Kuchen (“cake”) and Obstkuchen (“fruit cake”) can refer to many different desserts and pastries in Austria and Germany. By Austrian fruit cake I am referring to a very simple, very common preparation of a dense but tender cake that is topped with seasonal fruit before going in the oven. It’s made throughout the year with whatever fruit happens to be best that day. I was in Austria in May, June, and July, and saw it made first with rhubarb, then cherries, then apricots. The fruit settles into the cake nicely during the bake, but is still visible from the top. I think soft fruits that get a touch jammy when cooked work best for this (as opposed to, say, apples … Continue reading.
Apple Johnny is a cake from eastern Canada that is baked in apple sauce. This is the third traditional cake from that region I’ve come across that is baked in a sauce or syrup. I think that’s enough to classify this as a family of cakes. I am going to call them drop cakes, because you make a batter and drop it into some manner of delicious sauce or liquid. Not a traditional term by any means but there it is.
Anyways, the most famous drop cake is pouding chômeur, which is a traditional Quebecois cake baked in maple syrup. When I mentioned this to a friend who grew up in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, she said that they … Continue reading.
One of my favourite Italian desserts is simple, elegant, and endlessly adaptable: cookies and sweet wine. In Italy I’ve seen this dish served with every manner of cookie, from amaretti to lady fingers to biscotti, and sweet wines as various as Vin Santo, Recioto, and Pantelleria. You could easily take the dish outside the realm of Italian cuisine and try something like ginger snaps and sweet applejack. A particularly memorable experience was being served s-shaped Buranelli cookies with a glass of sweet Zibbibo in a small restaurant in Venice on a wet, chilly September afternoon.
Originally published December 1, 2013.
The triumph of Scottish baking on the old national lines.
Shortbread is the primordial cookie. It has only three ingredients: sugar, butter, and flour. And I guess salt is a welcome addition. Sometimes there’s caraway. And there are a few variations like Ayrshire shortbread that include eggs and cream. But usually it’s just sugar, butter, and flour, combined in a very simple ratio: 1:2:3.
In other words, butter makes up fully one third of the weight of the dough, so this is indeed a very short dough, “short” referring to fat’s ability to inhibit gluten development, creating a tender, brittle pastry. Some classic recipes will even replace a portion of the wheat … Continue reading.
There are several kinds of gingerbread cookies, from the soft, chewy type with large cracks in the surface, to the very smooth, brittle sort used to build houses and men. This post is about the latter.
Below is a very simple gingerbread recipe that I wanted to post on Button Soup for the sake of completeness, as I use it to build my gingerbread houses. I like to cut the excess dough into other traditional shapes, like men, Christmas trees, and dinosaurs.
Tips and Tricks
- The key to getting this dough to hold its shape during baking is to roll it quite thin, about 1/8″, and to chill it thoroughly before baking.
- This is one of the very few instances
I know I already posted today, but I wanted to quickly tell you about some cutting-edge developments in the composition and aging of the 2012 fruitcake.
Hazelnuts lose their spot to almonds. For three years now my fruitcake has been poundcake flavoured with orange zest, garnished with glacé Evans cherries, candied Navel orange peel, and roasted hazelnuts. The cherries are the star. They bring loads of flavour, acidity to balance the buttery luxury of the cake, plus they’re from Lisa’s dad’s backyard.
Working with Evans cherries over the past couple years, we’ve noticed that their aroma has a distinct note of almond extract. For some reason this aroma is especially evident in the single-varietal rumpots we’ve made. This … Continue reading.
This is one of my favourite ways to showcase my maple syrup. A simple oat cake is baked, then cut into squares and cooled. The baking dish is then filled with hot maple syrup, which the cake soaks up like a sponge. Essentially a lazy man’s pouding chômeur (a lazy man’s poor man’s pudding?)
Oat Cake in Maple Syrup
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
For the soaking syrup:
- 2 cups maple syrup
- 2 cups
My mom has prepared a yule log cake every Christmas I can remember. I have no idea how this tradition came to my family, as it is extremely French (“bûche de noël”), and we are not.
The cake is a simple sponge. Whole eggs are beaten thoroughly, sugar is added, then a bit of water, and finally flour and cocoa are folded in. The batter is runny, and forms a shallow, uniform, fine-textured cake after baking.
The interior icing is a buttercream made by whipping room-temperature butter into Swiss meringue. Swiss meringue is a mixture of whipped egg whites and simple syrup cooked to soft ball stage.
The exterior frosting is icing sugar beaten into lard, which makes the colour … Continue reading.
The waiting is the hardest part.
-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
I used to revile fruitcake, but in recent years a description by Jeffrey Steingarten has made me more receptive to the dish.
…full of dark, saturated medieval tastes and colors… aged for a year and then set aflame at the very last minute, carefully spooned out like the treasure it is…
I became mildly interested in the idea of aging baked goods, but I still regarded fruitcake as a gaudy curiosity. Then I came across fruitcake in the memoirs of a woman who grew up during the depression in Northern Ontario, called On Turnips, Teas, and Threshing Bees. Her description of fruitcake, and the lengths her family … Continue reading.
My dad grew up in eastern Ontario, in sugar shack country. The most common applications of maple syrup in his home were pouring over pumpkin pie and cornbread, or, if he was especially well-behaved, as a dip for white bread. These dishes win for most direct conveyance of syrup to mouth without drinking from the bottle, but I need something (slightly) more refined.
My Québécois dessert of choice is pouding chômeur. “Chômeur” means unemployed. Here it functions as a substantive, so this is “unemployed person’s pudding.” “Poor man’s pudding” is a more natural sounding translation. Whatever you call it, it’s a fantastic, unadulterated way to enjoy maple syrup.
A simple batter of creamed butter and sugar, eggs, … Continue reading.