This past weekend I went on my first long bike ride of this year. It was great to be in nature and breath fresh air. I like cities and I also like the huzzle and buzzle of cities but nothing beats the calmness of nature. I can clear my mind and relax in nature; and nature keeps me grounded.
So, last Saturday I bundled up in lots of layers since it is still very chilly outside and I went on a three hour bike ride. At this time of the year there are not many people in the countryside and there are hardly any bike riders which I like. Many people do not favor this time of year because nature seems grey and not very inviting. Years ago, I thought so, too but this has changed a lot. Without questions blooming and green trees look pretty but there is also so much beauty in naked trees. Whenever trees are covered in leaves, no one can see how the trees really look like. Next time you see a naked tree, have a close look and find the beauty in it. 
Of course, I did not leave the house without a snack for my little bike ride. I prepared a big pot of hot tea, wrapped up a freshly baked brioche in a kitchen towel and I prepared a little container with butter and honey. This was my picnic that I had halfway through by bike tour. I could not think of a better picnic food for a chilly February day. A dense freshly baked brioche is such a comforting food. It is my favorite Sunday breakfast treat and my favorite picnic food. This is why I have a few brioche recipes on the blog because I can never get enough of different brioche recipes. The following recipe is a new favorite of mine, besides my chocolate brioche recipe. I hope you like it as much as I do.  



Makes 9 brioche buns

INGREDIENTS

  • 50 g / 3 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 100 ml / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon whole milk (3,5 %)
  • 20 g fresh yeast , 3 teaspoons active dry yeast, 2 1/4 teaspoons instant active dry yeast *
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 25 g / 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 50 g / 1/3 cup raisins
  • Zest of 1/2 organic / untreated lemon, finely grated
  • 1 egg (medium sized)
  • 260 g / 2 cups and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, plus some extra for kneading
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk (3,5 %)
  • Almonds flakes
  • Pearl sugar

DIRECTIONS

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the milk and heat until the mixture is lukewarm. 
  • Crumble the fresh yeast into a medium sized bowl. 
  • Pour a little bit of the butter milk mixture to the yeast. Stir until the yeast is dissolved, then add the remaining liquid.
  • Add the pinch of salt, granulated sugar, raisins, and finely grated lemon zest and mix well. 
  • Lightly beat the egg and set one tablespoon aside. Add the egg to the mixture and mix well. 
  • Add the flour and stir until the dough comes together. 
  • * If you use active dry yeast: heat the milk until lukewarm. Add the active dry yeast to a mug and dissolve the yeast with two tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter. Mix all dry ingredients in a big bowl, add the melted butter, remaining lukewarm milk and dissolved yeast. Proceed as written above. 
  • If you use instant active dry yeast: mix all dry ingredients in a big bowl, then add the lukewarm butter-milk mixture and proceed as written above. 
  • On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth. If the dough is sticky, add a little bit more flour. 
  • Place the dough back into the bowl; cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a draft-free and warm place until it is doubled in size. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes. I place the dough in the oven and switch the oven to 40 °C / 104 °F.
  • If you make raisin buns without any brioche moulds, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you use brioche moulds, grease and flour the moulds. 
  • Knead the yeast dough again. Divide the dough into nine pieces and form each piece to a ball. 
  • Place the balls onto the baking sheet or into the brioche moulds (place the moulds onto a baking sheet).
  • Cover the buns with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. 
  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C / 390 °F. 
  • Mix the remaining egg (one tablespoon) and the milk well. Mix the almond flakes with the pearl sugar,
  • Brush the buns with the egg-milk mixture and sprinkle the top of each bun with the almond flakes and pearl sugar mixture.
  • Bake the buns for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden in color. The buns baked in brioche moulds take a few minutes longer, about 10 to 12 minutes. 
  • The buns taste the very best lukewarm with a little bit of butter and honey. 
  • The brioche freeze well. Heat the frozen brioche buns in the oven at 75 °C / 160 °F. 

