This stunning dessert will dazzle your guests after a heavy winter meal—or any meal. Whole pears are poached in tawny port and cranberry juice with dried cranberries, fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, allspice, and pink peppercorns to add flavor. The syrup alone is delicious over ice cream or just by itself. I enjoy desserts like this because they are refreshing, light, and make a great presentation.
My memory of pears will be forever linked to my parents' huge pear tree in the chicken yard at our family farm in Germany. I don't know what variety they are, but it was my job as a child to collect them when they fell from the tree and feed them to the pigs. They were stone hard and had no flavor or taste. After picking, we put them on a rack in the fruit cellar and by Christmas, the skin was all shriveled up. But when my grandfather peeled them and handed them to us, we tasted the juiciest most delicious fruit. They had ripened in the cellar. Nobody would buy them today because of their appearance, but the taste was unbelievable.
I used Bosc pears for this recipe, because they have an elegant neck and a nice stem. This is another old recipe from my beloved Gourmet magazine. I have made it many times over the years, and it always has been a hit. It’s delicious with whipped cream or ice cream.
I should have posted this recipe a while ago, but my brother and his wife are visiting from Germany and I am happy being a hostess. They are enjoying the sunny California weather and the beautiful Pacific coastline. I often forget that I live in such a beautiful place. I am taking them to different beaches for walks and ocean views. Their favorite place is the beach at sunset. Having my family around me makes me happy.
Here are two other pear desserts I love to make. One is a humble but delicious bundt cake and the other is a pear tart with an exquisite flavor and taste.
Read about my four-day trip to New York City on my Wanderlust blog. This trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision and I am so happy I went.
I thought it would be nice to combine these two posts together. Ruth Reichl is the cook behind my turnover recipe. I have admired her recipes and books for many years, as I still treasure my old Gourmet magazines for which she was the editor-in-chief. But she also lived in California in her twenties and thirties.
She wrote a touching story about leaving New York on the Fourth of July for her first experience teaching cooking in the Pacific Northwest for the June issue of Sunset magazine. Even though I never made turnovers before, I was smitten by the story and had to try them.
I didn't change anything in the recipe, and enjoyed every bite reminiscing about the years back when we were all young. The photo of Ruth Reichl and her husband in the magazine capture the spirit of the times.
There is nothing better than a ripe apricot—picked fresh from the tree and eaten right away. Dripping with juice, tasting intensely sweet with a tinge of acidity, eating an apricot is a truly sensual experience..
However, most of us will not experience this because today’s apricots are picked firm and then brought to the market. Most varieties grown today have little flavor, are usually pale, odorless and tart. If you want the old-fashioned apricots, look for Blenheims. This apricot got its name from the Duke of Marlborough’s garden at Blenheim Palace in England. Apricots were probably cultivated in China thousands of years ago. The Spaniards brought apricots to the New World and planted them in the mission gardens of California. If you are lucky, you can find Blenheims in the costal valleys of California
This year, I bought a crate (28 pounds) of apricots from one of the road stands in the central valley here in California. They were not Blenheims, but had been picked riper than the commercial kind. I don't know what kind of apricot I bought. They were okay, but I had bought a crate of apricots at the same farm stand the previous year and they were better. I put the apricots in a single layer in my cool downstairs bedroom and immersed myself into cooking them. Most of them became apricot jam. The jam turned out fabulously this year—smooth and velvety with a little crunch from the apricot kernels and texture from the skin. It was just the way we like it—sweet and tart at the same time. I would not omit the pits, as they really add a lot of flavor. For this years recipe, I used 10 pounds of apricots, 6 pounds of organic sugar, 16 cracked and roasted pits and 6 TBS of lemon juice. I was thinking about adding a vanilla bean or a cinnamon stick (or maybe some ginger), but in the end I did no such thing. I like my jam without any other flavors. The fruit itself is enough.
My husband likes my cobbler, and I baked two while I still had apricots. I like my cobbler because I use very little sugar, but it tastes delicious. I made the same cobbler for the 4th of July using peaches, blackberries and a few leftover blueberries.
I am very found of my German apricot cake with marzipan. It’s easy to make and a real treat for an afternoon tea. Or great for a picnic on a warm summer day.
