Notes from Germany, on bread and potatoes

In my quest to bake authentic German breads, I picked up the following baking products during a recent trip to Germany:
German baking
From left to right: whole grain rye sourdough, tart glaze, rye flour

The flour and sourdough were purchased in order to try some recipes from a book purchased on a previous Germany trip:

Sauerteig or sourdough can be found in wet or dry form at any grocery in Germany.

Tortenguss or tart glaze comes in a clear or red color. I didn’t bother putting a glaze on the last fresh fruit tart I made, but got this to have in my pantry just in case.

You might have noticed that the bag of flour is labeled “Type 1150”. Germany has different types of flour that are determined by their ash content. I have already done some reading into this and will compile my research into another post.

Easy access to fresh yeast (hefe), fresh/dry sourdough, instant tart glaze and other specialty baking ingredients is a testament to Germany’s baking culture. However, just as many Koreans rarely make their own kimchi anymore (although there is a market for kimchi refridgerators), many Germans don’t bake since they have easy access to high quality and a wide variety of breads.


Germany might not be known for its culinary prowess, but they do know their potatoes. So I picked up this booklet (? not quite a book and not really a magazine):

Kartoffel Küche

According to the European Cultivated Potato Database, Germany has 944 registered varieties. The only other country that comes even close to Germany is the Netherlands with 646.

German potatoes are labeled and sold in three different categories:
Festkochend – green tag – waxy potato = excellent for gratins, fried potato dishes
Vorwiegend Festkochend – red tag – all-purpose potato = good for frying, boiling, and good in salads
Mehlig Kochend – blue tag, floury potatoes = mash and fluffy roast potatoes

Recipes are sorted by festkochend and mehlig kochend. Also included are recipes specifically for purple potatoes, bamberger-hörnchen and other uncommon varieties. The last section is devoted to recipes for those of similar culinary qualities to potatoes, but are not related to them: sweet potatoes and topinambur or sunchokes (Jewish artichoke). I had seen sunchokes at the market before, but never knew what it was or what to do with it. I’m looking forward to trying it at some point, especially now that it’s about to be in season.



Smörgåstårta – A savory sandwich cake

Smörgåstårta: Sandwich Cake

This weekend we were invited to a party by a Swedish friend to celebrate the completion of their kitchen renovation and house expansion. Another friend named the party SMÖRGÅS BÖRGÅS. Ok, it’s not really a word and a odd interpretation of the actual Swedish word “smörgåsbord”; the equivalent of Häagen-Dazs, another made-up word with randomly placed accents.

It was the perfect opportunity to make a smörgåstårta! Continue reading

Baking Muffins – To Water or Not to Water

Does adding water in the empty muffin cups really make a difference?

Using the blueberry muffin recipe from The Bread Bible, the unused empty muffin cups are half filled with water. According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, it  “prevents the heat from being drawn to them and adds moisture”.

Left: Baked Saturday without water added. Right: Baked Sunday with water added.

It’s not necessary to the final flavor, but it did effect the final look of the muffins and surface texture. As they say, a picture says a thousand words.

Pizza Night – Adding Bread Flour to the Mix

Last night I tried my third pizza dough recipe.

I normally use the dough recipe from Mark Bittman’s “The Best Recipes in the World” (BRW). I have also tried the one from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “The Bread Bible” (TBB) which has a different approach but I found too greasy. However, I am a fan of the potato flatbread pizza from the same book and it is one my newer go-to recipes for guests.

The BRW recipe is a standard dough recipe with: flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, and water; which is kneaded together. TBB uses the same ingredients – in different proportions – with the addition of some sugar, the olive oil is not actually added into the dough, and the dough is mixed briefly rather than kneaded.

Continue reading