Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Unlike in his native Ireland, in the US Saint Patrick is a much celebrated man. He creates an opportunity for well-nourished Americans to feel like their poor Irish immigrant forefathers, eating cabbage-y dishes with boiled potatoes, washed down with a beer that is know for being "good for you".

The patron saint of Ireland enjoys special popularity because the anniversary of his death is exempt from Lenten fasting - a suspension his followers interpret as invitation to unlimited alcohol consumption.
St.Patrick - cause of devout imbibing!

Since I, naturally, embrace everything that is "good for me", and strictly abide by the motto: "Life is uncertain - eat the dessert first!", baking cupcakes with Guinness (to find my inner Irishwoman) was a natural conclusion.

And, to make it even an even more boozy Irish themed dessert, I wanted some Bailey's Irish Cream on top!

I changed Laura's recipe for Guinness cupcakes a little, substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat, adding a bit espresso powder for a deeper chocolate flavor, and (as a physician) reducing the amount of salt a tad. 

Instead of buttercream, I chose a (lighter)
Cream Cheese Frosting, adding a little less sugar - it should keep its shape, but didn't have to be stiff.

When I pulled the cupcakes out of the oven, I was a bit concerned about their softness (even though the needle came out clean). But after cooling, a few hours later, they had enough structure to be frosted.

A day later, the flavors had blended, and the cupcakes tasted so delicious that I would have drunk green beer and eaten corned beef with cabbage without any complaint.


Cupcakes  (adapted from Tide & Time Blog)
(enough for 13 Cupcakes)

95 g/3/4 cup all purpose flour
30 g/1/4 cup whole wheat pastry
200 g/1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda (4 g)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 bottle Guinness (about 170 ml)
113 g/1 stick butter
32 g/3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Natural Cocoa)
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 egg
77 g/1/3 cup sour cream

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting   (adapted from
139 g cream cheese, softened
36 g butter, softened
180 g powdered sugar (1 1/2 cups)
36 ml/ 2-1/2 tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream
Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC. Line muffin cups with paper liners. (You have batter for 1 cupcake more than 12.)

A whisk works well to mix the dry ingredients

In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Bring Guinness and butter to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly.
Stirring dry ingredients into chocolate mixture

In bowl of a (stand or hand held) mixer, beat egg and sour cream. Add Guinness-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat until just combined. Add flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined.

Fill paper liners up to 3/4 with batter

Fill cupcake liners up to 3/4 with the (rather liquid) batter. Bake cakes, until a needle, inserted int the middle, comes out clean, about 17 minutes (the surface will be quite soft, and finger pressure will leave a dimple!)

Even when done, finger pressure will leave dimples (bottom left and right)

Let cupcakes cool completely on wire rack (after 5 minutes, lift them gently from the molds).

Bailey's Cream Frosting

For the frosting, blend together cream cheese, butter, and Bailey's in a medium bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well after each additon after all is incorporated.

Pipe frosting on cold cupcakes (or spread with small offset spatula or knife). Decorate with cocoa or chocolate sprinkles.

Bailey's Cream Frosting: the dot on the i

The cupcakes taste best, when they have sat one day. Stored in a cool spot they keep fresh for several days.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Plötzblog is one of Germany's best bread baking blogs. When Lutz Geißler (author of "Das Brotbackbuch") invited us to his blog event blog-experiment: "Wir bauen uns ein Brot" (Let's build a bread), I was intrigued.

Of course I wanted to attend the very first "Bread Olympics"

Each participant has to bake a loaf, roll or small bread with these ingredients and these amounts:
  • 450 g (90%) wheat flour Typ 550 (or bread flour)
  • 50 g (10%) whole rye flour
  • 10 g (2%) salt
  • sourdough and/or yeast
  • water
And that's it: nothing else should be added.

But there are no restrictions on how to make your bread - method, level of hydration and leaven are entirely up to you.

This challenge was hard to resist, especially since the best of all husbands was still traveling all over Vietnam, and, after sanding and re-oiling all my kitchen counter tops, I could do with some entertainment.

My husband, indulging in imperial dreams in Vietnam

I knew at once what kind of loaf I wanted to create - a French bread, made with Forkish's minimalistic method, and baked in a Dutch oven. I'm really enthusiastic about how you can bake a fabulous bread that is "pinched instead of kneaded."

So I opened my BreadStorm program, entered the ingredients, and started to play around with hydration levels and percentages of pre-fermented flour.

