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Thursday, December 27

Sharing Mexican Wedding Cakes

Visiting family India has obstacles of its own. For the first couple trips we brought gifts for the kids and family but in the recent trips it’s been harder to buy gifts. Not knowing what the kids will like to play with or can wear makes it challenging. Same goes for the adult family members on clothes. I’ve always had this dilemma and have always solved it (in my mind) by baking goods to share with them.

Each time we’ve visited I’ve baked something to share with them. The entire family does so much for us during our visit, this is the least I can do for them. The only requirement I have to follow is an eggless baked good. Some of the husband’s family (in India) eats meat but the kids and his mom are vegetarians. His mom is so strict she doesn’t make exception for baked goods with eggs!

Having that in mind, I made Mexican wedding cakes for everyone to enjoy. Even the husband was impressed by them and he isn’t a big sweet/sugary foods eater.

I don’t know why they’re called Mexican wedding cakes but I am guessing they were enjoyed by the guests during weddings in Mexico. Whatever the case may be, they are perfect for effortless treat and make great gifts. (Those of you planning to spend the holiday season with family or friends, these are quick to make and worth sharing.)
Mexican Wedding Cakes
adapted from Joy of Baking

2/3 cup or 65 grams walnuts
1 cup or 227 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup or 30 grams powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1 teaspoon or 2 grams pure vanilla extract
2 cups or 260 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 120 grams powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar), sifted

In a medium nonstick skillet on medium heat, add walnuts and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Make sure the nuts are lightly browned before turning off the stove. Cool the nuts

Once the nuts have cooled completely place them, along with 2 tablespoons or 25 grams of the flour from the recipe, into a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and process until they are finely ground (but not a paste).

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for one hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F or 177°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Form the chilled dough into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls and place them 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

While the cookies are still warm, place the powdered sugar in a strainer and sift the sugar over the tops of the cookies.

Let cool completely before storing. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

The cookies can be rolled in or sifted with more powdered sugar before serving.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 24

Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt

As previously promised, here are some pictures of Nürnberg Christkindlesmarkt.

wooden toys for children
figures made from dates & figs
Rauchmann- when lit with intense, the smoke
 comes out from their mouth

Nürnberger Bratwurst- drei im weckla
Nürnberger Bratwurst- drei im weckla
All the other pictures are on Flickr.

Friday, December 21

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

It’s Christmas Market Season here and it’s always nice to visit a new market outside our own. We visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber last year and enjoyed a day visit. What we really liked about their market was the way it meanders through the streets of old city. Nürnberg market, albeit famous, is in the city square and therefore hosts all the stalls in 6-8 isles. The highlight of living in Deutschland in winter is the many markets within driving distance and seeing the stalls full of ornaments, winter clothes and other knick-knacks.
halber meter bratwurst
Pictures of Nürnberg market coming soon.

Monday, December 17

Bake a cake to make it better

Transitioning to a new country has taught us many things. One of those is about friendships.

The “how to adjust in a new country” brochure doesn't tell you that friends will inevitably move forward with their lives and may not stay in contact.

We’ve learned it’s very hard to maintain relationships overseas, to make new friends and not have expectations of old. What has surprised us the most is the lack of concerted efforts from close friends to stay connected with us. Some close friends that considered us an important part of their lives haven’t emailed or called since we moved.

So you’re wondering why I am sharing this now? It’s peak holiday time and we’re missing the spirit of the season. Although we’ve made friends here and plan to host a holiday dinner, it’s different. It would be nice to hear from friends and catch up.

Before anyone gets angry or sends me an email, I take full credit for not doing my part. I do believe both people (parties) have to stay in touch so it’s our fault as much as theirs but I wished those lovely people that we adore back home would inquire once in a while. There are only so many times we can reach out. I get it, some people are better maintaining relationships with friends they see regularly. The lesson to learn for us is not to have expectations of any friendship.

Notably, I want to express how grateful we are for those friends that have continued to stay in touch. There are few of you but your friendship and love means the world to us. We will be with wonderful friends (from home) and their family for Christmas and New Year’s so we are looking forward to it.

Since I am feeling rather blue today, I baked a cake that nudged me back to reality.
Lemon Yogurt Cake
inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s Lime Yogurt Cake

1 cup whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F or 175C degrees. Grease the sides of a 10-inch round cake pan with oil. (I did not do this but you could line the bottom with parchment paper.)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, lime zest and juice. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, right over your yogurt batter. Stir in walnuts with a spoon and mix the batter until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen.

Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests flipping the cake onto the rack but I kept my cake in the pan. I used a flimsy cake pan so I was worried the cake would tear in the process.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

With even the tough times, a simple cake with coffee helps put things in perspective and makes me accept this life we have in Germany.

Thursday, December 6

Diwali in India

I mentioned being in India. We are now back from our trip and settled back into the German winter. When we left Nürnberg, it was chilly but transition to 60s and 70s was easy. However transitioning the other way around was ruthless. When we landed it was 10 degrees Celsius and the temperature hasn’t warmed since. Unfortunately, it has been chillier, windier and greyer. Today is one of the first days the sun has shined.

Onto India. We booked our flights to celebrate Diwali with family. After immigrating to the US, 20 years ago and 9 years ago respectively, we hadn’t celebrated since moving. It’s a Hindu festival also known as the festival of lights. There are 5 days that are highly revered but children and some workers get extra time off around Diwali. We partied late into the night and set off lots of fireworks.

Our plan was to spend time with family, eat lots of food, rest (for the husband) and eat lots of food. The husband had a list of all the foods he wanted to eat. I’ve admitted we are both insanely crazy for food, this proves how. It was agreed lunch would be home cooked meals and dinners would be at restaurants or take-out at home.
High on that list was street cart food. Mind you, some things we wanted to eat aren’t even local to the city but it was the street cart experience we wanted to relive. Mysore Dosa cart has been making dosas for 20 years and it’s always mouthwateringly good. Essentially it’s dosa (a large, thin crepe made from rice and daal batter) stuffed with a savory filling. Another thing that we both craved was Indian-Chinese. Note, Indian-Chinese is nothing like Chinese food except it uses some basic Chinese pantry items like soy sauce, ginger, garlic, green onions, and cornstarch. We ordered Hakka Noodles (noodles stir fried with ginger, garlic and sauce), Vegetarian Manchurian (shredded veggies combined with sauces, cornstarch and rice flour, made into dumplings and then deep fried) and paneer chilly (paneer marinated and cooked in a green chili & soy sauce).

Something that’s gained popularity is egg carts. We tried it last time and wanted to go back for more. The proprietor/chef makes fried eggs and then has a variety of sauces that are served on top. It’s all eaten with bread. It doesn’t sound impressive but the taste is. For example, he does a fried egg with tomato/onion sauce. Garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions and spices make up the sauce. It’s divine. There was one topped with a paneer/green chive scramble and that was one of the best new finds. It was fried eggs topped cheese/ garlicky herb sauce, what’s not to love?

Couple things that we hadn’t previously tried was Sali Gosht & Khao Sev. There is a large population of Parsis (Persians that migrated to India many hundreds of years ago). Their food is drastically different from Gujarati food because it has meat, chicken and mutton (goat). When we lived in India, my parents knew a Parsi family that cooked wonderful food and we loved going to their home for feasts. The Sali Gosht we tried this time reminded me of my childhood dinners with the Parsi family. This inspired me to try the recipe here in Germany, in future.

Khao Sev is a Burmese soup with noodles and chicken. It can be vegetarian or with meat. It consists of a bowl of noodles topped with coconut milk broth, green onions, lime juice, chicken (if using), and fried noodles for crunch. The chicken and the broth have hints of red curry paste. After researching, I learned the curry paste is an influence of Thailand. We’ve never been to Burma Myanmar and aren’t familiar with its food but if this is any indication I’d like to book a ticket for a visit soon. It seems like a great cold weather dish (although cold weather in Gujarat is like light summer in US or Germany). Since we had a take out of both of these dishes, I am not sure of the precise recipes but I hope to recreate it at home during these cold months.

At home, we ate lots of vegetables. The original Gujaratis that have lived in the state from the beginning are vegetarians therefore there is an abundance of green vegetables available. My only wish when eating at home was to load up on veggies and my in-laws complied. We ate many vegetables I haven’t seen in Germany. Like Bottle Gourd with Split chickpeas, French Beans (it’s not the French bean you normally think of) with Spinach, Baby eggplants with fresh Pigeon Peas and Fenugreek Thepla. Thepla is flavored bhakhri. Bhakhri is a thicker cousin of Roti, and unlike roti has more oil in the dough for texture. So Thepla is a 2nd cousin of Roti, once removed. It sounds very confusing but it’s just good eating.

khaman & idra
And of course we had the usual khaman, idra, and haandvo. Gujarat is situated on the coast and has plenty of seafood; my mother in law placed an order with her fish monger for various fishes. We were in seafood land with Pomphret and other fish varieties I can’t remember.
We went on this trip with one goal in mind to eat a lot and boy did we achieve that.