My all-time favorite treat during apricot season are apricot dumplings. In Austria, they are considered a meal unto themselves. To make these, you need quark, a German soft cheese. Whole Foods and Shopper's Corner in Santa Cruz now carries quark.
While looking through back issues of my beloved Gourmet magazine from the month of June, I found a shrimp, jicama and apricot salad recipe. My husband loved this salad because it is crunchy, fresh and light. For me, the salad was a little bland, yet it was refreshing and elegant in its presentation. It is a perfect salad if you are counting your calories. I can imagine a salad like this being served decades ago in a fancy private club or hotel. Even though this is not my favorite salad, I decided to post it anyway.
This is a German strawberry cake that is easy to make and brings out the fruity flavor of strawberries.
On my last trip to Germany I was invited to a birthday celebration of my mother's friend and neighbor, Helga. Our families have been friends as long as I can remember. As a child I used to visit them all the time, sitting in their kitchen and watching the women prepare food. I felt like part of their family. It was a peaceful household where I would go when when I wanted to be somewhere else. Helga was a good friend to my mother and visited her regularly and brought her food. My mom would always tell me on the phone that Helga had brought her some herring salad (one of my mom’s favorites), soup or whatever she’d cooked that day. I am so grateful for the kindness and caring she gave my mother. Helga’s husband, Willie, was my father’s friend and both of them farmed together. My father, a gentle and kind soul, mentored young Willie, who always liked to tease young girls like me. On warm summer nights, with the windows open, he and his friend would lull me to sleep by playing their violins, which made up for the teasing during the day.
Let’s get back to the birthday party and the afternoon coffee and cake. In rural Germany a birthday party usually starts around four in the afternoon with Kaffee and Kuchen (coffee and cake). Later in the evening, a hot meal is served. Sometimes, a savory hot meal is served for lunch and then followed by coffee and cake. For Helga’s birthday, all her friends had baked a fancy cake for her occasion. Of course I had to sample each of them and they were all delicious. I managed to get some of the recipes and hope to post them in the future when I have more time—and strawberries are not in season.
For this post, I chose a common German cake that can be bought in almost any German supermarket, already baked (like a piecrust in this country). I don't care much for the commercial variety, preferring to bake my own. These cakes are called Tortenboden or Obstkuchenboden (try to pronounce that!) which translated means “the bottom for a cake” like you would use for a strawberry shortcake. This cake has fluted edges and the bottom is indented to create an edge. I used a Chef Tell dessert pan by Nordic Ware. I often use it to make flan. Any cake pan will do, and it will taste just as good. Once you bake this shortcake, you can be creative and use any fresh fruit you want. I remember way back when my aunt made it with kiwis and it was delicious. In my recipe I decided to use vanilla pudding for the bottom. Creme anglaise would be fantastic but I wanted to keep it simple and easy to make. Personally, I think it is just as good with a layer of strawberry jam. My husband preferred the one with the custard. In Germany, the cake is covered with a glaze that you can buy. Here in the US, you can buy Dr. Oetker’s glaze for fresh fruit tarts at Cost Plus or Walmart. It comes in small individual packages. I made my own glaze by using some sweetened strawberry/rhubarb juice that I cooked and thickened with pectin. Even though the glaze is traditionally used, I think you can do without it. What makes this cake even tastier is a dollop of Schlag (whipped cream). I sprinkled a handful of slivered almonds over my cake and added some blueberries for color.
My German visitors enjoyed my baked shrimp with quinoa and peas. Its a great dish for warmer days.
Strawberries are in season right now. Here are some recipes from my blog. Click on the photo to see the recipe.
For the last couple of weeks I have been baking up a storm. Those who follow me on Instagram and Facebook have seen my photos. Baking cookies has given me some peace in these turbulent times.
Because I like to reduce or replace sugar in recipes, some of my cookies were rejected by my tasters. One of them was my German chocolate cookies, the ones that look like paws. I liked them but nobody else did, so I won’t post that recipe.
My husband’s favorite cookies are the biscuits de Noël (French sable cookies), they are sugary and remind him a little bit of his mother’s sugar cookies minus the frosting. The recipe comes from Clotlide, who lives in Paris and has a lovely blog called Chocolate and Zucchini.
