Monday, February 28, 2011

Piña Colada Cake for a Special Birthday

The special meal (Sauerbraten, Semmelknödel, and Blaukraut) that I featured recipes for last week were for my husband whose birthday happens to fall on Valentine's Day. It is tradition in our home, that the birthday boy or girl gets to pick the meal (homemade or eating out) and the cake. If you've been reading my blog for a while you know by now that my husband is not a fan of chocolate, with the exception of a few dishes like the German Chocolate Cupcakes he requested last year. For his birthday it is usually a given that he will pick a cake that has not one fleck of chocolate (white chocolate excluded) in it. Last year he picked Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake which is what started my blog and this year after looking through a couple of my recipe books he "settled" on Piña Colada Cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. Always up for a good challenge, I decided this would be some great practice to continue working on my layered cake skills.

Layered cakes and in specific, more than two layer cakes are something that does not come easy to me. I'm getting better at it, and the cakes do taste very good after all is said and done, but the process gives me a little bit of anxiety. Today's featured cake is composed of three key components. A brown sugar cake, a pineapple filling and a coconut buttercream. First up the cake. This cake was everything and more I had hoped for. Fantastic flavor and texture, but it gave me a little bit of trouble in the oven and happened to dome in the middle (which might be due to my oven, I haven't figured that one out yet). I had to level all three layers with a knife (not an easy task for this lefty) before being able to use them. The second component was the pineapple filling. Who knew, that a combination of crushed pineapple, sugar, lime and vanilla bean would end up tasting so utterly decadent. I could eat this stuff by the spoonful, on vanilla ice cream, Greek yogurt, etc, I'm sure you get the picture. I will definitely be making this filling again all by itself since there are so many great applications for it. The last, and most certainly not least, component was the coconut frosting, which is another winner. An Italian meringue buttercream which to me tastes so much better and lighter (if that is even possible, considering all the butter) that gets its coconut flavor from a combination of coconut milk and coconut extract. Everything came together very easy, putting it together is where the going got a little tougher for me. The cake is assembled by placing one of the cake layers on a cake plate where it is then drizzled with rum (oh yeah, baby) and a layer of the pineapple jam. Another cake layer, more rum and pineapple filling and then the final cake layer and more rum. If you look closely at my cake slice you'll see I put my second and third layer together upside down which makes the cake appear like there is a whole different layer of filling. Nope, not the case, just Susi messing up slightly ;o) I tried removing the layer so I could fix it but between the rum-drenched cake and filling it started to fall apart and I just decided to leave it as is.
The final step, frosting the cake and applying toasted coconut to the sides. For decoration I simply chose fresh pineapple slices and a bit more coconut.

The verdict? The cake is incredible! The birthday boy loved every little thing about it. A perfect balance of flavors that will just melt in your mouth. It is truly reminiscent of the drink. With a couple of teeny tiny adjustments this recipe would be perfect. First up the amount of rum, which my kids were not nearly as enthusiastic about as the adults. You could leave it out completely or replace it with pineapple juice. I also ended up reducing the rum to about 1/3 cup (I reflected this change in the recipe) total between all the layers. The 2/3 cup the recipe called for would have been overkill and I happen to like rum flavored desserts. The other thing I would change the next time is to double the recipe for the pineapple jam. There could have easily been more of that without being too much and I ended up having to spread it a little too thin around the edges so that there would be enough. I made the cake one day before my husband's birthday and while I was busy for a few hours, baking, cooking and assembling, the process wasn't too bad or difficult. One thing I did recognize is that the cake actually got better with each additional day it sat in the refrigerator. The rum had time to soak into all the layers and the flavor wasn't nearly as strong on day 3 as when it was first cut. Another plus is that the cake stayed wonderfully moist. My husband ended up taking some of it to work where it got the thumbs up and a few requests for the recipe. Would I bake this cake again? Absolutely, without a doubt, this recipe is a keeper and if Piña Coladas make you think of tropical islands, sunshine, umbrella drinks and sandy beaches give this recipe a go, chances are you won't regret it and you'll feel like you are on vacation!

