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Cooking The Books

The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favourites, from Pfeffernusse to Streuselkuchen

I’m a big fan of old family recipes – the more handwritten notes and food splatters, the better.  I have inherited a number of “vintage” cookbooks and the oldest one is, interestingly, a 1950 edition of the Naomi Cookbook.  But I love new books too.  When I heard of Classic German Baking, I wasn’t sure where it fit.  Is it old?  Is it new?  But there was a lot of Internet buzz about it and the recipes sounded so delicious that I decided to give it a try.  


I’m glad I did.  I wondered if it would be fussy and old fashioned.  It’s not.  I thought the recipes would be foreign.  They’re not.  The recipe for Mandelhornchen, Chocolate Dipped Almond Crescents, is almost identical to the one in Modern Jewish Cooking.  And do not underestimate the fact that the words are fun to pronounce.


Author Luisa Weiss was born in Berlin but raised in the United States.  She started a food blog and moved back to Berlin where she currently lives. This is her second cookbook.  Apparently German baking is the foundation of much European as well as North American baking.  She explains that German baking recipes are still passed down from generation to generation to a degree that she hasn’t seen anywhere else.  Everyone still uses old, tattered cookbooks passed down from their grandmothers, and the German modern cookbooks are influenced by French or American recipes.  So Classic German Baking was born.


The book covers cookies, cakes and tortes as well as breads and some savoury dishes.  Salzekuchen, Hessian Potato Cake on a rye crust, is a carb-lovers dream.  I knew I would like the Mandelhornchen, pretty cookies made of almond paste, sugar and an egg white, rolled in slivered almonds and dipped in chocolate.  Chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, they are also gluten- and dairy-free.


I also tried Kirschstreuselkuchen, Sour Cherry Streusel Cake, a buttery coffee cake made with jarred sour cherries and covered with a buttery streusel topping.  It had a great sweet and sour vibe and was also easy to put together.  


I have always liked yeast cakes and remember fondly the ones my grandmother used to make.  All of the yeast cakes sounded good to me but I decided to try Schokoladen-Gugelhupf, Chocolate-Stuffed Yeasted Cake.  The German version of a chocolate babka, this cake was stuffed with a chocolate almond filling laced with rum, surrounded by a soft, rich dough.  So good that I made it twice.  


Butter and sugar, fruit, nuts and/or chocolate.  Topped with Schlagsahne if you’re lucky.  This cookbook manages to be fresh and modern but founded in tradition, all together in the same package.  “Make something from that German cookbook, please?”  Luisa Weiss has made it so easy.   

Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.