I also had to take into account the amounts of flour in my refreshed levain - 5 g bread flour and 2 g whole rye flour - and deduct them from the total.

BreadStorm-Users (including the free version) can download the formula here 

Whether my Pain au Levain de Seigle will win at the Plötziade, or not - it definitely was a winner for me. I enjoyed its aromatic taste, crackling crust and open crumb so much that it went straight into Karin's Bread Hall of Fame!

Still a bit warm - I couldn't wait any longer!


1. Step-Levain (Refreshing - you will use only part of it for step 2)
10 g mature starter (what you have at hand)
40 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
40 g bread flour
10 g whole rye flour

2. Step-Levain (after 24 hours)
12 g refreshed levain (keep remainder as mother starter in the fridge)
47 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
47 g bread flour
12 g whole rye flour

Final Dough
338 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
398 g bread flour
36 g whole rye flour
10 g sea salt
118 g levain (2. step)

7:00 - 9:00 a.m. Feed your mature starter (step 1) (With such a small amount the hydration level of your starter doesn't really matter.) Cover and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

Ripe levain, showing the typical sponge structure under the surface

7:00 - 9:00 a.m. (24 hours after refreshing the starter)
Mix 2. step-levain, cover, and leave for 7-9 hours at room temperature.

Mixing flour and water until all flour is hydrated

2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
In large bowl, mix flours and water by hand, until all flour is hydrated. Cover, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add salt and levain to flour mixture

First pinching the dough...

...then folding it. (The last 2 photos are from other, similar breads)

Prepare bowl with water (to make your hands wet). Sprinkle salt over flour mixture and add levain.

With (wet) hands, fold dough from sides over to the center, then, working like a pincer, pinch dough several times, alternating with folding, until dough is smooth, about 5-6 times. (DDT: 77º-78ºF/25º-26ºC.)

After folding place dough ball back into bowl

Fold dough 3 times more, twice at 20 minute intervals, the last time before going to bed. Leave, well covered, at room temperature overnight.

The dough has tripled overnight

After 12-15 hours the dough should have tripled. Prepare a very generously floured rising basket.

Transfer dough to a floured area on an (otherwise unfloured) work surface. With floured hands, gently fold sides towards the middle to make a round. (The flour "skin" on the underside prevents sticking.)

Folding the dough from the sides to the middle

Then flip the round gently over, seam side down, onto the unfloured area. With floured hands, pull dough ball towards you, until you have a medium-tight boule.

Place dough round, seam side down, in proofing basket, sprinkle generously with flour, cover well, and proof for about 3-4 hours.

3/4 hours before baking, place Dutch oven (with lid) on the middle rack, and preheat oven to 475ºF/245ºC.  Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter (for the bread transport).

Finger poke test: a dimple that doesn't fill up again

The dough should at least double in size, use the finger poke test to decide whether it is ready to be baked.

Finger poke test:
Gently press a dimple with your finger in the dough - it should still be a bit elastic, but not fill up again, and stay visible. 

Cutting parchment paper to make a sling for the bread

Place bread on prepared parchment paper, smacking the banneton energetically on the counter! Cut paper around the bread, leaving 2 long pieces as handles, to make a sling. (Clipping the paper prevents creases from cutting into the bread.)

Using a paper sling makes transferring the bread to the hot pot easy

Remove hot Dutch oven from oven, and put bread (with paper) into it. Replace the lid.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid, and bake it for 20-25 minutes more, or until bread is medium to dark brown (internal temperature 210ºF/99ºC).

Tilt Dutch oven to slide bread out (the paper might now be too brittle to serve as sling), and let the loaf cool on a wire rack. Let the bread rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing - even if you, like me, have a hard time to wait!

A very tasty bread!

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


Monday, March 3, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Time flies, it's March, and we Avid Bakers are rising to our monthly challenge: a savory pastry from King Arthur Flour: Mushroom Cheddar Tarts. For me, a welcome change after all those holidays sweets (some sticky meringues are still uneaten!)

Like many other reviewers, I halved the recipe, since there was no big party to supply. Also, the best of all husbands left me to my fate, eating everything I bake by myself (to the detriment of my waistline), while braving a 29-hour flight and a rickety bus to visit Cambodia and Angkor Vat.

Exploring ruins instead of helping me eat - I'm left alone with my tarts!

I used my recently purchased mini-muffin pan (a bargain from HomeGoods, my home-away-from-home). Fellow bakers made regular muffin sized tarts with half the dough, but needed the whole amount of filling. For my tiny bite sized tarts half the filling was enough.

