A German baker has taken pie art to a mesmerizing new level
After the long, cold winter April brought wonderful spring weather and we are thankful that it has been warm and sunny. We have been very busy in the yards and gardens and have removed about 15 tall willows that were getting out of hand.
There was a time when I was more at home on ski slopes than anywhere else. I didn’t learn to ski until I was almost 30 years old, but when I did I became an impassioned downhill fanatic. This was at a time when I was supposed to be working on my PhD thesis in the lab, but that is another story. Weekends were spent in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, eastern France or northern Italy, looking for powder snow and great meals. Great meals? Well, of course. Skiing takes a lot of calories, but beyond that, good food was always my first passion.
I believe it was in 1972 that we were skiing in Pescegallo, between lake Como and Bergamo in Lombardy, northern Italy. On the slope we met some French people who told us about a very good restaurant somewhere south of where we were. Since this was more than 40 years ago I hope no one will be offended if every detail is not completely accurate, including the name of the restaurant. I looked on the map and found the Restaurant Step
Taleggio cheese is soft, with a thin rind and is always made and sold in squares. It has a rather pungent odour, but is actually quite mild in flavour. Most apparent is a nuttiness and fruitiness that reminds one of raisins or lemons. If it is not available there are reasonable substitutes such as Robiola, Fontina, Bel Paese or even a Limburger. It is definitely worth looking for the original, but in an emergency these other soft, aromatic cheeses will work for this recipe.
A few weeks ago I bought a block of Taleggio and decided to make the dish, but was undecided as to what to serve with it. A few days before Karin’s sister Monika had brought us the ingredients to make a dish she enjoyed, Turkish rice pilaf, and I thought it sounded like an interesting accompaniment. The rice she brought was medium grained, but I remember most of the Pilaf dishes in Turkey with long-grained rice, more like Basmati rice. I prefer long-grained rice because it does not need the intensive washing steps to remove excess starch.Back in the late 1960s I had spent 9 weeks in Turkey in the late 1960s and had enjoyed the amazingly nutty and aromatic rice dish, made with pastina-like noodles called arpa sehriye, similar to filini. One restaurant in Bergama, about 100 km north of Izmir, served it with the most amazing mutton dish and eggplant. The rice was served with a bowl of creamy yogurt to spoon over it and the meal was unforgettable. Here are my re-creations of these two memorable dishes:
For the chicken breasts
Ingredients for 3 servings (can be easily reduced or increased)
3 boneless chicken breasts without skin
salt and pepper
3 Tbl basil pesto
2 Tbl chopped basil leaves
3 Tbl crème fraîche or cream cheese
180 g (6 oz) Taleggio cheese – grated or cubed
30 g Parmesan cheese – grated
60 g (2 oz) fine bread crumbs
sweet paprika powder
500 g (1 lb) plum or other small tomatoes
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 220 °C (430 °F)
With a sharp knife cut slits int the chicken breasts, but not through.
Mix the cheeses, pesto and basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper. Press the mixture into the slits in the chicken breasts and place in a baking dish or roasting pan. Any excess cheese mixture can be spread onto the meat. Mix the bread crumbs with about 1/2 tsp of paprika powder and spread over the chicken.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, then place the tomatoes between the chicken breasts and trickle oil and vinegar over them. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 min or until the chicken has an internal temperature of 72 °C (160 °F).
Serve the chicken with a few tomatoes and don’t forget to spoon some over of the delicious juices out of the bottom of the roasting pan.
For the Turkish Rice Pilaf
for 3 servings
3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl Turkish rice noodles – Arpa Sehriye (filini or alternatively orzo)
1 cup long-grain rice (Turkish or Basmati)
2 cups warm chicken stock or water
2-1/2 tsp salt
Rinse the rice in cold water, drain and set aside.
In a medium pot melt the butter and roast the rice noodles until golden brown (with care as the noodles can easily burn). Add the washed and drained rice and heat for 3-4 minutes until the rice begins to emit its fragrance.
Reduce the temperature and add the warm water or stock and salt. Stir once, cover and allow to simmer until the water is completely absorbed, 10 – 15 min. It is important not to stir or otherwise disturb the rice until it is cooked. Place 3 layers of paper towel over the pot and cover tightly with the lid. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes on the warm stove top. If using a gas stove place the pot over the pilot light or over the smallest flame with a metal gauze to protect from burning.
We had a small number of these calendars made up for our own use and as gifts for good friends.
