Saturday, July 27, 2013


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Preparing a favorite summer dessert, St. Colomba Cream, for the first time in Maine, I didn't quite know what to use instead of the Sahnequark (cream quark) the recipe requires.

Well, it has cream in it, I mused, and so has mascarpone. And that's what I took.

But instead of creating a smooth, velvety dessert, I ended up with a dense and uber-rich vanilla cream. With 30% more fat than it should have had, the saintly Irish gooseberry dessert weighed down our stomach like a stone.

Moving from Europe to the US, I had to adjust to several new, or somewhat different, dairy products.

I was, also, amazed at all the low, or no-fat choices in the dairy aisle. (Not to mention my confusion about no-fat yogurt consumption on one hand, and obesity rate on the other).

Some products seemed to be just the same as their German namesakes. But were they, really?

Schmand /Sauerrahm is soured cream
German "saure Sahne" means "sour cream", but is it like US sour cream? (No, it's not!) And "Sauerrahm" or "Schmand"? Again, they are "soured cream" - but no sour cream!

And the American equivalent to quark?

The difference between Austrian "Schlagobers" and German "Schlagsahne"? The translation for both is "whipping cream"! (But Schlagobers has more fat.)

Fortunately, finding the right American substitute for most of these European milk products is not as crucial as it is for flour types.

The difference is often the fat content. But in many cases you can exchange a full fat into low-fat dairy to make a leaner version of a recipe, and vice versa.

But it is always good to know what you are doing, if you try to find a workable substitute for Schlagsahne, sour cream & Co.

Cream cheese:very popular in Europe, too

Some American cheeses, like cottage cheese and cream cheese, made their way overseas, same as some milk products of European origin are available in the US (like ricotta, mascarpone and crème fraîche.)

German Käsekuchen is less denser and lighter than its US cousin
Quark, a classic ingredient in German and Jewish immigrants' pastries, was replaced by cheaper cream cheese, and, sadly, never managed a comeback.

Though there are a few creameries in the US that produce it, you will find quark very rarely in supermarkets, and it is ridiculously expensive.

To make Käsekuchen, the traditional German cheesecake, without quark, I had to develop my own version.

These are commonly used dairy products in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the US, with their fat content.

SWEET DAIRY PRODUCTS   (available in:)

Germany/Austria/Switzerland                  US                                                    Fat Content (%)
Fettarme Milch                                          Low-fat Milk                                                     1 - 2

Vollmilch                                                    Whole Milk                                                       3.5

     -                                                            Half and Half                                                10.5 - 18
     -                                                            Light Cream                                                     18 - 30
Schlagsahne                                           Whipping Cream                                                 30 - 36  Schlagobers                                             Heavy Cream                                                36 or more
Creme double                                                    -                                                                   40
Süssrahm-Butter                                 Sweet Cream Butter                                               80 - 82

SOURED DAIRY PRODUCTS  (available in:)

Germany/Austria/Switzerland                US                                                     Fat Content (%)
Buttermilch                                              Buttermilk                                                          0 - 2
Magermilchjoghurt                              Low-fat Yogurt                                                         2
Dickmilch                                                       -                                                                    3.5
Kefir                                                            Kefir                                                                 3.5
Joghurt                                                    Plain Yogurt                                                     3.5 - 4
Frischkäse Leicht                             Light Cream Cheese                                                    7
     -                                                     Light Sour Cream                                                 7.2 - 8
Magerquark                                         (Low-fat Quark)                                                      10
Hüttenkäse                                           Cottage Cheese                                                       10
Saure Sahne                                                   -                                                                     10
Griechischer Joghurt                             Greek Yogurt                                                         10
Sahnejoghurt                                                  -                                                              10 or more
Schichtkäse                             (Layered Quark from Bavaria)                                      10 or more
     -                                                        Sour Cream                                                       12  - 16
Ricotta                                                     Ricotta                                                                13
Quark/Topfen                                          (Quark)                                                               20
Schmand/Sauerrahm                                      -                                                                20 - 29
Crème fraîche                                     Crème fraîche                                                      30 - 40
Frischkäse                                           Cream Cheese                                                         34
Sahnequark                                                  -                                                                      40
Mascarpone                                         Mascarpone                                                    70 or more
Sauerrahm-Butter                           Sour Cream Butter                                                  80 - 82

This list is certainly not complete. It might have errors, for those I apologize. But it is the best information I could find.