My father hardly ever cooks; baking is not his forte as well. It is just not something that he is interested in and I highly doubt that this will ever change. It is a mystery to my father that I enjoy spending countless of hours in the kitchen making cakes. He will probably never understand my baking obsession and I will never understand his kitchen resistance. However, there is one thing my father and I agree on and this is my father's cheesecake that he makes every single year for the last three decades. Every May, for my parents' wedding anniversary, my father makes the cheesecake whose recipe he got from his aunt. As long as I can remember, my father spends the entire afternoon - the day before the wedding anniversary - preparing the cheesecake. I was never allowed to help because he knew exactly how this cheesecake has to be made. However, a few years ago I stole his handwritten recipe notes and I made the cake without telling him. My father was more than surprised when I presented him his cheesecake but he was more than content with the cake result.
My father makes his cheesecake always in springform pan, whereas I prefer making the cheesecake into small rectangular cakes. I also freeze the cakes before serving instead of letting the cake set in the fridge. I prefer my method because one does not have to eat the entire cake at once. As long as I can remember my family always had difficulties finishing the cake within two days since the cake contains raw eggs.
This recipe is very special to me and the rest of my life I will make my father's cheesecake once a year.



NOTES:

Quark

Quark is kind of a soft queese (it is a little bit similar to the French fromage blanc), low in fat and high in protein. It is very popular dairy product in Germany. It is often served similar to yogurt with fresh fruit for breakfast, some people spread quark on bread with jam (which I don't like at all) and quark is also used in German baking. There are different varieties of quark (full fat or low fat). For this recipe a low fat quark (Magerquark) is used.
If you cannot find any quark in your grocery store, you can replace the quark with cream queese or mascarpone cheese. I recommend using a mixture of cream queese and mascarpone cheese (1:1).

Eggs

This cake contains a raw egg, so please make sure that you use a very fresh egg. When the cakes are defrosted, eat the cake within two days.



Makes 8 rectangular cakes (7 cm / 2.75 inches length, 3,5 cm / 1.4 inches wide and 3,5 cm / 1.4 inches height)

SHORTCRUST BOTTOM

  • 50 g / 1/2 cup pastry flour
  • 1 pinch of baking powder
  • 15 g / 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
  • 35 g / 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Preheat the oven to 225 °C / 435 °F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a baking frame onto the sheet. 
  • Place all ingredients in a bowl and knead to a dough. 
  • Roll the dough  - on a lightly floured surface - to a 30 cm / 12 inches x 15 cm / 6 inches rectangular. Place the rectangular into the baking frame. Prick the shortcrust with a fork.
  • Bake the shortcrust bottom for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden in color. 
  • Let the shortcrust cool completely. 
  • Carefully cut the shortcrust bottom into 3,5 cm / 1.4 inches x 7 cm / 2.75 inches rectangular. I use a bread knife for cutting the shortcrust.

SPONGE CAKE 

  • 1 egg (medium size)
  • 45 g / 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 45 g / 1 /2 cup pastry flour
  • 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • Preheat the oven to 225 °C / 435 °F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Add the egg and granulated sugar into a medium sized bowl and beat until it is light and fluffy which takes about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  • Sift the flour and baking powder to the egg sugar mixture and fold in the flour. 
  • Spread the batter onto the lined baking sheet (32 cm / 12.5 inches x 17 cm / 6,7 inches ).
  • Bake the sponge cake for 4 to 6 minutes or until lightly golden in color. 
  • Cut the sponge cake to a 30 cm / 12 inches x 15 cm / 6 inches rectangular. 

CHEESECAKE CREAM

  • 40 g / 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
  • 65 g / 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (of a medium sized egg)
  • 1 egg white (of a medium sized egg)
  • 165 g quark (Magerquark), * see my note above
  • 1/2 organic / untreated lemon, juice and zest finely grated
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 100 g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 4,5 g / 3 sheets of gelatin, soaked
  • In a medium sized bowl, add butter and half of the granulated sugar, whisk until creamy. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Then add the quark, lemon juice and finely grated lemon zest and stir until well combined. 
  • Add egg white and pinch of salt into a small bowl and whisk until the egg white is almost stiff. Gradually add the other half of the granulated sugar and whisk until the mixture is completely stiff. 
  • Whip the heavy cream until creamy. 
  • Place the soaked gelatin sheets into a small saucepan and melt the gelatin on very low heat. Remove from the heat, add about 1/4 of the quark mixture to the melted gelatin and stir well. Add the gelatin mixture to the quark mixture and mix well. Fold in the stiff egg white, then fold the whipped cream to the quark mixture. 

