Bread Pudding. What a delicious mess.

Two weeks ago, I was in the Dominican Republic on vacation. Apart from the fact that sitting on a beach in February felt like real luxury, the food in the hotel was great. Made-to-order omelets for breakfast, wide range of salads, vegetables, meats and fish for lunch, à la carte for dinner. The dessert buffet was always a sight, so many cakes, flans, and creams that made it impossible to decide. And there was always bread pudding to find, though it looked more like sweet Semmelknödel than bread pudding to me.

Back home, I tried to make it myself, it is really easy and the results were delicious. I personally prefer this version, where you still can see the bread cubes in the finished dish. The whiskey cream sauce makes it really perfect, much better than versions with fruit or raisins…

makes 4 dessert portions, adapted from Pioneer Woman

2 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or citrus sugar
1 cup / 250 ml milk
1 cup / 225 g sugar
3 tablespoons pecans or walnuts, chopped finely

1/4 cup / 50 g sugar
1/2 stick / 50 g butter
1/4 cup / 60 ml cream
1/8 cup / 30 ml whiskey (bourbon or a mild Scotch)

First of all, preheat oven to 325°F / 160°C. Cut the bread into rather large cubes and pack them tightly into a round baking dish (or several small ones, I also used 3-inch / 10 cm square ones).

Melt the butter (just use a measuring cup on your stove), then mix together with eggs, vanilla, sugar and milk. This will seem an awful lot of sugar, but trust me – it’s just right. Though you may want to reduce the sugar if you’re using white bread, not sourdough…

By the way, you can make your own vanilla (or citrus) sugar – just take an old jam jar, fill in sugar and put in used and dried vanilla pods (or citrus peels).

Pour the milk/egg-mixture over the bread cubes, making sure that every bit is soaked. You could also use the back of a spoon or a small spatula to press the cubes gently down, so that they are submerged.

Sprinkle over the chopped nuts and bake for about 1 hour, but don’t let it get too brown.

While the bread pudding is baking, make the sauce. Just combine all ingredients in a saucepan, stir and bring it to a boil over low heat. Incredibly simple, but very tasty.

Serve the bread pudding either hot or (on the next day) straight out of the fridge. Pour over some sauce and sigh.

Grilled cheese and tomato salad. Dinner for one.

Cheese and tomatoes have always been a great combination in my eyes. And a grilled cheese sandwich is some of the easiest soul food I know. Here’s a little secret: put some drops of Kirsch (Kirschwasser) on the bread slices and it will taste just like cheese fondue.

for 1 person

4 slices toast
some drops of Kirsch, optional
4 slices cheddar cheese
cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce | tamari
2 tablespoons olive oil

Take the toast slices out of the package and butter them all on one side. I like to keep toast packages in the freezer and I don’t bother thawing the slices – they will be heated enough later.

Now this is key – turn 2 slices over so that the butter is facing down. If you want to, you can now drizzle some drops of Kirschwasser onto the bread, then lay on some slices of cheese. Make sure they don’t go until the edge of the bread. Or you’ll have a big mess to clean up.

Lay on the other slices so that all buttered sides are facing outward.

Preheat your sandwich toaster and put them in for 2-4 min., depending how dark you like them.

While the sandwiches are toasting, let’s make a quick tomato salad. Just slice some cherry tomatoes in half.

And the super quick dressing: just 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part soy sauce, 2-3 parts olive oil. Done. OK, maybe a little bit of fresh ground pepper.

Mix in the tomatoes and you’re ready. Dinner for one in 5 minutes. Who could ask for more?

Hot pumpkin soup. Getting ready for Halloween.

Here in Germany, some people started to celebrate Halloween – nowadays, you can even go to parties. But 15 years ago, living in a small town, my friends started the tradition of cooking American food, preferably something hot and watching horror movies. Over the years, we made tons of different things – chili, homemade burgers, spaghetti with meat balls. But one thing remained consistent over the years: pumpkin soup as a starter.

This one is creamy, meaty and bacon-y and of course: hot. But let me assure you: except for the crème fraîche I used for serving, it’s vegan!


