Hello Cupcake!  I immediately wanted to make my own version with of course lots of glitter. A fair warning -their version is much easier to make and take a lot less time than mine. 

To cut some corners time wise (Also if you want to make them for this evening), use a cake mix for the cupcakes, canned frosting and store bought fondant. I usually don't roll that way. Everything I create is homemade. However, I know how hectic it can be this time of year so everyone gets a pass.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Easy Holly Christmas Cookies

I made these for a recent UN spouse holiday breakfast. We started with breakfast and ended with salsa dancing. It must have been the hot mulled wine. Whatever it was, the important fact is everyone had a blast.  

Our appointed DJ provided a great mix of international holiday tunes in many different languages. 

It's fun and interesting to have such a large group of people in one room from so many different countries with their customs and traditions. Most of them speak several languages and have lived all over the globe while in service to the United Nations. It's a wonderful mix of talented, diplomatic and very flexible people.

For the breakfast, I brought both painted and unpainted traditional German Springerle cookies and these, that quite honestly, I made with leftover ingredients. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

German Traditional Painted Springerle Cookies

These famous Christmas cookies hail from the Swabia part of Germany and can be traced back to the 14th century. This version is a bit of a cheat. Let me explain why.

In the past when making these traditional German holiday cookies I have used hirschhornsalz (Baker's Ammonia)  which is a leavening agent. The US equivalent would be baking powder which makes the cookies rise or spring (jump) up. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Visit to the Christmas Markets of Lausanne, Switzerland

This lovely city was the last one  to explore on the itinerary of my recent Thanksgiving week trip to Switzerland. 

I took the train from Geneva, where were were based for the week. When you arrive in Lausanne, the city is a big uphill hike from the train station. The streets are beautiful to walk so if you are up for it, I recommend walking instead of taking a bus or the metro. 

Lausanne is most famous for being the Olympic Capital but at Christmas time, it's Festival of Lights (Festival Lausanne Lumières) is the star of the city. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Lebkuchen Bites for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

This was my first year participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It was so much fun benefiting a good cause, I can't believe it took me so long to get involved. 

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap brings together food bloggers from around the world to send and receive cookies. Each participant receives the addresses of three other food bloggers and sends each person on the list one dozen homemade cookies. The participant then received 3 boxes of cookies from three other bloggers. No one knows who they will receive cookies from until the goods arrive. 

It costs each blogger a tax deductible donation of a whopping $4 to participate.  Your task is to send out the cookies (all the same recipe) to the three bloggers assigned to you and write a blog post about it.  This year, the money went to  COOKIES FOR KIDS’ CANCER, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease. If you would like to get involved in next year's event, sign up here for Cookie Swap notifications

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pomegranate Soaked Apple Cake with Pistachio Streusel

I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a version of this cake while flipping through a German cooking magazine.  I knew I had to make my own version for the holidays.

The secret to the flavor of this cake is soaking the apple pieces overnight in a mixture of pomegranate juice and syrup. This not only amps up the taste but turns the apple slices a lovely shade of red which makes the cake so pretty. 

The streusel contains pistachios which provide unique flavor and color. I was going for a subtle red and green seasonal theme. You don't have to stick to pistachios.  Use your favorite nut or combination of nuts or use whatever variety you have on hand.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Red Wine German Gingerbread (Lebkuchen) Cake

A dense holiday spice cake studded with bittersweet chocolate chip pieces. The star of the cake, aside from the spices, is the red wine both in the cake and in the topping. The glaze contains no food coloring, just adding the wine gives tints it beautifully. 

German gingerbread contains Lebkuchengewürz. Similar to the spices in American gingerbread, most German versions contain additional ingredients such as cardamom, star anise and sometimes, dried lemon and orange peel.

A recipe for the German holiday spice mix or lebkuchengewürz can be found here. It's great for baking but also adds great flavor to the homemade mulled wine.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Visit to the Christmas Market in Montreux, Switzerland

My visit to Montreux, an easy day trip away from Geneva, was a fun and fantastic day of extremes.  

In addition to a wonderful christmas market, there was a visit to a medieval castle and a trip to a casino housing Freddie Mercury's recording studio and memorabilia. More about those next month. For now, let's visit this lovely lakeside Christmas market.

The train trip from Geneva to Montreux takes a little over an hour. This market, a short downhill journey from the central train station is a collection of 500 vendors clustered around Lake Geneva under a picturesque backdrop of the snow capped mountains. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Plum Pastries with Spiced Streusel

The name of these individual German pastries in German is Streuseltaler (translation: "streusel coins") The base is a yeasted cake which cradles an abundance of streusel crumbs and glaze and/or fruits.

What I love about making these pastries is the possibilities are endless. The flavor can be easily switched up in both the filling and the streusel by adding different spices, nuts and fruits.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A visit to the Christmas Market in Geneva, Switzerland

On a recent on week long whirlwind trip to Switzerland, I visited several cities and Christmas markets. Dr, B had a conference there so I tagged along and played tourist while he worked.

Lake Geneva, Geneva Switzerland

There were day trips to Montrex and Lausanne and lots of exploring of the city of Geneva. Several museums, exhibits, one gallery, one castle later, according to my iphone, 55 miles were walked and  106 + flights of stairs were climbed. 

Fortunately, no stat exists on how much Swiss chocolate I consumed. I don't think I want to know and I don't need Suri tattling. 

There will be posts on all that next month. In the next weeks, I will showcase on all the Christmas markets I visited in the area 

First up is Geneva.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cranberry Linzer Torte

Here is a lovely cranberry torte to make this holiday season. If you have some leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving slacking in the freezer,  even better. Haul it out and use it in this recipe.

The filling is a combination of fresh cranberries simmered with orange juice and sugar and then mixed with jam. Use the leftover cranberry sauce instead of the jam.

Named after the city of Linz, Austria, Linzer torte is considered to be the oldest cake in the world.  The crust traditionally contains ground nuts, usually almonds or hazelnuts. This version calls for ground almond flour. However, feel free to swap out the almond version for hazelnut flour or any other nut variety you like. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Red Velvet Cashew Kipferl Ribbon Cookies for World AIDS DAY

December 1 is always a sobering day for me.  Every World AIDS Day I think all day about the struggle of the 80's and 90's before effective HIV drugs were invented and how many people my community lost. Each year I commemorate the day in this space by baking something special.

From the World AIDS Day website:

Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, each year in the UK around 6,000 people are diagnosed with HIV, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

Kipferl are traditional crescent shaped, vanilla scented Austrian Christmas cookies. 
In Germany I have a kipferl pan. The cookies are so popular in Germany and Austria, special pans to shape and bake them in are readily available in most stores.