For the Hi-Maize Natural fiber in KA's recipe I used the more interesting natural fiber, contained in Einkorn flour, and Parmesan cheese instead of cheddar cheese powder. Otherwise I followed the recipe.

Don't be intimidated by a crumbly dough - it will come together
Except for one thing: "Cook's Illustrated's" secret weapon for a foolproof pie crust.

Instead of adding more (gluten enhancing) water to keep the crumbly dough from falling apart, I used Vodka!

The little tarts turned out really nice, and, left to the task of eating them alone, I "forced" myself to dine on half of the batch - a great sacrifice!

Next time (and there will be a next time!) I might try them with another vegetable, leek or tiny  broccoli florets. And perhaps some fresh herbs, too.

MUSHROOM CHEDDAR TARTS  (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
(24 mini tarts)

113 g/1 stick cold butter, cubed
120 g/1 cup all-purpose flour
34 g/1/4 cup Einkorn flour
28 g/1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/16 tsp. cayenne pepper
43 g/3/8 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup ice water
1-2 tbsp. Vodka (doesn't taste, but moistens the dough without enhancing gluten formation)

57 g/1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tbsp. butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
3/8 cup milk or half-and-half (I used half-and-half)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
28 g/1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

A food processor makes cutting in the butter a cinch

For the crust: combine dry ingredients in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until an unevenly crumbly mixture forms (with pea sized butter pieces.)

Vodka - secret ingredient for a foolproof pie crust

Transfer mixture to a bowl, sprinkle with cheddar and water, and, using a rubber spatula, mix and press, until dough is cohesive; add 1-2 tablespoons Vodka, if necessary (more water makes the dough less tender!)

The dough will be crumbly and have a marbled look from the butter pieces

Pat dough into a disk, wrap in plastic foil, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling: saute mushrooms and red pepper in butter until the water is evaporated and vegetables are browned. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200ºC.

Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut rounds

Roll dough into a 10" x 13"/25 x 33 cm rectangle, and, using a round (2 1/2"/6 cm) cookie cutter, cut 24 rounds for mini-muffin pans (re-roll dough pieces, there will not be much leftovers.)

A tamper is a great tool for fitting the rounds in the mini muffin cups

Fit rounds into cups of mini muffin pan (using a tamper helps!)

Place 1 teaspoon each of sauteed mushroom mixture and shredded cheese into each cup. Then fill with egg mixture (about 2 teaspoons).

Ready for the oven!

 Bake tarts for 18 - 22 minutes, until they are golden, and the crust browned.

Allow tarts to rest for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.

Serve warm. (Or refrigerate and reheat for 10 minutes in a 375°F/190ºC oven.)

Great for a party buffet, or just for Sunday brunch

If you would like to participate in our monthly baking challenge, here is the link to the Avid Bakers.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

A leaden sky promised another snow storm, when I received a surprising facebook message. Harald Mahr (cahama - Besser: Selbstgemacht!!) presented me with the "Liebster Award - discover new blogs" and made my day!
 The whole thing is a fun action -  there is no jury, and the award is only honorary.

You get nominated, because another blogger likes your blog, and wants to give it some recognition. And if you join, you have to tag other small blogs you like ("liebster" means "most favorite" in German.)

I did a bit of research, because the way of distribution seemed a little suspicious. I didn't want to be part of a chain letter scam, so I tried to trace the award's source, and, also, checked with Google.

The "Liebster Blog Award" is obviously around since 2010. The earliest post can be traced to Bird of Paradise, but its origins seem to be lost in the darkness of history.  
During blog-to-blog transmission the rules seem to have undergone an evolution. Jasmin's (Birdy of Paradise) request:

"The goal of this action is shining the light on good blogs, therefore I would ask you not to post blogs that already have 3000 readers, but talented newbies & people, who, though blogging for while, are not yet very well known." 

first turned into: "tag blogs with less than 3000 followers", but then was, more rational, downsized to  "less than 200 followers".

While in this case commonsense won over a too literal interpretation, the stipulation: "Name 3-5 favorite blogs that you link to your post, too..." took the exact opposite direction - realistic 3-5 ballooned into 11 favorite blogs!

This strange inflation made several bloggers wonder whether it wasn't a chain letter scam, after all. 

In ye olde posts was no mentioning of questions and answers. It was just about recognizing other bloggers and presenting them to others.

At some point someone came up with the idea of the mini quiz: 11 questions, from which the nominee should choose, and answer, one. But here, too, evolution followed: in the meantime all questions have to be answered.

