Blackberry Almond Cake

Blackberry Almond Cake

Hi everyone, I’m back from my trip to Sicily! First off, thanks to everyone for leaving such kind wishes for a fun vacation – and fun it was indeed. I’m still daydreaming about the beautiful light, colors, smells, and of course flavors of the island, but before I share pictures and impressions from Sicily, I wanted to put up a quick post. I still have mountains of laundry and other enchanting tasks to take care off. Just so I don’t forget I’m back in reality!

My parents have two giant blackberry bushes in their yard, which produce the most magnificent fruit every year. They are best eaten right off the vine when they are still warm from the sun. The day we returned, my parents dropped off a container of freshly picked blackberries – the perfect excuse to bake a cake! I made a simple cake base with ground almonds and vanilla, and topped it off with fresh berries and chopped almonds. If you don’t have blackberries at hand, you can use apricots, blueberries (they go great together!), nectarines, or raspberries instead. The batter is enough for a 26cm round cake pan.

Blackberry Almond Cake
125g soft butter
100g sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
grated peel of 1/2 lemon
3 eggs
150 g flour
40g ground almonds
blackberries
40g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
pinch of salt

1. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon peel and pinch of salt.
2. Separate eggs and mix yolks into batter one at a time. Mix until well incorporated.
3. Add flour and ground almonds.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
5. Gently fold egg whites into batter.
6. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
7. Sprinkle blackberries on top of batter.
8. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
9. Bake in preheated oven at 180C/350F for about 30 minutes or until golden.
10. Let cool on cake rack before unmolding.

Enjoy!

I’m looking forward to checking out what everyone has been cooking while I was gone! Stay tuned for a post on Sicily coming up next.

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

The Kitchen Is Closed

…for the next two weeks as I will be on a quest to find the best cannoli and cassata. I’m looking forward to catching up with all of you when I get back. In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful summer days and happy cooking!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

Wachauer Marillenknödel

Marillenknödel

Austria is not only home to more cows than people (and that’s a good thing, because those cows are responsible for incredible dairy products), but also to a legendary variety of Knödel, which come in both savory and sweet form and are a beloved culinary treasure. The word Knödel alone refers to their ball shape, but gives no indication of taste, ingredients, or filling. Knödel are as much of an integral part of Austrian cuisine as rice is in Asian countries, with different parts of Austria producing their own local versions of these delights. Some are quite hearty, such as Tiroler Speckknödel, while others are fluffy pillows of dough filled with the summer’s ripest fruits.

Like in many Austrian families, the production of Knödel filled with fruit has a long tradition in my own family, including my great-grandmother (who was the queen of Knödel, Strudel, and other Austrian pastries), my grandmothers, and my mom. However, there are two different ways to prepare the dough – one is made with potatoes, the other with Topfen. Called Quark in Germany, Topfen is a creamy cheese not unlike ricotta, but drier and with a different taste. My mom usually makes her dough with potatoes, because that’s how my dad likes it, while I am partial to the dough made with Topfen. I find that the Topfen gives it a lighter texture that is a better match with the fruit. I also like to stuff my apricots with a sugar cube, which not only intensifies the aroma of the fruit, but results in a wonderful pool of apricot juice at the center of the Knödel.

The most popular fruit for Knödel are apricots (called Marillen in Austria) and plums (Zwetschken), with the most fragrant and sweetest apricots growing in the Wachau, a scenic stretch along the river Danube not far from Vienna (Richard the Lionheart spent a few months in captivity there at the end of the 12th century – it’s fair to assume though that he wasn’t served anything as fancy as Marillenknödel, and not just because his captivity fell during the cold winter months).

The following recipe can be easily replicated as long as you have access to Topfen (Quark). Unfortunately, there is no substitute for it. A word on the bread crumbs: these are traditionally made from Semmeln, a small white bread extremely popular in Austria, and are called Semmelbrösel (Brösel = crumbs). You can substitute with regular bread crumbs (make sure they are not salty though). Marillen- or Zwetschkenknödel are either eaten as a main course, or for dessert. They are usually preceded by a light soup if eaten as a main course.