1 Hokkaido pumpkin, about 1 kg / 2 pounds
1/4 muscat pumpkin, about 1 kg / 2 pounds
1 large onion, diced
4 red potatoes, peeled and diced
2 fresh chilies, cut into rings
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika powder
1 tablespoon vegetable broth powder
1 can peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
chili sauce
lemon juice
crème fraîche for serving

Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F and search your kitchen for some kind of ovenproof vessel you pumpkin will fit in. In my case, a 9×13 inch pyrex form.

Cut the Hokkaido pumpkin in half and scoop out the innards – personally, I think an ice cream scoop is the best tool for the job. Then place the pumpkin halves in the form, sprinkle with oil, salt, sugar and maybe a little bit paprika powder.

Place the in the oven for about half an hour. Or until the flesh is soft and you have a nice brown crust.

OK, now we can concentrate on the soup itself:

Remove the seeds and peel from the muscat pumpkin, then dice it coarsely. Peel and dice the rest of the vegetables and slice the chilies.

Heat up a big pot, then pour in the oil and start browning the vegetables. Stir often; you’ll want some brown bits for taste.

When the vegetables are starting to get soft, sprinkle with curry and smoked paprika powder.

Look out for this stuff – I bought it in Spain during my vacation, but I’m sure you will find it elsewhere, too.

I don’t like the expression, but this is the “secret ingredient” to the soup. Basically, it gives kind of a subtle bacon flavor.

Next, pour in the peeled tomatoes and enough water to cover and let it cook for around 20 minutes or until you can just mash the vegetables with the back of a spoon.

When it looks like this, puree it with your favorite method – mine being a stick blender. But a stand mixer or food processor will also work fine.

Give it a taste and add salt, pepper, chili sauce and lemon juice accordingly.

To serve, get the pumpkin halves out of the oven and each into a bowl. Fill the soup into the pumpkin bowl and (if you’re not vegan), garnish with a healthy spoonful of crème fraîche.

Jerry’s chocolate ice cream with brownies. Intense.

Funny, I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate ice cream. Or milk chocolate, while we’re at it. There even was a time when I thought I didn’t like chocolate at all until I found the 70% and 80% varieties. Seems I just didn’t like the diluted flavor, I want to be blown away. Same with chocolate ice cream, simply not enough bang for the buck.

But then I found Jerry’s chocolate ice cream with 2 kinds of unsweetened chocolate in it and this really gives you a kick. Add a cup of diced brownies, and you’re in chocolate heaven.


70 g / 2.5 oz 80% chocolate, chopped
   (original recipe 55 g / 2 oz unsweetened chocolate)
50 g / 1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate powder, sifted
375 ml / 1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
small pinch of salt
200 g / 1 cup sugar
200 g / 1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 generous cup diced brownies

Chop the chocolate and melt it over very low heat in a double boiler. Make sure that the water does not touch the bowl and not a single drop of water gets into the chocolate. It will most likely be ruined.

Add the cocoa powder to the molten chocolate and start slowly stirring it in. Do yourself a favor and sift it before you add it – I had a lot of trouble getting the lumps out.

When you have mixed the two chocolates together, you will have a very thick mass. I found it very tiresome to stir with a spoon, so I got out my hand mixer.

Whisk in a little milk at a time, mixing over the heat until all is dissolved. Set it aside and let it cool.

Start beating the eggs with a little bit of salt until they look white and fluffy. Let the machine run and very slowly sprinkle in the sugar. Go on beating until most of the sugar has dissolved, then pour in the cream and the vanilla.

Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Then put it into your refrigerator until it is really cold – minimum 2 hours, overnight would be even better.

Start your ice cream maker and pour in the ice cream base into the running machine. Then just let it do its thing. I also put the empty container for the ice cream into the freezer, so the ice won’t melt on the edges.

Fill the ice cream into the cold bowl, then quickly stir in the brownie cubes. Store it in your freezer for minimum 2 hours.

Serve yourself a big bowl and don’t try to suppress the groans. It’s only natural.

Carrot dip. The mean brother of baby food.

This looks so innocent, doesn’t it? I really reminds you a bit of baby food, if it weren’t for the olives, right? Go ahead, take a bite. At first, you think: “What is she talking about? Just regular carrots. A bit on the sweet side.” And then it will hit you: the tartness of the lemon juice. The slight bitterness of the olive oil. The complexity of the spices. And last, but not least: the slight burn of chili in your throat.