ASSEMBLING

  • Powdered sugar
  • Lemon slices, for decoration
  • Place a cake frame (30 cm / 12 inches x 15 cm / 6 inches) on a board lined with parchment paper. Pour the cheesecake filling into the cake frame and level the surface out. Gently place the sponge cake on top of the cheesecake filling. 
  • Freeze the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  • Remove the cake frame. I use a blowtorch in order to remove the cake frame. Let the cake defrost for 15 minutes at room temperature. Then slice the cake into 3,5 cm / 1.4 inches  x 7 cm  / 2.75 inches rectangles. Place a shortcrust rectangles onto each cake. Sprinkle the sponge cake surface with powdered sugar. 
  • Let the cake defrost completely in the fridge. 
  • Before serving, decorate each cake with a slice a lemon. 
  • The cakes taste best on the day of defrosting because over time the shortcrust gets soft. Do not leave the cakes more than two days in the fridge because of the raw egg. 




I like the park of the Nymphenburg Palace a lot and I often go for a walk there (avoid Sundays, there are too many people). Every season is beautiful but winter is my favorite season in the park. Most of the time, I just go for a walk in the park but once in a while I visit the café on the grounds of Castle Nymphenburg. Back in January, I went to the café after my park walk and I ordered a pot of tea and a slice of the König Ludwig torte. I recreated this cake last year (to my delight, the café modified the torte; instead of a sponge cake bottom the torte consists of a shortcrust bottom, just as I suggested). After I paid the bill, the waitress brought me a little dessert cup with a crème bavaroise topped with a raspberry ragout as a thank you because of a two month winter break of the café. It was literally a very sweet gesture. After my café visit, I craved Bavarian cream and raspberries for days and days.
I just had to make a Bavarian Cream with raspberries but I wanted to make little cakes instead of the classic Bavarois.



I love how my petite cakes turned out. The cake do not only look pretty but the cakes have a such a creamy and light consistency. I think my cakes are the perfect dessert for a full course dinner because no one (at least I) wants to end a long evening with a heavy chocolate cake.
My cake creations also reminds me of my childhood. Whenever I visited the opera with my parents, I always requested vanilla ice cream with a hot raspberry sauce during the intermission. I never wanted to have cake but ice cream with raspberry sauce. Over the years this has changed and I prefer cake but next time I visit the opera I will order vanilla ice cream with hot raspberry sauce in order to reminiscing my childhood.



Makes 10 petite cakes (6 cm / 2.4 inches in diameter; 4,5 cm / 1.8 inches in height)

RASPBERRY RAGOUT

  • 300 g / 2 1/3 cups raspberries *
  • 20 g / 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 g / 2 sheets gelatin, soaked
  • Place defrosted or fresh raspberries and granulated sugar into a saucepan and gently heat the mixture until it is warm. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. 
  • Fill the raspberry ragout into moulds (5 cm / 2 inches in diameter; 2,5 cm / 1 inch in height). Place the moulds into the freezer. Let the ragout freeze for at least 3 hours. 
* I used frozen raspberries since it is the middle of winter where I live. But of course you can use fresh raspberries as well.

ALMOND SPONGE CAKE

  • 30 g / 5 tablespoons almond flour
  • 20 g / 2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 egg (medium size)
  • 15 g egg yolk, equals egg yolk of a medium sized egg
  • 30 g egg white, equals egg white of one medium sized egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 25 g / 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 35 g / 5 1/2 tablespoons pastry flour
  • 15 g / 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C / 355 °F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Place the almond flour, powdered sugar, egg and egg yolk in a medium sized bowl; whisk until creamy. 
  • Place egg white and salt in a small bowl and whisk until almost stiff. Gradually add the granulated sugar and whisk until stiff. 
  • Fold the egg white into the almond flour and egg mixture. 
  • Spread the batter (the size of 25 cm x 25 cm / 10 inches x 10 inches square) onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake the sponge cake for 7 to 8 minutes or until the cake is golden in color. 
  • Let the sponge cake cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully remove the parchment paper. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter (5 cm / 2 inches). 

