Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another Christmas Gift

The company I work for has a Venezuelan subsidiary, I've been there a couple of times. The people are nice, the food was great, there was lots of interesting things to see, it was darn hot, but most of all I remarked upon the difference between those who have money and those who don't (80% is poor). Because of the relationship that I have had with helping them remotely with their problems with computers and our software, I have become friends with some of the people there, one especially, and we usually exchange Christmas gifts. And one of the chocolates he sends every year, is one from Nestle Venezuela, called Toronto. This has apparently been around for many years, and it is odd, because I live in the city next to Toronto, in Canada. The chocolate itself is tasty, milk chocolate surrounding a darker chocolate nougat, surrounding a hazelnut. I wanted to look up the origin of this name, though I don't really speak Spanish, a few words I can pick out that are similar to English, but a lot I don't know. I did find another product that they make, which is named Boston. That should be interesting too, as I like a lot of things from there. I'll have to talk to my friend to see if he can ship some. He also send some of his favourite ground coffee, Venezuelan coffee, that is quite tasty. I prefer Costa Rican coffee, I find it's the tastiest of the South American coffees. I don't agree that Colombian is the best, as most of the coffees are made of beans from that country. I have read recently, too, in a book on coffee and chocolate, that Costa Rica is renowned for its coffee.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

One of the Christmas Gifts I got this year

My brother and his wife give me unusual gifts each Christmas, she must have been anxious as to what I thought of it, as she prodded me as to what I thought of the salt bottles that were on her stove. I did take a look at them at the time, there were several different kinds, some of different colours, but I didn't remark on them. Little did I know that she had gifted me with my own set.

I am a fan of sea salt, I don't use the process iodized version that is common on supermarket shelves. I think that it is like white flour and white sugar, all the goodness has been taken out of it. I use two kinds, one of them called Celtic sea salt, it's Celticness comes from its origin of Britain, more than it being from that ancient tribe. It's a "dirty" or unwashed sea salt, so that most of the minerals and other good things are still in there. The other kind I have is just labelled sea salt, it looks much like the iodized salt mentioned before. The bottles include:

Fleur de sel de France
I've read this on other blogs, they recommend this. The description reads that it is often referred to as the "caviar of the salts". It is harvested by hand as well. It can be used to enhance the flavour of all dishes, or as a finishing salt. I can't wait to try this one. Also called Flower Salt.

Grey Salt
This one looks most like the Celtic sea salt, though it gets its colour from the clay that lines the evaporation ponds where it is produced. It has a high concentration of minerals and can be used on most dishes.

Le Saunier
This is another French sea salt and is good in most dishes.

Hawaiian salt or Alaea
This is the oddest one of the bunch, its crystals are really red. It is rich in minerals and is great for grilling meats and fish, giving an authentic "island" flavour to spice combinations as well.

Salt and Pepper blend
Now, this is the oddest one of the bunch, as it is whole peppercorns as well as sea salt crystals. Now, I see several problems with this, one being that the ratio of pepper to salt may not be correct for the dish, two being that salt grinders are different than pepper grinders, you can't put them together in one. I imagine that I'll end up picking out the peppercorns, it would have been nice too if they had provided different kinds of peppercorns as well, but I guess that would have been too weird. According to the directions, this is supposed to be good for marinating, creating vinaigrettes or for grilling, though I still have a problem with the proportions.

Salt of France
It seems there are many different kinds of sea salts that come from France, this is the third kind, though this salt is from the Mediterranean Sea, and is only French in that the saltworks where it is produced, Aigues-Mortes of Camarque since 1856, are in France. This is ideal for filling salt cellars and grinders and is an excellent seasoning for all food.

Pink Salt
This is the second most interesting sea salt, colour-wise, it is supposed to have a light and delicate peach colour. It also has a mild flavour and can be used as a finishing salt, sprinkle a few flakes on food just before serving. It also can be used as a replacement for salt in most recipes, and melts quickly and evenly so it can be used in baking and cooking.

Brazilian Salt
This sea salt is harvested in the blue waters of Brazil and finished in Belgium. Due to its high resistance to humidity, it is idea for salt mills.