This is a great dip and it goes very well with all those other oriental-inspired dips, hummus, baba ghanoush and tzatziki. Just serve them all with some pita bread and olives and you have a simple, but very satisfying dinner.


250 g / 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ras-el-hanout (or ground cumin)
1 tablespoon harissa
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for garnishing

Around here, you always get carrots in 1 kilo / 2 pound packages. Minimum. So most times, I take the rest of the package I did not use and eyeball the amount of the rest of the other ingredients.

Peel the carrots, cut them into finger-thick slices and cook them in very salty water for about 20 minutes. They should be soft, but not falling to bits.

In the meantime, mix together lemon juice, crushed garlic, ras-el-hanout and olive oil. Hold the salt, there will be already enough in the carrots.

I like to use my immersion blender for this, so I start in a rather high and narrow mixing bowl. But feel free to use a food processor if you happen to own one.

Drain the carrots and put them over the harissa-mixture. Then puree them as fine as you want them. Personally, I like some bits left, otherwise it reminds me too much of baby food…

Serve in a nice bowl when it is cooled down, garnish with some olives and olive oil. Then dig right in.

Superfudge Brownies. Where’s the ice cream?

Sometimes, it’s not that easy adapting foreign recipes. This one for example: all weight measures are given in ounces, so I first need to consult some kind of converter to get it in grams. And what am I supposed to do with “1/2 cup of butter”? In Germany – and many other parts of Europe – butter is only sold in 250 g / 1/2 pound blocks. Thanks to the internet, I didn’t have to mess around with softened butter and a measuring cup.

And then there’s the problem of finding the right ingredients. I looked almost everywhere for unsweetened chocolate, but it was nowhere to be found. The highest cocoa proportion I could find was 80%, so I had to break out the calculator again – assuming that the other 20% were sugar.

BUT: it was so worth the trouble! These brownies are very chocolaty, quite fudgy, but not too dense and with a nice and crisp top. And in the very unlikely case you couldn’t eat them as long as they were fresh: chopped up, they make a very nice addition to chocolate ice cream.

adapted from Ben&Jerry

140 g / 5 oz 80% chocolate
   (original recipe: 115 g / 4 oz unsweetened chocolate)
115 g / 4 oz / 1 stick butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
400 g / 1 3/4 cups sugar
   (original recipe: 450 g / 2 cups sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
115 g / 1 cup flour

Turn on your oven and set it to 180°C / 350°F. Search through your kitchen – armed with a measuring tape – to find a 9×13 baking pan. Luckily, I found my 25×35 cm glass lasagna dish. Or use the deep baking sheet your oven was delivered with.

To make it non-stick, butter and flour it very thoroughly.

Chop up the chocolate, the finer the better. As I’m lazy sometimes and cutting chocolate is not really fun, I like to smash the unopened chocolate bar several times against the edge of the kitchen counter. Instant stress relief. And much more fun.

Recipes always tell you: melt the chocolate in a double boiler. This is my double boiler: a saucière or small pot, filled with 1,5 cm / 1/2 inch water, topped with a medium-sized bowl. The important thing to remember is: only melt the chocolate with the heat of the steam, never in direct contact with water – or it will seize up and be ruined.

Also, I like to melt the butter first, as it has a higher melting point than chocolate. Then throw in the chocolate bits and melt them, too.

Stir until you have a homogeneous and glossy mixture, then set it aside to cool.

Meanwhile, start beating the eggs with the salt until they are almost white in color and almost fluffy. Then add the sugar and vanilla very slowly and continue beating until the sugar crystals are dissolved.

Now grab your favorite spatula or wooden spoon and fold in the chocolate-butter-mixture by hand. Stir very gently, you’ll want to preserve as much of the fluffiness as possible.

Same for the flour: fold it in very gently.

Pour the batter into the baking pan and put it in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

This is the hardest part: letting it cool completely before cutting. I prefer to cut 12 pieces, they will be almost square in shape and look very nice when topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

Iced Tea. Thirst quencher for hot days.

There are few things more refreshing than iced tea on a hot summer day. And I don’t mean those over-sweetened soft drinks laced with artificial flavors, preservatives and other stuff you don’t really want to know about. Better make it yourself, it’s ready in 5 minutes. Go ahead and time it, I’m not exaggerating. And another thing: it helps against those mean headaches.


