German Sweets for the Holidays and Beyond

          Though right now I can’t even travel to Chicago to do some holiday shopping because of the pandemic, I did manage a trip to Southwest German to visit several of their beautiful Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Markets) and take a holiday cookie making class.

          Well, kind of. The trip was a virtual cooking class and I’ve been doing a lot of those lately. It is, of course, nowhere close to being there but still when you get to the point where going to the grocery store becomes a big adventure, it’s really a great way to explore—and plan for the time when we might be able to journey again.

          And even though the holiday is long past, making the cookies and thinking of the beauty of the Christkindlesmarkts is a fine thing to do in gloomy February when all the excitement leading up to Christmas is long past and winter seems forever.

          Southwest Germany is comprised for the most part of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and is bordered on the west by France, Switzerland to the south, Bavaria to the east and Hesse to the north. It encompasses the Black Forest, large cities like Heidelberg, Baden-Baden and Stuttgart and a plethora of towns and villages that are so neatly kept and so very beautiful like Schwetzingen where there’s the Schwetzingen Palace & Gardens and Wiblingen, the home to an 11th century abbey. One thing you quickly realize about Germany is that almost every village no matter how small has a castle. And abbeys and monasteries dating back a millennium are common. New to them is anything built less than 400 years ago.

          Before COVID-19, late November and December is the time for the fantastic Christmas markets that have been part of the German holiday season since the 1300s. But of course, this is the age of COVID-19, so not only is my cooking class virtual but so are my visits to the Christmas markets. One plus, I save a lot of money by not being able to actually shop.

          Wendy Jo Peterson who, between military moves and following her husband’s career around the world, racked up a lot of miles working with children and adults across the spectrum from populations with special needs to elite athletes. Culinary nutrition and reaching optimal wellness through the foods we eat is one of her main drivers and she’s clocked in a lot of hours teaching, at hospital, working a computer and presenting the latest in nutritional science. When she lived in Stuttgart, Peterson immersed herself in cooking traditions and techniques and is bringing all that to our virtual classroom.

          We can either cook along with Peterson or just watch and I’ve decided I want to cook along with.

          To save time, Peterson has prepared her dough ahead of the class and so did those of us who are going to be cooking with her. Our first cookie is a yeast dough shaped into the form of the little tan man, known  In North Baden and the Electoral Palatinate, as Dambedei, in South Baden as Grätti or Baselmann and in other regions as Weck or Klausenmann. I hope I’m not going to be quizzed on the names of the cookies because I just won’t be able to do it.

But no matter the name, Dambedei’s instantly recognizable to children—and adults—because of his characteristic appearances. All little tan men have a pointed head, raisin eyes, almond mouth and a button jacket made of nuts.

Dambedei’s origins go back to when people were excluded for whatever reason from worshipping in the church on Bishop Nikolaus von Myra’s remembrance day. Instead the blessed bread is served to them in the shape of a man.

“The other cookies we’ll be making are Spitzbuben, also known as Hildabrötchen which are named after the Grand Duchess Hilda von Nassau, the last Grand Duchess of Baden,” says Peterson. “Supposedly, the popular Grand Duchess enjoyed eating Hilda rolls and often baked them herself. She was buried at the side of her husband, Grand Duke Friedrich II in the grand ducal grave chapel in Karlsruhe. Her ornate coffin can be viewed there.”

We’re also will make Hutzelbrot. If we were in Germany, we’d use dried Hutzel pears but alas I’ll be using  the dried pears sold in the grocery store. The term hutzelig in Swabia translates into wrinkled and that also describes the fruit. As for Swabia, it’s a historic region in southwest Germany. Someone a long time ago told me a Swabian joke. It isn’t very funny but it’s the only one I’ve ever heard. I tell it to the class, but they don’t think it’s funny at all.

Baden-Baden

We also have recipes for Springerle and Lebkuchen so if I do all the cooking, I’ll have a great assortment of German cookies.

Spitzbuben or Hildabrötchen

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup of cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 1/3 cups of flour

½ cup of raspberry jam for the center

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Cream together sugar and butter. Add vanilla extract and egg until combined. Add flour to form a dough. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap or cover well and put in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Roll out the dough very thinly and cut into circles. Then cut out the shape you like in every other cookie. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Cool. Heat the jam, spread over the cookies without  cutouts, then place the cutout half on top of the cookie with the jam. Dust with powdered sugar.

Springerle

4 eggs

2 ¼ cups powdered sugar

2 ¼ cup white wheat flour

1 tablespoon of whole anise seed or, if you want, substitute with gingerbread, cardamom, or ginger

Lightly toast the anise beforehand in a pan and then mix it into the batter. This treatment dissolves the essential oils and unfolds its full taste.

All ingredients are placed in a warm room for several hours before starting.

Beat the eggs until frothy, then add the sifted powdered sugar and the tablespoon of anise seed.

Stir this mixture in the food processor for at least 10 minutes.

Then stir in the sifted flour, one tablespoon at a time.

The dough is now a bit soft and needs to rest to have time to shape.

Put the dough in a bowl with a tightly fitting lid and covered with cling wrap, leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least 12-24 hours.