Piña Colada Cake


For the pineapple filling:
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple in juice (no sugar added)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 one-inch piece of vanilla bean, split in half

For the brown sugar cake:
3 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the coconut buttercream:
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 water
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract

For assembling the cake:
Brown Sugar Cake (baked and cooled)
Pineapple Filling, at room temperature
Coconut Buttercream
1/3 cup rum (light, amber, or dark, whichever you prefer)
Toasted coconut flakes
Thin slices of pineapple for decoration


For the pineapple filling: Combine the crushed pineapple, sugar, and lime juice in a large nonreactive skillet. With the tip of a small knife, scrape the vanilla seed into the pan; add the pod as well. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, 2 to 3 minutes.

Raise the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the juices have almost completely evaporated and the pineapple has a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat an discard the vanilla pod. Let the pineapple filling cool completely before using. (The filling can me made a day ahead and refrigerated. Let return to room temperature before using.)

For the brown sugar cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large mixer bowl; whisk gently to combine. Add the brown sugar, butter, and 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk to the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, blend to incorporate. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Whisk the eggs with the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk and the vanilla and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and beating only long enough to incorporate between additions. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes; then turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the coconut buttercream: Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment so they are all ready to go.

Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and place over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Beat the egg whites briefly at medium speed.Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, being careful to avoid the beaters. Continue to whip until the meringue has cooled to body temperature.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the butter, several tablespoons at a time, and continue to beat until a smooth, fluffy frosting forms.

Add the coconut milk in several additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well after each addition. Add the coconut extract and mix until smooth.

For assembling the cake: Place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Carefully brush with rum. Spread half of the pineapple filling over the layer, leaving a 1/3-inch margin around the edge. Add the second layer, brush with more rum, and cover with the remaining filling. Top with the third layer, flat side up, brush with the remaining rum. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the coconut buttercream. Decorate with toasted coconut and thin slices of pineapple. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blaukraut (German Red Cabbage)

Remember my last post? The one with the Semmelknödel, where I told you I wasn't an expert in cooking dumplings? Well, I am definitely an expert in cooking Blaukraut (not that I'm gloating here). Blaukraut literally translates into "blue cabbage" and the name is mainly used in southern Germany. Most areas in Germany though either call this Rotkraut or Rotkohl which means "red cabbage". I've been cooking Blaukraut for probably 20 years and by now I don't even need a recipe anymore. I usually don't measure my ingredients and know exactly just what and how much to add to achieve a consistent tasting cabbage each and every time. However, just for you, my wonderful blog readers, I had my kitchen helper (my daughter) write down everything I did as I went along.

Most Americans are familiar with Sauerkraut and while we Germans do tend to eat that a lot (and no, we don't wear "Lederhosen" all day long), Blaukraut is cooked just as often and is another treasured German recipe that most families cook quite frequently. Blaukraut is so versatile and can be served alongside many dishes like German dumplings, Spaetzle, or mashed potatoes. In restaurants it is a given that it is served with Sauerbraten, venison, boar and goose. I've always loved Blaukraut and we had it a lot growing up since red cabbage was bountiful every year from my parent's and grandparent's vegetable gardens. Cabbage tends to be ready for harvest in the fall and we mostly ate this throughout the colder months. My mom would cook several cabbage heads at a time and freeze the leftovers, which works beautifully.

Cooking Blaukraut is fairly easy as long as you consider a few simple steps. You can shred the cabbage by hand, but if your knife skills aren't that great, go ahead and use a mandolin or the shredding blade of a food processor which will always give you consistent results. I find it also very important to "layer" my cabbage while cooking it. 2-3 layers are sufficient and each layer will receive lots of love from the ingredients, which will ensure a great tasting side dish. Not many ingredients are needed, but it does call for vegetable bouillon cubes which impart great flavor. A good tasting sweet apple (like pink lady) is also important, and while I love Granny Smith for most of my baking, they are too tart for this recipe. Last, but certainly not least, a little bit of a good tasting red wine is added (do not use cooking wine!) which along with the vinegar doesn't add flavor, but also helps preserve the beautiful color of the cabbage.

