After 3 trips to Ireland this year, it‘s safe to say that I am a little obsessed with this country… My travel plans for this year only contained one trip to Ireland in late January with my friend to visit one of her old friends in Cork. That’s a part of Ireland I hadn’t been to before, so I was instantly lit. On my birthday another friend suggested an Irish roadtrip in the summer and a little over a month later we found ourselves on an epic adventure: #craicinatlantis. Since I had checked off at least 1 item of my travel bucket list, I was again on fire when another friend suggested to take her to Dublin over the weekend, to work on her fear of flying and to enjoy the beauty of Dublin in November. We’ve been only a few days too early for the real Christmas spirit to drop aka the Christmas lights being turned on, but it’s been a fabulous trip anyway and I enjoyed the most gorgeous views of Dublin in the winter sun.
Oooookay, how do I get to Pudding from here, cause that’s why we’re all here, right? Right… From my first trip to Dublin Pre-Christmas I brought home a Christmas Pudding from a supermarket chain because I was pretty curious what this “thing” that I only knew from my English book in school actually was like. It kind of became a Christmas tradition, but then it stopped, cause no Pre-Christmas trip and it got forgotten. Until a few weeks back, when my friend Käthe invited me to her birthday party and asked to bring something for the buffet. I thought hard about what to bring, but my mind was blank like oh so often lately… Käthe helped me to brainstorm and in the end basically she came up with an idea: Since it was that time of the year and she knows how much I love Ireland, she suggested I bring some Christmas Pudding to her party.
It’s no secret that Germany is the home of edible Christmas anticipation. I grew up with baking tons of Christmas cookies, Lebkuchen and Stollen during advent season, just like everyone else in Germany. Back in kindergarden and school we had baking afternoons and cookie recipe swaps and for our family christmas gatherings everyone brought cookies that were all different. One of my aunts always makes the largest variety of cookies, more than 10 types at least and so that you can eat through all of them in one sitting she makes them tiny miniature versions. I especially like her Florentine buiscuits. My other aunt made the hardest cinnamon stars I have ever had in my life, they even top the ones than my mother made once and almost chipped my teeth. The general pattern in my family is that we all make a variety of classic christmas cookies like butter cookies or cinnamon stars and some experimental new ones each year like coconut oat crisps. Be it my mother, sister or aunts, we all have that in common. The other thing I noticed is that with all our experience and preferences the same exact cookie can taste totally different like for example coconut macaroons. Even though recipes are often passed on between all of us, the outcome is never the same.
A bright example of that is the Stollen, a German fruit bread that can be baked in advance and can be stored for weeks. Stollen has a long history in Germany, it goes back to the 15th century. Traditional Stollen is made with yeast, however my mother makes one with Quark/Curd that is more moist and doesn’t taste yeasty (which I don’t like too much). A few years back my mother passed me the copy of her Stollen recipe and I made it myself for the first time. But I couldn’t resist changing the recipe, like I do with almost any recipe I try out of books or the internet… Stollen contains dried fruit, such as raisins and currants, I even put cranberries once, and candied orange and lemon peel, which I find rather disgusting itself. So when I made my first Stollen I gladly let the peel out and added a core of marzipan to it. Over the years I have learned a lot, tried out a lot and brought my recipe to perfection*. I hope I can inspire you to try out yourself and enjoy a nice slice of Stollen underneath the christmas tree.
*Due to the current lack of oven I baked at my Sister’s and my Stollen was not baked through completely as you might see in the pictures. On top I forgot to add the baking powder, even though she asked me if we needed it… That’s what I get for not reading my own recipes carefully… Continue reading »
My phone gave me a little blast from the past this morning: On this day last year I was in my favourite town, living the good life with a christmassy food tour with French Foodie in Dublin. I have explained my love to Dublin with a lot of words last year, so I spare you a rerun. I rather share some thoughts on the wonderful Instagram photo challenge Ketty initiated with you. I must say I don’t feel ready for christmas yet, but the #FFIDXMAS15 get’s me there. So many beautiful pictures and so many creative people and it’s only day 7. So thanks Ketty for being an inspiration and hosting this challenge. I am dying to see more pictures to inspire until Christmas.
As you might have seen already, todays Motto is “White” and as December is particularly warm this year (Sunny 13°C today), I let it snow myself with some oats and coconut. I picked up the recipe from my little sister some years back and I love how these cookies are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Continue reading »
Dublin makes it easy to fall in love with, my heart was lost the second I set foot out of the airport bus: the cobbled streets, the lovely & colourful storefronts and the friendliest people in the world. Dublin is a young, hip, colourful and vibrant city with a fantastic energy. Better not miss it!
It was 2009, just a few days after St. Patrick’s Day and we were welcomed with bright sunshine and 25°. We stayed in a run down Hotel in Temple Bar, noisy with a dripping tap and only cold water in the shower, but that couldn’t keep us from having a great time. We took a stroll around town, shopped on Grafton Street, had a sandwich on a sunny bench in St Stephens Green, took a trip to the Guinness Storehouse to learn how to pour the perfect pint, we hit the Pubs, always ending up in Palace Bar on Fleet Street, and experienced the Irish hospitality and kindness. It is impossible to chat with complete strangers in a bar at home, not to think of buying them a round of drinks. But this is completely appropriate in Ireland, cause strangers are friends you haven‘t met yet. The Irish really live up to that saying. Though the economy was in a very poor state back then and a lot of people lost their jobs, they never lost their craic and fun. I envy them for their positivity, Germans tend to see the glass rather half empty. After a few days in the city we took a bus outside of town to check out the Wicklow mountains. Beautiful landscape, hundred shades of green that you only find in Ireland and the friendliest people in the world. And that‘s when we decided we need to make this an annual trip!
