Trio of German Treats

Perhaps I’ve enjoyed a bit too much coffee this morning, but seriously folks, I’m all over the map – the dessert map, that is – when it comes to deciding which food adventures to share with you today.  I’ve decided that I’m simply not going to decide.  Instead, I’m going to indulge my sweet tooth and share a trio of German desserts… a foodie mosaic!  I’ll let you decide what best captures your attention.  Post a comment about your favorite photo below, and I’ll work on recreating the dish for a future post!

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Thin layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse, all contained within a shell of chocolate genache. Yum!

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Fresh apple slices baked atop a light vanilla cake, finished with a smattering of crumb topping. Delish!

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A dense cheesecake layer is topped with a fluffy layer of cheesecake mousse in which tart glazed cherries are suspended. Yes, please!

Bockwurst and The Bach House

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Bockwurst is a popular German sausage made from finely ground veal and pork.  It’s relatively hefty size and natural casing means that bockwurst must be cooked slowly to retain its appearance and flavor.  As long as you keep that one detail in mind, preparing a meal of bockwurst, potatoes, and peppers is very, very simple (see instructions, below).  It was a perfect meal to cap a day spent exploring The Bach House and surrounding area.

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Sample of instruments played by Johann Sebastian Bach

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Listening pods for visitors

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Recreation of Bach’s facial features from a plaster cast of his exhumed skull (creepy but true)

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Exterior of The Bach House (left) with adjoining gift shop and café (right)

 

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Exterior statue of Johann Sebastian Bach

Classical music aficionados in large numbers trek into central Germany during the summer months to visit The Bach House.  This well reputed museum displays a comprehensive collection of Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical instruments, hand written compositions, and furnishings from his home.  Meandering from floor to floor and room to room, visitors are treated to the sounds of professional musicians performing Bach’s compositions on Bach’s own instruments – pretty cool.  Visitors may also settle into comfortable listening pods, pictured above, to listen to a wide variety of Bach pieces performed by a vast array of musicians.  While admittedly a bit macabre, visitors also have the, er, interesting opportunity to learn how Bach’s likeness was recreated by exhuming his body (seriously) and using his skull as a model.  [The cost of fame? Yikes.]

Whether you are touring The Bach House or simply popping in a CD, here’s a solid German meal to enjoy while you listen!

Bockwurst with Potatoes and Peppers

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 medium size potatoes

4 bockwurst

1 small onion, sliced

3 bell peppers (different colors if possible), sliced

1 tablespoon butter

black pepper to taste

 

picture1284Directions

Step 1) Wash potatoes and cut into bite size chunks.  Place in bottom of a nonstick pan.  Place bockwurst on top of potatoes.

Step 2) Cover bockwurst and potatoes with cold water.  Water should completely, but just barely, cover the bockwurst.

Step 3) Cover pot and heat on low until water is just about ready to boil.  Don’t turn the heat too high – it should take about 30 minutes for the water to approach boiling.  Be patient!

Step 4) Just before the water boils (for example, when the surface of the water appears to vibrate, or very teeny tiny bubbles begin to appear on the edges of the pot), layer the onion and peppers on top of the bockwurst.  Turn the heat OFF and LEAVE THE POT COVERED.  Do not lift the cover for 20 minutes!

Step 5) Important – check the internal temperature of one bockwurst with a meat thermometer.  The internal temperature should be at least 160 degrees F.  If the temperature has not reached 160 degrees F, turn the heat back to low and cover the pot for another few minutes.  Check the temperature again before serving.

Step 6) To serve, gently remove peppers, onions, and bockwurst from the pan.  Drain most of the liquid off of the potatoes; leave just a little bit of water with the potatoes in the pot.

Step 7) Add butter and pepper to the potatoes and coarsely mash.  Potatoes should be chunky; this is a rustic dish.

Step 8) Spread one scoop of potatoes on each serving plate and top with one bockwurst.  Arrange onion and pepper slices on top of bockwurst.  For added color, garnish with carrot shavings (optional).  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Eis in Eisenach, Germany

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEisenach is a bustling town of approximately 40,000 people in the Thuringia region of central Germany.  As the birthplace of composer Johann Sebastian Bach and nearest town to Wartburg Castle, Eisenach welcomes a significant number of tourists (mostly German) every year.  Watching tour busses navigate the narrow, perilously steep roads near the town center is nerve wracking indeed!

Visitors can easily walk through Eisenach for hours perusing outdoor markets (see above), taking in museums, visiting churches, and enjoying fountains.  During the summer months, Eisenach can get quite toasty warm.  Air conditioning is not a common amenity, leaving sightseers to find other ways of cooling off.  Thankfully, Eisenach cafes and restaurants take “Eis,” or ice cream, to whole new levels.

