My mom was born & raised in Germany so I have very specific ideas on how the Christmas season should look, sound, smell and taste. Gotta have real candles on the very real tree. Just a few...and yes, I light them on Christmas morning while "O Tannenbaum" & "Stille Nacht" play. Gotta have frankincense-scented incense for the smoking man (which, besides smelling Christmas-y, also hides the smell of any herbal celebrating you may choose to do. And regardless of what the calendar says, it absolutely can NOT be Christmas without Streuselkuchen and Lebkuchen.
Streuselkuchen is this delightfully buttery German coffee cake that Mom used to make. Just to be clear - you can have Streuselkuchen without Christmas, but never, EVER Christmas without Streuselkuchen. Fabulously delicious, but certainly not for those who have a doctor yelling about cholesterol...it has nearly three-quarters of a pound of butter in it. And yes, you have to use real butter...to even contemplate using margarine would be sacrilege.
Preheat your oven to 350. I spray a 10" X 15" X 3/4" sheet pan, line it with parchment, then spray the parchment. Probably overkill but better that than a stuck Streuselkuchen...
- 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
Mix well. Put in the fridge while you mix your dough.
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached cuz they use benzoyl peroxide to bleach flour...you know, the active ingredient in the zit stuff you used in high school...but that's up to you)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream the butter & sugar together. Add the egg & mix well. Add the baking powder and flour. You'll need to add some milk to pull it all together. How much? Well, that depends on the humidity & stuff...I usually end up using anywhere from a couple tablespoons to a quarter cup or so. The consistency you're looking for is kind of like cookie dough except maybe a smidge stickier.
This is the only part of Streuselkuchen that I hate...cuz it's a royal pain, but I swear, it's worth it....spread the dough on the sheet pan. For me, the easiest way is with an off-set spatula. I dip the spatula in a glass of water and then spread some dough. Back in the water...back to the dough...til the dough covers the bottom of the pan.
Once you get that dealt with, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of water on top. Quit looking at me like that. You heard me. Water. On the top of your dough. Use your hand to spread it over the top. That will keep your streusel from sinking into the dough. Break the streusel up over the dough. Bake til a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean...about 15-20 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. When it's cool, dust with powdered sugar & enjoy! I have only met one person that doesn't like Streuselkuchen - and I wouldn't trust him as far as I can throw him!
Lebkuchen - gingerbread - is another must. I usually get a few kinds of lebkuchen cookies at the German store...sometimes make another kind at home. Occasionally I dabble with construction grade gingerbread. But this year...this year I found a recipe for Gingerbread Cake that sounded so good, I couldn't resist making it.
I found the recipe in the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated...which btw, is a totally bad-ass magazine! It's a small magazine but there are NO advertisements....just page after page of recipe testing, product testing and kitchen tips. Anyway, this recipe is in the January/February issue of Cook's Illustrated and it's just AMAZING!! I made it as a round cake the first time...and just served it with whipped cream...and it was great! But then I thought...what if this was a cupcake...and what if I frosted it?? I fought with myself about the frosting for awhile...cuz honestly, I think a well-made gingerbread (cheesecake too, for that matter) doesn't need any bells or whistles to go with it...but I am glad I decided to frost!
Now, be warned...this cake uses ground & fresh ginger, so it slaps you upside the head and says "HEY! I'm gingerbread" so if you're sensitive to spice, cut the powdered ginger back to 1 tablespoon. Do NOT open the oven til the minimum baking time has passed. Another thing - a lot of cake recipes will tell you not to overwork the dough so you don't wind up with a tough cake. But with this one, you want to develop enough of the gluten to give the cake a bit of structure...so don't baby the batter.
- 3/4 cup Guinness Stout
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup flour (if you make a regular cake, you'll need a little more to dust the pan)
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
Put the oven rack in the middle position & preheat the oven to 350. (If you're making a regular cake, grease & flour an 8" square pan. If you're doing cupcakes, put your muffin cups in your muffin pan...)
Bring the Guinness to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. It's going to foam up something fierce! When the foaming subsides, stir in the molasses & sugars until dissolved. Set aside.
Whisk the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl and add the oil & fresh ginger. Mix well. Scrambled eggs are good...but not in gingerbread, so we need to temper the eggs. While you're whisking the egg mixture, add some of the still warm Guinness mixture to bring the eggs up to temperature a bit then add the rest and mix well. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, stirring vigorously until completely smooth after each addition.
Fill muffin cups about 2/3 of the way. Bake about 18 to 20 minutes. (35 to 45 minutes if making a regular cake) Cool completely on a wire rack.
Orange-Guinness Double Cream Frosting
- 4 teaspoons orange juice
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- zest from 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon Guinness Stout
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Soften the gelatin in the orange juice for a few minutes. Warm over low heat until gelatin is dissolved. Beat the cream until slightly thick then add the gelatin and beat until cream holds its shape. Be careful not to over beat it or you'll wind up with butter. Refrigerate.
Beat cream cheese and butter together then add the zest & Guinness. Add the powdered sugar about a half cup at a time. Mix well after each addition. Carefully fold in the whipped cream.
I know beer in frosting sounds a little nuts, but it was one of those "what-the-hell" sort of moments...and it worked really well!! Enjoy!! :)