1 liter / 4 cups water, boiling
1/2 kg / 1 pound ice cubes
6 teabags or 6 teaspoons black tea
0-4 tablespoons sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Take 6 teabags or 6 heaping teaspoons of loose black tea. Bring the water to boil and when it’s really bubbling, pour it over the tea.

Let it steep for exactly 4 minutes. Then the tea will be strong, but not too bitter. Take out the tea bags or strain the tea if you used loose tea. Then dissolve the sugar in the hot tea – the amount depends on your taste.

Weight out the ice in a big pitcher. You need half the amount by weight as you have tea.

Slowly pour the hot, sweetened tea over the ice cubes. Then add the lemon juice – also according to your taste – and you’re done! Grab a big glass, maybe a straw and sit outside in the sun with your feet up.

Tuna salad filled tomatoes. Hello from the Fifties.

A friend gave me a cookbook from the Fifties as a birthday present a couple of years ago. It is two inches thick and full of wonderful recipes, helpful hints on using leftovers – and even more delightful tips on shaping your food aerodynamically to make it more appetizing. There, I found great classics like meat loaf (in a dozen of variations), upside down pineapple and carrot cakes as well as tomatoes filled with different mayo-based salads, eg egg, chicken or tuna.

My mom used to make the tuna version as appetizer for guests: it’s quick and easy, filling but not too much and enjoyed by everyone, whether they like fish or not. Including me and my dad, who virtually despise everything that comes out of the ocean.


1 can tuna, drained
1 small onion, chopped very finely
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup corn kernels, optional
1/4 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise, homemade
paprika powder
some drops of hot sauce
salt and pepper
4-6 tomatoes

Drain one can of tuna – doesn’t matter if you bought the one in oil or brine.

Take a small onion and dice it very finely – onions and tuna are a match made in heaven. And add the peas, I only had frozen (and blanched) ones. But you can take fresh or canned ones if you like.

OK, let’s spice it up a bit. Add some paprika powder for taste and color and maybe some drops of chili sauce, if you happen to like it hot.

Add some tablespoons of mayonnaise and start stirring. Just add enough to make it just come together. Not too much mayo or it will become slushy.

If you like you can cut open some tomatoes, scoop out the kernels with a spoon and fill in the tuna salad. Simple, ready in minutes and impresses you guests.

Obazda. Bavarian beergarden cheese spread.

My god, there she comes again with some funky Bavarian stuff… First that strange sausage salad, and now this… And it even comes with tons of butter…

Obazda means – roughly translated – hodge podge, and basically that’s what it is. Legend has it, a Bavarian innkeeper was standing in his empty (post-war) kitchen, with VIP guests sitting in the pub and waiting for something to eat. He thought he couldn’t serve a half-eaten cheese to those people, so he decided to mix it together with butter, onions and paprika powder. And like many of those dishes born in desperation, it was an instant success.

You can find it nowadays in every beer garden in Bavaria. There are of course a million recipes, but I think this is the most basic and original one: 1 part butter, 2 parts cheese, onion and some spices. Simple and delicious.

This is perfect for that rest of Camembert that has gotten too pungent to eat. But you can use any intense and soft cheese, in some regions of Germany they use Romadour, Limburger or even Harzer. And stretch it with cream cheese if you find the taste too strong.


150 g / 5 oz overripe Camembert cheese
75 g / 2.5 oz butter, softened
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon paprika powder
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 tablespoons beer
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
salt and pepper
chives, for garnishing
pretzels, either soft or hard ones

Start by weighing the cheese – as this is meant for leftover cheese, this should be your base measure. Then you measure half the amount of butter, by weight of course.

Check the cheese rind: if the edges are very hard and dry, maybe even getting some funky colors (red and yellow being the most common), you could cut some of it away. Leave most of the rind on, just remove anything that doesn’t look too good anymore.

Cut the cheese and the butter into cubes, this makes the mixing progress much easier.

Add the cream and start mixing together the Camembert and the butter into a rather sticky mass. Either take a fork or use your food processor – or even the mixer with a paddle attachment – depending on the quantities you are making.

See, some bits are still left, especially some rind bits: that is wonderful. But it still looks a bit bland, doesn’t it?

Not to worry, just add onions and lots of paprika powder. It will seem too much at the beginning, but once you mixed it in, the spread will have a wonderful color.

