Monday, September 27, 2010


150 g all-purpose flour
50 g whole wheat pastry flour (or also all-purpose flour)
100 g sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
150 g butter, cold, cut in small cubes
1 egg
50 g/1/4 cup almond slices or slivers
500 g prune plums

In the bowl of a mixer, stir together flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add butter cubes and egg. Mix with paddle attachment (or dough hook) until streusel form. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C. Adjust rack to lower middle position.

Cut plums in halves and remove pits. Line bottom of 26 cm/10 inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Transfer half of the chilled streusel dough into pan, and press down to make the crust.

Distribute plum halves evenly over streusel bottom. Mix other half of streusel with almond slices and scatter evenly over the plums.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool.

There must be hundreds of Pflaumenkuchen recipes out there - this one is easy to make, and tastes best when slightly warm and served with vanilla ice cream.

September Birthday Cake - Geburtstagskuchen im September

There's no doubt about it - Pflaumenkuchen (German Plum Cake) is my birthday cake. In the beginning of September the first prune plums show up on the market just in time for my birthday.

My birthday party was always arranged by my grandmother, my Omi, who invested all her love and imagination in coming up with games and other entertainment for me and my friends. She definitely was my role model on how to make a child's birthday party a huge success!

"Hide-and-Seek" (in the dark), "Choose-the-Right-Candy", "Say-Whom-You-Love" and "Unwrap-the-Chocolate" (with fork and knife!) were some of the games that raised excitement and noise levels to heights that called for quiet intervals of soap bubble blowing, or story telling, to calm down all the boisterous little guests.

Of course my grandmother also baked my birthday cake, a large sheet brimming full of prune plums resting on a bed of sweet yeast dough, generously sprinkled with almonds and cinnamon sugar. I loved that cake, and could eat a lot of it (though not quite as much as on those memorable occasions when my cousin Thomas and I would compete at gobbling up Omi's famous yeast dumplings!).

Nowadays, if I do not have to entertain a horde of hungry cake monsters, I bake a smaller plum cake version, either with a short or a streusel crust, in a springform pan. They taste as good as the large yeasted cake - especially with Gifford's award winning vanilla ice cream...

Es gibt keinen Zweifel - mein Geburtstagskuchen ist Pflaumenkuchen. Anfang September tauchen die ersten Zwetschen auf dem Markt auf, gerade rechtzeitig zu meinem Geburtstag.

Meine Kindergeburtstage wurden immer von meiner Omi ausgerichtet, die all ihre Liebe und Fantasie einsetzte, um sich Spiele und andere Unterhaltung fuer mich und meine Freunde einfallen zu lassen. Sie war definitiv mein Vorbild dafuer, wie man einen Kindergeburtstag zum Riesenerfolg werden laesst!

"Mops im Dunklen", "Bonbontipp", "Sage, wen liebst du?" und "Schokoladen-Auspacken" (mit Messer und Gabel!) waren einige der Spiele, die Spannung und Laermpegel auf Hoehen trieben, die ruhige Intervalle mit Seifenblasen oder Geschichtenerzaehlen erforderten, um all die kleinen, laermenden Gaeste wieder zu beruhigen.

Natuerlich backte meine Omi auch meinen Geburtstagskuchen, ein grosses Blech voll Pflaumen auf einem Bett von suessem Hefeteig, grosszuegig mit Mandelblaettchen und Zimtzucker bestreut. Ich liebte diesen Kuchen, und konnte eine Menge davon essen (obwohl nicht ganz so viel wie bei den denkwuerdigen Gelegenheiten, wenn mein Cousin Thomas und ich uns um die Wette mit Omis beruehmten Hefekloessen vollstopften!).

Heutzutage, wenn ich nicht gerade eine Horde hungriger Kuchenmonster zu fuettern habe, backe ich eine kleinere Pflaumenkuchenversion, entweder mit Muerbeteig- oder mit Streuselboden, in einer Springform. Sie schmecken ebenso gut wie der grosse Hefekuchen - ganz besonders mit Giffords preisgekroentem Vanilleeis...