European supermarkets offer less low-fat versions of dairy products than American stores (you will not find a low fat ricotta or mascarpone), but, instead, more higher fat cream options (Sahnejoghurt, Sahnequark), and I didn't include any no-fat products in my list - no fat is no fat!

Some American dairy products differ only slightly from their European counterparts, like butter - US: 80% fat, European: 82% - these two percent are only relevant for pastries with laminated dough, like croissants.

Croissants are easier to make with European butter

Some differ slightly in their taste: yogurt and buttermilk in Europe are a bit more acidic than in the US.

But you can safely exchange dairy products with a similar consistency, acidity, and a fat content that's not too far apart.


If there is an American equivalent listed in the same row, use it: (like Buttermilch = buttermilk, etc.)

For Schlagsahne and Schlagobers: use whipping cream or heavy cream. For a leaner version: light cream or half-and-half (only, if it doesn't need to be whipped.)

For Crème double: use heavy cream, or 50% heavy cream/50% mascarpone

For Dickmilch: use kefir or yogurt (low-fat or regular.)

For Saure Sahne: use Greek yogurt or sour cream (light or regular.)

For Sahnejoghurt: use Greek yogurt (full fat) or sour cream.

For Schmand/Sauerrahm: use sour cream or crème fraîche.

Quark, often labeled Speisequark, is hard to find in the US

With quark (often marketed as "Speisequark") it is a bit of a challenge. Like Greek yogurt it has been strained of most of its whey.
  • Magerquark (10%): use full fat Greek yogurt instead
  • Quark (20%): for pastry, use cream cheese. For creamy desserts, use full fat Greek yogurt, or a cream cheese/sour cream mixture*)
  • Sahnequark (40%) : use a mixture of cream cheese and crème fraiche or sour cream. Or blend half mascarpone/ half cottage cheese in a blender.
*) I do not find ricotta a good substitute, compared with tangy quark it is too bland, and its consistency too gritty.

Irish St. Colomba Cream, made with gooseberries and quark

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Light, fruity and lemony - just the right dessert for hot summer days!

My family has two favorite summer desserts, both very light, tangy and refreshing.

One is the famous Rote Grütze, made of at least three different kinds of red berries, a summer treat so popular that it slowly made its way from Denmark and Northern Germany to the South, even welcomed by Bavarians (who notoriously despise everything even remotely "Prussian").

Popular German summer dessert Rote Grütze

The other goes by the poetical name of "Errötende Jungfrau" (= blushing maiden), referring to the delicate pink hue of the dessert. It is made with buttermilk and lemon, and we enjoy it even when the temperature goes up to 90, and our panting Buffy demonstrates the true meaning of "Dog Days".

Summer's Dog Days turn Buffy into a sea dog

"Errötende Jungfrau" is, like Rote Grütze, a traditional North German specialty, not only Pommern (Pomerania) (homeland of my mother and grandmother), but Ostpreussen (East Prussia) and Dithmarschen in Schleswig-Holstein claim it as their own.

Our family version is simple and straight forward: just buttermilk, lemon juice and zest, sugar and gelatin.

The red coloring comes from red gelatin. Other recipes contain egg yolks, fruit or even red wine.

Though my beloved Omi's puristic recipe is very good, I like to achieve the pretty pink color in a more natural way.

Dark, sweet cherries, one of my favorite fruits, make my Maiden blush, and, also, adds some nice bits to the jello-like dessert.

"Errötende Jungfrau" is quick and easy to make. It only needs some time to set and chill.

Make it in the morning, when you want to enjoy it with tea or dinner. Or prepare it the evening before.


17 g/ 3 tbsp + 1/4 tsp. gelatin powder (2 1/2 pouches) (I use Knox Unflavored Gelatine)
 or 12 gelatin sheets
 cold water, for soaking gelatin
 1 liter buttermilk (I use 2%)
95 g/6 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
250 g pitted cherries
125 ml whipped cream (for garnish, optional)

Cherries and cherry puree provide fruity bits and color

In a blender (or with an immersion blender), puree 50 grams of the cherries. Cut remaining 200 grams in halves (saving a few as decoration), and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sugar, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract. Stir in pureed cherries, until well blended.