Click here for the recipe.
My girlfriend, Marie, likes my hazelnut meringue cookies. Click here for the recipe.
My favorite cookies this year are Basler Brunsli, a specialty of Basel, a city in German-speaking northern Switzerland. These cookies are chocolatey and chewy with the flavors of Christmas. The main ingredients are chocolate and raw almonds (no flour), just some confectioner’s sugar, egg whites, cinnamon and cloves. Both, the hazelnut meringue cookies and the Basler Brunsli are gluten-free.
I started my blog because my girlfriend, Diane, took me to our local bookstore over three years ago to listen to an author who was promoting her new book, My Berlin Kitchen. “Oh no,” as I thought she was one of those plump German women dressed in a dirndl with braids in her hair promoting sauerkraut and dumplings. I didn't want to disappoint my girlfriend, so I agreed to go. Off we went and I almost fell from my stool when I saw a beautiful, shy young American woman introduce herself as Luisa Weiss. This was definitely not the person I had expected. She opened my heart and allowed me to be German again. You see, I was never proud to be German, as I was mostly ashamed of Germany’s ghastly past. That evening, when I listened to Luisa read an insert from her book, my heart finally opened and I allowed myself to be German for the first time ever. It was okay, I would and could never forget what happened in Germany during the Nazi times, but I could be German and learn to love my native country.
In her first book,My Berlin Kitchen,Luisa describes her life in Berlin. Born to an Italian mother and an American father, her childhood takes place in the divided Berlin of Soviet Times. She describes many situations that are very familiar to me, such as her search to belong somewhere and her experience of different cultures. In food, she finds a common denominator. After living a successful life in New York, she leaves for love in Berlin. You can also follow her on her blog, “The Wednesday Chef.” This year, she has published a beautiful, new cookbook called Classic German Baking. This impressive volume opens up the world of Germanic baking to all of us. The Washington Post included it in the round-up of the year’s best cookbooks. According to them, Classic German Baking is “a happy marriage of European craft and American sensibilities.” When I showed it to my 16-year-old friend from Berlin, who is living with her American father here in Santa Cruz for a year, her eyes lit up and she was transported back to Berlin through all the recipes she loves.
Click here for her website The Wednesdaychef
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chunks. No cooking required. Click here for the recipe.
These Blueberry Mini Muffins are my son's favorite. Click here for the recipe
Whenever I bake this tart, I pretend I am in Paris. I’m in one of those neighborhood bakeries smelling the scent of sweet pastry and fresh baguettes. I am taking my wrapped tart to one of the benches in the park near Notre Dame and savor every bite while life unfolds in front of me.
But I am not in Paris, I am in Santa Cruz and it is time to share this delicious tart recipe with you. Let’s go back to the IFBC (International Food Blogger’s Conference) in Sacramento that I attended this past summer. While there, my friend Deb (who writes a blog called “East Of Eden”) and I went on an a pre-conference excursion to the California Endive farm and Stillwater Orchards, a pear orchard in the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta. The delta is a labyrinth of sloughs and an estuary in Northern California. It’s gorgeous country with small rural towns, islands, and tributaries flowing throughout. Most of the land has been claimed by agriculture, pears being one of the fruits grown. There is a Pear Fair in the small town of Locke. Our visit at the end of July was wonderful. The pears were on the trees, ripe and ready to be harvested. After a tour of the orchard, we had a picnic lunch under a giant oak tree. The dessert was a delicious pear crumble.
We all got a bag of pears to take home. I decided to make my pear tart with them. This tart recipe has been a family treasure for many years. Yet I am always in search of the perfect crust. For the blog post, I decided to use a pastry crust known as pâte sucrée, a rich and sweet pastry with a crisp cookie-like texture.
This creamy, cloud-like mousse is a traditional German dessert called Zitronenspeise (lemon dish). It is the perfect ending to a heavy meal and a melt-in-your-mouth heavenly dessert.
