Let's get Kuchen !

Categories: Dining


[ source: Wikipedia]

Luis Troyano is a baker and Great British Bake Off 2014 finalist, he shares baking recipes at luistroyano.com Ruby Tandoh is Great British Bake Off 2013 finalist, she writes a baking column at the Guardian: theguardian.com/profile/ruby-tandoh Katie Mazur is baking her way through Germany having completed an apprenticeship as a pastry chef, she blogs at bakingmywaythroughgermany.com Christie Dietz is a food writer and cook specialising in German cuisine, she writes at asausagehastwo.com


Schwarzwälderkirsch Torte [shvartz –velda - keerch-torte] – A whipped cream layered cake flavoured with cherry brandy, sour cherries, and chocolate. Typically eaten during special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, this is one of the most famous traditional German cakes. In English it is known as the Black Forest Cake and it is named after Schwarzwälder Kirchwasser, a specialty liquor of the Black Forest region in southwest Germany. *Tip* For the best “Black Forest” taste, sprinkle a mixture of sugar syrup and cherry brandy on the cake between the layers. This will ensure a nice moist cake! [KM]

Donauwelle [don-ow-vella] – Also known as the Snow White Cake, because of the red, black, and white colour, it is a marbled cake with sour cherries, butter cream, and cocoa. Typically seen decorated with a wave on top to symbolise the waves of the river Donau (or Danube). *Tip*To get the typical chocolate swirl effect seen in a Donuwelle cake, generously sprinkle cocoa powder on top of the finished cake and with a pastry comb, gently create the design by “combing” the cocoa powder in a swirl-like design. [KM]

Baumkuchen [Bow-m-cooch-un] –This cake is made of generally 15-20 thin layers of batter which have been baked over a rotating spit and then covered in jam and chocolate. Records report its origin as far back as 1581. The inside of a Baumkuchen resembles the growth rings on a crosscut tree hence its name which literally means "tree cake". This cake is the symbol of the German Confectionery Association and is also known as the King of the Cakes. *Tip* For a Baumkuchen at home, set your oven on the top grill setting and bake the Baumkuchen layer by layer in a normal cake pan. [KM]

Coffee Cakes:

Zimtschnecke [Tsimt-schnekk-e] Literal translation is "cinnamon snails". These are made from a yeast dough and rolled together with a cinnamon and sugar filling. Known in Hamburg and Northern Germany as Franzbroetchen, while known as Zimtschnecken in the rest of the country. *Tip*To make the cinnamon rolls, roll out the dough in a rectangle, spread the filling, roll the dough together long ways and slice the cinnamon rolls about 1 ½ inches thick. [KM]

Streuselkuchen/ Butterkuchen [Stroi-sl-cooch-un/ Boo-tr-cooch-un] A light, sweet yeast cake baked flat on a tray and typically flavoured with butter, sugar, and almonds and in case of the former topped with streusel (or in English, a crumbly topping). It is eaten primarily during the afternoon coffee time. *Tip* Substituting a small amount of almond flour from the flour in the “Streusel” will add great flavour. [KM]

Quarkkuchen [Kwar-coochn-un ] A baked cheesecake made using quark cheese and served cold. Quark cheese is a form of curd cheese, commonly found in German and Northern European cuisines. *Tip*Quark can be easily substituted with cream cheese. [KM]

Christmas Biscuits

Spekulatius [Spekk-uh-latzi-yous] – A shortbread flavored with gingerbread spice, almonds or butter which is rolled out into Christmas figures to enjoy during the festive season. This is a specialty from the Rheinland-Pfalz region, and is not always available outside of the Christmas period. *Tip*For the Spekulatius cookies to keep their intricate detail, place the rolled out figures in the refrigerator before baking. The butter will become harder and therefore the cookies will hold their shape better in the oven. [KM]

Vanillekipferl [Van-ill-eh-kipf-arl] – Small, crescent shaped biscuits, made with ground almonds or hazelnuts and covered in vanilla sugar. They can be tricky to bake due to the rather crumbly dough. *Tip* To get the classic horn-shaped form, weigh the dough into cookie-sized pieces and roll each cookie out on a lightly floured surface, pressing slightly harder on the two ends of the dough to make them thinner than the middle. Finish by curing the two ends together. [KM]