Monday, September 20, 2010


Onion or Leek Tart - here the leek version

It's this time of the year again - the garden is full of red leaves, the cats stay more indoors, and the temperatures are finally falling.

Time for the perfect savory fall pastry: Zwiebelkuchen from Alsace, a wonderful companion for young (or old) wine, that we like serving to guests.

A Spanish onion (or two leeks).....
..... plus ham and cheese for the filling

It's fast and easy to make, with frozen puff pastry for the crust, a large Spanish sweet onion (or a couple of leeks) and any aromatic hard cheese you have at hand. Don't go skinny on the cream, you want a smooth and satiny filling.

(6 servings)

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 large Spanish onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
60 g cooked ham or speck, cubed
2 eggs, separated
100 g/1 1/2 cups grated Emmental, aged Gouda or Asiago cheese
125 ml/1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream
black pepper, to taste (freshly ground)

Place frozen puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface and allow to thaw for about 30 minutes, until you can easily unfold it.

Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Adjust rack to second lowest position.

Store-bought puff pastry makes an easy crust

Roll out puff pastry until it fits 11"/28 cm springform or tart pan. Place puff pastry in pan, taking care not to stretch it, then trim the edges.

Mix onions (or leek) with ham and cheese

In a large bowl, mix together sliced onions (or leeks), cubed ham, egg yolks and grated cheese. Add cream and mix to combine. Season to taste with pepper (adding salt is not necessary - ham and cheese provide enough salt).

Fold whipped egg whites into filling

Whisk egg whites until stiff. Fold them gently into onion mixture. Pour filling in springform pan and smooth surface with spatula.

Onion Tart - ready for the oven!

Bake onion tart for about 30 - 35 minutes, or until the crust is done, and the top is golden brown.

Serve warm.

For the unlikely case that you have leftovers: store them in the refrigerator and re-heat slices before serving.

My friend Andrea from Hamburg gave me this recipe.

Sunset over Hulls Cove, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Post updated 12/27/2015

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time for Onion Tarte - Zeit fuer Zwiebelkuchen

Fall is the time of the year when Alsatians and wine loving Germans think: "Zwiebelkuchen (Onion Tarte)! The mellow sweet onion pastry is the perfect companion to new wine.

If you travel in fall through the wine growing areas left and right of the Rhine, you will find inns, restaurants and many vinyards offering sparkling new wine (Federweisser), often served together with freshly baked Zwiebelkuchen.

But beware - Onion Tarte is an aider and abetter of that seemingly feathery light youngster, helping it go down so smoothly, that you are tempted to drink it like lemonade! When you wake up the next morning you realize why Federweisser is also called: "Sauser" (Buzzer) - there's something buzzing in your stomach and your head is spinning...

Herbst ist die Jahreszeit, in der Elsaesser und weinliebende Deutsche: "Zwiebelkuchen" denken. Das mild suessliche Zwiebelgebaeck ist der perfekte Begleiter fuer jungen Wein.

Wenn man im Herbst durch die Weinbaugebiete rechts und links des Rheins reist, findet man Gasthaeuser, Restaurants und viele Weingueter, die sprudelnden jungen Wein anbieten, der oft zusammen mit frischgebackenem Zwiebelkuchen serviert wird.

Aber Vorsicht - Zwiebelkuchen ist der Kumpan des scheinbar so federleichtem Juenglings, er hilft, ihn so glatt hinuntergleiten zu lassen, dass man in Versuchung geraet, ihn wie Limonade zu trinken! Wenn man dann am naechsten Morgen aufwacht, wird einem klar, warum Federweisser auch "Sauser" genannt wird - irgendetwas saust im Magen herum und der Kopf dreht sich...

The photo shows an equally tasty Onion Tarte variation: Leek Tarte. - Das Foto zeigt eine ebenso leckere Zwiebelkuchenvariation - Porreetorte.