The Liebster-Blog-Action spread, from Germany worldwide, and participating blogs cover books, lifestyle, fashion, foodie - you name it!

I like the original idea behind the award. It's neither about money, nor does it hurt anybody. As blogger Sopphey (Sopphey Says) states: "It's just a recognition from one blogger to another for how awesome they are. Kind of like a really big Internet hug!"

I was happy about Harald's recommendation, and found answering the questions funny and interesting. Therefore I participate, but, like the founding mothers, will restrict my nominations to  3-5 blogs (you'll find them at the end of this post).

These are my answers to the questions:

1. Why did you to start to blog?
This was my daughter Valerie's doing. She said: "Mama, you are talking constantly about baking, your breads and recipes  - you should really write a blog."

My daughter instigated me to blog

2. What, in your opinion, turns a normal day into a good day?
When I experience something that makes me happy: an interesting discussion with my husband or my kids, a bread that turned out great, the first crocuses after a long Maine winter, or the magnificent view over Frenchman's Bay.

Early morning fog in Frenchman's Bay

3. What famous personality would you like to meet?
The Dalai Lama. From all I know about him, he is one of the few world leaders that have real moral and spiritual authority.

4. What kind of food do you like best?
Haha, bread, of course. Especially home baked. But, on the other hand, my motto is: "Life is uncertain - eat the dessert first!"

My favorite food is bread

5. And what food don't you like?
Green bell pepper: as a child I hated stuffed pepper so much that I poked around in my plate for hours, and then, when nobody was looking, buried them in the flower box. I'm no big fan of kale, either.

6. Where would you like to travel?
I would like to travel with my husband through England, Schottland und Wales, just 
following my nose, as I did with my BFF when I was a student. That was a really wonderful trip.

B&B in a 17th-century watermill  (1971)

7. How many cookbooks do you have?
So many that my shelves almost cave in, and I pledged Equal Opportunity for All Baking Books, to bake at least one recipe from every book. My attempt to get rid of some cookbooks at a store that specialized in them, ended with my leaving with even more cookbooks.

Only a small part of my cookbook collection

8. How does your kitchen look like after your cooking?
Pretty tidy, I put away what I don't need anymore. I always think of my grandmother, a wonderful cook, who left the kitchen a veritable battlefield after family dinners - and we kids had to clean up.

My Omi - wonderful cook with "battlefield"

9. Do you rather cook yourself or have someone cook for you?
As much as I like cooking, I like even better if someone cooks for me. My husband doesn't need a recipe for inspiration (I do). When we both come home hungry and tired, he goes opens the fridge and creates a nice meal from what he finds. But I, also, like eating in a good restaurant.

I like it when my husband cooks for me

10. Your favorite dish?
Crabcakes. I should probably write a post about it.

My favorite dish: crabcakes

11. Your favorite place?
I am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Maine, next to Acadia National Park. Mount Desert Island is my favorite place (followed by my hometown Hamburg).

Mount Desert Island and the Acadia National Park - my favorite place

My nominations for "Liebster Blog Award":
Hanaâ's Kitchen (Hanaâ instigated the Avid Baker's Challenge)

BreadLab (Freerk makes wonderful videos of his baking experiments - check them out!)

Ninivepisces: Ninive pairs her bilingual blog posts with matching music, sie answered Fragen über Fragen/Questions upon Questions

It's Foodzeit! Che(f) Foodzeit just returned from China to his native Swabia, let's see what he will serve us next: Liebster Blog Award - I won a prize!

(Chrissitally's Cupcake Factory I am too late! Christin colorful blog for dessert lovers has been nominated in December - well deserved!)

  1. Why did you start a blog?
  2. What do you hope to achieve with your posts?
  3. What rules do you follow when you blog?
  4. What are your blogging no-nos?
  5. How did you learn to cook/bake?
  6. What are your 3 must-have kitchen gadgets?
  7. What 5 ingredients do you like best?
  8. What is your favorite dessert?
  9. Where would you love to travel?
  10. What cookbook would you take on a trip (if you had the opportunity to cook)?
  11. What is your pet peeve about food? 

Rules (if you accept the nomination and want to participate):
  • Answer the questions
  • Come up with 11 new questions for those you want to tag
  • Name 3-5 favorite blogs that are not yet well known, with less than 200 followers
  • Inform your nominees about the award (link to your blog post, with explanation and Liebster-Award-Logo)
  • Inform the blogger, who named you, that you accept the award, and put a link to your blog post as comment on his page.