This time around I served the Blaukraut with my German Sauerbraten and Semmelknödel, but it is a wonderful side dish that is tasty alongside all kinds of meals and goes extremely well with a beef pot roast. My family (including the kids) love this recipe and so has every guest that has ever had it served in our house. I know, strong statement, but it is just that good!

Blaukraut (German Red Cabbage)

1 medium head red cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
Kosher Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the 1/3 cup of red wine. Add 1/2 of the shredded cabbage, 1/2 of the apple, 1 bouillon cube, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 cup of water, season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Repeat the layer adding the other half of the ingredients in the same fashion.
Give a quick stir, cover and simmer for about 20 - 30 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. At this point stir, taste for seasonings and adjust if a little more salt and pepper is needed. 

A Susi's Kochen und Backen Family Recipe

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Semmelknödel (Bavarian Bread Dumplings)

Let me preface this post by telling you that I'm not an expert on German Dumplings. In fact, I have had a love/hate relationship with them my whole life. As a kid I grew up with a few different versions of dumplings or "Klösse" as we like to call them. I love Semmelknödel, which are made out of stale bread and what this post is about, but hated every time my mom or dad would make the traditional ones that are made with potatoes. Something about the texture and taste used to throw me off and I would spend quite a few Sunday dinners eating a piece of bread alongside my roast while the rest of the family would enjoy their dumplings. These days I will eat them if I visit my mom, but it is nothing I go out of my way to fix myself unless my husband requests them. He seems to be going back and forth between the potato kind and the bread kind and this year he thankfully chose the latter which I enjoy eating.

Semmelknödel, or bread dumplings are served throughout Bavaria in most restaurants. It is a great way to use up stale Semmeln or Brötchen which are similar to Kaiser Rolls here in America and they make for a pretty economic meal this way. My favorite part about these dumplings growing up was the second day, when my mom would use the leftovers, cut them up and fried them in a pan until both sides were nice and crispy. We were always looking forward to that.
Cooking dumplings is actually quite an art and I'll be the first to admit that because of cooking them so infrequently, I'm not as good at making them as my mom or grandpa are. Forming them properly so they keep their shape and being able to cook them is a little harder then you might think. The salt water to cook the formed dumplings in has to be just perfect. It has to be hot enough to cook them through, but it also can't boil or they will disintegrate, the water needs to be right around the simmer point and stay there with a consistent heat.

Since I can't get my hands on great rolls here, I started using a french baguette when I make these dumplings at home. The texture comes pretty close to a traditional German Brötchen and after sitting on the counter for about a day prior, the bread is perfect. The baguette is sliced thinly and soaked in lukewarm milk and some salt for about 30 minutes which will help soften the bread. Meanwhile, onion and fresh parsley are sauteed in a bit of butter. After the bread is nice and soft the sauteed veggies are added to the bread bowl along with seasonings, eggs and flour. Everything is mixed well together (clean hands are your best tool for this) and the "dough" is set aside to rest for another 20 minutes. With wet hands round dumplings the size of a baseball are formed and carefully placed in hot salted water which is where they will cook for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. The easiest way to test for doneness is to take one out and cut it in half to make sure the inside is cooked thoroughly. Once cooked, they are removed with a slotted spoon and served immediately. 