BAVARIAN CREAM

  • 250 ml / 1 cup whole milk 
  • 10 cm / 4 inch piece of vanilla bean
  • 40 g egg yolks, equals egg yolks of 2 1/2 eggs
  • 35 g / 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 g / 4 sheets of gelatin, soaked
  • 230 g / 1 cup heavy cream
  • Prepare a big bowl with ice water. If you do not have any ice cubes on hand, use very cold water. 
  • Pour the milk into a large saucepan. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds (use the tip of your knife or the dull side of the knife). Add the vanilla seeds and the empty vanilla pod to the milk. Bring the milk almost to boil and set aside. 
  • Whisk egg yolks and granulated sugar fluffy. Slowly add the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture and mix well. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat - stir constantly - until the mixture has reached the temperature of 82 °C / 180 °F to 84 °C / 183 °F. You will notice that the egg yolk mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat; add the gelatin and stir well. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Place the bowl into the prepared ice water. Stir until the mixture has cooled (you will also notice that the mixture starts to gelatinize). Remove from the ice water. 
  • Whisk the heavy cream until creamy. Fold the heavy cream into the egg yolk milk mixture. Fill the Bavarian Cream into a piping bag and use immediately. 

ASSEMBLING

  • 100 g red seedless jam / 1/3 cup (I used a strawberry rhubarb jam that I made summer; I passed the jam through a sieve in order to get a smooth texture.)
  • 10 fresh raspberries, cut into halves
  • Roughly chopped unsalted and roasted pistachios
  • Line a board with parchment paper and place cake rings onto the board. 
  • Unmould the frozen raspberry cores. Place the raspberry cores onto the sponge cake circles . I sprinkle on the sponge cake circles a mixture of wheat starch and starch flour which prevents the raspberry ragout soaking through the sponge cake bottom. Place the circles into the middle of each cake ring
  • Pipe the Bavarian Cream into the cake rings. 
  • Freeze the cakes for at least 4 hours. 
  • Dip the cake rings, be carefully not to dip the bottom of the top in water, in hot water for a few seconds in order to unmould the frozen mousse cakes. You can also use a blowtorch which I use for unmoulding the cakes. 
  • Place each petite cakes onto a cake board. 
  • While the cakes are still frozen, spread a thin layer of jam on top of each cake. Decorate each cake with raspberry halves and chopped pistachios. Let the cakes defrost in the fridge. It takes about 2 to 3 hours until the cakes are completely defrosted.

Last spring, I recommended the delicious Elisabeth-Rhabarber Törtchen from the E.Knapp & R. Wenig Bäckerei (bakery) in Munich; today I have another cake recommendation from this bakery. I was eying an apple cake in the bakery window display for weeks and weeks but I did not buy the cake since there was too much cookies and cake leftover from Christmas that had to be eaten. A few days ago, I finally bought the Bratäpfelchen cake (baked apple cake) and I was not dissapointed by this delicate looking apple cake. In fact, the cake was so delicious that I had to write an impromptu cake recommendation for you. It makes me happy that there are still bakeries and pastries stores that value high quality produce and that are clearly not a mass product which unfortunately, becomes more and more the norm.



Similar to the Elisabeth - Rhabarber Törtchen, the apple cake consists of a crispy shortcrust pastry shell - which is excellent -  and the cake is filled with almonds, raisins, of course apple cubes and decorated with a slice of apple. It is a classic, rustic apple cake which could not be better. The shortcrust pastry in crispy and the apple almond raisins mixture is perfect balanced out. The cake is also not too sweet. Eating this Bratäpfelchen cake was such a cake pleasure and recreating this delicious cake is on top of my list that I want to make.
If you happen to be in Munich, visit the Knapp & Wenig Bäckerei which located in the city center, just a few minutes from Marienplatz. It is truly a beautiful tiny bakery.