Marillenknödel (makes about 7-8 Knödel)
For the dough:
250g Topfen (10% fat)
finely ground peel of 1/2 lemon
50g butter at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 egg
60g flour
60g wheat semolina

7 or 8 ripe apricots
sugar cubes

For the bread crumbs:
100g butter
120g Semmelbrösel (substitute with bread crumbs)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

powdered sugar for dusting

1. In a bowl, mix 1/4 of the Topfen with butter, lemon peel, and a pinch of salt until creamy.
2. Add egg, remaining Topfen, flour, and semolina and mix well.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
4. Cut a slit into each apricot wide enough to take the pit out. Be careful not to cut them in half!
5. Stuff each apricot with a sugar cube.
6. Using your hands, roll dough into a thick log on a floured surface.
7. Cut off equal slices and flatten with your hands.
8. Put an apricot in the center of each flatten piece of dough, and enclose fruit with dough.
9. Roll in the palm of your hand to achieve a uniform ball shape.
10. Bring water to a boil in a wide pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
11. Add Knödel and turn down heat so water barely simmers.
12. Simmer Knödel for about 7 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare bread crumbs:
1. Heat butter in pan until melted. Add both sugars and bread crumbs.
2. Add cinnamon and stir until bread crumbs turn golden.
3. When Knödel are done, lift out of water with a slotted spoon and let drain.
4. Transfer to pan with breadcrumbs and cover evenly.
5. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email

Pizza Tricolore

Pizza Tricolore

Pizza is one of my favorite Italian dishes, as long as it resembles the real deal, and not some bizarre concoction from a fast food chain. I know everyone likes their food differently, so no offense to anyone, but pizza crust stuffed with fake cheese and topped with clumps of mystery meat is not pizza. That’s about as far removed from pizza as instant coffee is from cappuccino made with an espresso machine. The ultimate affront though are those awful garlic sticks on the side, especially when they are pimped with one of those slimy sauces that come in little plastic containers.

Whether you like your pizza crust thin or thick, one thing is for sure – making pizza at home is fun and tastes so much better than the frozen or delivered stuff. In fact, there’s no comparison. While I am partial to tomato sauce on my pizza, I don’t always feel like making it, especially in the summer when I like dishes to be light and easy. Representing the three colors of Italy’s national flag, this is probably the easiest pizza you can make at home. With the aid of a food processor, making the dough is a snap, and once the dough has risen you’ll be eating home made pizza fresh from the oven in no time. It’s a real treat in the summer when ripe tomatoes and fresh basil add their intense flavor to this dish. Buon appetito!

Pizza Tricolore (serves 2)
For the dough:
1 tablespoon dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2/3 cup warm (not hot!) water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, depending on the flour

your favorite ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
a few tablespoons of ricotta
some grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling
chopped garlic
salt, pepper
fresh basil leaves

1. Put the water, yeast, and pinch of sugar in a small bowl or cup.
2. Let stand for a few minutes until foam and bubbles appear on the surface.
3. Put flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough hook.
4. Add olive oil and water and yeast mix, and process until a smooth dough forms.
5. The dough should be elastic but not too dry or too sticky.
6. Knead dough a few times on a floured surface. Form into a ball.
7. Put dough in a bowl lightly brushed with oil, and cover.
8. Let rest for about 20 – 30 min. or until doubled in size.
9. With a rolling pin, roll out dough on floured surface to desired thickness.
10. Transfer dough to baking sheet.
11. Spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese onto dough.
12. Sprinkle with chopped garlic
12. Distribute tomato slices evenly, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
13. Season with salt and pepper.
14. Bake in a preheated oven at 220C/425F for about 15 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
15. Let pizza cool, sprinkle with basil leaves, and drizzle with some olive oil.

Enjoy!

Share This:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • Add to favorites
  • email