Still doesn’t taste right? Add a bit of salt and pepper – and the secret ingredient: beer! You have to try it to believe it, but the beer gives some taste nuances that are very hard to describe.

Cover it and leave it in your fridge for a couple of hours, so that the flavors have time to mingle (but serve on the same day, or the onions will become unbearable). Serve sprinkled with some caraway seeds and lots of chives. Depends on what you like and what is available in your region – both hard and soft pretzels are traditional around here. And of course, don’t forget to serve with an adequate amount of beer!

Note for lactose intolerance sufferers: overripe Camembert contains a very low amount of lactose, as the fungi on the cheese break it down. But test for yourself if you can handle it or not.

Cinnamon macarons with ganache. Not perfect.

About a year ago, I made macarons for the first time. Though I still can’t manage to produce those beautiful, smooth caps, I still enjoy making them. And the combination of chocolate ganache and the smooth, almond-y taste of the macarons is still unbeaten.

Don’t be afraid – the ganache is terribly easy to make, just chop up the chocolate, pour over the boiling cream and stir slowly until you have a shiny and glossy cream. Just follow these instructions in one of my older posts. Because the ganache needs quite a long time to cool, it is best to make it one day ahead.


250 g / 8.8 oz ground almonds
250 g / 8.8 oz powdered sugar
125 g / 4.4 oz / 4 egg whites
50 g / 1.8 oz sugar
vanilla extract

GANACHE (see here for instructions)
100 g / 3.5 oz semi-sweet chocolate (50%)
100 g / 3.5 oz cream
1 tablespoon rum, eg Negrita

In Germany, powdered sugar is often sold in 250 g packs. So I thought I’d base the recipe on this measurement, because weighing powdered sugar is always such a mess. And I couldn’t find ground almonds in my supermarket, so I bought slivered ones.

Mix the almonds and the powdered sugar together and pulse them in your food processor, yes, even if you bought ground almonds. Sieve it all through a fine mesh and pulverize the rests that stay behind until all is evenly and finely ground. And yeah, you really need to do this step!

Weigh the regular sugar and put the following things in reach: a rubber spatula, a piping bag with a big round nozzle, several sheets of baking paper. If you are feeling especially pedantic (or you are piping for the first time in your life), draw regular circles with a pencil and then turn the sheet over. Nobody really wants to eat pencil shavings…

And if your oven is kinda slow, preheat now to 165°C / 325°F.

Beat the egg whites until they are fairly stiff, then slowly add the regular sugar and continue beating until all the sugar crystals have dissolved. Also add the vanilla – see the little black flecks? They come from the real vanilla sugar. Or add color or other flavors you like.

Dump all the beaten egg whites in a bowl together with the ground almonds.

Forget everything you heard about handling beaten egg whites, simply stir until everything is combined and then a bit more.

You need to find the exact right consistency which everyone describes as “flowing like lava”. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen lava flow and I’m just guessing that you haven’t either. So let me put it in other words: the French call it “flowing into a ribbon” and I’m thinking this is just the way honey does. The mixture you see above could have used some more stirs, it was still too dense.

Fill everything into your piping bag. I found out that a giant freezer bag clip helps you immensely handling the bag as you don’t have to be afraid anymore that the dough will come out the wrong end.

Start piping into your pre-drawn circles, these were 5 cm / 2 inch in diameter (I used a glass for drawing them). And don’t pipe the circumference of the circles, simply place the nozzle in the middle, just a little bit above the baking paper and start squeezing gently. Stop squeezing when the dough has reached your circle outline, then lift the nozzle with a quick motion. You can press down the peaks with a slightly moistened finger afterward.

If you like, you can now sprinkle on some cinnamon or anything else you like.

Let it all sit there for half an hour – that helps that the surface will get dry and hard, so that they will rise and have those crumpled little feet.

See, the have risen quite a bit – too much, actually. That is why I should have stirred the mixture a bit more. Let them cool completely before you try to remove them. If you’re too impatient, you’ll end up with the innards sticking to the paper and a hollow shell in your hand.

Fill with the cooled ganache (or your favorite jam, butter cream or lemon curd) and then let them sit overnight. That’s right, you’ll have to wait until the next day until you can eat them. Of course, you could eat them right away, but they will be much better the next day – which makes it the perfect gift / bring-along for your colleagues.