My Semmelknödel might not be the prettiest and they pale in comparison to the way my mom's look, but they are darn tasty and are the perfect side dish for any kind of roast with gravy like my German Sauerbraten. I hope I have intrigued you enough to give another German classic a try and you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Semmelknödel (Bavarian Bread Dumplings)
 ~makes 6 dumplings~
 (Print this Recipe)

1 french Baguette (about 10 oz./300 g), cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 3/4 cups lukewarm milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons onion, minced
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
2 - 4 tablespoons flour

Cut baguette into slices. Place the slices in a large bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and pour lukewarm milk evenly over the bread. Cover bowl and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile melt butter in a small pan, add onion and parsley and saute for about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

After 30 minutes add the sauteed onion and parsley to your soaked bread along with another 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add in the eggs and 2 tablespoons flour. Mix until well combined. If the dough appears really wet at this point add another tablespoon or two of flour.

Cover bowl again and let rest for another 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt. Reduce the heat of the water so it is simmering, but not boiling. With wet hands start forming your dumplings (baseball sized) and carefully place them into the water. After all your dumplings are formed, you might have to bring the water temperature up temporarily, but make sure it won't boil or your dumplings will fall apart. Add the lid to your pot, but keep the lid cracked.  After about 20 minutes the dumplings should be cooked. Remove one and check for doneness. If the inside is still a little "gooey" return the dumpling and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove all dumplings with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

A Susi's Kochen und Backen family recipe

Monday, February 21, 2011

German Sauerbraten

My husband's birthday is on Valentine's Day. This is also a day we never, ever go out to eat. Since birthdays are a family affair in our house taking 3 kids to a restaurant on Valentine's Day is less then desirable for us and probably all the other couples who are trying to have a quiet romantic meal. So cooking at home it is. Most years I will cook a meal my husband requests, some years, like the one where he received a BBQ smoker as one of his gifts, he insisted on spending the whole day smoking a piece of meat. This year though, it was up to me once again and he asked for an authentic German/Bavarian meal to be cooked. Are you wondering yet what he chose? Well, he went with Sauerbraten, Semmelknoedel and Blaukraut. I bet right now you are going "what"? OK, one more time in easier terms Sauerbraten, which is literally translated into "sour roast", German bread dumplings and red cabbage. Better?

I promise to showcase all of the recipes, but today I'm concentrating on the Sauerbraten. Let me preface by saying that different regions in Germany will produce different recipes for this. Mine is simply a family recipe which might not be "authentic" by other German standards, but is a special recipe handed down from my dad to me. Sauerbraten simply refers to a beef roast that has been marinaded in a brine of vinegar, spices, root vegetables and red wine for a few days. The cut of meat is usually a tougher cut, like a bottom round roast and by marinading the meat in something acidic for several days the notion is it will help tenderize the meat. Most people will keep the meat in the brine for 3 to 4 days, but I've even heard of people leaving the meat in for a full week. After the meat is removed and dried off, it will get a good searing on all sides in a heavy pot. The marinade, along with the seasonings and vegetables is added to the meat, which is then cooked for a couple of hours on the stove top. After the meat is fully cooked you get to work on the gravy.

Many people know Sauerbraten with a thickened gravy containing gingersnaps, this is NOT the way it is prepared in the region of Franconia (upper Bavaria) where I grew up. We also don't add rasisins to the finished gravy, this is more of a rhineland addition. My gravy, which is just the way my family cooks it, is achieved by caramelizing sugar in a pan with butter, flour is added and finally some of the cooked marinade and red wine round out the gravy. German gravy is fairly thin and never gloppy like many American gravies tend to be. A final touch of a little red currant jelly (for sweetness) and creme fraiche round out this fantastic sauce. You can use sour cream, but keep in mind not to boil the gravy anymore or it will curdle on you, which creme fraiche wont. The finished roast is typically served with "Preiselbeeren" which are similar to cranberries or lingonberry jam along with dumplings and red cabbage (both of which I will be featuring in the next few days).

I hope I have peaked your interest in this very famous German dish and you might want to give it a try yourself. Considering that my husband has been craving this dish every year for almost 20 years, you know this is a keeper!