Around New Year's, I make this sometimes, as our family is not really big fans of alcohol of any kind, let alone red wine. My sister likes it, so when she is there, she lives in China with her husband, I make it. It's a fairly simple recipe to make, but tastes really good.

1/4 L water
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 piece lemon peel
60-80 g sugar (to taste)
1/2 L red wine (your favourite)

Add the spices to the water in a saucepan and bring to boil on high heat; boil for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Reduce the heat to medium and add the red wine; bring back up to almost boiling. Take off the heat and remove the spices. Add to glasses. You can put a slice of lemon in each glass.

Optional: Leave the water out, upping the amount of red wine to 3/4 L.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


When we were young, we would often go over to our German friends, they lived in the country. They made different cookies than we did, so it was always good to go there and be able to sample something new and tasty. One of these were rumkegeln, or rumballs. My brother and I, the same one I argue with about hazelnuts or almonds, both loved these, we would go around from cookiedish to cookiedish, picking out the rumkegeln until they were gone. These are easy to make, and, fortunately, the recipes have since been handed down to us, they were transferred to computer in the '90s, and I and my brother both got a copy, so we can make our own. Somehow, they don't taste as good as when she made them...

Hafermark, I found out eventually, is just oats ground up fine. Or one could use oat flour.

Palmin is coconut oil, sold in hardened blocks. We were unable to get them for a while, with the concern about bad fats and all, though I have read that coconut oil is actually a good oil. Fortunately, they are stocking it again.

150 g Hafermark (oats ground fine)
60 g Palmin
60 g Icing Sugar
3 Tbsp. instant chocolate powder
1 Tbsp. rum
water (if needed)

Melt the palmin; add the sugar and chocolate powder and stir. Allow to
cool to lukewarm, then add it to the ground oats along with the rum. Form
into small balls; put in fridge to set.


I made these for the first time last Christmas, being intrigued by recipes using honey in them. Rubenkraut is a syrup made from sugarbeets, it's quite tasty as a spread on bread. The chocolate pudding I use requires 500 mL of milk, adjust accordingly with the one that you use. I find that working with honey presents its own problems, it's sticky; the less liquid it is, the harder it is to work with; and it may need more flour. But it adds a great taste. I use a raw honey, I don't buy the one you can get in stores, which have likely been heated and may even have had sugar added to them. Support your local beekeeper, it is a dying art. I have had many interesting conversations with the fellow I buy my honey from, there are many things that are important for making honey, the weather, parasites, overwintering, swarming (when the new queen leaves to find a new place to set up her hive), lots of interesting things. One needs to be in tune with nature to be a beekeeper. It's a good way to live life.

500 g flour
6 g (2 tsp.) baking powder
1 pkg. non-instant chocolate pudding
375 g sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2-3 drops lemon extract
200g honey (or Rubenkraut)
2 eggs
5 Tbsp. milk
125g Butter
125g ground hazelnuts (or almonds)

Mix flour, pudding powder and baking power and sieve onto a counter surface or kitchen pad. Create a well in the center of the heap; add within this the sugar. Add to this well also the spices, honey, egg and milk, and lemon essence. Work this all together to make a mealy consistency. Cut the cold butter into chunks, then add to the flour mixture, as well as the ground nuts and work the butter into the flour until a dough is formed. Add more flour if it is sticky. Place in fridge for a time. Roll the dough out, cut with cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 8-12 minutes at 175-195C (350F).

Saturday, December 17, 2005


This is another Christmas cookie that I make every year, and is also a source of contention between my sister-in-law and brother, and myself. They maintain that it should be made with almonds, I maintain that it should be made with hazelnuts. I think they taste better, though I will give in that the bitter almond probably marries better with the almonds than the filberts. This is another Dr. Oetker recipe. When I say Dash of spice, the recipe says that it's about the amount on the very end of a knife (so, in other words, a very small amount). If you like the taste of these spices, feel free to add more, but this amount comes through fine. This recipe I would think needs to be done by hand, rather than using a Kitchenaid mixer.