With the holidays coming up, we are in peak pie-making season. And pie makers are passionate people. Pies are so easy to buy that anyone who takes the time to make one from scratch — crust and all! — is guaranteed to impress everybody through sheer effort alone. Now one pie maker has raised the bar so high she managed to amaze even the woman who does everything beautifully: Martha Stewart herself.
Martha Stewart is hard to impress, and she knows a lot about baking. She’s written multiple books about pies, and she probably has very strong thoughts about butter temperature and crust flakiness. She recently Instagrammed an elaborate pie by Karen Pfeiff Boschek and told her 1.5 million followers that the blogger had “turned pie crust decorating into an art form.”
That is an extremely impressive pie! Each of those tiny leaves and flowers is hand-cut out of dough, which Boschek makes from scratch. Her craftsmanship is meticulous, and that pie looks like a work of art. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but it looks every bit as delicious as it is beautiful. I can imagine standing over that pie with a knife, trying to work up the nerve to cut through that beautiful crust. It’d be tough, but I think I’d manage eventually. Then I’d be rewarded with that amazing pie.
Boschek is an artist, cook, photographer, and blogger at Our Delicious Food. She lives in a 100-year-old former abbey next to the Vogelsberg National Park in Germany, and her Instagram is a record of some of the most beautiful pies anybody has ever seen.
Each pie on Boschek’s Instagram is meticulously crafted and absolutely stunning. Most of her pies are fruit pies, which she makes entirely from scratch and covers in a delicate array of tiny, hand-cut leaves, stars, and flowers. It’s no wonder Martha Stewart was impressed.
She photographs all her pies before and after baking to show what happens to her artwork in the oven, and that gives a glimpse into her process and shows how she achieves those next-level pies. It’s clear that she’s an artist, but she’s also very patient and detail-oriented. Her pies are inspiring!
In many families in Germany there is a tradition of making an apple cake to serve with coffee when guests come to visit in autumn. One of the most beloved cakes is this apple cake with slit apples on top.
It’s difficult to see, but if you look closely the apple quarters have been slit lengthwise about 2/3 through similar to Hasselback potatoes. This is more obvious below after baking.
26 – 28 cm (10 “– 11”) springform pan
shortening or spray to coat the pan (or 2 Tbl butter)
750 g (1.5 lb) apples for baking (Jonathans, Braeburn, Winesap, etc.)
125 g (1/2 cup) butter (room temperature or softened)
100 g (1/2 cup) white sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract or beans from one vanilla pod
¼ tsp salt
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
3 (m) eggs
200 g (1-3/4 cup) flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbl milk
2tbl apricot jam or
Prepare the pan by greasing the bottom and sides
Peel and core apples, quarter and cut slits lengthwise (do not cut through – as for Hasselback potatoes) sprinkle with lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180 °C (375 °F) fan-forced 160 °C (320)
Prepare batter – Using a hand mixer cream 125g (½ cup)butter. Slowly add the sugar, vanilla, salt and lemon zest while creaming at medium speed. Add one egg at a time, beating at high speed for 30 seconds each. Mix the flour and baking powder together and add in two batches, alternating with 1 Tbl milk (flour/milk/flour/milk) while beating at medium speed. Transfer the batter to the prepared spring-form pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Place the apple quarters equally spaced in a ring on the batter. Place the form in the lower third of the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 45 minutes or until light brown and baked through (cake tester or tooth pick)
If using apricot jam, mix 2 Tbl jam with 1 Tbl water and heat just to a boil. Using a pastry brush coat the surface of the cake immediately after removing from the oven. Remove the outer ring of the pan and allow to cool on a rack.
If using powdered sugar allow cake to cool, remove ring and dust with powdered sugar.
Serve as is, with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream (or both 😆 ).
This is wonderful served with whipped cream or ice cream
Red currants are amazing, and they grow well in almost any soil. They are astonishingly sour and need a good dose of sugar to overcome the large amount of ascorbic acid (more vitamin C than in oranges) and citric acid, however the taste is definitely worth it. We like to pull the little branches through the tines of a fork to get the berries off, then put them in sweetened yogurt or ricotta. They are a wonderful accompaniment to scones that we love to have for breakfast or in the afternoon for tea. I have been cutting the scones out as rounds or hearts or triangles, with or without raisins, currants or dried cranberries and sometimes with a citrus glaze. However, Karin bought this cast-iron wedge pan from Camp Chef a few months ago and I decided to try using it to make our Saturday breakfast scones. I sprayed it with baking spray and cut the dough into triangles that just fit the pan and baked until light brown. Of course, they took longer to bake than if cut out and placed on a baking sheet because the cast iron takes a good while to heat up. We were delighted with the moist, soft texture and will be using the pan regularly from now on. Here is our recipe, modified from a number of other scone recipes. Eggs tend to make scones heavier and denser so we do not use any, just sweet cream as liquid.