Cherry puree makes your Maiden blush naturally

For gelatin powder, sprinkle gelatin over 150 g cold water. Let stand for 1 minute, then microwave on high for 30-40 seconds, stirring once to dissolve.

For gelatin sheets, in a small bowl, cover gelatin sheets with cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then gently wring to remove excess water, and microwave it until melted.

To temper it (and prevent lumps!), stir 1/4 cup of the buttermilk mixture into the melted gelatin, until well combined. Then, slowly add tempered gelatin in a steady stream back into buttermilk mixture, whisking continuously, until completely blended.

Slowly add tempered gelatin to the buttermilk mixture, whisking steadily

When mixture starts to thicken, but has not completely set, fold in chopped cherries. Pour dessert in a glass bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator for several hours to chill and set.

To serve, decorate with whipped cream (if desired) and reserved cherries. "Errötende Jungfrau" keeps fresh for several days in the fridge.


Monday, July 15, 2013


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

There are two things members of our patchwork family have in common - we love good food and we hate olives!

Even the pickiest of our kids, Valerie, producer of the famous "square mouth" whenever I made her try at least one bite before she said she didn't like it; and Francesca who ordered "just white rice" when we ate at a restaurant, ended up as foodies. Valerie even became a chef!

Chef Valerie with proud Mom
The Andersons and their offspring pick olives off pizzas, and leave them untouched in the salad bowl. They don't order tapenade and don't drink martinis. But then something strange happened...

Knowing that a lot of people are olive fans and crave them in all kinds of foods, I looked for an olive bread recipe to satisfy those die-hards among my customers.

I found one in my favorite "Brot aus Südtirol" and decided to give it a try, tweaking it a bit (using a preferment and overnight refrigeration).

It was quite a struggle to force the slippery olives into the dough (maybe they sensed my negative vibes).

I also found it not very easy to roll the dough into the right shape for dividing it into equal sized pieces, without a lot of leftover cut-offs.

No wonder, my first batch of "Pane di Olive", looked like misshapen scones, with dark bruises (from my abuse?), but (at least) they didn't smell bad.

With some misgivings and no great expectations I bit in an olive studded roll. Took another unbelieving bite and was deeply shocked - the olive bread tasted good, really good, incredibly good!

Incredibly good!

I gave one to Richard, the most willing guinea pig of all husbands (but, also, staunchest olive hater of us all) who eyed it with visible distrust. "You should probably call that "Malfatti" (Italian for "badly made") he suggested, but then, just to please me, nibbled gingerly at one corner.


Good quality olives are important

Making the olive bread again and again - it proved to be a big hit with my customers at A&B Naturals, too - I learned a few tricks to make the mixing and shaping easier.

It is very important to use good quality olives, like Kalamata. The bread's taste depends on those olives, so don't skimp on this essential ingredient.

Drying the coarsely chopped olives killed two birds with one stone

Not only draining, but letting the olives dry for several hours on kitchen paper towels, makes them less slippery, and much more willing to embrace the dough. Killing two birds with one pit stone,
this simple measure also takes care of the ugly "bruising" of the bread.

Instead of using a preferment, I find it easier to work the dough with stretch and fold, with an overnight stay in the fridge. This method requires less yeast, so I reduced it a bit.

A template makes rolling and cutting the dough easier

And, finally, a bit of calculation (not my strongest point) and a paper template made the rolling and cutting of the dough a cinch!

OLIVE BREAD   (adapted from Richard Ploner: "Brot aus Südtirol")
(10 pieces)

250 g/8.8 oz Italian 00 flour
250 g/8.8 oz all-purpose flour
    4 g/0.14 oz instant yeast
    9 g/0.3 oz salt
    5 g/0.18 oz honey
  30 g/1.6 oz olive oil
100 g/3.5 oz Kalamata olives, pitted
240 g/8.5 oz water

12 g/0.4 oz milk
12 g/0.4 oz whipping cream
7 g/0.25 oz sugar

DAY 1:
Drain olives in a strainer, chop coarsely, place on kitchen paper towels, and let dry for several hours.