Address:
E. Knapp & R. Wenig Bäckerei
Neuturmstraße 3
80331 München
(The bakery is a ten minutes walk from the Marienplatz. It is next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Hofbräuhaus is around the corner, too.)
Opening Hours: 
Monday to Saturday: 7:30 am to 7:00 pm
Sundays: closed


It has been a while that I shared a recipe that involves yeast. This is a little bit ironic because I like sweet yeast bread a lot. In fact, if I had the choice between cake and sweet yeasted bread, I would choose the sweet bread without blinking an eye. There are always a few Swedish cinnamon buns in my freezer and I eat a Kanelbulle at least once a week. I simply cannot imagine my life without Swedish cinnamon buns, knäckebröd (Swedish crisp bread) and my life would not complete without parsley and lentils.
The hazelnut swirl recipe  - that I am sharing with you today - is a modification of the German Nusszopf. A Nusszopf (it literally means nut braid) is a dense and sweet yeasted bread with a hazelnut filling and the braid is cut into slices. Instead of making a big braided loaf, I opted for swirls. The hazelnut swirls are incredible moist and the hazelnut filling has such a wonderful nutty flavor. If you have some extra time, I recommend roasting the hazelnuts for the nut filling; it makes the filling extra delicious.

Makes 12 to 15 swirls

YEAST DOUGH

  • 50 g / 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 125 ml / 1/2 cup milk, preferable whole milk
  • 30 g fresh yeast / 3 1/2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast / 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast 
  • 85 g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 pinch of salt 
  • 1 egg (medium size) 
  • 365 g / 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt the butter. Add the milk to the melted butter and heat until the mixture is lukewarm. It is important that the mixture is lukewarm and not hot, otherwise the dough might not rise. 
  • Crumble the yeast into a medium-large sized bowl. Add about two tablespoons of the lukewarm butter-milk mixture to the yeast and stir with a (wooden) spoon until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add the rest of the liquid to the yeast mixture, the sugar, salt and the egg and mix well. Add the flour and mix again until the dough comes together. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough until the dough is smooth. Personally, I prefer kneading yeast dough by hand instead of using a kitchen machine since I think it makes a moister yeast dough. If you are not picky like me, feel free to knead the dough in a kitchen machine. 
  • If you use instant active dry yeast: mix all dry ingredients in a big bowl, then add the lukewarm butter-milk mixture and proceed as written above. 
  • If you use active dry yeast: heat the milk until lukewarm. Add the active dry yeast to a mug and dissolve the yeast with two tablespoons of milk. Melt the butter. Mix all dry ingredients in a big bowl, add the melted butter, remaining lukewarm milk and the dissolved yeast. Proceed as written above.
  • Place the dough back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm and draft free place. I heat the oven to 50 °C / 125 °F, switch the oven off and place the bowl in the warm oven. Let the dough rise for about 40 minutes or until the dough has almost doubled in size. In the meantime, prepare the hazelnut filling.

FILLING

  • 125 g / 3/4 cup and 1 tablespoon hazelnut flour *
  • 65 g / 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar 
  • 40 g / 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  • 165 g / 3/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tablespoon rum, optional 
  • Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. 
* I roast whole hazelnuts in the oven (150 ° C / 300 °F for 15 to 20 minutes), remove the skin by rubbing them in a kitchen towel, then grind the roasted hazelnuts. It takes some extra time but you will be awarded by the incredible nut smell.

ASSEMBLING

  • 1 egg (small size) 
  • 35 g / 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • On a floured surface knead the dough again. Roll out the dough to the size of 35 cm / 14 inches  x 40 cm / 15 inches.
  • Spread evenly the hazelnut filling onto the dough. Roll up the dough from the thicker side. Cut the roll into 12 pieces (each piece should be about 2 cm / 0.8 inch thick). 
  • Place the swirls on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Make sure that there is enough space between each swirl. Cover the baking sheets with kitchen towels and let the swirls rest for 15 minutes in a warm and draft free place. 
  • In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F.
  • Brush the swirls with egg wash. Sprinkle the top of each hazelnut swirl with chopped hazelnuts.
  • Bake the hazelnut swirls for 12 to 15 minutes until golden in color. 
  • Let the swirls cool on a wire rack. 
  • Enjoy the hazelnut swirls on the day of baking. But the swirls freeze very well and taste just as delicious reheated in the oven.