Fall has arrived and I have been happily cooking away in my kitchen with my new-found treasure Zwetchgen, a small unassuming purple plum that is called Italian plum in this country. In their natural state these plums have very little flavor and taste bland—but once baked, they transform into a treat , perfumed, tart, and sweet. I made several batches of my plum butter and I am thrilled to have them in my pantry (garage). The flavor is amazing, rich and earthy. But I also made several cakes.
Every September, from 1983-1989 the New York Times printed Marian Burros’ recipe for plum torte. Here is a link to the recipe (and I love reading all the comments). I have made this cake twice now, and have adjusted the recipe to my taste. I also baked a tart with a custard that my Swiss friend made for me in Switzerland. It was delicious and I hope to post it one of these days. My French girlfriend made a tarte aux quetsches, unfortunately I didn't get to taste it. Zwetschgenkuchen in Germany is usually baked with a lot of plums and a yeast-based sheet cake. Marian Burros’ Plum Torte recipe is a no-fuss, easy-to-make dessert. It is similar to other cake recipes with fruit that I have made many times. My tasters approved, but my fussy husband thought it was a little dry.
I also like using plums for my galette. Click for the recipe here.
The original recipe called for a cup of sugar. I only used ½ cup, but to make up for the lack of sweetness, I sprinkled the top with 4 tablespoons of turbinado sugar that gave the cake a crunchy crust. Apparently, this cake freezes well when double-wrapped in foil and placed in a plastic bag. But I have not tried this. If you want to be fancy, you can grind the lemon zest with the sugar in a food processor.
When I was a child, we had several plum trees in our garden. One variety was called Zwetschgen, similar to the prune. Our Zwetschgen tree would overflow with fruit and our family would make Zwetschgenmus (aka spiced plum butter) in a huge copper kettle that was heated by a piece of burning wood from underneath. We would have big glass canning jars with rubber rings in our pantry filled with delicious plum butter.
As children we could not get enough of this sweet, rich and gooey plum butter spread on country bread and topped with schmand. The best way to describe schmand is a fresh cream that is similar to Créme Fraîche or whipping cream. I used greek yogurt on my sandwich .
In this country we call Zwetschgen Italian plums and they are seldom available where I live . You can imagine how happy I was when I found them in a local food stand. I bought all they had and made two different batches of Zwetschgenmus and baked two different cakes.
My Zwetschegenmus is a tartly rich and earthy-tasting fruit butter with a slight taste of cinnamon and allspice. These sour little plums (without much juice or flavor) once baked turn into an amazingly flavorful treat. It’s like the frog that turns into a prince. For the Zwetschgenmus, I chose a recipe from Louisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking book. I have to say it turned out just as good as Helga Papas,’ my village neighbor who has made it for decades in Germany and always shared some with my family. My brother is especially fond of it and I will keep a jar for him to eat when he comes to visit me this year. If you see this little unpretentious plum in a store next to their juicy voluptuous cousins, don’t pass them by. You will not regret it when you have a spoonful of Zwetschgenmus.
The plums are baked in a heavy cast iron pot until they turn into a sticky mass and are completely broken down. Make sure you use a four-quart cast iron pot. I used a smaller one in my first batch, and it took twice as long to bake them the next day. The second time, I used a four-quart pot and baked it in 2.5 hours instead of 4. Luisa Weiss says that the recipe is easily doubled, but unfortunately I ran out of plums.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” Thomas Jefferson
Paris is all about walking and finding new treasures. There is so much to see and learn. I enjoyed reading The Most Beautiful Walk in The World by John Baxter, an Australian who used to give historic walking tours. It is a wonderful book, even if you don’t go to Paris.
But my trip was almost over before it had begun. We had taken a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The taxi happened to be a mini-van, and as I got out, I twisted one foot on the cobblestone. As I was falling down, the taxi driver scooped me up like a bird and saved me from injury. I’m glad I had given him a good tip. From then on, I wore tennis shoes instead of sandals. Traveling isn’t for the faint of heart, but the kindness of strangers can make it easier.
On my last night in Paris, I was strolling through the small streets of Saint Germaine back to my hotel and I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie. People were sitting outside enjoying the warm summer night, and the store windows were full of beautiful tasteful displays. I didn’t want this to be my last night in Paris. I wanted to stay just a little bit longer listening to the saxophone player, keeping this feeling of serene beauty and ambience of the City of Lights.