360g (12 oz) all purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder (we like tartaric acid based baking powder, but use what you have)
1/4 tsp salt
60 – 90 g (2-3 oz) sugar (vary according to taste)
90 g (3 oz) ice-cold butter cut into small cubes
210 – 240 ml (7 -8 oz) sweet whipping cream
Preheat Oven to 190 °C (375 °F)
Mix or sieve dry ingredients in a large bowl, then using your fingers or a pastry blender work in the butter to a consistency of coarse corn meal. Add the smaller amount of liquid to begin with and carefully mix with a fork until a thick dough forms. If too dry keep adding cream until the dough holds together. It is better to have a somewhat sticky dough than a dry, crumbly dough. This depends upon the flour you are using, so it is a matter of trial at first. If using raisins, currants, chocolate chips, dried cranberries or bayberries, add them now and mix them in well.
You may pat the dough out into a circle, or using a rolling pin roll it out and then either cut out using pastry or cookie cutters, or cut into triangles to fit the greased or baking spray treated wedge pan. Place the cut out scones on a baking tray covered with parchment or baking paper or with a baking mat. Bake for 20 minutes. If using the cast-iron pan bake longer (about 30 minutes) until the scones are lovely light brown in colour. Enjoy with butter, clotted cream, jelly or jam, honey or whatever else strikes your fancy. Scones are best when still warm from the oven.
No matter what you do with them, scones will become firm and dry if you store them more than a few hours. Pop them into the microwave for just a few seconds and they will magically come back to life.
Summer is now upon us here in central Germany and with it comes a lot of work outside in the yards and gardens. The work, however, brings joy and we love our herbs and our roses, our trees gardens. In the evening there is always time to bake a pie.
With the warm weather and outside work we have been finding a number of recipes that don’t take a lot of time or energy, that are nonetheless delicious and are pleasant on the warmest of days. This dish of curried lentils just fit the bill and we thought our viewers would enjoy it here, too. Our version is modified from a recipe we found in “Taste of Home, Canada.”
We have enjoyed this meal twice recently and it is excellent, easy to prepare and requires only one pot and one skillet. It can be varied by using baby shrimp, scallops or even white fish. Tandoori paste is available in most supermarkets these days, or in specialty Asian markets or from Amazon. All the rest of the ingredients should be easy to obtain.
Here is the recipe with some discussion about possible variations. The basic recipe is in the recipe register.
Ingredients for 4 servings
24 shrimp cooked
1 can chopped tomatoes
16 oz. (400 g) dried red lentils
2 tbsp tandoori curry paste
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 large onion diced
1 garlic clove minced
1 bell pepper diced
Rinse lentils well in cold water until the water remains clear. Place lentils in saucepan, cover with water (1 to 2 cups, or 250 to 500 mL) and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, approximately 20 minutes. If needed, add more water while cooking. Drain lentils and set aside.
Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic until softened. In a small bowl, combine tandoori paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper. Add curry mixture to onion and continue cooking over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato and reduce heat. Taste and adjust the heat by adding the chili powder. You can easily vary the seasoning according to the curry powder you use. If not spicy enough for your taste add more chili powder. Some curry preparations are already so spicy you may need to use less chili. Best try before serving!
Stir in baby shrimp and lentils, and simmer for about 5 minutes. If using raw shrimp simmer until the shrimp are pink.
When lentils are heated through, divide between four dishes and serve. We also like to adorn the plates with fresh coriander green (cilantro).
Note: This is one of those recipes you can vary in many ways. You can add other vegetables or replace the bell pepper. The original recipe called for tomato paste rather than canned tomatoes. This makes a much dryer dish, which some people may prefer. The seafood can be replaced with tofu or sauteed chicken breast. Many variations are possible.
We will be putting up more Indian recipes in the next months as they are so varied and interesting, not to mention that they are delicious!
We love our home and its cozy warmth in the winter, but the summer is special, perhaps because it is relatively short here where we live. When the weather is nice in the summer we are outside, enjoying the beauty of our yards and gardens. We try never to take for granted the beautiful surroundings and the opportunity we have to live and care for this island of peace and tranquility.
Thanks to everyone who has subscribed to this blog. We are overwhelmed by the number of people who have chosen to join us on this adventure. Please leave comments if you enjoy something or would like us to bring something special.
