Monday, November 30, 2009

Cream of Scorzonera Soup

© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Scorzonera (Schwarzwurzeln, salsify, Schorseneer) are a root vegetable, which were in past times sometimes called the "asparagus of the poor man". When you peel and wash them they have a similar look as asparagus. But they are sure different in taste. They have a delicate sweet touch.

They are easy to cook. I have used them for a very creamy soup or a soupy puree, whatever you would like to call it.

Schwarzwurzel-Cremesuppe (Cream of Scorzonera Soup)
(about 4 servings)

1000g Scorzonera
500mL vegetable broth
150ml white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion
250g celery
8 slices bacon
4 tablespoons dry sherry
100 to 300mL whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste
Parsley to garnish

Peel and clean onion, celery and Scorzonera, cut into pieces. Heat butter in a suited pot and stew the vegetables for a few minutes on medium high heat, but do not let brown. Add broth and white wine and let cook for about 20 minutes. I always started with less broth than the given amount. You can add more broth later, if the soup is too thick.

After 20 minutes puree the vegetables (e.g. with a hand blender), add sherry and salt and pepper to taste. Now you can add also more broth if the soup is too thick. Add as much whipping cream as you like to get the conistency. As more you add as smoother the taste will get. Keep soup warm.

Fry the bacon slices until browned. Cut into smaller pieces.

Serve the soup with bacon and some parsley for garnish. Serve with a glass of a dry white wine and if you like with some white bread.

© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

When you prepare the Scorzonera I suggest to wear disposable gloves, because the Scorzonera will excrete gluey sap. First wash off all remaining earth from the roots, than peel the roots carefully. Cut roots into pieces for this recipe.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christmas Fun Project: Ginger Bread Ravioli (Lebkuchen-Ravioli)

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (7/7) - the final shot
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

I found the recipe for Ginger Bread Ravioli (Lebkuchenravioli) a few years ago and thought that this would be the perfect recipe for some christmas fun. Actually it is a recipe for jam filled gingerbread cookies, but with a bit of fantasty you could turn it into an Italien look alike Pasta Dish. The gingerbread cookies are based on a dough for typical German Lebkuchen. You will need some special ingredients, which might be difficult to get where you live, but these are making these cookies so special. Before we start the fun, here the recipe and all you need for the fun.

Lebkuchen-Ravioli (Ginger Bread Ravioli)
(for about 20 raviolis)

...for the ravioli dough

350g honey
100g sugar
100g butter
1 egg (medium-size)
1 tablespoon dutch cocao powder (unsweetend)
2 teaspoons ginger bread seasoning (see note)
600g all purpose flour
5g salts of harthorn
2g potash
3 tablespoons milk

...for the dried fruit filling

dried fruit (e.g. prunes, cranberries, apricots, figs, dates)
Chop dried fruit and walnuts into small pieces and mix them together

...for the dried fruit filling

marzipan (marchpane, almond paste
Soak raisins in rum. Take two or three soaked raisins and wrap them in a little piece of marchpane

...for the jam filling

strawberry jam or any other jam you like
Use about 1/2 teaspoon for filling

...for the nougat filling

solid nougat, cut into small cubes
Form the cubes into little balls for the filling

...for the Italian Pasta Dish Idea

green food coloring
red food coloring
raspberry jam
coconut flakes
white chocolate


Ginger bread seasoning: In Germany you can get this seasoning during advent. I always use a commercial product. The one I use contains cinnamon, coriander, aniseed, allspice, cloves, star-anise, cardamon, ginger, and vanilla. The ginger bread seasoning might be difficult to get, but it is worthwhile to try it, because to get the right mixture of spices is difficult.
Potash and salts of hartshorn are the typical baking agent in christmas bakery. They work a little like baking powder or soda, but are very different though. They add a typical taste, create a different texture and they don't loos there baking characteristics during th elong resiting time. When you dissolve potash in milk a strong smell will occur, which is typical.
For the filling there are no amounts given. Use as much or less as you like.


Mix honey, butter and sugar in a pot and heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved completely. Remove from heat and let cool down slightly. In a bowl mix flour, cocoa, ginger bread spice mixture. Add honey mixture to flour and mix using the dough hook. Add egg and mix again. Dissolve salts of hartshorn in 2 tablespoons of milk in a small bowl. In a second small bowl dissolve potash in 1 tablespoon milk. Add first salts of hartshorn mixture to dough and mix well. Than add potash mixture and mix well. Wrap dough into cling film and set aside for at least 24 hours at room temperature.