500 g flour
6 g (2 tsp.) baking powder
250 g sugar
3 tsp. vanilla sugar
2 dashes ground Cardomon
2 dashes ground Cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. bitter almond
1 egg and 3 Tbsp. Milk (or two eggs)
100 g ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
200 g Butter

Mix flour and baking power and sieve onto a counter surface or kitchen pad. Create a well in the center of the heap; add within this well the sugar, spices, egg and milk (or eggs), and bitter almond. Work this all together to make a mealy consistency. Cut the cold butter into chunks, then add to the flour mixture, as well as the ground nuts and work the butter into the flour until a dough is formed. Roll the dough out, cut with cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 8-12 minutes at 175-195C (350F).

Another Christmas Cookie - Pfeffernuesse

A little more than a week to go before Christmas, and I'm really into my Christmas baking. This despite a sinus infection that has bothered me for several weeks. Now I'm on anti-biotics, and they're going to X-Ray my face on Monday. This is a recipe I got from my sister, she's made these in the past, and they turned out pretty good. The week ripening really brings out the flavours, and should be done.

3 cups sifted flour
¾ teaspoon each salt, baking powder, all-spice, mace, cardamom
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon soda
1/8 teaspoon ground aniseed
I cup honey
3 tablespoons shortening
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients. Heat honey (do not boil.) Add shortening. Cool. Beat in egg. Stir in dry ingredients just until blended. Let dough stand 10 minutes to stiffen enough to handle easily. Shape into 1” balls. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350F 13 to 15 minutes. Cool; frost. Store airtight a week to ripen. Makes 60.

Frosting: Combine one tablespoon water (note: original recipe says one egg white, but I never have done it that way), 2 teaspoons honey and ¼ teaspoon ground aniseed. Gradually add 1 and ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth. Put 12 to 14 cookies in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons frosting and stir to frost all sides of cookies. Lift out with a fork onto rack. Repeat until all are frosted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Egerlaender Schnecken

I made these on Sunday evening, three batches, the container of quark that I buy is 500g. Quark is unripened cheese, similar to Ricotta, or any other semi-ripened cheese. I think of these definitely as being Christmasy, though I have made it other times of the year. These days, I no longer put the icing sugar topping on, it is sweet enough without the extra sugar, if you're concerned. This recipe again is from Dr. Oetker. The weight of the cheese is without the water, though I find the cheese I buy does not have a lot of extra liquid.

Egerlaender Schnecken
150 g Quark Cheese, liquid removed
1/3 cup Milk
1/3 cup vegetable Oil
75 g Sugar
3 tsp Vanilla Sugar
pinch salt
300 g Flour, sifted
2 tsp Baking Powder

Remove most of the liquid from the cheese (Note: weight of cheese is without liquid). Combine cheese, milk, oil, sugars and salt. Stir until smooth. Combine flour and baking powder. Add half the flour mixture by tablespoonfuls to the cheese mixture. Knead in the rest of the flour mixture.

30 g Butter, soft, for brushing on
50 g sugar
50 g currants
3 tsp vanilla sugar
50 g almonds, ground
75 g raisins

Roll out the dough to a size of 45 X 35 cm; brush on the soft butter. Mix together the rest of the filling ingredients; spread out on the dough. Roll up the dough into log form by the short side. Cut the log into 1/2 inch circles. Place onto greased sheet and press down slightly to flatten. Bake at 350 F for 15 - 20 minutes.

175 g Icing Sugar
2 tbsp Water, hot

Add the hot water to the icing sugar, mix until smooth. Brush onto hot Schnecken.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Third of Advent, An Easy Lunch

I made this for lunch today, Sundays I usually eat with my Dad, he's all alone. Simply cook some noodles, whatever your choice, today I made Spaetzle, egg noodles. Then fry some ground meat, I used extra lean ground beef, but you could use chicken or turkey or pork. Drain the extra fat. Add a can of cream of chicken soup (or mushroom or broccoli), according to the instructions on the can if it's condensed, and then stir until it comes to a boil. You can add vegetables, we did corn niblets, if you like. Pour the cream sauce on the spaghetti and enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2005


This is the other of the two cakes that my Dad likes the best, of the many things that I bake, he has always maintained that it tastes exactly like his mother made it, which is quite an accomplishment, seeing as he grew up in East Africa, in what was Tanganyika at the time, a German protectorate, it's Tanzania now. I use modern ingredients now, I imagine that vanilla sugar and Rum flavouring were hard to come by there. This recipe is from an old Dr. Oetker recipe book.

