Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How is Maple Syrup made?

We had an amazing opportunity to visit a sugarbush farm in Ontario, Canada and saw the whole process of making maple syrup.

Buckets are hanging on the trees and collecting the sap that is literally dripping from small spouts that have been bored in the trees. Big maple bush farms have hoses that are connecting all the trees.

On a good day one tree can give about 12 litres of maple sap. The season runs usually between mid March until end of April, depending on the outside temperature.

The temperature must be minus during the night and plus during the day for the sap to flow. At some point starch in the trunk converts into sugar and when the temperature is plus degrees during the day the sugary sap goes all the way up in the trunk, and when the temperature drops during the night the sap goes all the way down and is caught by the spouts.

The sugar level is measured with an aerometer and the sap contains about 2 % sugar, no more. Basically most of it is water and that is why it does not have the nice colour the maple syrup has. We tasted it and it has absolutely no taste. 
After many many hours of boiling in special machines the most of the water evaporates and the end product is left with 67 % of sugar and it looks and tastes like the maple syrup we know.

Before visiting the maple bush I always thought that the maple syrup comes out of the tree looking as in the supermarket :-). But there is so much patience and labour behind the whole process. Thank you Canadian First Nation people for figuring out how to do this.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Obatzda - Bavarian cheese-spread

Obatzda is Bavarian cheese-spread that can be found on the menu in every beer-garden. Every beer-garden has its own spice mixture that is added to the cheese. Some of the spices often used are sweet paprika, caraway, onions and beer. There are probably as many variations as there are beer-gardens.

original recipe
in German

250 gr Camembert (at room temperature)
1 tbsp soft butter
1 small finely chopped onion
salt & pepper
some sweet paprika
some ground caraway seeds
4 tbsp wheat beer (Weißbier)

rye bread

Mix well Camembert and butter. Add all the spices and as much beer as you need to get a creamy spread. Let it sit for at least an hour so that all flavours develop. Obatzda should be eaten on the same day it is made. If you plan to serve it the next day cook the onion in some oil until soft, cool and add to the mixture.  Obatzda is best eaten on a slice of rye bread.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New chocolate from Yogi Tea!

Yogi Tea has started making chocolate! I have tried their Cinnamon Spice and Mexican Spice chocolates and they are so good. Although Cinnamon Spice was tasting more like the traditional Mexican drinking chocolate than the Mexican Spice chocolate it self. But I did enjoy both very much so!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce, usually made with different chili peppers and many other spices which all give mole its amazing flavour. I love it.

I have been intimidated to make mole for a very long time.  Mostly because it was a completely new subject to me, I was not familiar with preparing anything like mole. Even a Mexican person will tell you how complicated it is to make it.

Then one day I met someone who actually had made mole from scratch.  And I was told that as long as you can find all different chili peppers (quite difficult when not living in Mexico) it is not hard at all. But that it does take time to make it.
So I gave it a shot. And I am glad I did.

So I am reconfirming, it is not hard at all. It just takes time, you will need about good 3 hours. I usually roast and fry all the ingredients the night before and the next day I puree and cook. 

I use this recipe. The things I have changed from the original recipe are:
  • I roast chili peppers and tortilla in a dry cast iron skillet, no oil.
  • For frying the rest of the ingredients I use grape-seed oil and a bit less than a half a cup.
  • I do not use the extra sugar as Mexican chocolate gives enough sweetness.
  • I cook mole until is quite thick (see picture) because most of it goes to the freezer. The recipe really gives a lot and it works excellent to freeze it. When you are ready to have it just put it in the fridge the night before and then add to some hot chicken stock.

Now back to the chili peppers. In Mexico there is a huge variety of dried chili peppers and when they are dried they get a completely new name. For example chili chipotle is a dried version of a fresh jalapeño chili.

Here you can see all four chili peppers used in the recipe, from the left: mulato, ancho, pasilla and chipotle meco.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mexican chickpea cake

I love chickpeas, in any form. So when I saw a recipe for a cake with chickpeas I had to make it. And I was not disappointed. With a touch of cinnamon and small amount of sugar (I used only 3 tbsp) it was an exceptional cake. 

The original recipe calls for nata (skin from boiled milk), which I did not have, or evaporated milk. Since I do not use canned evaporated milk (no Nestle allowed in this kitchen) I used cream instead.

Torta de garbanzo
recipe from Cooking in Mexico
2 cups cooked chickpeas (I used one 540 ml can)
3 tbsp cane sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cream
1 egg
1/2 oz almonds ( I used ground almonds)
1/4 cup raisins
extra cinnamon to sprinkle the cake

Preheat oven to 175 C. Butter a 20 cm round cake dish, line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put all ingredients, except for the raisins, in a blender and blend until smooth. Add raisins and pour into the cake dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for about 30 minutes. Cool for couple of hours before cutting.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Black Forest cake

Black Forest cake, or as it is called in German Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, is one of my favorite cakes. Chocolate, cherries, cream and kirsch are meant to be together! And the kirsch is a must, without it you cannot really call it a Black Forest cake...and the more the better.

I found a recipe at the website of a company selling traditional clothes from Schwarzwald. They also have a detailed pictures of how the cake is put together. It is a great recipe!