When you are ready to make the cookies, you cut off a small portion of the dough and immediately cover the rest of the dough again, otherwise it will dry out.

Roll out the dough on the floured baking board 8-10 mm thick. Press the Springerle mold into the lightly powdered dough and cut out the springerle with a dough scraper, pastry wheel or a cookie cutter.

Place the springerle on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and leave to dry for 24 hours in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 285 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the Springerle for approx. 15-18 minutes.

After baking, let the springerle cool, remove from the aluminum foil and store in a cardboard box in a damp place.

Hutzelbrot

2/3 cup each of dried pears plums and figs

¼ cup dried apricots

½ cup raisins

1 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts or chopped almonds

1 tablespoons anise seeds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups rye flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

6 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 to 4 teaspoons of vanilla

Soak the dried plums, pears, and figs in water overnight or 8 to12 hours. Drain the fruit and roughly chop it. Finely dice the dried apricots. Put all the fruit with raisins, hazelnuts and almonds in a bowl, season with aniseed, cinnamon and cloves, drizzle with lemon juice and mix well.

Mix the flours with baking powder. Beat the eggs with the sugar until frothy. Add the vanilla extract and the fruit and nut mixture. Finally, gradually knead in the flour mixture and knead the mixture well.

Shape the dough into two loaves of bread. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 70-80 minutes. After baking, let cool on a wire rack.

Dambedei

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

Ground lemon peel

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons honey

1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tbsp canola oil

1 egg yolk

Raisins

Mix wheat flour with lemon zest in a bowl. Warm the milk slightly, add honey and fresh yeast and stir. Add vanilla to the milk and add, along with the canola oil to the flour and mix to form a soft dough, about 5 minutes. Let the dough rise to double its volume in a warm place, knead again by hand and roll out to1/3 of an inch thick.

Cut out 4 Dambedeis each eight inches long, place on two baking sheets lined with baking paper and brush with the egg yolk. Press the golden raisins into the dough as eyes and jacket buttons. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 12 minutes at 395° Fahrenheit.

Lebkuchen

If I get the chance I want to follow the Lebkuchen trail that runs through the Black Forest. Until then, I’ll have to settle for making them at home.  

¾ cup honey

2 cups cane sugar

1 cup orange candied peel

¾ cup lemon candied peel

2/3 cup raisins

1 cup + 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

5 cups whole meal rye flour

2 ½ cups whole meal spelt flour (can substitute whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons of baking soda

4 to 5 teaspoons gingerbread spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves (ground)

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

4 large eggs

6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter

Juice and zest of an organic lemon

For painting: 2 egg yolks,  3 tbsp milk

For decorating and cutting: whole peeled almonds and cookie cutters

The day before, heat the honey and cane sugar in a saucepan while stirring. Finely chop the orange peel, lemon peel, raisins, and hazelnuts.

Mix rye and whole meal spelt flour, baking soda, gingerbread spice, cinnamon, ground cloves, cocoa powder and the finely chopped orange peel, lemon peel, raisins, and finely chopped hazelnuts in a bowl. Knead the heated honey with cane sugar, softened butter, lemon zest, juice, and eggs with the flour mixture until it is a very firm, brown dough.

Shape the dough into an elongated roll and let rest in a cold room overnight, in an airtight container.

Preheat the oven to 320° F and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Knead the dough well, roll it out on a floured work surface to approximately ¼-inch thick, cut out the gingerbread and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Mix the egg yolk and milk, brush the gingerbread cookies with the egg yolk and milk mixture, decorate with an almond and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

 Place the baked gingerbread cookies on a wire rack to cool, then store in a tin or container. The longer they are stored, for approximately one to two weeks, the better they are.

The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook: From Delicious Dole Whip to taste Mickey Pretzels, 100 Magical Disney-Inspired Recipes

Love the food served at the Disney Parks? While we can’t take home the rides or just the feeling of being there, we can cook some of the dishes that make eating there so enjoyable. For that we have Ashley Craft, author of The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook: From Delicious Dole Whip to taste Mickey Pretzels, 100 Magical Disney-Inspired Recipes to thank.

From the book: “The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook offers one hundred easy recipes for the best of Disney’s magical cuisine. Whether you’ve been to the parks a hundred times and are craving your favorite Disney dishes, or you’re just looking for something Disney-inspired to make you feel like you’re on vacation, each recipe has been thoroughly tested to ensure a taste worthy of a certain mouse. The recipes are also organized based on the Disney Park where each one is featured, beginning with the first park to open, Disneyland, and ending with the newest park, Disney California Adventure.

Ashley Craft from Ashleycrafted.

Craft grew up so close to Disney World that she fell asleep each night listening to the music coming from the park. She later worked there and about three years ago started her blog https://ashleycrafted.com/

Organized by parks, Craft’s recipes include dishes from Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney California Adventure. She opens each of her chapters with the park intro, the types of dishes you’ll find and a map so that you can actually located them.

A bestseller on both The Wall Street Journal Bestseller​ and USA TODAY Bestseller lists, the book is published by Adams Media ($14.99 Amazon price).

