Sunday, December 27, 2009

Waiter, there’s a gingerbread house in my popcorn!

See what happens when you have very little time, a naked gingerbread house and a bowl of popcorn?

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I went with the recipe provided by Y, but I only did half of it.

Y's Recipe: Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga) from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
  • 1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

I knew I was not going to be able to do a very detailed decorated house, because of the busy holiday baking marathons I had to run... I knew I had to do something very simple... And that’s how this idea popped into my head: A popcorn house!

To make my popcorn house I’ve followed the recipe's instructions, did a simple template and baked the house pieces. Then I’ve popped my corn, did some caramel and used it to glue my popcorn to the walls of the house. I’ve also used the caramel to glue the house together. I’ve then completed the blank spaces where the walls where glued with some more popcorn strategically positioned. And that was it! Fast and fun, and if I may say myself, quite cute!

I think I'm gonna eat it while I watch a movie... And by the way, Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ich bin ein berliner

It’s about time to tell you about my wonderful short trip to Berlin!

I went to visit my friend Sarah who lives there now and 2 other friends of ours that I haven’t seen in about 8 years also joined us. It was so good to see the girls again!

It’s always great to visit a place guided by a person that lives there, isn’t it? Sarah took us to see all the “touristic stuff” like some pieces that are left from the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most important symbols of the city.

And knowing me she also took me to eat the most traditional foods. I mean you can’t leave Germany without eating a Bratwurst, right?

Even if you have to eat one that’s about the size of your arm...

And then there were the Bretzls, the german pretzels. Of course I had to try them with salt and with cheese, and of course I preferred the ones with cheese.

What about the sweets?! I really liked the pastry scene there, and oh boy, German people love their cakes and cookies! And now I love them too!

In fact I loved them so much that I brought back some ingredients to bake some things here. One of the things I brought was a mix of spices to make a famous German cookie: the Spekulatius.

This is the recipe printed on the spice mix package, I gave it a go and it was quite good! I also brought the cute spoon cookie cutter from there.

SPEKULATIUS (from the spice mix package)

  • 250 gr butter (9 oz)
  • 250 gr sugar (9 oz)
  • 2 eggs
  • 500 gr flour (18 oz)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 10 gr Spekulatius spices* (o.6 oz)
  • 250 gr almonds (I dind't use them)

Mix the butter with the sugar, add the eggs. Mix the flour with the baking powder and spices and then add to the butter mixture. Mix just until well incorporated. Roll the dough, cut in the desired shapes and bake in a pre heated oven at 180ºC (350ºF) for about 8-10 minutes.

* You can make your own spice mix (that’s what I’ll have to do next time). The typical spices used in spekulatius are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper.

Ok, I’ve spooned it all out for you. Now it’s time to go back to my holiday baking marathon.