Traditionally, it is made with cream, eggs and lemon juice. After several trials, I made a lighter version using yogurt and less cream and sugar. There are several ways to serve this lemon dessert, either in individual serving bowls or in one large bowl. I like to serve it spooned onto a plate with a raspberry sauce and some added seasonal fruits. Since it is now October, I baked some plums with honey added. But any seasonal fruit is fine. Of course, this dessert is great just be itself without anything extra.
At the end of July my friend Debra who writes a blog called “East of Eden” and I attended the 2016 International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Sacramento, CA. We enjoyed a wonderful weekend filled with excursions to local farms, some great break-out sessions, and a spectacular outdoor dinner. One evening, vendors from local restaurants, food suppliers and businesses introduced us to their products, one of them being pasteurized eggs from “Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs.” Read how the eggs are being pasteurized here, which includes a cute video. Now that I found these eggs, I don't have to worry using raw eggs when I serve this dessert to my friends and family.
I am entering my recipe in a contest that Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs has offered to bloggers who participated in either the IFBC conference, Eat Write Blog or Blog Brulee to develop a recipe using their eggs. Because I received a discount to attend the IFBC , I agreed to write three posts about the conference. For the record, all my opinions expressed are my own
It's fall and I should be posting my pear tart recipe. Instead, I bought three beautiful baskets of delicious strawberries from my friend Ronald at the local farmer's market. They are so good that we ate half of them while listening to music during our weekly get-together at the market. Each Sunday when I am in town, I meet with some friends over lunch with at the market. It has become a lovely and relaxing Sunday ritual that I really enjoy.
The strawberries from Ronald are sweet with an earthy flavor. They are good just by themselves, but I thought I fancy them up a little with vanilla sauce. It is a simple and straightforward recipe, yet so delicious – and a healthy ending to any meal. My husband decided to grill a steak since the temperature reached over 90 degrees here on the Pacific coast. After a foggy and cold summer, this was a welcome respite.
Vanilla sauce brings back memories from my childhood days. Almost every Sunday, we would have pudding for our Sunday lunch (which was dinner served at noon). We ate bread and spreads in the evening and called it Abenbrot, which literally means “the bread for the evening.” Our favorite pudding was Götterspeise (translates as “the meal of the gods”) known as Jello here in the US. Jello is also called Wackelpudding, meaning that the pudding will wobble when touched or moved. Another favorite dessert of mine is rote Grütze (red fruit Jello). My mom always would serve these puddings with vanilla sauce. I apologize for boring you with all of of this, but trust me, I have not thought of them for years. Maybe that’s why I like blogging, because it brings back so many memories. My sweet dad loved these puddings. He has been gone for so long, but I believe that chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce was his favorite. He was such a sweet and kind man.
Back to the sauce! It is light, healthy, easy to make with a velvety texture and creamy flavor. It will elevate any fresh fruit– strawberries, raspberries or simple puddings–to another level. You can make it in no time and be creative by serving a cookie on the side, some ice cream or whatever tickles your fancy. This time, I just sliced the strawberries and added some of the sauce. Enjoy!
Just in case you are longing for some apple or pear cakes, here is my well loved apple strudel cake, as well as a delicious chunky pear nut cake flavored with spices and juicy pears. Click on the picture to get the recipe.
This delicious light and fruity cake is easy to make. It makes a great snack or breakfast. One could call it a coffee cake. You will find it in every German bakery or household using a variety of different fruits. I’ve used blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and plums. However, my favorite for this cake are gooseberries mixed with red currants. I love the tartness of these fruits from the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately, they do not grow here in northern California. I have tried to grow them many times, but without success, as they need frost in the winter. .
It all started when my blogging friend, Suzanne, from apuginthekitchen had bought some gooseberries and red currants at the farmer’s market and asked if anybody knew what to do with them. Instant childhood memories came to mind of stuffing myself with gooseberries fresh from the bushes as they ripened. I remember spitting out the tough skin while enjoying the soft creamy inside filled with seeds. My mom used to can them so that in the cold winter we could eat them as compote with vanilla sauce for our Sunday lunch. Sunday lunches were warm meals (more elaborate than weekday meals) and there was always dessert. My family would also bake large sheet cakes or Blechkuchen as they are known in Germany. These cakes could be as simple as a yeast cake dotted with butter and sprinkled with sugar, which is called Zuckerkuchen (sugar cake). Or the cake could have fruit with custard added as a topping. Another favorite sheet cake of mine is Schmandkuchen (sour cream cake), a yeast cake topped with a rich custard and raisins. Today, whenever I’m in Germany these simple cakes are some of my favorites.