250 g Butter
250 g Sugar
3 tsp Vanilla Sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp Rum extract
some salt
500 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
approx. 1/8 L of milk
30 g cocoa
25 g sugar
2-3 Tbsp. milk

Stir the butter until it is smooth, then alternately add the sugar, vanilla sugar and eggs. Add the rum extract and salt last. Mix the baking powder with the flour, then add it through a sieve, alternately with the 1/8 L of milk (only add enough milk so that the dough falls stiffly from the spoon). Transfer about 2/3 of the dough to a greased Springform pan. Add the cocoa and sugar, again sieved, to the remainder of the dough. Add enough milk to make it of a consistency that it falls stiffly from the spoon. Add the chocolate dough on top of the yellow dough, then draw a fork through the underside dough, twisting the dough in a spiral so that some of the yellow portion comes to the top. Continue this technique all around the Springform pan. Bake at 350C for 75 minutes, the last 10 minutes with the oven off.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I made this for my Dad today, it is one of the two cakes that I make that he really likes. I had made it from a cake mix from the German company Dr. Oetker, I use a fair bit of their products, at least what I can get here, and they don't produce that anymore, so I found this recipe, somewhere on the 'Net. I was intrigued that it had half flour and half corn starch, and my sister-in-law gave me an odd look when I told her, but it turns out quite good. Of course, my Dad, who has hiatus hernia and can't eat spicy things, latched immediately onto the lemon flavouring above all, and wondered if I had put acidic lemons in there. Really, no. Just the flavour of lemons. He's always suspicious and often jumps to the wrong conclusion when it comes to baking. Of course, a lot of things have cinnamon in them, especially if it has apples, and that can be an irritant.

250 g butter
200 g sugar
3 tsp vanilla sugar
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
3-4 drops real Lemon extract
1/2 tsp Rum extract
125 g flour
125 g corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder

Stir butter well. Add sugar and vanilla sugar and cream with butter. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring in between. Add salt, lemon and rum extracts. Stir flour, corn starch and baking powder together, then sieve onto butter mixture. Mix well. Place parchment paper into a loaf pan and butter all over the parchment paper. Pour in the dough. Bake 60 minutes at 350F (180C). Cover the cake with more parchment paper if the top begins to brown too much.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I had written in my post about egg white, not eating it raw, but this recipe has egg white in the icing, and I've seen a few recipes on the 'Net that have this, at least in the icing. I suppose that it gets cooked somewhat, when you place it on the still warm newly-baked dough. I never really liked this when I was a child, there was something about nuts that ruined a perfectly good cake, it was just the mouth-feel of the nuts that I didn't like, not really the taste of them. Nowadays, I really go for hazelnuts, have a passion for them, I think they're far superior to the almonds, so feel free to double the hazelnut portion.

500 grams flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp Cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
375 grams sugar
125 grams butter
3 eggs
125 grams halved hazelnuts
125 grams halved almonds

For Icing:
150 grams icing sugar
1 egg white
water ( to thin if needed)

Cream butter. Add sugar, eggs, nuts, cocoa and spices. Mix in flour, and baking powder. Roll out the dough into a lightly greased 12 by 8 baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 min (for the last 10 min turn the oven off). Cover with icing. Let cool then cut into triangles.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tante Line Plaetzchen

These are called Jam Thumbprints in English, but I far prefer this name, translated it is Aunt Lina's cookies. My mother's name was Linde, and some of our relatives would call this Tante Linde Plaetzchen. Somehow, that never seemed right to me. Too, these cookies are the crux of a long-time argument between my sister and me, and my brother and his wife. They maintain that they should be made small, teaspoon-sized; we maintain that they taste better tablespoon-sized. So now every year we make our own batch, and they make theirs. They make them the wrong size, of course... Really, they taste better large...

Tante Line Plaetzchen
2 cups butter
4 egg yellows
1 cup sugar
4 cups flour
3 tsp vanilla extract
raspberry (or other) jam

Vigorously stir the butter, then add the other ingredients, the vanilla coming last. Roll the dough into balls after kneading it for several minutes. Press a small hole in the ball with the thumb and fill this hole with raspberry jam. Bake at 300F (150C) for 15 minutes.