German Sauerbraten

For the marinade:
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 stalk celery, preferably with leaves, cut into thirds
1 onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns
8 juniper berries
3 whole cloves
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 lbs. beef bottom round roast

For the roast and gravy:
 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
4 tablespoons creme fraiche (sour cream will work as well)

For the marinade: Wash meat and place in a large non-reactive bowl (glass or plastic works well). Add all the marinade ingredients to the bowl and cover. Set in refrigerator. Keep meat in marinade for a minimum of 2 days, up to a total of 4 days, making sure to turn the meat once a day.

For the roast: After 3-4 days, remove meat from marinade and dry. Strain vegetables and seasonings from marinade, reserving both. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy duty dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the meat and sear from all sides. Add the reserved vegetables and seasonings to the seared meat along with 4 cups of the reserved marinade. Reduce heat and simmer roast for 1 hour. Turn the roast and simmer for an additional hour. After 2 hours remove meat and keep warm while you prepare the gravy.

For the gravy: In a medium sized pot add butter along with the sugar and caramelize until golden brown. Add flour and cook for about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the cooked marinade along with any meat juices that have accumulated and the 1/2 cup of red wine, making sure to whisk well to avoid lumps. Cook gravy on low for about 20 minutes then whisk in the red currant jelly and add the creme fraiche (if you add sour cream make sure not to boil this anymore or the gravy will curdle).
Cut meat against the grain and serve with gravy and lingonberries (or cranberries) on the side.

Adapted from: My dad

Friday, February 18, 2011

My Favorite "Fancy" Salad

As I mentioned in my post about the Easy Candied Walnuts, I adore a well made salad. I love starting my meal with it or making a meal of it (especially in the summer time), but there are certain requirements, that are important to make a salad go from decent to showstopper. 

First off, only choose the highest quality ingredients, trust me, it really makes a HUGE difference in taste. Iceberg lettuce is a big no-no in our house. The only place for it in my opinion is the inside of a taco. It is pretty much tasteless to me and I don't waste my time with it. I love red-leaf lettuce since it so readily available year round, but assorted spring greens (if I can get organic) are just as lovely of an option. Another must, flavorful tomatoes. Again, unless it is prime tomato season and I can get my hand on locally grown, juicy tomatoes, I stay away from adding them to my salads. In that case, I go with a consistent tasting grape or cherry tomato, those usually do not disappoint. Another important ingredient in my salad is onions. I love the taste of red onion, but scallions will do in a pinch as well.
A good salad dressing is also a must, and I always prefer homemade over store bought. I was raised on vinaigrette style dressing, which is what I still prefer to this day. Just keep in mind that less is more in terms of dressing and a little drizzle is usually all you need. Your toppings are what take an ordinary salad to extraordinary height and your options to customize are endless. I tend to go with a mix of cheese (I love a soft goat or blue cheese, which works with most greens and fruit), dried or fresh fruit (depending on the season), and last but not least, a little crunch from some nuts or seeds.

Today's version is one I've been making over and over and my family just can't enough of it. The combination of sweet, tart, crunchy and smooth is one that works every time. It starts with red-leaf lettuce, grape tomato and red onion. A homemade pomegranate-balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to follow) along with dried cherries, goat cheese (I love the Pampered Goat cheese, which I find at my local Costco) and candied walnuts round out this amazing flavor combination. I happen to think that it does not just taste wonderful, but is equally stunning to look at. The recipe is not really a recipe, look at it as as guideline and you'll be the judge of how much you add of each of the ingredients. If you like a good tasting salad, I hope you'll give this one a try and it turns into one of your favorites as well!

My Favorite "Fancy" Salad
(A Susi's Kochen und Backen Original)


1 head red leaf lettuce or assorted mixed greens, cleaned
Red Onion, finely sliced
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
Pomegranate-Balsamic Vinaigrette (Recipe to follow)
Dried Cherries
Soft Goat Cheese


Arrange lettuce on plates, add the red onion and tomatoes. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, making sure not to soak the greens, a little goes a long way. Top the salad with cherries, goat cheese and the candied walnuts. Serve immediately.

