Sunday, May 22, 2011

European Flashbacks- Part 1 - Bienenstich

Every now and then my OCD kicks in full-force and I do something obnoxious like organize all my photos in my picture library. I have to make folders and sub folders until everything looks neat. I wound up going through many of these photos - specifically the photos from my last European adventure. As I was skimming through, I came across pictures I took of some regional foods that I tried. I though it would be fun to research these desserts and find authentic recipes.

My first stop was Germany. I flew into Frankfurt on a cold, snowy day and discovered that it was very commercial. This was slightly disappointing. However, after speaking with the concierge, I was given directions to a quaint part of the city known as Romerberg. It was an adorable square with some shops, a few restaurants and a bakery. Of course I had to try something. The bakery was very small. There was a counter filled with all different treats, each with its own little sign saying what it was. I looked for the most "German-looking" thing and came across Bienenstich. Bienenstick, or "Bee sting cake," is a dense cake (some may even say sweet bread) with a thin layer of honeyed almonds and filled with a whipped cream or vanilla custard.


Bienenstich from the bakery in Romerburg

The bottom layer with the honey-almond caramel
My finished version of Bienenstich

The Bienenstich in Romerburg was filled with whipped cream. I finally came across a recipe that looked right to me - and boy was it dead on! I prepared the cake batter and got the two layers into the oven. While it was baking, I made a caramel with some honey, sugar, butter and heavy cream. When the caramel was done, vanilla and almonds are stirred in. The almond mixture is then spread onto the bottom layer of the cake and baked some more. After the cake is cooled, I made a not-too-sweet whipped cream and piped it onto the layer with the almonds. The other half is placed on top and then sprinkled with some confectioner's sugar.

I brought this to my aunt's house and it was a hit. I'll definitely be making this again.

Salted Caramel

With Emma in Italy this past week, I had some time to do some recipe testing. For the past year or so, salted caramel has really been a "trendy" flavor. I do occasionally come across someone who hears about it and says, "Ew! That's gross." If you've never experienced the flavor combination, put a grain or two of salt on some (quality) caramel candy and enjoy.

To achieve a salted caramel buttercream, I made a salted caramel sauce. This is where things can get tricky. I like an American style caramel - think Milk Duds (so much for quality, eh?) I think most people like this kind of caramel but that's probably because it's what people are used to. Then there's the other caramel - it's usually a dark copper color and has a bitter aftertaste. Because Emma prefers this type, I decided to compromise and meet half way. Plus, I feel the salt goes better with a darker caramel.

I paired the salted caramel buttercream with out moist chocolate cake and garnished it with some salted caramel sauce and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. Yum!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Something Savory

I was skimming through the channels a few days ago and landed on PBS. Sometimes I like watching old school cooking shows like Yan Can Cook, Julia Child, etc. I happened to stumble across one of my favorites - Ciao Italia. The host, MaryAnne, was cooking artichokes and they looked yummy. I made a mental note to try them out one day. Surprisingly enough, we had artichokes on sale at work and they looked amazing.

There were only a few ingredients to her recipe - artichokes, garlic, chicken broth, salt, lemon, pepper, mint and parsley. I'm not a mint person, so I skipped it. My only suggestion would be to hit it with a splash of freshly squeezed lemon and ground pepper right before serving.

Here's the recipe...


4 whole large artichokes Globe or Romanesco if available
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Three cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste


Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes.

Use a vegetable peeler to trim the outer layer of the stems.

Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise

Place in pan. Add chicken broth, salt, parsley, mint and garlic and cook until tender.

Remove from pan, scoop out chokes.

Serve warm with cooking juices.

As seen in Program 21o1

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Impatience killed the cake.

Things have been so hectic lately that I barely have time to just bake something for the hell of it. This past weekend, I decided that I wanted to test out some new flavors for Layers NYC.

During my breaks at work, I like to stroll through the aisles to look for any new and interesting items that might have come in. Whole Foods is always adding new offerings and I, most often then not, pick one up to experiment with. My two favorite places in the store are the baking aisle and the produce department. On this particular day, I was walking though produce and noticed that the first batch of cherries had arrived. I couldn't resist and that's where it all began.

I decided to make a Tahitian vanilla and cherry compote which came out so good that had I had vanilla ice cream, we would have had a situation! Instead, I used the compote to make a buttercream. As for the cake flavor, we have been talking about offering an almond cake and I wanted to work on that. After a couple of tweaks to the original recipe, we had a winner.

After the cake was baked and stacked with the vanilla-cherry buttercream, I decided that I wanted to cover it in a white chocolate ganache. I had even pictured how I'd like to decorate the cake. I had a problem, though. I didn't have much time to do this because I wanted to bring some for Emma to taste and we had a schedule to keep.

I knew I should have either not bothered with the ganache or not brought some to Emma so I could do it right. Of course I went ahead and tried to glaze the cake before the ganache had time to set and it melted away at the cake. What a disaster! The good news: It didn't affect the taste of the cake and Emma was able to give her seal of approval! The bad news: no picture. Oh, well.