On the next day: preheat oven 180°C. Line out baking tray with parchment paper. Dust the work space with some flour and knead the dough a few times. If the dough is too sticky add a little more of flour. Divide dough into smaller parts you can handle easily. Roll out the dough very thinly (about 2mm). Dust the dough with flour from time to time as you would do it with pasta dough to prevent it from stick to workspace. The dough should be elastic, but dry. Halve dough. On one part mark squares of about 5cm. On each square place some filling. Now cover it with the second half of the dough and press slightly with your fingers in between the fillings to mark the ravioli. Cut out the ravioli with a knife.

For each ravioli cookie: press the edges slightly together with your fingers. Seal the edges by pressing a fork into the edges. Place ravioli on baking tray and bake for about 12 minutes until ravioli a slightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely on cooling rack. Keep them in an airtight container. They will get better with time, but I guess they will not stay that long.

Why don't you try to present ginger bread ravioli like a pasta dish? Here is the idea (and take a look at the photos below). Colour small coconut flakes with some drops of green food coloring to represent chopped herbs. Color marzipan with red food coloring. Roll small pieces of red colored marzipan into little balls to represent cherry tomatoes (for the stems I have used real stems from cherry tomartoes). Scrap pieces from white chocolate to make "parmesan cheese". Put some raspberry jam as tomato sauce on a pasta plate. Sprinkle some green coconut flakes over sauce. Place some gingerbread raviolie on the plate. Sprinkle with some white chocolate. At last place the marzipan tomatoes around the ravioli. Ready to serve ginger bread ravioli.

...and now to the xmas fun project with photos

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (1/7) - start
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

On this photo you can see the dough rolled out, squares are marked and fillings placed on the dough. In front a nougat cube, behind marzipan ball, left to it strawberry jam and behind you can also see the dried fruit filling. If you click on the photo you will be re-directed to the photo on flickr, where the single fillings are marked.

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (2/7)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Close up shot of ginger bread ravioli. You can see the the mark of the fork to seal the ravioli. Close the ravioli carefully and avoid air pockets.

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (4/7) - Classic Italian Pasta
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Serving idea: you can see the marchepan (marzipan) tomato, the white chocolate to represent cheese and the colored coconut flakes.

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (5/7) - with a sauce made of jam
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Close up shot of serving gingerbread ravioli as an Italian Pasta Dish.

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (6/7) - another fork
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Close up shot of a gingerbread ravioli with marzipan filling, topped with some jam, white chocolate and some green coconut flakes. The photo at the beginning of this post is a close up shot of gingerbread ravioli with strawberry jam filling.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Here another fun shot. There is always the big question: will we have snow on christmas eve? With these Lebkuchen-Ravioli you can have snow any time you like.

Christmas Bakery Fun Project (3/7) - Let it snow!
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pfeffernüsse (Peppery Ginger Bread Cookies)

...spicy christmas
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Very traditional, very spicy christmas cookies. These gingerbread cookies have a wonderful flavour of pepper, ginger, and anise. They should be soft inside and crunchy outside. A lemon glaze complements these treats.

Pepper was a very expensive spice during the time these cookies were invented. And for christmas one have used this special ingredient. It was a sign of wealth being and it was a sign for a special feast. So Pfeffernüsse contain much freshly ground pepper. Don’t reduce the amount, because the peppery taste make the difference. Pfeffernüsse are not difficult to make, yet so tasty, and are a typical German advent and christmas cookie.

(for about 48 cookies)

80g butter
100g dark molasses (Zuckerrübensirup)
100g sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly grounded anise seed
A little less than 1/2 teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
250g all purpose flour
1 knife point baking soda

... for the glaze:
80g powder sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice (maybe a bit less or more)

Mix flour and baking soda and set aside.

Bring butter, dark molasses, sugar, and spices in a pot to a single boil and remove from heat. Add flour at once and stir in quickly. Let dough cool down. Then wrap it into cling film and put into the fridge. Let it rest overnight.

Next day: The dough should be very firm. Halve it with a knife. Set one half aside for the moment and put it back in the fridge. Divide the halved dough into 8 pieces. Each of the 8 pieces divide into 3 little pieces (they should have almost the size of walnuts). Knead the little pieces of dough, so that they get a little waxier. Then roll them between your hands to form a little ball. Place them on a plate and put in the fridge. Do the same with the second half of the dough.

Note: the dough can get really hard. When you take it out of the fridge and it is too hard to form into balls, let it stay for a while at room temperature. The balls do not have to have the perfect form.

