Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gingerbread Quest

This Christmas season I embarked on a quest to find the perfect gingerbread recipe. My goal was to make a soft gingerbread that has just the right amount of spices.

Did I find it? Not quite, but I am so close...

I started out with some regular recipes I found online that do not require and hard to get ingredients like Hirschhornsalz (baker's ammonia). The first recipe I tried fooled me and the gingerbread turned out to be hard. It was not bad, but definitely not what I wanted. The second recipe was not actually a gingerbread recipe, it contained lots of eggs and butter and was really more of a cake - but it tasted amazing. I also made something similar to Magenbrot (a gingerbread like cookie that is sold on Christmas markets in Germany), which is probably my second favorite Christmas cookie recipe, but again not really gingerbread.
After that I figured I better get some Hirschhornsalz and proper gingerbread spices from Germany (thanks a lot mom for sending me some!). Then I went online and looked for an old gingerbread recipe that contains invert sugar cream (Kunsthonig), which was used in war times instead of real honey. I found a recipe which I slightly modified by using a mix of brown and white sugar instead of white sugar only, and mostly whole wheat flour and ground nuts instead of white flour. I also let the dough rest overnight instead of using it right away, which was recommended in almost all other gingerbread recipes I found. The texture is exactly like I wanted it to be, and it tastes pretty good, but I think the amount of gingerbread spices was a little too much, and it turned out to have more of a gingerbread taste than I wanted. Maybe this will resolve itself after a few days since gingerbread is rarely supposed to be eaten right away.

Here are some pictures of my different "gingerbreads":
The last recipe: Soft, chocolate covered gingerbread

Gingerbread spice cake
Hard gingerbread

Here is my modified gingerbread recipe:
Combine 250g butter, 200g sugar (half white, half brown) and 250g honey and heat slowly until the sugar melts. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let cool down before adding the other ingredients.

Combine 100g ground hazelnuts, 100g white flour, 100g spelt flour, and 300g whole wheat flour (the original recipe simply uses 600g flour - I am sure almost any combination will work). Also add 1 tsp baking powder, 5g cinnamon and 7.5g gingerbread spices. However next time around I would add less gingerbread spice mixture, probably also only 5g (the original recipe calls for 7.5g of cinnamon plus 7.5g gingerbread spices).

Mix one egg with 1/2 cup milk. Dissolve Hirschhornsalz (= hartshorn, baker's ammonia) in milk mixture.

Add milk mixture and flour mix to the cooled honey mix. Stir until combined. Cover and store in a cool place over night (I put my dough in the cold basement for ~20 hours).

The next day, spread the dough over parchment-paper covered baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 30 minutes.

Cover with melted chocolate and cut into squares while still warm.

And of while I was in Christmas baking mood I also made some other Christmas cookies:
Kokos-Marzipan-, und Haselnussmakronen
dunkle Engelsaugen

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gingerbread Cake

This recipe for gingerbread cake has been sitting in my list of recipes to try for probably two years now. This year I finally got around to making the cake that sounds just perfect: it contains gingerbread and marzipan! There are 3 almond sponge cake layers stacked with gingerbread cream, plum fruit spread and marzipan:


Sponge Cake:
  • 180g sugar
  • 110g flour
  • 40g corn starch
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 100 ml cold water
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Beat egg whites until stiff. Then beat egg yolks, water and sugar until light colored and foamy (can take several minutes). Mix almonds, flour, corn starch, baking powder and cinnamon, and fold under egg yolk mixture using a spoon. Fold in egg whites and bake at 320 degrees F for 20 - 30 minutes. I used three 9 inch baking forms and baked the cakes for 20 minutes, which resulted in 3 perfect layers for my cake without having to cut one sponge cake into the different layers. However baking one cake for about 30 minutes and cutting it into layers works just as well.