Crowded Earth Kitchen is sharing ideas instead of recipes for you today.  Once you take a look at the photos from our ice cream adventures below, I don’t think you’ll mind.  All you need are ice cream and toppings (fresh fruit is a must!) from your local market, and a little imagination. Have fun cooling off deliciously!

 

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Traditional Spaghetti Eis: Vanilla ice cream piped in the shape of spaghetti noodles, topped with strawberry slices and coconut shavings

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Chocolate Banana Spaghetti Eis

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Amaretto Eis: Vanilla Spaghetti Eis topped with amaretti cookies, chopped walnuts, coconut shavings, and a drizzle of amaretto liqueur (sigh…)

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Butterfly Eis for half-pint visitors

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Semi-creepy clown eis for half-pint visitors and eccentric adults!

 

Bier-Braised Pork Chops in Bischofroda, Germany

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Bischofroda is a small village of less than 700 residents nestled in the Southwestern hills of Thuringia, right in the heart of Germany.  While many Americans think of the Rhine River valley as “storybook Germany,” the Thuringia region seems even more special to me.  The hills vary from gentle and rolling to steep and spectacular, with a surprise around every turn in the road.  In high places, visitors can simply stand along the roadside and gaze down at village after red-roofed village adorning countless acres of farmland and forests.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABischofroda is the sort of place that encourages its occasional visitors to slow down and relax. We enjoyed meandering through the village, exploring the grounds of the local church, and stepping aside on narrow cobbled roads every now and then to allow locals on horseback and tractors to pass.  Returning to our guest house to enjoy a slow and simple dinner with a cold German bier was a great way to end the day.

German bier is so widely available, so inexpensive, and so varied, we may as well cook with it, too!  What follows is an easy peasy recipe for fork-tender pork chops, braised in German bier, of course.

picture1253Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 thin-cut boneless pork chops

2 carrots, sliced into coins

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup ketchup*

1 pint of your choice of German bier

*Yes, we’re using plain old ketchup.  There’s no need to be precious about it – ketchup’s acidity helps to tenderize the pork, and the flavor blends well with bier.  If you prefer to be all fancy pants, here’s what you do instead…  first you’ll need to peel, seed, and finely chop two ripe, fleshy tomatoes.  Cook them down over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add one teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Voila, ketchup.

Directions

Step 1) Sear pork chops in frying pan over medium-high heat, approximately 30 seconds on each side.  Sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper if desired.

Step 2) Push pork chops aside and place onions and carrots evenly around bottom of the frying pan.  Place seared pork chops on top of onions and carrots.  Drizzle ketchup over pork chops, and pour bier over everything.

Step 3) Place lid on frying pan and simmer on low for 30 minutes or until pork chops are fork tender.  Enjoy!

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Cabanossi and Kohlrabi in Oberkrämer, Germany

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Oberkrämer is a sleepy community of just over 10,000 residents in Brandenburg, approximately 25 miles Northwest of Berlin.  It has the feel of an American suburb, with an independently owned, hexagon-shaped doner kebap stand instead of a drive-thru fast food franchise, and the logically well connected mass transportation access one expects to find near Germany’s capital city.

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Like most communities within commutable distance from a major metropolis, Oberkrämer offers several affordable markets for convenient grocery shopping.  I have to smile at how the produce section of each of these markets prominently features kohlrabi, a largely overlooked vegetable in the US.  Germany grows more kohlrabi – and consumes more kohlrabi – than any other country in the world.  My very German grandfather loves kohlrabi, and connecting with my German heritage is the reason I find myself here, so there you have it – we’re cooking up kohlrabi for dinner… but with what?

picture1250Cabanossi sausage!  If you haven’t tried Cabanossi sausage before, you’re in for a treat.  A mild, smoked sausage readily available throughout Germany as well as parts of the US, Cabanossi is seasoned with paprika and cured (like salami).  Cabanossi is considered more versatile than salami, in that it is commonly enjoyed both hot (baked, roasted, or grilled) and cold (on charcuterie plates and in sandwiches).  Today, we’re baking Cabanossi along with kohlrabi, potatoes, and a few mushrooms (optional) for a hearty, one dish dinner.

Ingredients (makes 4 main dish servings)

4 Cabanossi sausages (150 grams each)

3 large potatoes

1 large kohlrabi, leafy green top still attached

12 mushrooms

2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper

picture1251Directions

Step 1)  Grease a large baking dish liberally with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2) Wash potatoes and cut into bite size chunks.  Arrange potato pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish, skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes to par-bake (mostly, but not entirely, cook through).

