It is tough, grueling, back-breaking work. But someone's got to do it.
At last weekend's German-American Festival, the dirty work fell to Cake in a Cup's Lori Jacobs and Dana Ilieve, as well as to this columnist. Though we faced danger at every turn, we pressed on. We persevered. And eventually we came up with the winners of the festival's annual baking contest.
Before you scoff, you should know that this work was harder than it sounds. Or at least our arteries are harder than they appear.
This year, the contest focused on just one aspect of German baking: cookies. The judges, it should be noted, did not complain.
First place went to Christine Suplica, of Temperance, for her crisp, star-shaped Spitzbuben. Kristie Ruedy, of Toledo, took second place for her slightly chewy, heart-shaped Spitzbuben.
We should probably interject here that Spitzbuben are traditional Swiss cookies that are composed of two butter cookies sandwiching a layer of raspberry jam. Some people make them with nuts which, though not traditional, can be just as delicious.
Third place went to Elizabeth Deal, of Toledo, who made Vanillekipferl, which are better known in this country as almond crescents.
We spoke to Ms. Suplica after the contest, and she credited her success to doing everything by hand. Everything. Not only did she make her own raspberry jam, she made it from her own raspberries.
Now that's dedication. Or, as they say in German, Widmung.
The winning recipe:
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated fresh lemon peel
Raspberry preserves OR make your own (below)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Toast almonds for about 20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool and grind until fine.
Mix butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix. Add flour, baking powder, salt, lemon peel, and almonds. Mix until combined. Cool in refrigerator for about 2 hours.
Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough and roll out to ⅛-inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut out cookies, removing centers of half of them. Bake on prepared baking sheet for 8 - 10 minutes. Cool on rack. Spread preserves over whole cookies, top with center-less cookies. Sift powdered sugar over cookies.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup port wine (or water)
1 1/2 pounds fresh raspberries
Mix sugar and wine, bring to a boil. Add berries, bring to another boil. Pour through a sieve. Return juice to pan, cook over medium heat until thick like jelly. Cool to room temperature.
The usual suspects
If you hurry, you can catch the month's first complimentary technique class at Williams-Sonoma. It is today at 10 a.m., repeated Monday at 7 p.m., and it is about stocking the pantry.
The month's other free technique classes are about knife skills (Sept. 9 at 10 a.m., Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.), sauteing (Sept. 16 at 10 a.m., Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.), braising (Sept. 23 at 10 a.m., Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.), and casseroles (Sept. 30 at 10 a.m., Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.). Cooking classes, which cost $50, will be devoted to making pizzas from Mario Batali's cookbook Molto Gusto (Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m.) and quick and easy stir fries (Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m.).
The cookbook club will turn its attention to Aida Mollenkamp's Keys to the Kitchen on Sept. 12. A fee of $75 gets you a copy of the book plus a three-course tasting menu prepared while you watch, including brown sugar pork chops with mango-horseradish sauce.
The store is in the Westfield Franklin Park mall. For more information or reservations, call 419-475-6368.
If it is wine tastings you crave, the Walt Churchill's Market at 3320 Briarfield Blvd. is more than happy to oblige, for a price. Usually, that price is less than $15, except where noted.
Saturday from 12-5 p.m., the store will feature "the newest, most exciting wines to come into the store." On Sept. 16 -- that's a Sunday -- from 12-4 p.m., Dirk Richter of the German winery Max Ferd Richter will be on hand to discuss and pour the sweet and dry Rieslings his family has been making for 300 years. The cost is $20, and chef Bill Kolhoff will be preparing German food for an additional cost.
Churchill's own wine guy, Austin Beeman, will pour the pinots (noir, blanc, and gris) that he recently sampled in the Oregon wine country, from 12-5 p.m. on Sept. 22. For this occasion, the price will be $30 or possibly less. And beginning at 4 p.m. on Sept. 29, chef Bill Kolhoff will be grilling seafood dinners. The price is $30, with an additional cost for wine.
For more information, call 419-794-4000.
And finally, for all you fans of Roberta Acosta, salmon, or basil-caper sauces, Sept. 15 will be the day for you. From 1-4 p.m. that day, Ms. Acosta will return to the Fresh Market, as she does every month, to give a cooking demonstration. This month's menu is Atlantic salmon with tomato basil caper sauce and a fresh spinach and red onion salad. Stop in anytime; the demonstration repeats throughout the afternoon.
The Fresh Market is at 3315 W. Central Ave.
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