Mix all ingredients, except for olives, at low speed (or with large wooden spoon) for 1-2 minutes until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 2 minutes, adjusting with a little more water, if necessary (dough should be a bit sticky.) Knead for another 4 minutes, while feeding olives slowly to dough. It should still be somewhat sticky rather than just tacky.

Starting with the top, fold dough in thirds like a business letter

 Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With oiled or wet hands, stretch and pat it into rough square. Fold from top to bottom in thirds, like a business letter. Then fold the same way from both sides. Gather dough into ball, and place, seam side down, into lightly oiled bowl. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.

After stretching and folding you have a neat package of dough

Repeat this stretching and folding 3 more times, at 10-minute intervals. After the last fold,  place dough, well covered, in refrigerator overnight. (It doesn't have to warm up before using.)

DAY 2:
Preheat oven to 410º F/210º C.  Cut parchment paper into a 24 x 30 cm/12 x 9.5" template. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

The dough has doubled overnight in the fridge

In a little bowl, mix topping ingredients, place in microwave, and bring to a boil. Remove, and set aside.

Rolled out and marked for cutting into 10 pieces

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a square (24 x 30 cm/12 x 9.5"), using the template (about 1.5 cm/0.5" thick). Trim edges. Using pizza cutter or knife, cut dough square first lengthwise in half, then each half into in 5 equal pieces. The dough will be very soft.

Brush with milk mixture and dock with wooden spoon

Transfer pieces to parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with milk wash. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, press deep holes in the dough, evenly spaced. Cover, and let it rise for 30 - 45 minutes, or until breads stays dimpled when poked with finger.

Bake breads (no steam) for 10 minutes, rotate pan 180 degrees, and continue baking for another 10 minutes, until they are golden brown (internal temperature at least 200ºF/93ºC)

To this day we are still amazed that we Andersons do like olives - when they come with Olive Bread!

Completely updated post (originally posted in 5/30/2010)

Submitted to Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico
                                        Indovina chi viene a cena                                            

Monday, July 8, 2013


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts 

Our ABC July project was exactly what I needed to welcome summer after a rain drenched June: Blueberry Hand Pies, a recipe from King Arthur Flour. These cute portion-sized pies combine two major food groups: buttery pastry and fruit!

Since our wonderful native Maine blueberries were not ripe yet, and frozen wild blueberries are not quite as flavorful, I combined them with rhubarb from the garden (as "honorary" berry), and threw some fresh raspberries in the mix. (When I made them a second time, I used sour cherries from our garden).

The amount of sugar in the filling was sufficient to balance my tarter fruits, so I didn't add any more sugar. But first I omitted the lemon juice, until I tasted the cooked fruit. It could definitely do with a little more tang, so the lemon juice went back in.

The food processor makes mixing a cinch

For the dough I used the food processor, which made short work of cutting the butter to the desired pea sized pieces. Adding the sour cream I had King Arthur's cautioning in mind: the dough will not be cohesive.

Emptying the bowl on the counter I found this quite the understatement - not cohesive? Without the slightest feelings of solidarity, the crumbles did their best to avoid contact with their comrades, rolling madly around and trying to escape to the floor.

No worries about the crumbles: the dough will eventually cooperate!

Here my soda bread making experience came handy, I told myself not to get nervous, and managed, with a little bit of milk to moisten my hands, (and without brutal force!) to coax the rebellious crumbles into a rough semblance of a dough.

A piece of plastic foil helps here, too, you can press on the crumbs without them sticking to your hands (or, later, to the rolling pin).

For my second batch I added a bit of vodka to the dough (America's Test Kitchen's advice in mind), to make it a little moister without the danger of gluten-development, as with water. (Don't worry, you won't taste the alcohol.)

The turns - rolling and folding the dough - were less difficult than I expected. Even though the dough was brittle and got some cracks in the process.

Since it was a really warm day, and the dough started to stick a bit, I put it after the first turn for a few minutes in the freezer, to firm up again, and, also, gave it an overnight rest in the fridge before shaping and baking it the next day.