Pomegranate-Balsamic Vinaigrette
(A Susi's Kochen und Backen Original)


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste


Whisk all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl until combined.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Easy Candied Walnuts

One of my favorite restaurants in our area (House of Tricks) has wonderful seasonal salads that are made with a selection of fresh fruit, beautifully selected greens or vegetables, artisan cheeses, great dressings and best of all, sometimes even candied nuts. I absolutely adore candied nuts, but have always shied away from making them myself since making hot sugar syrup (which most recipes I looked at required) isn't one of my favorite kitchen adventures. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and didn't really enjoy it. So I was definitely on the hunt for a recipe that was easy enough that I could whip up a batch of candied nuts on a whim and with ingredients I always have on hand and without the danger of scorching hot sugar syrup. The recipe that I found on Foodnetwork fits the bill 100 percent.

This recipe could not be any easier and 4 ingredients is all you need. Walnuts (pecans or almonds work as well) are blanched for about 3 minutes in boiling water. By doing so it will help the rest of your ingredients "stick". The hot, wet nuts are then tossed in a mixture of powdered sugar, salt and cayenne pepper before being placed on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat (I use the latter and it works like a charm). The nuts are baked for about 15 - 20 minutes with giving them a stir every 5 minutes to ensure even browning. You will need a watchful eye to make sure they don't burn since they are coated with sugar after all, but I found the process to be much less labor intensive then traditional candied nuts.

These nuts taste wonderful! Only slightly sweet, with a little hint of spice and best of all, the sugar won't turn so hard that you are running the risk of breaking a filling. They are seriously addicting. Great served by themselves for a party or simply to snack on, they also dress up any old salad. So if you like  candied nuts, without the fuss, this is definitely the recipe for you as well. Stay tuned for my favorite fancy salad recipe which includes these little gems.

Easy Candied Walnuts 
~makes 1 cup~


1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces walnuts (about 1 heaping cup)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the sugar, cayenne and salt.

Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add the walnuts and blanch them for 3 minutes. Drain well and then immediately roll the walnuts in the sugar mixture until thoroughly coated. The sugar will melt slightly. Transfer the walnuts to a baking sheet or pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep golden brown, about 15 - 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes. Watch carefully because the sugar can burn easily. Let cool completely before serving.

Adapted from: Foodnetwork 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Susi's Kochen und Backen 1st Blogoversary!

Wow, I can't believe it's been one whole year already since I started this "blog thing". One year ago, my very smart 17 year old daughter told me I should start a blog. Little did she, or I know what a fun and at times exhausting ride this would be. The year has certainly been filled with a few trials, a few extra gray hairs, but mostly great memories. If it wouldn't have been for my little "hiatus" named Valley Fever, I would have finished as strongly as I started, but sometimes life does not work out the way you intend it to. However, through all of this I could not be prouder of this blog and how far I have come. I have challenged myself with recipes, photography and writing. I'd like to think that I've improved in all areas. The cooking and baking part comes easily to me, the other two don't come as naturally, but it has been a great experience and learning curve. None of this would have been possible without all the support you guys have given me. Some of you have been around since the very beginning and I can't begin to express how much your kind comments have meant to me. Some of you are newer to my blog, nonetheless your friendship and equally encouraging comments have been what keeps me coming back. All of your great blogs are what drives me to push and improve myself everyday. The last year would have not been as possible or successful without all of you and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I could not be prouder to have "met" every single one of you!

So what is in store for year 2 on Susi's Kochen und Backen Adventures? At this point, I'm just happy that I'm feeling well enough to blog again, however, I do have a few "monsters" I would like to tackle this year. Baking more of my own bread is on the top of my list, along with trying my hand at macarons which I have only admired on other blogs thus far. I would also like to challenge myself into creating more "original" recipes and keep working on my photography skills, which is still my greatest struggle (even though I think I've improved from my early months). I will also continue to feature more German recipes since I enjoy sharing my heritage with you. Lastly, but not least, some popular features will make a return along with a few more recipes that focus on healthy eating in general. I'm certainly looking forward to a great year and can't wait to share all of this with you!

