Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lazy Sunday Breakfast

When we lived in Sweden, Daniel would almost always go out to buy breakfast on Sunday mornings, usually coming back with yoghurt, fruit, fresh bread, cream cheese and juice. In the summer, we would have breakfast on the balcony, listening to the birds sing, while enjoying copious amounts of strong, black coffee, trying to decide what to do that day. We would usually end up taking a walk on Farstanäset, a small peninsula quite close to where we lived, often with his parents' dogs coming along.

Since moving to Munich, Sunday mornings have mostly consisted of both of us waking up in good spirits (or after, for that matter), soon to realise that it is Sunday and all the supermarkets are closed, putting a damper on our good mood. You would think we would have learnt this after eight (for him) and four (for me) months here, but no. Since we go to the grocery store once a day, we never shop for days to come. This usually works pretty well, except on Saturdays.

We are slowly coming to terms with the outrage that is Germany's love for ridiculous laws, and last weekend we actually started the Sunday breakfast the night before. For almost a whole week, I had been craving English Muffins with lemon curd, but since they are something I associate with weekends only, I had to wait. Luckily for me, Daniel suggested we make some for Sunday breakfast.

We had some rhubarb compote and crumbles (which i toasted in the frying pan) left over from the rhubarb crumble pie we made the day before, and combined with honey and orange flavoured yoghurt it was really lovely, and together with the English Muffins it made a perfect Sunday breakfast. If you don't have rhubarb compote or left over crumbles, use whatever fruit/berries you like, and toast some almonds or hazelnuts instead.

English Muffins, swiped from Winos and Foodies

2 teaspoons dried yeast granules (I used half a cube of fresh yeast, 20 - 25 grams)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
250ml warm water
125ml warm milk
350g high grade flour
100g standard flour
1 teaspoon salt
rice flour or fine cornmeal

Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl with half the warm water. (Note: If using fresh yeast, break it into small pieces and use lukewarm (37 °C) water instead.) Stir and set aside for a few minutes (Note: no waiting involved with the fresh yeast), then add the remaining water and the milk.
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and use your hand to mix in the yeast, water and milk mixture. Knead the mixture which will be sticky, thoroughly in the bowl (or use the dough hook of an electric mixer).
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise until more than doubled in bulk. Although this may take only a couple of hours, the dough can be allowed to rise overnight. Deflate the dough by pulling it away from the sides of the bowl. Lift it out of the bowl and divide into 8 pieces.
Drop each piece on to a tray liberally dusted with rice flour or fine cornmeal and roll them over until well coated.
Form each piece into a thick disc.
Place the disks on a baking tray and place another tray on top.
Leave to rest and rise 20 minutes, then remove top tray.
Place a cast iron griddle or large frying pan over low heat.
When only moderately hot place four of the muffins on it and cook for about ten minutes until light beige on the bottom.
Turn the muffins over and cook the second side for a similar length of time.
Wrap the cooked muffins in a dry tea towel while you cook the remaining four.
Pull apart and eat while still warm.
For toasting pull the muffins apart and toast on both sides.


Lemon Curd, swiped from Tartelette
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup strained lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Combine the zest, sugar, juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until light.
Beat some of the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes.
Strain and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Up North Goes Down South: Sugar High Friday #43 - Citrus

Even though I don't bake frequently (that's usually Angelica's department), I never miss a post at Tartelette. The beautiful photography and personal writing style makes it an all-time favourite of mine. It also helps that Helen has a love bordering on obsession with citrus, mirroring my own feelings toward those magnificent fruits, so when she announced that Sugar High Friday #43 would have citrus as it's theme, I almost squealed. Me and Angelica had only days earlier reached the conclusion that we should participate in a blogging event, and if there ever was a sign from above, this was it.

For those not in the know regarding food blogging events, Sugar High Friday is the child of Jennifer at The Domestic Goddess, and works like this: every SHF has a host, who decides a theme, and all participants must simply make a dessert on the specified theme and blog about it before a deadline. The entries are then lined up in an (usually almost endless) entry on the host's blog, where you can then find all the inspiration you ever wanted regarding the theme.

Anybody who has ever been to Sweden knows what a Norway Spruce (Picea abies) looks like. It's a beautiful conifer, growing tall and straight, and together with the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), it defines the Swedish forest. Lovely enough on their own, these trees are also good news: wherever there is a pine forest, there's also bilberries. We shall return to those at a later occasion, today we focus on the trees.

Racking our brains about tastes to go with citrus, our thoughts turned towards conifers. It is a well known fact that citrus fruits are best friends with dry gin, which is flavoured with juniper berries, and has a distinct conifer flavour. With this thought in place, spruce immediately came to mind. One of those things that every Swede knows, but which is uncommon knowledge abroad, is that spruce shoots are edible. Lovely soft and light green, picking and eating the shoots straight off the tree is an almost mandatory part of a spring walk in the woods. Both of us also have fond memories of chewing the needles from christmas trees (not actually eating them, mind you, just extracting the tastes and discarding the needle itself).

Edit: Angelica points out that the last paragraph made it sound like I was involved in the idea of using the spruce, but that was actually all her. I came up with the actual implementation, see next paragraph. Oh, the joys of collective blogging...

So, the decision was made: spruce and citrus it would be. I suggested that we could modify Angelica's Italian lemon/mint sorbet, hands down my favourite ice cream recipe. The modification was simple enough, we would just infuse the syrup with spruce instead of mint.

Now all we needed was some spruce. We hadn't thought of that as a potential problem, well used to hardly being able to turn around quickly without ramming our heads into a spruce tree, but this is Munich, not Stockholm, and instead of tall, dark spruce trees, light green beeches line the streets. Luckily, I live a mere stone's throw from the Englischer Garten, which is lovingly planted with the most varied flora. A twenty minute search turned out fruitful, and we returned home with a couple of spruce twigs and some shoots.