It had been hot the four days we were in Paris, but not as hot as in previous visits. And our hotel had air conditioning, which made all the difference in the world. Our hotel was in the middle of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. This Bohemian part of Paris used to be home to many artists and intellectuals. It is so easy to get off the beaten track and end up in hidden lanes admiring 17th-century architecture. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you end up in a charming secret passage and don’t want to leave, or continue to the Latin Quarter or Notre Dame. There is always something that makes me feel like I belong there.
Our hotel was right around the corner from the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is being restored at this time. There are many famous cafés within walking distance, so you can pretend to be Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir sipping a pastîs, an anise-flavored drink which is also one of my favorites.
Our four days went by so fast. On a hot Saturday morning, we decided to visit the Musée Jaquemart-André. This hidden gem of a museum is a treasure, located on the boulevard Haussmann. It is home to a huge collection of art, furnishings and sculptures collected by banking heir, Edouard André, and his artist wife, Nélie Jaquemart. During their lifetime, they transformed this beautiful mansion into a museum housing their extensive art collection. We enjoyed the visit very much as we didn’t have to fight the enormous crowds at the D’Orsay or the Louvre. But I regret not having tea at the café.
We also signed up for the Opéra Garnier tour, which was over-crowded and too hot. But nevertheless, I got to set foot into this beautiful building. Maybe one day, I will get to see a performance. It’s a stunningly beautiful building and I recommend the tour.
Do to the heat, we preferred our restaurants to have outdoor seating, since most places don’t have air conditioning.
Years ago, we ate with a young friend at Le Procope, a legendary restaurant in the 6th arrondissement open since 1686. We decided to revisit this restaurant and had a delightful lunch. But it was hot and had no air conditioning— but neither did Thomas Jefferson when he ate here over 200 years ago.
We also had another delightful lunch with friends from the States at Le Grand Colbert, which everybody loved for the fantastic food — and air conditioning. The architecture and design of this place is as great as the food and ambiance. Click here to read more about the Grand Colbert on a previous post.
We left on a Sunday morning on a train to Zürich and and returned to Paris the following week to catch our flight back to San Francisco the next day. When we arrived at the train station from Zürich, we had our last meal at the LeTrain Bleu, an iconic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. The restaurant is decorated in a sumptuous art nouveau style. The food is excellent and the surroundings are spectacular—and authentically French. If you go, have the Rum Baba for dessert.
I hope I get another opportunity to visit Paris again, and enjoy it as much as I did this time. Click on the buttons below and read about my other trips to Paris.
I have an everlasting love for Paris. I discover something new every time I go there and fall in love with it all over again. Click over to my wanderlust blog and read about my last trip to Paris. (Sorry for any inconvenience, but my Wanderlust blog doesn’t send emails to notify you of new blog entries.)
As a treat, I will give you an iced coffee drink that was my absolute favorite when I was a young student. This was long before the era of Starbucks & today’s coffee culture. In those days, Europe had café-bakeries. A good cup of coffee was considered a luxury, so many people drank fake coffee (chicory) because the real stuff wasn’t available, especially in East Germany. Giving someone a pound of good coffee was a great gift. At that time, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker, but I always loved to have an Eiskaffee (cold coffee with ice cream). As a young student, I was living mostly on french fries with mayonnaise (I switched to ketchup when I came to this country) which was sold from stands on every corner. You could also get currywurst, a sausage topped with ketchup and sprinkled with curry and paprika. However, when I had some extra money, I would treat myself to an Eiskaffee in a fancy coffee house. Whenever I am in Germany in the summertime, I revive memories by having this delicious drink. On my last trip to Europe, my friends from Switzerland took us to Lake Konstanze, which borders Switzerland and Germany. We had a lovely outdoor lunch with a view of the lake, and for dessert we ordered Eiskaffee. What a fun afternoon with good food and good friends. I know the hot weather is mostly over, but enjoy this treat anyway with a friend or loved one. It’s a great way to use up leftover cold coffee. Think of it as a coffee milkshake, only better.
All you need is :
a tall glass
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
1 cup or cold coffee
½ cup or less whipped cream
1 tube-shaped wafer cookie (Trader Joe’s has some good ones).
Scoop the vanilla ice cream into a tall glass.
Poor the cold coffee over the ice cream.
Top with whipped cream and a cookie.
You can sweeten your whipped cream or coffee and add some shaved chocolate to garnish.
Guten Appetit, my friends
recipe by ©sunnycovechef.com
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Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.