To celebrate this momentum occasion I struggled with the decision of what recipe to feature today. I finally decided to go with this cupcake recipe and in true Susi's Kochen und Backen fashion, this recipe ended up turning out a bit different then intended.  Chocolate cupcakes, with a cream cheese center who were "supposed" to be topped with a chocolate glaze and chocolate curls. Unfortunately, once baked, the cupcakes decided to have a mind of their own and the cheesecake center decided to sink on me, leaving them looking more like craters then photographic gems I had envisioned. That's when I decided to macerate some of my bounty of frozen fruit from last summer and top the cupcakes with that. Everyone agreed that they looked prettier than the original in the book and while I can't compare taste, I'd like to think that the fruit gave them this little extra special something. These cupcakes were a hit and I will definitely be baking them again, "Susi's Kochen und Backen Style".

Black & White Cupcakes
 ~makes 12 cupcakes~

8 ounce cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 cup berries, frozen or fresh, tossed with 2 tablespoons sugar

Toss berries with 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

To make the cream cheese filling, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until combined.

To make the cupcake batter, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and remaining 3/4 cup sugar together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about one-half full. Spoon the cream cheese filling onto the center of each, dividing it evenly (the filling will sink into the cupcakes as they bake). Bake until the cupcakes are set in the center, about 15-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Right before serving top each cupcake with the berry mixture.

Adapted from: Cupcakes 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nutella Espresso Mousse

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! I know a lot of people think this is a Hallmark holiday, but it is nonetheless a great day to show that special person in your life how much you love them. And what better way to show that, than in the form of food, by making a dinner at home from scratch rather than going out. We always stay home, but that is because Valentine's Day is also my husbands birthday. I always cook him a special by request meal and tomorrow will be no different. He picked a wonderful authentic German meal for his birthday dinner and he could not be more excited about it. If you are a fan of my facebook page you know I have already spilled the beans of what I'm cooking. The recipes will certainly be featured soon. Anyway, I'm sure a lot of you already have your dinner plans for tomorrow firmed up as well, but if you are still looking for that final touch without a lot of fuss, then look no further.

Sometimes we tend to "over-think" desserts when in reality, simple can just be as effective and tasty. I had it in my head that I wanted to feature a chocolate mousse. After looking through some of my cookbooks I knew I didn't want to mess with raw eggs in my recipe that many versions suggested. I was looking for something simpler. I also wanted to kick up the flavors so instead of chocolate I decided I was going to use Nutella. Trying to think of ways to enhance the hazelnut flavor, Frangelico liqueur was my logical choice and to take it just a step further I figured espresso powder would harmonize with the mousse as well. For the espresso powder I have come to love the Starbucks Via packets. They pack a lot of flavor and incorporate beautifully into wet or dry ingredients.

This recipe literally does not get much easier and with only a handful of ingredients it won't break the bank either. Heavy Cream, a Starbucks Via packet, Frangelico liqueur and of course the star of this concoction; Nutella. The ingredients get mixed with a handmixer until everything comes together and the mixture forms soft peaks. Fill into your favorite dessert glasses and chill for a few hours in the refrigerator. Before serving, you can top the mousse with additional whipped cream or simply place some fruit on top. Easy, yet elegant, and the flavor is amazing! It tastes rich, full of chocolate with a hint of coffee. Even my non-chocolate loving husband gave this one the thumbs up. Think of this one as a chocolate pudding for grown-ups and spoil your special someone with this recipe tomorrow, he or she might thank you later ;o)

Nutella Espresso Mousse
(A Susi's Kochen und Backen Original) 
~makes 4 servings~

(Printable Version)