Since we don't have an ice cream machine, the sorbet turned into more of a granita, but aim for sorbet, it will be smooth and wonderful in every way. This is a light sorbet, perfect for the porch or balcony on a warm summer day. To big up the conifer flavour, we added a shot of gin, which was quite good. If you don't want alcohol in the finished product, add the gin to the water when making the syrup, and let the alcohol boil off.

The spruce aroma was subtle and combined deliciously with the citrus. We felt that it was a tad slight, but for those not used to chewing the needles, it's probably just right as the recipe stands. We also tried serving the granita slightly melted with a splash of Limoncello, and it turned into a lovely summer drink, reminiscent of a frozen daiquiri.

Citrus and Spruce Sorbet

150 ml water
150 g sugar
150 ml full fat milk
150 ml mixed citrus juice (we used lemon and lime)
40 ml dry gin
25 g spruce twigs
spruce shoots for decoration

Tear the needles from the spruce twigs, don't worry if a bit of the bark comes along with them. Roughly chop the needles up with a knife to open them out and let the aroma out. Combine water, sugar and spruce needles in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about two minutes, then remove from heat, add spruce twigs, and let cool to room temperature. When cool, sieve the syrup into a bowl, add milk, gin and citrus juice and whisk together. Run mixture in an ice cream machine for 20-30 minutes, until it's frozen into a smooth mixture. Serve in bowls, or in cocktail glasses with a splash of limoncello, and decorate with a spruce shoot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Locally Produced

One interesting thing about Munich is how despite being a rather large city, it manages to maintain a connection to Bavaria's agricultural roots. From the weekly farmer's markets to the semi-permanent stands at the Viktualienmarkt, local produce is never far away.

Munich also has a very large city park (the second largest in Europe, and bigger indeed than the Central Park in New York), called Englischer Garten (the English Garden). Very popular with the residents, a lush and beautiful park crossed by man-made streams, shaded by beautiful trees and with a generous amount of open fields, the Englischer Garten can become quite crowded on a sunny day. The park is divided into two parts, the southern, more park-like, stretching from the city centre to northern Schwabing, and the northern part, more forest than park, stretching out to the limits of Studentenstadt, where it passes some 50 meters from my home.

The northern part of the park, while lacking beer gardens, has some other very nice things to offer. There is a small area where hobbyist beekeepers keep their buzzing insects, and where you can buy delicious honey for €4,50 a jar. It doesn't get more locally produced than that, and as if that wasn't reason enough to buy, the beekeepers are organized in an association that adheres to even higher standards regarding water content in the honey than EU law requires.

Another interesting thing about the northern part of the garden is that instead of mowing the lawns, the park keepers allow a shepherd to herd his sheep on the lawns, thus keeping the grass low, reducing waste, and fertilizing the lawns all at once. A very nice type of organic gardening, and the sheep and their lambs are just lovely. Look at this little fellow for instance:

How cute is that? And don't he/she just look delicious?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Alpine Procrastination

This Monday was Whit Monday (or Pentecost Monday), a religious holiday that not even Wikipedia seems to know why we observe. At any rate, it's a national holiday in Germany, so it would have been the perfect time for me to catch up with some food blogging.

I have to admit, dear readers, that I failed you. I went hiking in Oberstdorf instead, and to be honest, it was worth it. Oberstdorf is situated in the southwest corner of Bavaria, only a few miles from the Austrian border. I had a wonderful day, walking some 4 hours downhill (did I mention I was feeling lazy?), surrounded by a beautiful mixed forest of spruce and beech trees, and with breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains.

I did think of the food blogging aspect of the trip, of course, so I unselfishly sacrificed myself for your sake, and took a 10 minute detour to buy a Brotzeit (literally bread time, a Bavarian term for an afternoon snack/meal) in a small mountain hut that produced their own Allgäuer Bergkäse (Allgäuish mountain cheese).

The Brotzeit consisted of a couple of slices of bread, generously coated with butter of their own production, some slices of their Bergkäse, some local bacon, and of course a local brew. It was delicious, and looked like this:

And when I raised my eyes from my food, I could see this:

So, I had a very nice Whit Monday. I hope you did too.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Duck Pasta Sauce

This weekend, I found myself in a grocery store on Saturday at 19:15, meaning that I had 45 minutes to come up with what was for dinner on Sunday and buy the ingredients, because in Bavaria, grocery stores are closed on Sundays. This is, to use a German expression, doof. Naturally, I was a wee bit stressed about this; one does want to eat well on Sundays, but I had neither time nor really any clue as to what ingredients I had at home.

Luckily, I had just spent a couple of evenings doing an archive binge of FXcuisine.com, a really great food blog with loads of instructive pictures and a lot of delicious-looking Italian slow food. My thoughts immediately went to his Pasta con l'anatra, a pasta sauce made using a whole duck. I didn't remember the ingredients exactly, so I just grabbed a duck and a carrot and hoped that I'd have the rest at home.

As it turns out, I didn't quite, but it still turned out a fully delicious meal, even though served on dried pasta instead of the home made stuff, and without a couple of aromatic ingredients. Both me and Angelica enjoyed this dish very much, and we will certainly try it again. Check out the recipe at FXcuisine.com, and be sure to check out the rest of the site as well.

As to our divergence from the recipe, we didn't have any celery or guanciale (nor any other smoked pig product, such as bacon), no laurel and no parsley, meaning that we actually lacked most of the aromatic ingredients involved. We also didn't have a pan large enough to fit a whole duck (ours weighed in at 2,5 kg and served about 3), so we divided it into breasts, legs and wings. It was still very good indeed.