Black Forest cake
recipe from
Trachten Winkler

chocolate-almond cake
200 g butter
200 g sugar
some vanilla
8 eggs
200 g cake flour
200 g ground almonds
150 g grated dark chocolate
zest of one lemon
2 tsp baking powder
100 g powder sugar
200 g butter
1 egg
zest of one lemon and some juice
300 g flour
50 g cherry marmalade
9 tablespoons kirsch (more or less)
8 dl whipping cream
150 g powder sugar
cherry filling
about 500 g fresh cherries or from a jar
about 150 g sugar
about 50 g corn starch
6 dl whipping cream
100 g powder sugar
150 g dark chocolate, grated
16 fresh cherries

If you can, make the chocolate-almond cake a day before because the next day  it is easier to slices it in three layers.
Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a 26 cm round cake pan with parchment paper on the bottom. In a small bowl put the flour, ground almonds, grated chocolate, lemon zest and baking powder.

In another bowl beat the room-temperature butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy and fluffy. Add room-temperature eggs one buy one until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture and with a spatula slowly mix until well blended. If you fell the mixture is too thick add some milk. Pour in the cake pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Check with a cake tester. Let the cake cool completely. If you are baking the day before, after it has cooled down wrap it in the plastic foil and refrigerate.

Now make the short crust. Beat the sugar and butter, add the egg. When fluffy add flour, lemon juice and zest. Roll out, about 2 cm thick and cut a 26 cm circle. Bake at 180 C degrees about 15 minutes.

If you use fresh pitted cherries for the cherry filling put them in a sauce pan together with the sugar. Cook on a low heat until they have softened and released the juice. In a small cup mix the corn starch and some water, add to the cherries and cook shortly until thick. Let cool.

If you use jar cherries, drain them from the juice. Put the juice in a sauce pan, add sugar and let it boil. Mix the corn starch with some cold water and when the cherry juice in boiling add it. Cook shortly until thick. Take of the heat and add cherries. Let cool.

Assembling the cake
Cut the chocolate almond cake in three layers.  Whip the cream and powder sugar for the filling. Spread the cherry marmalade over the short crust.

Top with one almond-chocolate layer and soak it with 3 tablespoons of kirsch. Spread two rings of cherry filling over the layer. Spread three rings of whipped cream around.

Cover with the second layer of almond-chocolate cake. Soak with 3 tablespoons of kirsch. Spread whipped cream. 


Top with the last layer  of almond-chocolate cake, soak with 3 tablespoons of kirsch. Refrigerate the cake for couple of hours or overnight.

Whip the cream and powder sugar for the decoration.Cover the whole cake with whipped cream. Mark the 16 slices with a knife and with a help of pastry bag pipe 16 whipped cream roses. Grate the chocolate and spread on the top and the sides. Top each cream rose with a cherry. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Champurrado is another Mexican drink made with cacao beans that is really amazing. The difference from the Mexican hot chocolate is that ground corn is used to thicken it up (the same corn flour used to make tortillas) and it is not as sweet as the hot chocolate. If you have Mexican chocolate discs you can easily make champurrado by adding some corn flour until you have slightly thick chocolate.

However, last time we were in Mexico I picked up a bag of champurrado mix by a brand Kekua. The ingredients are: corn, sugar, cacao, cinnamon and soy lecithin. You add 3 tbsp of this mix to a cup of milk or water, boil it, froth it, done.

I really like this mix, it is perfectly sweet and thick, they just could have added a bit more of the cinnamon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lentils with spätzle

Lentils with spätzle is an old traditional Swabian dish (south west Germany) and it has become my favorite lentil recipe. Well, not exactly the traditional dish but rather an updated version of it.

I found the recipe at the website of the organic food company Rapunzel and it is somewhat modernized version of the traditional dish. These lentils have a touch of apple juice, apple balsamic, cloves, cinnamon and there are no sausages on the side like in the traditional version. And it is not only delicious but it is also very easy to make.

Just make sure to use cloudy apple juice without any additives or sugar, i.e. pure unfiltered apple juice. I use this one.

Lentils with spätzle
adapted from Rapunzel
serves 2

400 gr cooked brown lentils
30 gr butter
20 gr flour
3 dl cold water
3 tbsp cloudy apple juice
2 tbsp finely diced celery
2 tbsp finely diced carrot
2 tbsp finely diced potato
1 tbsp apple balsamic ( I use regular apple vinegar)
1 bay leaf
a tiny tiny pinch ground cloves
a tiny tiny pinch ground cassia cinnamon

250g flour ( I use spelt)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
about 1,5 dl water

In a saucepan melt the butter and add the flour. Cook on a medium heat until the flour gets light brown, takes a bit more than 5 minutes. Add about 3 dl cold water and whisk until nicely blended with the roux. Add the apple juice, all diced vegetables and spices. Cook until the vegetables are done.

If you are making spätzle start with the dough. Mix flour, salt and eggs. Add slowly water until you have dough that is not too much runny nor too much thick. When you put the dough in the spatzle maker it should form drops but not drop straight through. Cook the spatzle in plenty of water and drain.

When vegetables are done add apple balsamic (or vinegar) and cooked lentils. Let it boil and serve with spätzle.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Favorite bakery in Munich

Hofpfisterei is my favourite bakery here in Munich. They make amazing breads, sweet breads, danishes, cookies...just name it. All bread is organic sourdough and they have so many variates. My favourite  bread is called '1331', a blend of rye and wheat. But to be honest I love them all.
And their poppy seed streusel and hazelnut-braid, oh my oh my, addiction for ever and ever.