We made it our tradition to fly in for Christmas shopping, something that I am looking forward to the whole year. Lately I read that Dublin at Christmas is like stepping into a Christmas card. That describes very well how I feel about the city, especially around Christmas. The festive spirit, the decorations, the shopping windows and the bright lights even in the smallest back street get me into the mood and it‘s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
I love this town for what it was and even more for what it has become.
You can see that the Irish economy is picking up again, a lot of new businesses, more shops and shoppers on the high streets and even in the smaller side streets. Some of these side streets were a little scary back in 2009 and I‘d rather not go there alone in the dark. Now, only 5 years later, all those before shady streets are full of shops, cafes, restaurants and people. It makes my heart jump to see the situation improving even more each time I come round to visit.
With all those emerging culinary hotspots, I needed new sources of information about what‘s good and what‘s not, because we only have limited time in town. I started following a few Dublin based blogs such as Frenchfoodie in Dublin, The Dublin Diary, Kate‘s Kabin and Lovin‘Dublin to get more insights. It kills me to read about Dublin most time of the year, but the closer our Christmas trip comes, the more I dig myself into these blogs. It is funny to wander a “foreign” city and to recognize restaurants and tell what food they serve and who recommended it even though I have never seen or been to this place before. I made a Pinterestboard to keep track of all the places I want to visit, the Mister trusts me to pick the good ones and I don‘t like to disappoint him. Even though some of the places are not as good as they used to be or not as good as in my memory, I love checking out new stuff while also sticking to some familiar places.
Here‘s a short summary of our trip packed with pictures and memories, enjoy! Continue reading »
I don’t know how many times I told myself to sit down and get writing. But with a lot of stuff going on and so many things to do and a complete lack of structure it never happens. When I set up my Laptop on the Dining Table, opening the blinds to let the sunshine in, the first thing I notice is, that the windows need a clean-up. There are only a few tasks in the house that I hate more than window cleaning and I don’t care about clean windows at any other time of the year but now I feel the urge to clean them RIGHT NOW. I must force myself to ignore the stainy window and sit down to write. If you look up Procrastination in Wikipedia, you may find my photo on there as a bright example of that common species: The Procrastinator. I have been one all my live, even before this fancy word made it into a dictionary.
I am easy to distract, even years of training could only milden my short attention-span. -Oh wait, my coffee mug is empty, I need a refill.- I’ve always needed hard deadlines and pressure to function, for finishing school projects, for picking my study subject or even for the major part of my Master thesis that I wrote in the 2 weeks before hand-in. Germans even have a word for what holds me back: innerer Schweinehund (find the explanation and more hilarious word-by-word-translations of German idioms here).
Blogging regularly is an ongoing struggle with myself and I envy those bloggers that have all posts planned, blog more often than once in a week and are so disciplined. In the past few months I have met a few and I wish I was more like them. I have to remind myself from time to time in order to get things done. I have to train to have patience with things and with myself and cinnamon stars are the perfect excercise for this. Cinnamon stars are delicious and not that hard to make but the dough is sticky, needs to cool overnight, the icing needs to be piped on every single star if you want them to look good and to top all this, they need to dry overnight before baking. And that’s why you need patience (and space…).
For the cookies:
400 g ground almonds (with skin) + 100 g as backup
375 g confectioners sugar
15 g ceylon cinnamon
4 egg whites (125 g total)
For the icing:
500 g confectioners sugar
2 egg whites
Mix all ingredients for the cookies together, if it is too sticky you can add some more almonds but don’t overdo. If you add too much almond they will turn out hard as stones, my Mum and Sister have been down this road… Split the dough in 4 parts and roll each part between thick cling film or freezer bags that you cut open on 2 sides with 0.5 cm thickness. As the dough is rather sticky, it is better to process it in small batches.
Let the dough cool in the fridge for some hours, better overnight. After rest-time take the first batch off the fridge, loosen the cling film/freezer bag on both sides of the dough and remove on one side completely. Then cut out stars with a starshaped cookie cutter. A wooden toothpick, a teaspoon and a small bowl of water are helpful tools to get the stars out of the cutter from time to time too. Dip your cutter into the water from time to time and remove sticky stars with the back of the teaspoon or the toothpick. Transfer your stars onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. You can roll up the rest of the dough in 0.5 cm thickness and put it back in the fridge while you proceed with the next batch and so on until you used up the dough.
If you haven’t lost patince until now, you are on a good path and have quallified for the next level: Icing. Beat egg whites and sifted confectioners sugar until the icing is smooth and thick. You can now either brush the icing onto your stars or use a piping bag with a small round nozzle. I used to brush mine but it always ended in one great big mess and the stars didn’t look as good as they look piped. Now look at the sheer masses of cookies lying in front of you, tell yourself that they are worth the work and believe me, they are going to taste even better, when you only keep going now. Brush/Pipe the icing on the stars, try to be as accurate as you can with each and every cookie. This is were the patience needs to kick in, if not, remember to listen to the guys of Take That: “Have a little patieeeence”.
Once you iced them all, you can be proud of yourself and pat yourself on the shoulder -yeah another German idiom- because YOU MADE IT. Now you leave these suckers to dry until the icing is completely firm for at least 2 hours, better over night. It is time to pour yourself a drink of whatever you like and be proud of yourself because you tackled the next level. The rest is going to be a walk in the park, trust me.
Preheat the oven to 130°C with fan and bake for 12-15 minutes. Better check on them after 10 minutes and turn the tray if necessary as the icing should remain white. Once they are baked, let them cool on a whire rack. Keep them in a cookie tin for up to 4 weeks.
You can pimp these cookies by adding the zest of 1 organic orange or other spices to the dough for an extra christmassy flavour.