I am always fascinated how one recipe can lead me to the next (and the next…). Like when I was researching for the Rheinische Neujährchen, which leaded me to the Variant from the Westerwald. And then a reader commented about a tradition from reutlingen called Mutschel day. This day is the first thursday after Three Kings Day and at this day the people in Reutlingen a playing dice games in order to win a mutschel.
The mutschel is a highly decoreated bread made from a very rich dough. The bread has a eight pointed star shape with a bump in the middle. The shape is much easier to form then I first thought as the dough ball just has to be cut like a “#” and the sides then has to be pulled away and shape into pointy tips. I made pictures form the process but used a tinier variant of the mutschel as it was much easier taking pictures from it then from the big one.
For new years morning I baked my traditional New years pretzel, Westerwälder Neujährchen and Rheinische Neujährchen. The swirly form of the Rheinische Neujährchen may looks familiar to some of you. It is one of the forms that is used traditional for Lussekatter. And in Tyrol there is a Bread called “Thomasradl” which is baked during Christmas time in this form. The wide spread of this form is a hint that baking breads in this forms stems from a pre-Christian time. It is discussed that its a leftover of the midwinter fest and is a symbol for the sun.
I like the idea of sun very much as I am waiting each year in January to the days get visibly longer again.
The name “Neujährchen” is used in different regions of Germany for a wide variety of bread and pastry baked for new years eve or new years mornig. This variant stems from the Westerwald. I stumbled about it when I researched recipes for Neujährchen from the rhineland. I was fascinated by the dark crust which is archived by glazing them with cold coffee. And I was thrilled by the interesting mixture of spices and the fact that it is baked with a good amount of rye flour. The dough is mixed with a generous amount of butter, too, which is rather seldom for rye bread. The mixture of spices seems to vary from village to village. Adding Pepper and cinnamon seems to be common everywhere, but if anise or clove or both is used is different from recipe to recipe. As I do not like anise very much, the decision for my recipe variant was an easy one.
The hearty mixture of spice makes the rolls special, but very delicious. They taste great with honey, but would go as well with a mild goat cheese and some cranberry jam, too.
The more often I bake stollen bites, the more I love them. They are the perfect as late afternoon treats with a cup of tea. They are a perfect little Christmas gift for friends and colleagues. And they are perfect for testing new stollen variants in small scale.
The idea of a whole grain stollen grew in the last year somewhere in my mind. And as it happens so often I felt a itching in my fingers to try the variant. But I was absolutely unsure if I would like the flavour of whole grain flour at all in such a festive bread. And so I did a recipe test with half of the recipe of the stollen bites. After two weeks of resting I finally tested them last weekend and I was thrilled. The slight bitter and nutty tones of the flour harmonises perfectly with the spices and the sweet dried fruits. The flavour is deeper and more complex then of the white flour variant. And they stay as moist as the original, too. And I’m now sad that I made just half of the recipe…
Most of the time I think that breads with the tag “vegan” are silly. The standard variant of bread means “flour, water and salt” and this is after all so pure and simple vegan that there should be no questions left. But with sweet breads this is a different story. I always try to avoid highly processed replacements like margarine. And so I was fascinated when I read in a description of a organic baker that he uses coconut oil for vegan baking.
Using this fat makes sense as it contains naturally a high amount of saturated fat and so is solid at room temperature. I just wondered if the the slight coconut flavour of the oil would shine trough in the baked good. And to verify this question there was just one option: Baking a bread with coconut oil.
The Saint Martin’s Day is a celebrated through whole Germany. The traditions anyway vary from region to region. In the Bergische Land, where I live, and in the Rhineland, one tradition is to give a Weckmann to each child after the lantern procession. In other regions instead of this weckmann they get a Martinsbrezel (Martin’s pretzel).
I learned about these tradition quiet recently and did some researching then. And interestingly this tradition is rather wide spread and there are differnt kinds of pretzels. In some regions, they are topped with pearl sugar before baking while in other regions they are brushed with butter and turned in fine sugar after baking.
I decided to try the second variant. Due to the big amount of sugar decided to use only a small anount of sugar in the dough. And then these pretzel are big treat – they may not replace a weckmann in this house but are a good addition to them!
During the last weeks I planned my recipes according to different leftovers I found in my flour storage boxes. Now, they are (almost) tidy and I can come back to my personal favourites: regional bread recipes.
The special thing on regional recipes is the fact, that they are hard to find. They are often so common in their region that no one recognize them as that what they are: little recipe gems which can be found only in a narrow area. Only when an habitant moves into a area farer away, he or she will learn that this common everyday bread is not known in this part of the world. Nevertheless I stumble over a recipe from time to time or one of my readers askes for a special recipe and so I can enlarge my collection continuously.
The Butter Blatz is such a readers request. Blatz can be found in the southern Rhineland and in the Bergische Land and is baked in different variants: filled with raisins or almonds or topped with crumbles. The plain butter blatz variant is shaped to long loaf and cut serveal times on both sides prior to baking. This gives the bread the appearance of a leaf and looks just beautiful.
Autumn means always potato time for me. And even after this hot and endless summer, when we had to harvest them already in august due to the drought, I hunger for the first loaf of potato bread. Here – in the region around cologne – potatoes are called Ärpel or Erpel. This dialectal term is a short form from “Erdapfel” (literal earthapple). And so is an Ärpelbrot nothing other then a potato bread.
These Variant is in some points similar to the Oberbergischen Ärpelbrot but is baked with a rye poolish and yeast. And so it is a variant that works well for bread baking beginners too. It is a aromatic bread whit crisp crust and tender crumb.
For me, it is the right bread to eat it – thickly slathered with Plum butter – on a cold, misty autumn morning!
Sometimes recipes are just created to use leftovers. This recipe is one of them. I created it spontaneously, when my mother-in-law and me started to sort her baking supply’s last week and found different nuts and poppy seeds a bit past the “best before” date. We checked them and they tasted still fine, so we decided to bake something with them. And while the thermometer outside slowly reached 35°C we kneaded a dough and prepared a filling following a well proven formula.
The rolls turned out very delicious : the moist filling is wrapped inside the fluffy crumb. We enjoyed them at a nice shadowy spot in the garden. A fast and delicious treat on hot day!
I could call this bread a simple “leftover bread”. But this would be to simple as the bread is a really delicious one. But to be honest, it contains a lot of leftover flours. There is the package of einkorn flour I found behind my flour box. And the bag with the little bit of spelt flour and another bag with some leftover rye flour. And as these three did not yield enough flour for a bread, I added some wheat flour, too.
As I planned to bake the bread in the wood fired oven in our regional history museum, I had to plan accordingly. For an relaxed baking day, I prefer to knead the dough friday night and let it rise over night in the fridge. But this normally means that I have to prepare the preferment in the morning before I leave for work. But – with school years end so near – I knew I would be to tired that morning for mixing a preferment at 5:30 am. As workaround I decided to let the poolish ferment in the fridge as well. It needs about 24 hours then, but with a bit of planing ahead, it minimize the time I had to spent each day with preapring the bread.