Archive for October, 2009

Apple cake

This lovely cake comes from Smitten Kitchen, a very famous food blog with beautiful photos and recipes that sometimes work.  I approached this recipe with a fair dose of skepticism (not to mention, blog envy) and about 2 lbs. of apples.  And I’m so glad I did.  After a few recent baking failures (including this week’s zucchini bread with raspberries; trust me—don’t go there), my baker’s ego was a little tender.  So imagine my delight when my husband’s coworker came over for coffee and remarked, “Ach, so this is the famous apple cake your husband talks so much about!”

apple cake side view

I could have kissed her right there. Instead, I made a mental note to add this cake to the short list of go-to recipes for dummies (i.e., me). (more…)


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potato soup

Image via The Big Blend

Cool weather just screams out for hearty, homey food, don’t you think? The weather dropped a good 15 or 20 degrees (Fahrenheit…have to specify now!) this past month in Berlin, and I’ve been craving comfort food. This chunky, creamy potato soup fits the bill without being a total fat-bomb. It’s great as is, but feel free to kick it up a notch with some grated cheddar or a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of homemade croutons and fresh snipped chives.

potato soup ingredients

Don’t let the German-language label mislead you…that thar’s evaporated milk.  And there’s no celery in this photo because I spontaneously added it later.  For me, soup making is a bit of alchemy!

sauteed shallotsA little butter is key to this recipe’s success.

homemade stock

In a soup of so few ingredients, homemade broth is a nice touch.


-1 3/4-2lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
-1 1/2 stalks celery, pureed in blender or very finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 onion, finely chopped
-1 shallot, minced
-handful of parsley, chopped
-approx. 4 c. chicken or vegetable broth (depending on how thick you like your soup)
-1 c. evaporated milk (not condensed milk)
-cayenne pepper, to taste
-pinch of dried sage
-salt, pepper, and white pepper, to taste
-pinch of nutmeg
-2 bay leaves

-1 Tbsp. butter
-olive oil

To serve: fresh chives, sour cream, cheddar cheese, homemade croutons (recipe follows)

1. Melt butter and a splash of olive oil over med-low heat in a large stock pot. Add onions, shallot, and celery. Cook gently until almost translucent.

2. Stir in garlic, being careful not to burn. Next, add broth, evaporated milk, bay leaf, sage, and parsley.

3. Add peeled, chopped potatoes to pot. Simmer uncovered until tender. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.

4. Thicken the soup. Either 1) use a potato masher to break down some of the potatoes and thicken the soup or 2) remove the bay leaves and about 3 cups of cooked potatoes to a bowl and puree the remaining contents of the pot with an immersion blender. Return the reserved potatoes to the soup.

5. Heat through and serve with your choice of toppings.   Enjoy with a chunk of crusty bread!

Homemade Croutons:

-2 slices thick cut bread of your choice (whole wheat is good)
-1 tsp. butter

1. Cut bread into bite-sized cubes.

2. Melt butter in a skillet.

3. Add bread cubes. Fry until golden. Sprinkle with salt and serve atop your favorite soup.

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I had a chocolate craving the other night, but since there was only hot chocolate mix in the house (pursuant to the theory: if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it), I made cookies instead.  Oatmeal raisin cookies, in fact.  I’m more of a chocolate chip girl, but that wasn’t possible, given the current Schoko-drought.

I have freely admitted that baking is not my forte.  As per usual, I didn’t have all the ingredients the recipe called for.  Brown sugar (the soft, molasses-enriched stuff) just doesn’t exist in Germany.  I was also thinking about tweaking a recipe I’d never made, which doesn’t usually bode well.

Fortunately, the cookie gods smiled upon me, and the cookies came out great—chewy, soft, and delicious—despite my meddling and substituting.  Even without chocolate, they were satisfying.  (Especially for breakfast the following morning.)

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

625 commenters can’t be wrong—this is a great recipe.  I’m even tempted to call it foolproof. 🙂  Here’s my take on the classic: (more…)

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For most of August and September, Germany was awash in adorable Italian prune plums, known to Brits as “damsons” and to Germans as Zwetschke (or Zwetschge, depending).  Don’t you just want to pinch their chubby cheeks?

damson italian prune plums

Roughly half to two-thirds the size of regular red plums, these purple beaut’s were selling for 1.99/kilo (2.2 lbs.) at the height of summer.  And the bakeries in Berlin were going wild with plum Kuchen, plum tarts, plum pockets, and plum strudel.  Not to be outdone, I bought a kilo of my own and began scheming.

An admittedly novice baker (and by “novice” I mean: stubborn, refuses to measure things properly, substitutes ingredients at will), I didn’t get much further than my old standby—plum cake.  This cake never fails me, and it looks much more impressive than it has any right to.  Ina Garten calls this “Plum Cake Tatin”; I call it perfect.  (And by “perfect” I mean:  despite my best efforts, I never manage to burn it, cause it to fall, or leave half of it clinging to the pan.  Oh, and it tastes terrific, too.)

plum upside down cake


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