German Apple Cake from Joy of Vegan Baking
Baked treats always taste best when shared with others, so first up I made this gorgeous apple cake from Joy of Vegan Baking for an autumn potluck at a gathering of friends. The batter was most decidedly not done after the suggested cooking time, and using the toothpick test proved futile because the simmering apples on top pretty much obscured the results. In the end I overcooked it a bit, unfortunately... but, you know, it's not like I ruined it. The whole thing was gone by the next day. If you know what I mean! But next time I'll watch it more closely. And there will be a next time!
Next up, I wanted to get into some more seriously German delicacies. I know Germans don't mess around with cookies, especially at Christmas time. So, even though it's a bit early, I set about searching online for some fun cookies to try, and found this most appealing recipe for Dominosteine, layered gingerbread cookies. Yes! A little simple veganizing was in order: EnerG egg replacer for the eggs, agave & brown rice syrup for the honey, and Earth Balance for the butter. Ta-da! Presto, ouila! Vegan! These cookies were absolutely delicious - rich and full of flavor... although they are quite small, they really pack a punch.
(By the way, if you are interested in making this recipe, I really suggest reading the comments in the review as they are quite helpful - I followed her advice and added some dried ginger. I also only did one layer of the gingerbread, and added a little extra rum. Because xmas cookies should be boozy, y'know?).
First up, you bake the gingerbread layer. The gingerbread is a little dry, but it is supposed to be that way... because next you spread on a layer of black currant jelly. On top of that, you roll out a thin layer of almond paste and place it on top. These cookies get better and better as the days go on and the gingerbread layer absorbs some of the moisture from the jelly. The hardest thing was to cut the cookies into 1-inch squares, without causing the jam to smoosh out all over kingdom come. So, after some difficulty, I turned to that classic kitchen utensil: the exact-o knife! Ha! Well, it worked, so don't laugh. First, I gently scored the almond paste. Then I went through again, and cut just the almond paste layer. Then, using a sharp kitchen knife, I was able to cut the ginger bread into squares.
Finally they were all ready to be coated in chocolately glaze!
As you can see, in the end, I had a little problem with the glaze melting around the jelly layer. I think these cookies would be more excellent still with a jelly layer that was more firm and less liquidy. Like if you could somehow cook up the jelly with a touch of agar first, that would be just perfect! Nonetheless, they were beautiful and tasty and definitely a fun project! This chocolate glaze is also a great recipe. It's chocolatey, but also tastes more like "icing" than "ganache"... and was very smooth and pourable. It's probably a recipe I'll come back to for other uses. However, I think next time I make these cookies, I may experiment with using straight-up melted chocolate instead of a glaze. That will solve the jelly problem... but these cookies are mighty rich already, and the pure chocolate might be overpowering. Well, shucks, I'll just have to make them again and find out!
Obviously, these cookies are a special endeavor, but we had a really special gathering of old friends to attend and I was happy to bring something made with so much love & care as an offering.
I set out to make one more special German cookie: Springerle. I found this recipe online and it caught my eye for a few reasons: all the reviews were very enthusiastic, it called for me to use my special patterned springerle rolling pin, and it called for me to track down a new and exciting ingredient: ammonium carbonate... aka "bakers ammonium." Somewhere along the line, I have developed an adventurous love for new ingredients.
Here they are in all their glory. I flipped one over so that you can see how the underside is full of yummy anise seeds. First you make the dough and leave it out for 24 hours, then you bake them, and leave them out for 24 hours again... then put them away for a couple of weeks before coming back to them. Sooooooo, the verdict's still out on these little treats. I'll let you know in a couple weeks' time how they turned out!
It took me loads of phone calls all over Kingdom Come to track down the ellusive ingredient. At last I found a store called The Cake Works about 30 minute away that carried it. We just happened to have plans that way on Sunday, but lo and behold - they are closed on Sundays. After many more unsuccessful calls, I called back and asked if I could pay with my credit card, and maybe they could leave it by the front door for me (pathetic, but genuinely desperate). Well, the sweet and awesome owner said she would just meet us there on Sunday after church. The timing worked out perfectly for us, and I went home with ammonium carbonate and a heart full of gratitude for The Cake Works. Sound the trumpets!
p.s. Well, it turns out I was unable to resist the allure of sausages after all. We had a quick-and-cheap "German" meal of Tofurky-brand Beer Brats with mustard and sauerkraut. I've made lots of homemade vegan sausages, but these Tofurky sausages still find their way into my shopping cart. I love the strong flavors and the great texture, and I especially love the Beer Brats flavor. I cooked up some non-traditional kale to go with dinner... and you can see that little Mr. Yummers is quite interested indeed! Meow!