Let’s get back to my sheet cake. I cut the recipe in half, which still makes enough for 9 generous pieces. I used a mixture of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. I am going to try plums next time. If I use plums, I will add some cinnamon too. With the second cake, I substituted spelt flour for the regular flour and ¼ cup coconut sugar for the regular sugar. This version of my cake was dense and lacked the lightness of the other cake. I think my cake tasters were polite when they said they liked it. I prefer the regular recipe served with whipped cream or ice cream.
If you like butter you will like this buttery almond sheet cake I posted earlier.
Every wedding is special for the ones involved and etched into our memory forever. This was a special one for me because it involved my niece, who has been like a daughter to me from the day she was born. Since I was unable to have children of my own, her birth was the only one I was able to participate in. My son was six years old when I adopted him.
After living with her boyfriend for seven years, my niece toyed with the idea of getting married in a chapel in Las Vegas, but no papers were ever filed. Then last year, they had a sweet spiritual commitment ceremony on the French Atlantic coast while camping with some friends, her brother and his family. This year, they finally decided to do the real thing with a church wedding at our family farm in Germany on a Friday, followed by a huge summer party Saturday with more people and more friends. It was definitely an event that my niece had planned for months which took an enormous amount of effort. First, it was going to be a small wedding with family and some friends, followed by the annual summer party that my nephew, niece and friends have every year. As time went on, things got bigger and bigger like weddings often do.
After everything was said and done, it was the most genuine and sweetest weddings I have ever been to (of course I am biased). When I saw my niece dancing with her friends on the stage very late at night, I knew that she was happy.
Literally, it took a village, complete with friends and family to make it all happen, but she made all the decisions. A huge tent was rented in case of rain. And it did. Two smaller tents were put up. A stage and a large play area was built for the children. Most of the work was done by friends who arrived days ahead and camped on the property or slept in the emptied-out garden shacks. My son arrived early with my niece and about 12 friends. These guys worked tirelessly until the moment they left. My niece’s best friend, Corinna, was amazing—she cooked for all the people and was the best personal assistant I have ever seen. Dominik , the best man, was working very hard in the yard and making sure that the groom had a helping hand. Guest came from Austria, Colombia, Venezuela, Nepal, and let's not forget California.
We old folks decided to stay in a hotel in a nearby small town. The groom’s mother transported some beautiful but very fragile wildflowers from home. The woman in the neighboring village made a huge wedding wreath. It is tradition in this village to make one for every wedding. What a wonderful local custom. My niece wanted to be married there rather than in her home village two kilometers away.
In the truest sense, it was a dramatic event. Mother Nature added a violent thunderstorm a half hour before the wedding. The boys had to get undressed and rescue one of the tents. The decorations from the stage flew all over the farm. Getting to the church was a task not easily done, due to high wind and rain. The church bells rang for awhile. But all was forgotten as my my niece and the groom walked together down the aisle lead by the pastor, which was something they had decided ahead of time. They had lived together for seven years and had been separated by my niece's internship in Melbourne, Australia for a year. And a life-threatening illness had brought them even closer. There were tears of happiness flowing in the little church.
The thunderstorm was over after the church and all was well. Some farmers decorated a trailer to transport the couple back to the farm. Some other guests were in a second trailer pulled by a tractor. I loved it.
The reception party following the ceremony was fun and we danced way into the night. Everybody had fun.
The next day, the annual summer party took place. It was a potluck event so people brought salads and my brother's friend barbecued sausages and meat. Unfortunately, it rained, so everything took place in the tents. The following day everybody helped clean up and
the wedding weekend was over. Weddings in Germany are as different as they are here in the States—from very formal to a small gathering at the justice of peace.
I used my own photos except for the the first two. I will add or replace some photos later.
I ask the bride and the groom to choose their favorite food from my blog for this post. The bride likes my duck confit quesadillas and the groom my chocolate tart.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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