After an unusually long winter here in central Europe we find ourselves surrounded by the sights and smells of springtime. We can sit outside in the evening in short sleeves and enjoy our wonderful garden.
Although our yards are more like a park, we do have some fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, asparagus, chard and rhubarb. This last Sunday we picked some rhubarb and made a tarte tatin, which was very nice. Karin, the pie baker, decided on something different, however, a rhubarb and strawberry pie.
We’re using the rhubarb and strawberries here more as an example. There are endless combinations of delicious berries and fruits that will make gorgeous pies.
There are also almost endless possibilities for decorating pies. The braids above are just one and below is another example.
If you would like to have some more inspiration on decorating pies please go to Instagram and look at Karin’s page (karinpfeiffboschek). Let your imagination guide you and don’t be afraid to try out new and unusual designs. Do, however, try to be as careful and accurate as you can be.
The difference between a “nice pie” and one that is artistically pleasing is in the details. Notice in the pictures of the unbaked pies that every detail is nearly perfect. It takes time to achieve this and a warm kitchen makes it very difficult so that it becomes necessary to put the pie and the rest of the dough in the refrigerator once they become too soft. It is also useful to place the pie in the refrigerator before baking. This also makes it possible to bake the next day, if it gets too late in the evening.
The recipe we use for these pies is in the recipe section and describes in detail how to prepare the dough, both using a food processor and by hand.
Here is the recipe for the rhubarb and strawberry filling:
700g (4 cups) coarsely chopped rhubarb
200g (1 cup) white sugar
About 8 large strawberries or more if smaller – cleaned and sliced
1 egg separated
Recipe for pie crusts in the recipe section.
Mix rhubarb, sugar and cornstarch in a pan, heat slowly stirring gently so the sugar does not burn. You can add a couple of tablespoons of water to get things going a bit. Heat until the rhubarb begins to soften and the starch thickens. Don’t overcook and stir gently so the rhubarb does not completely disintegrate. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C (400 °F).
Roll out the bottom crust and line a 9″ pie pan. Brush egg white on the inside to keep the filling from soaking into the crust. Add the rhubarb filling, smooth out with a pallet or knife and place the sliced strawberries on the top.
Roll out the top crust and decorate , or make a lattice crust as desired. Add the egg yolk to the white and beat vigorously so the whole egg is smooth. Brush the egg on the surface of the decorated pie making sure to get an even coat on all parts.
Place on the middle rack in the hot oven. After 20 minutes turn down the oven to 175 °C (350 °F) and bake for an additional 50 minutes. If the upper crust begins to get too dark cover lightly with a sheet of aluminium foil.
Allow to cool on a wire rack and then take pictures to share with your friends on Facebook or Instagram! 🙂
Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Most people enjoy eating bananas, if they are not green and not overripe. The problem is, if you buy 6 bananas and you wait until they are just right for eating you probably will enjoy one or two, perhaps even three, and the rest quickly get brown or black spots and are no longer a joy to eat. It probably is not a secret that very overripe bananas are excellent for baking. This recipe has been a favourite of ours for many years. I found it in my mother’s copy of the 1984 Church Women United of Greater Hammond (Indiana) recipe collection and this particular recipe was attributed to a Ms. Donna Hasten of Highland, Indiana. I usually make it in one larger loaf pan, but the original recipe calls for two small pans. You can bake it any pan you like, just test with a cake tester or tooth pick to make sure it is baked all the way through to the middle.
Recipe – Banana Nut Bread
8-1/2″ (22 cm) loaf pan buttered and floured
3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
3/4 cup (150 g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) butter
2 eggs beaten
1 cup mashed overripe bananas
4 Tbl buttermilk
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups (250 g) white flour
1 cup walnuts (roughly chopped – large pieces)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
3-4 Tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cream the sugars and butter (good opportunity to use your stand mixer with paddle, if you have one). Add eggs, one at a time. Add bananas, buttermilk, soda and salt and mix. Add flour mixing in small amounts at a time, then add the nuts and vanilla and stir.
Pour in prepared loaf pan and bake at 175 °C (350 °F) for 45 min and test for doneness with a cake tester or wooden skewer. Make sure to test in the middle and thickest part to be sure it is baked through. Allow to cool 10 min on a rack before removing from pan. Then allow to cool completely before cutting.
If you chose to glaze the top, slowly add the milk the confectioners’ sugar until the proper consistency. Add a little more milk if necessary. Stir in the vanilla and drizzle the glaze over the cool loaf. Allow to firm up before cutting.