The following recipes are excerpted from The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft. Copyright © 2020 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

Photography by Harper Point Photography.

Mickey Pretzels

Serves 4

1.5 cups warm water (110°F)

1 (1⁄4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt, divided

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon room-temperature water, divided

1⁄4 cup baking soda

1 large egg

4 teaspoons Kosher salt

‌In the bowl of a stand mixer, add warm water and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit 10 minutes.

‌Add brown sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Using the flat beater attachment, beat on low speed to combine. Mix in flour. Switch to dough hook attachment and knead 5 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic.

‌Remove dough and spray bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Return dough to bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a large ungreased baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 4 cups water to a boil.

‌Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough into eight equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll dough into a rough heart shape. Using a sharp knife, lightly score or scrape the Mickey shape into the dough. Once you’ve achieved your desired shape, cut all the way through the dough.

‌Add baking soda to pot of boiling water. Working with one Mickey at a time, use a big, flat spatula to carefully lift a dough Mickey into baking-soda bath, and poach 15 seconds. Remove to prepared baking sheet.

‌In a small bowl, mix together egg and remaining 1 tablespoon water. Brush onto Mickeys. Sprinkle remaining salt over pretzels.

‌Bake until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Photography by Harper Point Photography.

Gaston’s Giant Cinnamon Rolls

Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom

Disney Parks have sold cinnamon rolls for a long time—regular, boring-sized cinnamon rolls. But in 2012, they upped their cinnamon roll game when they introduced the Warm Cinnamon Roll to their line-up. It is about 8″ square in size and is smothered in frosting and butterscotch topping. It is perfectly made for the man who eats five dozen eggs each day—or your whole family!

SERVES 8

For Dough

3⁄4 cup salted butter, melted, divided

1 1⁄2 cups whole milk

6 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

2 (1⁄4-ounce) packets active dry yeast

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 cup room-temperature water

2 large eggs

‌Grease a 9″×13″ pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.To make the Dough: In a medium bowl, combine 1⁄2 cup melted butter and milk.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 1⁄2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add water, eggs, and butter mixture. Using the flat beater attachment, mix until well combined. Add remaining flour 1⁄2 cup at a time while mixing until Dough starts to form a ball.

‌Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead Dough on low speed 5 minutes.

‌Remove Dough from bowl, sprinkle some flour in bowl, and place Dough back in the same bowl. Let rise 10 minutes in a warm place.

For Filling

2 cups light brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 cup salted butter, softened

To make Filling: In a medium bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter together. Set aside.‌

Roll out Dough into a long rectangle, about 3′ × 2′. Spread Filling evenly across the whole surface of the Dough. Starting at short end, roll Dough like a jelly roll. Make a cut in the center of the roll, and then cut about 6″ from the center on either side to make 2 giant rolls.

Place both rolls swirl-edge down in prepared pan.

Drizzle remaining 1⁄4 cup melted butter over rolls. Allow rolls to rise at room temperature 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Bake rolls 20 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake another 10 minutes.

For Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese

1⁄4 cup salted butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons heavy cream

‌To make Cream Cheese Frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add cream cheese and butter. Combine and heat until melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in confectioners’ sugar. Add vanilla, cream, and salt. Stir, then set aside.

For Butterscotch Topping

1⁄2 cup light brown sugar

4 tablespoons salted butter, softened

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make Butterscotch Topping: In a separate medium saucepan over medium heat, add brown sugar, butter, and cream. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add salt and vanilla. Set aside.

‌To serve, place each giant roll on a large plate. Drizzle cream cheese frosting in one direction along each roll’s swirl, then drizzle with butterscotch in the other direction.

COOKING TIP

The dough leftover on either end of the giant rolls need not be wasted! Make cuts about 1–2 inches along the extra roll. Lay swirl-side down in a glass 9x 13baking dish greased with cooking spray and bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Photography by Harper Point Photography.

Mangonada Smoothies

Hollywood Land, Disney California Adventure

This delicious and refreshing Mexican treat sure helps beat the heat on a California summer day. The mix of salty, spicy, and sweet is so satisfying. Actually, a recent study found that adding salt to a sweet treat helps release the sugar flavors and brings out even more of the sweetness!

SERVES 2

1⁄2 cup pineapple juice

1⁄2 cup guava juice

1 cup frozen mango chunks

1⁄2 cup frozen peach chunks

1 whole fresh banana, peeled

4 teaspoons chamoy sauce, divided

1⁄2 cup fresh chopped mango

1⁄2 teaspoon chili-lime seasoning

‌Combine pineapple juice, guava juice, frozen mango chunks, frozen peach chunks, and banana in a blender and blend until smooth.

‌Drizzle 1 teaspoon chamoy sauce each inside walls of 2 drinking glasses. Divide smoothie mixture into glasses, add 1⁄4 cup fresh mango to each cup, drizzle another 1 teaspoon chamoy sauce in each glass, and sprinkle 1⁄4 teaspoon chili-lime seasoning on each.

The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook is s one of nine in a series of unofficial cookbooks that includes The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook and The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook, all published by Adams Media.