My mom was born and raised in Bremerhaven, Germany. She moved here to America with my older brother about two years before I was born. Sadly I never learned how to speak German but I was fortunate enough to be raised in a home where there was almost always some kind of baked good in the oven. Ironically enough I have never been a big fan of sweets so I didn't fully appreciate the effort that goes into making the types of delicacies she made.
In the past few years I have made an effort to get more into baking, though I am still far away from mastering the tortes and pies that my mom makes! In January I had a milestone birthday (30 but who's counting!?). For that birthday my mom gave me what has to be one of the best presents I have ever received. Behold:
Well, the best present I have ever received not including my beloved Kitchenaid mixer but I digress. She gave me a German cookbook translated into English! I was giddy with glee, giddy I tell ya!
After leafing through the book several times I could not decide what to make first. As you can see I had about two dozen little post it tags flagging the pages with things I needed to try ASAP. Finally deciding to leave it to the person likely to enjoy the treats first, I handed the book over to my fiance and let him pick whatever he wanted me to make. He picked these:
Angel's Eyes. Leave it to us German's to name a delicious morsel after the optical organ of a celestial being.
For the shortcrust pastry:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 level t baking powder
1/2 c sugar
3 drops vanilla essence in 1 T sugar
1 pinch salt
yolks of 3 medium eggs
3/4 c soft butter or margarine
whites of 2 medium eggs
2.5 oz blanched chopped almonds
4 T redcurrant or other jelly
2 t water
1. To make dough, mix together the flour and baking powder, sift into a mixing bowl, add the other ingredients and stir with a hand mixer with kneading hook, first briefly at the lowest setting, then at the highest setting until the dough is formed. Then form into a ball using your hands. Wrap the dough in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325 and line the baking sheet with baking parchment (I used wax paper).
3. Mould the dough into 7 cylinders (16 in long), cut into pieces 2 cm/ 3/4 in long them form them into small balls. (This.... is not happening. Something must have been lost in translation because there is NO possible way this recipe makes the 140 cookies it says it will as you will see below).
4. Whisk the egg whites with a fork. Dip one side of each ball of dough in the beaten egg white, then press into the chopped almonds. Then place the balls of dough with the non-almond side down on the baking sheet and make a hollow in each ball of dough using the handle of a wooden spoon. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake four approximately 15 minutes.
5. When the biscuits are done, remove from the baking sheet with the baking parchment and put on a rack (with the parchment which I obviously missed when reading this and did not do. ::sigh::).
6. Bring the jelly with the water to a boil and fill the hollowed centre of the biscuits using a teaspoon. (I had to make double the amount of the jelly mix even though this recipe only made half of the 140 it was supposed to make.
Here we have the cast. Very simple, not too much involved.
A while back I posted about that fancy new hand sifter I got. Well, yeah. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to buy one for a few bucks at a discount store. That thing doesn't work well at all. So I am back to my tried and true process of sifting it through this metal strainer. It never lets me down.
Toss them in the mixing bowl.
With this cookbook my mom also gave me a whole slew of baking goodies that she knew may be hard for me to find in regular grocery stores. Like this vanilla sugar. You can make your own vanilla sugar by stashing a sliced open vanilla bean in a jar of sugar, or you can make the mix this recipe recommends. 3 drops of vanilla stirred into 1 T sugar. I of course get to cheat because my mom is awesome.
Separate the yolks and the whites. Here I display a classic that never ever let's me down either. That good old Tupperware egg separator. It has a little notch in the side to hang on the side of a bowl and everything.
I add the yolks,
The butter (which is melted because once again I forgot to take it out to let it soften. One day I will get it right).
and remaining ingredients.
When it was transformed into dough I tossed it out onto a floured counter.
Where I formed it into a ball and wrapped it with plastic. Which then went into the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Which is the perfect time to go ahead and get your oven preheated. And maybe catch up on some Real Housewives episodes you may or may not have DVR'd. I mean, not that I would watch such a show or anything. No! Not me. Not a chance. Hey everyone! Look over there! It's a pink elephant!!
Now after 30 minutes of not watching an addictive reality trash TV show has passed, take the dough out of the fridge.
Shape it into logs and mark where you will cut it to form into balls.
Now, this is where I save you a bunch of frustration and confusion. These little nibs were the size of the tip of my thumb, and as you can see I was nowhere close to getting 140 little balls from it. So I ended up with about half of that amount. These cookies do not rise at all either, so the size they are when you put them in the oven is just the size they will be when they come out.
Dip one side of the ball in the egg white you have beaten with a fork, then dip into the almonds, and place almond side up on your cookie sheet. Like so.
After pressing a little hollow into each ball put them in the oven.
They will come out looking like this. Just slightly browned.
When I put the next batch in, I started on the jelly mix. Where I cheat again. You see, my mom grows currants in her yard. So I just so happened to have some of this fantastic homemade currant and gooseberry jam in the fridge. But of course, not everyone can have their very own Betty Crocker on the German Prairie for a mom, so it is perfectly fine to use store bought jelly of any kind really. I am confident that any kind would taste just as fabulous.
I put the jam and water in a pan, and brought to a simmer to thicken it a bit.
Once it has set, I put a dollop in the center of each cookie. Now these don't look nearly as beautiful as they do in the book but holy cow these have a TON of flavor. It's amazing really how much flavor can be in what turned out to be bite sized cookies.
After telling the fiance that next time I would just triple the batch and make bigger cookies, he asked me to not do that, saying these cookies were perfect just this size. That way you aren't biting a cookie that would crumble and break in your hands. Even if he was just trying to make me feel better, I have to agree. So tiny they will stay.