1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 Starbucks Via Italian Roast Packet (1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder will work also)
 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur (Kahlua would be wonderful as well)
3/4 cup Nutella
Whipped Cream and Berries for topping (optional)

Combine heavy cream and espresso powder in a medium mixing bowl. Stir together. Add Frangelico and Nutella. Beat with an electric mixer 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and continue beating until soft peaks form. At this point the mousse is very soft/loose, but will firm up once chilled. Divide the mixture into the serving dishes of your choice and chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
If desired, top with additional whipped cream or berries just before serving.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Meyer Lemon Curd

So I know January came and went and there was no new posts from Susi's Kochen und Backen. Honestly this time I don't have much of an excuse. After another sickness ridden month of December (this time the whole family) I realized once January came that all my momentum, all of my mojo, was simply gone. I don't know how to explain it properly, but just the thought of cooking, photographing the meal and then writing a post was too much to comprehend. I guess I needed another month to start getting myself back on track. After months of pretty much being useless, courtesy of the lovely disease "Valley Fever", my house needed some well deserved TLC as did my family. I haven't cooked anything fancy and quite frankly, it felt good to not have some of my self-imposed pressure looming over my head. However, after this long hiatus I'm ready to jump back into the blog world. This time around I will try to take things a little slower though and take a little bit more care of myself in the process. A big thank you, to all of you who decided to stick around. Your support truly means the world to me :o)

Anyhow, what do you make when life hands you Meyer Lemons? Of course, desserts! Not that any of us needed more sweets after the indulgence of the holidays, but my little lemon tree in the backyard was like the little engine that could and provided us with a fantastic amount of Meyer Lemons this year. With a freeze warning looming for Arizona the last week of December, I knew we had to pick all of our lemons as soon as possible so we wouldn't lose any of the precious fruit to the frost.

The first thing on my "to-do" list was a lemon curd. I love anything citrus and knew that this would go over well with the family also. Meyer Lemon's are less tart than store bought, think of them as a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. This recipe comes courtesy of Recipe Girl who adapted the recipe from Gourmet. The curd itself is certainly not a low-calorie dish, but is worth every indulgent spoon full. It is creamy, luscious goodness and with that, worth every calorie.

The recipe is not hard to make, all you need is about 15 minutes and a good stirring arm. Lemon juice, zest and sugar are whisked together in a bowl along with eggs. This mixture is set over simmering water in a double boiler and this is where the fun starts. You keep whisking away until the mixture is nice and thick and reaches a temperature of 160 F. While whisking, a stick of butter gets incorporated in 4 additions. After the curd is nice, thick and glossy, all that's left to do is cover the surface with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming) and set in the fridge until cool.

If you are wondering what to do with lemon curd, let me tell you there is a plethora of options of what you can do with it, here are a few suggestions:

- Fill a white layer cake with the curd
- Use it as a filling in a pre-baked tart shell
- Spread it on a muffin, scone or biscuit
- Fill crepes with it
- Fold in some heavy whipped cream to make a wonderful light mousse
- Use it in a trifle
- Use it as a dip for fresh fruit
- Use it as a dip for homemade gingersnaps

Meyer Lemon Curd
~makes about 1 2/3 cups~

3 to 4 medium Meyer Lemons (about 1 lb.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Finely grate enough zest from lemons to measure 2 teaspoons and squeeze enough juice to measure 1/2 cup. Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, and eggs in a metal bowl and add butter. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmer water and cook, whisking. Once mixture gets warm, add the butter in 4 additions, whisking well after each until incorporated. Continue whisking until thickened and smooth and an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. This can take anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes (depending on how well your bowl is conducting heat). Force curd through a fine sieve set into another bowl. Serve warm or cover surface of curd with plastic wrap and cool completely.

*Of course you can make this recipe with regular lemons as well. In that case increase the sugar to 3/4 cup. This curd will keep well covered in the refrigerator for about 1 week.

Adapted from: Recipe Girl and Gourmet


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