Step 3) While potatoes are baking, cut leafy green top off of the kohlrabi bulb.  Discard stems, and cut greens into 1 inch strips.  Set aside.  Peel kohlrabi bulb (the bottom) with a potato peeler, and cut the peeled bulb into bite size chunks.  Set aside.

Step 4) Cut mushrooms into quarters.  Set aside.  Cut each Cabanossi sausage into three pieces.  Set aside.

Step 5) Remove potatoes from oven.  Arrange quartered mushrooms around the edges of the baking dish, and top mushrooms with kohlrabi greens.  Arrange kohlrabi chunks in the center of the dish, and top everything with sausage.

Step 6) Place dish back in oven for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve while hot.  Guten appetit!

 

All Things Schnitzel in Landkirchen, Germany

When asked to name a German food, schnitzel is the first thing to pop into the minds of many people.  Schnitzel is simply a boneless cut of meat which has been pounded thin with a meat mallet for tenderizing, breaded, and fried.  Pork schnitzel is quite common throughout Germany, although any meat may be used (I enjoy the less common chicken schnitzel, myself).  In German restaurants, it is sometimes possible to hear a faint “thump, thump” from the kitchen, which is schnitzel being prepared for the next round of diners!

Landkirchen is a small town in Fehmarn, Germany and is popular with tourists.  Most of the tourists themselves are from other parts of Germany, which bodes well for food offerings.  Schnitzel abounds – plain schnitzel and schnitzel with toppings, schnitzel with potato salad and schnitzel with pommes, schnitzel on paper plates and schnitzel all fancied up.  Crowded Earth Kitchen sampled the schnitzels throughout Landkirchen by dining where the tables were most full, and where diners were visiting with staff (a hopeful sign that the diners were either locals or returning guests).  We were not disappointed.  Here are a few photos for you – pick your favorite in the poll below, and Crowded Earth Kitchen will work to recreate the recipe for you!

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Seafood Schnitzel with Pommes

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Jaeger Schnitzel with Kartoffelsalat

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Hawaiian Schnitzel with Pommes

Which recipe would you like to see Crowded Earth Kitchen recreate?

Sauerkirschkuchen in Petersdorf, Germany (Or, “What can I bake from what I can find at Aldi?”)

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Petersdorf is one of the larger towns on Fehmarn island, large being a relative term (the entire island is home to approximately 12,000 people).  During my stay on Fehmarn, the Aldi store in Petersdorf is where I did most of my shopping – Aldi prices are quite low, and while Aldi stores aren’t exactly aesthetically pleasing, they still offer a more pleasant shopping experience that The Store With A W That Shall Not Be Named.  Say what you will about Aldi, the fact that the company has managed to keep the behemoth W out of Germany is worthy of respect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShopping at Aldi takes some getting used to.  Aldi is able to offer very low prices because their business model dictates that an average Aldi store stock only about 1,500 different items.  That may sound like a lot, but it’s less than five percent – and in some cases less than one percent – of the inventory at many American supermarkets.

I didn’t take much notice of the limited inventory at Aldi until I tried to bake.  I could find granulated white sugar, but not confectioner’s sugar (a challenge when making frosting).  I could find baking powder, but not cream of tartar (a challenge when making meringues).  I also could not find molasses, and I tend to bake with a lot of molasses.

So, I changed my tack.  I went on a baking scavenger hunt, searching for interesting ingredients and thinking of ways to use them.  Voila!  I stumbled upon a big jar of sauerkirschen, or sour cherries.  The best part was, the jar was priced at less than half of what I knew these lovely little fruits would cost back home.  So, today we are making sauerkirchkuchen, a very simple cherry cake.  Enjoy!

picture1225 Ingredients (makes an 8″ square cake)

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups sour cherries (pitted, drained if jarred)

picture1226Directions

Step 1) Grease an 8″ square cake pan or a glass pie dish; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2) Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.  Cut butter into dry mixture using a pastry cutter or two forks.  Continue cutting butter into mixture until all butter pieces are smaller than peas.

Step 3) Add egg and milk to flour and butter mixture; combine with a fork.  Batter should be thick, like biscuit dough.

Step 4) Spread batter into bottom of pan.  Top with cherries.  If desired, drizzle tops of cherries with 1-2 tablespoons of cherry juice and/or 1 teaspoon of white sugar.

Step 5) Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the dough (pick a spot not covered by a cherry) comes out clean.  Check after 35 minutes.

Let cool slightly before enjoying.  This makes a wonderful breakfast kuchen served with coffee, or a wonderful dessert served with ice cream!