Let the dough balls rest in the fridge for one hour. Meanwhile preheat oven 180°C. Line out two baking trays with baking paper. Take the dough balls out of the fridge and put them on the baking tray. Bake the cookies in the lower third of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on how hard you like them). Cookies will flatten a bit and should be golden. They are still soft when you take them out of the oven. Let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Glazing: Mix powdered sugar with as little lime juice as possible to form a glaze. The glaze should be pasty, so use as much lime juice you need to get this consistency. Store the Pfeffernüsse between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container. You can store them in a dry and not too warm place for about 4 weeks.

Note: if you bake the cookies for about 10 to 12 minutes they are more soft. As longer as you bake them as harder they will get. Do not bake them longer than 15 minutes. I like them harder and love to dip them into hot coffee or hot chocolate.

Pfeffernuesse (peppery gingerbread cookies)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

About the photos
Photos are worthwhile a thousand words. Sometimes photos show more than you can describe in the directions. The glaze for example is described as pasty. In the photos you can see that it has a certain dimension. It is very thick and doesn't flow as you may know it from other glazes. And take a look at the shape. They are really rounded, indicating that I have baked them a little longer. I like my Pfeffernüsse very crunchy. If you bake them as described in the directions they may be more flat after cooling down.

A year before, I have used a similar setting as in the first photo, but used a plain black background (see photo below). And although I like this shot, I thought the angle was to leveled and the background is missing some structure. The plain black is killing a bit dimension and also atmosphere. It seems a bit artificial.

A year later I used again a balck background and used an all black background. I replaced the white plate against a black one. But instead a plain black backround this one has more structure.

In the 2nd photo I was going for a more "conventional" setting using brown and green as the main colors.

© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Anise Cookies (Anisdukaten)

It's gettin' that time of the year again
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Advent and christmas time are accompanied by the descent scent of spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves or ANISE. These buttery and brittle cookies have this wonderful flavor of anise. In these cookies anise seed as well as star anise is used.

Anisdukaten (anise cookies, anise ducats)
(for about 40 cookies)

1 tablespoon anise seed (finely grounded)
0.5 teaspoon star anise (finely grounded)
125 g butter (softened)
125 g sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1 dash salt
5 egg yolks
250 g all purpose flour

6 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon star anise (finely grounded)

I used freshy grounded anise. For anise seed I use a mortar and pistil. For the star anise I use an electric mill. I sieve it through a fine meshed sieve to get finely grounded star anise.

Mix butter, finely grounded anise, sugar, vanilla sugar, and a dash of salt. Add one egg yolk and mix for about one minute. Add the secoind egg yolk and mix again. repeat until all egg yolks are used. Add flour and mix only until blended. Wrap dough into clinch film and put in the fridge for about one hour.

Line baking trays with parchment paper. Take dough out of the fridge and divide into about 40 pieces (or less if you like cookies larger). Roll pieces into small balls and place on the trays. Press slightly a nice looking star anise into each cookie so that it is flatten slightly too.

Let rest cookies on tray for about 30 minutes at a very cool place (e.g. fridge, cold room). Meanwhile preheat oven to 200°C

Bake anise cookies for about 10 to 12 minutes until golden. Take out of the oven and roll the still warm cookies in the prepared star anise sugar. Let cool completely on a cooling rack. You can store the cookies for about 2-3 weeks in an airtight container.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lentil Stew with smoked sausages

Lentil Stew with smoked sausages
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Lentil Stew with smoked sausages (Linseneintopf mit geräucherten Würstchen) is one of the comfort dishes which is served in many different way in Germany in autumn and winter, when days are getting colder and shorter. I'm always varying it a bit and add more of this and less of that. The recipe here is more of a blueprint.

Linseneintopf mit geräucherten Würstechen
(for about 6 servings)

2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery
the leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
300 g lentils (Pardina Lentils)
about 500 g canned tomatoes (cut into pieces or pureed)
about 700 ml beef broth
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
smoked sausages (the ones you like best)
a few tablespoons white wine vinegar (to taste)

Prepare the vegetables (put some carrot and celery pieces on the side for garnish). Wash lentils and let drip off in a sieve.

Heat olive oil in a suited pot. Add onions, garlic, carrot, thyme and bay leaves and cook until onions glasy (do not brown).

Now add lentils, celery, tomatoes and some of the broth. Bring to a boil and let cook on low to medium heat. Add as much broth as need to maintain a soupy consistency. After 20 minutes add the smoked sausage and cook until lentils are getting just soft (I like the lentils with a tiny bit of a bite). Add as much broth to get the consistency you like.

Add salt and ppper to taste. Add vinegar tablespoon by tablespoon until you get tartness you like. Lentil stew should have a tart taste. Garnish the soup with thyme leaves and some fresh carrot and celery pieces. If you like you can also add some fresh tomato pieces for garnish.

Serve stew hot with some rustic bread.