Cream Filling:
  • 180g mascarpone
  • 100g greek yogurt
  • 200 ml whipping cream
  • 100g gingerbread
  • 20g sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/2 package powdered gelatin (~4g)
Crumble the gingerbread into fine pieces (I used chocolate covered gingerbread, but I think any kind will work as long as it does not contain any dried or candied fruit). Using a small grinder or food processor on a low setting works well to make the crumbs. Mix the crumbs, mascarpone, yogurt and sugar. Whip cream with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Dissolve the gelatin in the orange juice for 10 minutes and the heat slowly until the gelatin melts. Let cool a bit and mix into whipped cream (start with one spoonful of cream and add more cream slowly). Quickly mix the cream-gelatin with the gingerbread-mascarpone. If the filling is very soft, put it in the fridge for the gelatin to harden.

Assemble the cake:
You also need plum jam and 100g marzipan. You can either grate the marzipan or roll it out into the form of your cake. Put about 2/3 of the gingerbread cream on the bottom layer. Add the second layer and top it with jam and the marzipan. Finally add the 3rd layer of sponge cake and cover the cake with the rest of the gingerbread cream. Decorate with gingerbread cookie pieces.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Skiing Cannon Mountain

Since I've been baking too many cookies Peter figured out how to get me away from the oven for a few days even if it is not windy: Skiing! The forecast looked great, so we went for a skiing trip to Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire.

Peter found an amazing place to stay at the Woodstock Inn Brewery, where we had a whirlpool and gas fireplace in our rooms. The skiing was great with new powder and sunny skies. Since this was our first day back on skis after a 6 year break, my legs stopped working at 3pm and I was asleep at 9. I did however manage to take my camera and make a few pictures from the great area and my tired face (but honestly my eyes are only closed because I was looking directly towards the sun):

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Intimidating Fun at Corporation

A windy, sunny Saturday - what else would we do except go windsurfing. So off we went, but instead of our usual NW spots we decided to check out Corporation. I recently fell back in love with my custom wave board shaped by Mark Angulo and really wanted to sail it in some waves where it belongs.
Usually we don't go wave sailing in waves that are taller than I, and definitely not in December and 5 degrees Celsius (40 F) temperatures, so this was a bit intimidating today. The around 30 mph averages did not make it more comfortable either and we almost decided to go somewhere else after arriving and looking out at the water and the blowing sand. But since I had said I wanted to sail in waves, and there definitely were some waves, I figured I had to rig up and at least give it a try. It was a surprising amount of fun and I am glad we ended up sailing in Corporation! Big thanks to everyone who came out to play, and especially to Peter who went with me even though he is not a big fan of Corporation. He took a few pictures of me on my last run in:

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Finally it is December, which means I have an excuse to bake Christmas cookies! Trying out new recipes is half of the fun, so I went ahead and tried a few new ones which I found online and in the amazing cookie recipe book The Gourmet Cookie Book. So far I made benne wafers, coconut-cranberry cookies, bride's cookies and Spritzgeb├Ąck.

Benne wafers are sesame (=benne) caramel lace cookies that consist mainly of sugar and sesame seeds. I made those mainly because I had a lot of sesame seeds, which I use occasionally when baking bread. The recipe for these are from the Gourmet Cookie Book.

Similar to the sesame seeds I had some dried cranberries lying in my kitchen, so I went in search of a recipe that uses cranberries. I found this recipe for oatmeal cranberry coconut cookies, and changed it just slightly by skipping the white sugar. The combination of coconut and cranberry flavor tastes great.

Bride's cookies ("Pastelitos De Boda") are essentially a shortbread butter cookie with ground pecans. The recipe is agin from The Gourmet Cookie Book, and I changed it only by adding some cardamom to give the cookies some spice.

Making Spritzgeb├Ąck (spritz cookies?) was the most fun, since I had a cookie press to make them. The recipe is also from my book, and the pretty picture of the traditional S shape inspired buying a cookie press. Making tree and heart shapes with the press was super easy, free forming the S shapes not so much, but a challenge is half the fun, right?!