Where to start?
It’s been raining quite a bit here in Cologne, the feeling of spring/summer has disappeared for the time being. Is anyone happy about the current temperatures? Well, the plants on my terrace most certainly are! This year, I’ve finally managed to do what I have been wanting to for a good long while: grow my own vegetables. I bought soil and seeds, and planted zucchini, tomatoes and pumpkins, some herbs and also some flowers (from bulbs). I’ve been successful with this venture more than I ever dared to dream! Everything is growing and budding, some plants are already in bloom! Because all of this seems too good to be true, I am still not counting my blessings: something could still go wrong! I’ll keep you posted!
I was hoping to be somewhat self-sufficient in the vegetable department this summer, but I will probably not save any money this time around. We had to invest a good deal in proper pots (wow, they are expensive if you want them look even half-way nice, even if they are just made of plastic!). Now all the plants seem happy and are comfortably growing. The zucchini plants are in bloom, the tomato plants are growing like crazy and even my parsley has decided to join the party! I am a bit worried about the pumpkins, the plants are still very small in comparison, but maybe it’s not yet their season.
I also bought twelve little iceberg salads at the May Market at Rudolfplatz, which I passed by coincidence in the first week of this month. They are also growing happily. I’ve already made salad from the leaves twice! I think they taste much better than store-bought, they are full of flavor! It’s also a treat for Yoshi, who has been having the time of his life between our freshly picked, organically grown lettuce leaves and strawberries (I buy). Every time my husband or I set either a strawberry or a lettuce leaf out on the dining table for him, he squeaks in delight. “It’s as if we don’t feed him the rest of the time”, commented my husband. “I hope he doesn’t do this the next time we have visitors, they will think we are starving him”, he added.
Having my own “garden” has been quite a source of happiness and peace. I’m so glad I finally got off my butt and just did it. It’s been absolutely worth the time and effort so far, apart from which it also looks very pretty. I also love that I am providing pollen for the bees – yes, they are finding their way up to the fourth floor! – and also shelter for other insects. Not that I’m very fond of insects other than ladybugs, butterflies and bees, but I do understand everyone needs to make a living and a place to stay.
I’m still busy in the kitchen, don’t you worry! I’m just behind with writing up recipes, but I’ll try to update more frequently in the coming weeks.
One of my most recent projects was small challah-type mini-braids. I came to the idea by means of the German Celiac Exchange, where almost everyone went crazy over the mini-bun-baking-tin Tchibo was selling. Don’t know Tchibo? Years and years ago they used to be a coffee chain, selling coffee – supposedly the high-end-type – to housewives and the elderly. Eventually, they ventured out into other fields of business. They now have a new range of products from their private label that hits their stores every week. There is always some kind of general topic, like ‘baking’ or ‘gardening’ or ‘urban clothing’, it’s all supposed to be cheaper there than buying it from regular store. Of course, they repeat topics and products all the time, but they do have a way of sucking you into their catalogue, the colors will vary and their prices are good – albeit we won’t ask questions about how that happens, e.g. the working conditions of the staff in the Tchibo stores or in the production facilities for coffee and other products abroad. There is always something you may need and will want to buy (and then throw or give away).
Anyway, so about two months ago Tchibo had this cake mould for small buns and since gluten-free buns and breads tend to grow horizontally rather than vertically in your oven, everyone on the German Celiac Exchange was buying them. Mayhem broke out when we realized that the recipe booklet that came with the cake mould included a recipe for gluten-free raisin buns.
When I first saw the cake mould, I was like ‘meh’, but then the idea of baking small gluten-free mini-braids wouldn’t go away, and I bought one. And then a second one. I can now make 18 mini-buns at a time, yay! You can, of course, buy this bun mould in other places, and you can absolutely bake these without any special equipment – they may just be a bit flatter and rounder.
Why make challah-style-mini-braids? They are crunchy on the outside, and so soft and crumbly on the inside! I absolutely love how sorghum complements the flavor, you’ve got to try it!
Ingredients (for 9 mini-braids – I simply double this recipe to fill two mini-bread moulds; this recipe is a variation of my first gluten-free challah recipe):
220g gluten-free flour mix (I used half Harina de Reposteria by AdPan and one half Farine by Schaer)
120g sorghum flour
180ml warm milk
100g butter (melted)
1 package gluten-free dry yeast
½ tsp salt
gluten-free flour mix (for forming the mini-braids)
whipping cream (for
In a bowl, combine the gluten-free dry yeast, the sugar, the warm milk and the melted butter. Whisk until the yeast has diluted. Add the egg and mix well. In another bowl, combine the gluten-free flours, the sugar. Add the butter and the gluten-free flour-mix to the yeast-milk liquid and knead into a smooth dough, add the salt mid-way. I learnt that salt can kill yeast (not the hard way, but I hear other people have issues with yeast-based dough all the time), so now I’m careful to introduce them to each other later in the baking process.
Dampen a kitchen towel with warm water and cover bowl with it. Let the dough rest for at least two hofbv urs or overnight at room temperature.
Spread a little bit of flour on a clean kitchen counter and onto the dough sitting in the bowl. Take a bit of dough out, about the size of a clementine. Roll into a longish sausage, then split into three even parts. Bring them together at one end, and then begin braiding your mini-braid (if you don’t know how to do this, check out a video on YouTube, I couldn’t take any pictures of this process, sorry!). Turn your mini-bun over (perhaps pulling off surplus dough on either ends) and set into individual cake mould. Repeat with the remaining dough until it is used up and you have nine even mini-braids. You may have to repeat this process with some braids, as they may not come out as pretty as desired the first time around. You also may want to repeat the process with the braids you made first, in order to have mini-braids that look even in build and in size – I tend to make them way too large.
Once you have nine almost-equal mini-braids, cover them with a damp cloth and let rise for another hour.
Turn on your oven to 220°C.
Brush mini-braids generously with whipping cream and garnish with chopped almonds (I used almond sticks) and coarse sugar.
Bake for about fifteen minutes or until golden brown.
Serve still-warm mini-braids with cream cheese or marmalade.
I allow the mini-braids to cool a bit before removing from the mini-bun-mould. I then freeze them, about eight of them per freezer bag. Later, I defrost them in my microwave and bake them for about seven minutes at the highest temperature using the oven-mode of my microwave.