Ready to spend the night in the fridge

The little cut out stars from the vents made nice little cookies. We liked the crunch and taste of raw sugar as topping better than sparkling sugar that added nothing to the flavor.

Looking at those cute little pies we knew: they had to be great. They didn't earn their 5-star reviews for nothing - the were absolutely delicious!! Definitely something I will make again!

They taste as good as they look - definitely a keeper (here with sour cherries)

SUMMER BERRY HAND PIES   ( adapted from King Arthur Flour)
(8 Pies)

216 g all-purpose flour
25 g whole grain flour (I like Einkorn)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
227 g unsalted butter, cold (2 sticks), cubed
113 g sour cream
1-2 tbsp vodka (helps moistening, but, unlike water, without gluten-development - no worries, you won't taste it!)

227 g blueberries (or other berries, sour cherries or rhubarb, or mixed, fresh or frozen)
50 g sugar (or more, to taste)
1 tbsp. Instant ClearJel (or 2 tsp. cornstarch)
2 tsp. lemon juice

1 egg, beaten, for brushing
raw sugar, for sprinkling

Process the dough to a coarse, crumbly mixture with large, pea-sized butter pieces

Using a food processor, add flour, salt and baking powder to bowl, and pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse, until mixture is crumbly, but leave most of the butter in large, pea-sized pieces.

Or whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl, add butter, and work with hands or pastry cutter.

The sour cream hardly seems enough to moisten the dough (but it does!)

Transfer dough to a bowl, and, using plastic spatula, fold in sour cream, and vodka (dough won't be cohesive.)

Plastic foil helps with kneading and out rolling the dough

Turn it out onto a floured work surface, and bring it together, with a few quick pushes and kneads (moisten hands with milk, or cover dough with a piece of plastic foil and use it to push without sticking). DON'T GET NERVOUS, ALL WILL BE OKAY!

Pat dough into a rough log, and roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle (plastic foil on top prevents sticking). EVEN IF IT'S BRITTLE AND CRACKS, YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE!

Folding the dough the first time - you can see the butter pieces

Dust both sides of the dough lightly with flour, and, starting with a shorter end, fold it in thirds like a business letter. (If the dough gets too soft, and starts to stick, freeze it for 15 minutes to firm up again.) Use a bench knife to loosen it, if it sticks.

Trim dough to make straight edges, and place cut pieces on top

After the second turn the dough looks a bit smoother

Flip dough over, turn 90°, (re-flour, if necessary) and roll it again into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Trim sides with bench knife, placing cut off pieces on top of dough, and fold it in thirds again.

After two turns you have a neat dough package

Wrap package with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight. Or, if you prefer to bake the same day, chill dough for at least 30 minutes (better longer) before using.

Combine all filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until mixture starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. (Adjust with more sugar or lemon to taste.) Transfer cooked berries to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature. (Use ice water bath, if you need it to cool faster).

Preheat oven to 425°F, placing a rack on the middle shelf. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

A pizza cutter works just fine for dividing the dough

Roll the dough into a 14" x 14" square. Trim edges with bench knife. With a pastry wheel, or a 3 1/2" square cutter, cut out sixteen 3 1/2" squares.

Divide filling among 8 of the squares, using about a heaping tablespoon for each. Brush some of the beaten egg along edges of each filled square.

The filling looks almost too much, but it doesn't squeeze out

Cut a vent into each of the remaining eight squares, using a decorative cutter of your choice. (Place cut out pieces on baking sheet, they are great as cookies.).

Top each filled square with a vented square, place pieces on baking sheet, and press along edges with the tines of a fork to seal.

Hand Pies (and star cookies) ready for baking

Brush pie tops (and cut out cookies) with remaining beaten egg, and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake pies for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving (theoretically, we ate them, with ice cream, while hot).

 Sour Cherry Hand Pie - my delicious 2016 version!

To make ahead: Place unbaked pies on the baking sheet in the freezer. When they are frozen, wrap them individually in plastic foil and put them in a freezer bag. You don't have to thaw them, you can bake them frozen (without foil) - it will take a little longer.

Would you like to join the Avid Bakers? New members are always welcome!

Post was updated August 2016.