Lebkuchen [Layb- cooch-un]– German gingerbread, traditionally eaten over the festive period. Lebkuchen range in taste from spicy to sweet and come in a variety of shapes. The ingredients usually include honey, spices such as nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and allspice, nuts including almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, or candied fruit. There are numerous regional varieties. Lebkuchen bakers were recorded as early as 1395 in Nürnberg (Nuremberg), the most famous exporter today of the product known as Nürnberger Lebkuchen. A variety of Nürnberg Lebkuchen made without flour and created in 1808 is called Elisenlebkuchen. *Tip*If you want to impress gluten-free guests with your knowledge of German baking, make them Elisenlebkuchen at Christmas, a variety of Lebkuchen that’s naturally gluten-free. [CD]

Breads and Sweet Breads:

Brezel [Bre-zel]- Perhaps most famous for its distinctive knot shaped appearance the Brezel or pretzel has established a firm place within German culture with documentation from the 12th century depicting the pretzel as Germany’s baker guild emblem. Typically savoury and baked using wheat flour, malt, salt, yeast and water, expect to find pretzels in bakeries country wide, but different German regions often offer up its own pretzel specialty. Brezels were historically consumed during Lent and Easter. Today they are commonly available in most bakeries all year round, however in many regions they still have specific varieties used in various traditions and festivals, such as the "Palm Pretzel" (for Palm Sunday) and the "New Year's Pretzel". *Tip* Pretzels are traditionally dipped in a lye bath before baking to give them that distinctive chewy golden crust. However, that's not very practical for the home baker. So a simple alternative is a boiling bath of water and baking bicarbonate of soda. Use a ratio of 10 water to every 1/2 of soda. Simply dip the pretzels in the solution for 20 seconds before placing them on a baking sheet and baking. [LT]

Pumpernickel [Poomp-err-nikkl] – Very heavy, compact bread made with a combination of rye flour and coarsely ground rye, associated with the Westphalian region and first mentioned in print in 1450. Traditional German Pumpernickel contains no artificial agents to produce its characteristic deep brown colour. Loaves are baked in long narrow lidded pans 16 to 24 hours in a low temperature steam-filled oven. Pumpernickel bread has a long shelf life. Wrapped properly, it can last for several months. *Tip* To get the compact characteristic of pumpkernickel, bake the bread in narrow, lidded forms. [KM]

Stollen [Stoll-n]– A fruit bread loaf high in fat and full of spices such as nutmeg, creating a very aromatic taste, eaten during the festive season. Its origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it was originally baked during the Advent season. At the time, the church did not allow the use of butter during Advent, as it was a time for fasting. In the 15th century, the Prince Elector Ernst and his brother Duke Albrecht, based in Dresden, decided to write to the Pope in Rome requesting for the ban on butter to be lifted. The request was finally granted in 1490. Whilst there many regional varieties, Dresdner Stollen (ie from Dresden) remains the best known and is still hand-made by 130 bakeries according to traditional recipes. Only stollen which meet the high standards of the statutes of the Dresden Stollen Association are allowed to bear the stollen golden seal as a mark of quality and authenticity.*Tip*Brushing a baked Stollen with plenty of melted butter, while it's still hot from the oven, is the way to get that really soft, melting crust. [RT]

German Culture

In Germany, bread and baked goods are found everywhere. Rolls belong on the breakfast table, pastries to Kaffee und Kuchen (a tradition that takes place in the late afternoon and directly translates as “coffee and cake”) and bread is typically eaten for dinner. Cakes and tortes are a common staple for special occasions and holidays and though home baking is more common in Germany than most European countries, Bäckereien (bakeries) and Konditoreien are found in every city large or small. Based on a survey carried out by Die Zeit here’s a selection of some of Germany’s favourite bakeries.

  • Konditorei und Cafe Buchwald: Location: Bartningallee 29 in 10557 Berlin
  • Bäckerei Rene Krause: Location: Lilienthalstrasse 18, 01257 Dresden
  • Hanss: Location: Brückenstr. 56. 60594 Frankfurt am Main
  • Schroeder: Location: Fiegenstraße 50, 28219 Bremen
  • Effenberger Bäckerei:Location: Rutschbahn 18, 20146 Hamburg
  • Bäckerei Knapp & Wenig:Location: Neuturmstrasse 3, Munich
  • Bäckerei Hinkel:Location: Mittelstraße 25, 40213 Düsseldorf

About this Article

This travel guide has been written by Jim Seki.

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: Bartningallee 29, Berlin, Germany

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