Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Hope you had a marvelous day and that you either got treated to a wonderful surprise by your significant other or – if you are single or don’t believe in the fun of Valentine’s Day – had a fantastic time hanging out with people you really care about and telling this commercial holiday to sod off!
The husband and I celebrated „Valensunday“ (as we’re calling it this year) with a few gifts and a lot of love. He gave me a giant bouquet of red roses and some small, practical gifts (those are the best!). He also insisted on buying me a delicious gluten-free breakfast. He took me to one of my favorite gluten-free places ever: Isabella Patisserie in Düsseldorf (it’s a city about as large as Cologne, just about fifty kilometres north). They gave us tiny cupcakes (think miniature Reese’s pieces peanut butter cups) with tiny pink hearts on the house. They were amazing! I have been to Isabella three times in the last month and four times since they opened in July 2015. I’ve left a fortune there. Really, I could have gone on a lovely weekend trip for the money I spent, no joke. But in a way, it was a trip, and a very enriching and inspiring experience. I have plans to try my own hand at several of their cakes, because I would love to know how to make them. And now I dream of opening a place just like this one. I really do. Being there makes me that happy. (Yeah, it’s probably the Amélie-fangirl in me surfacing, I kinda doubt that the food service industry is the right business branch for me.)
After breakfast we decided that the weather was the best type of cold and wet for cuddling under a blanket on the couch instead of going for a walk (I was a bit of a dummy when it came to picking today’s outfit, totally suitable for riding in a car, but not for spending lots of time outdoors). Of course I also made time for writing a small blog entry. So all in all, a lovely day, perfectly fitting to my current favorite song: Wonderful Life by Brian Fallon. Brian’s the singer of The Gaslight Anthem and The Horrible Crowes and I think I am going to go out and buy his back catalogue after I finish this post, because I seriously cannot wait until his first solo-album, Painkillers, is released in mid March. I haven’t been excited about getting to know a new artist in a while. Something in Wonderful Life really speaks to me and all his other tracks I’ve streamed on YouTube really appealed to me as well. I don’t know whether it’s the chorus, the fact that the song is so catchy or that the song is a tribute to the early Bruce Springsteen, but I’ve just been obsessed with it and crank up the volume of my tiny Bluetooth speaker and my signing when it comes on the radio in the mornings (sorry, neighbors!).
Anyway, today I bring you a something for your sweetie’s sweet tooth: Quarkini with Jam-Hearts. Quarkini are tiny balls of dough, similar to doughnuts. You can fry them in a special pan (search for “poffertjes girdle”), make them in a cake pop maker or deep-fry them in a small pot. They are then coated in sugar. My version of quarkini does not include deep-frying, but you can totally deep-fry the dough detailed in the recipe below. You do fry my version in a special pan for a crispy exterior to give them the taste and form of the deep-fried version, but then move them into the oven where they bake until they are done and golden-brown. (Yeah, they can lose their shape as a consequence, but none of their taste, I promise!) Baking quarkini during the second half of preparation is also much better for one’s kitchen. The scent will stick around, but it will be similar to what you end up with when you make dinner and fry up a couple of onions. The trick is to not overheat the oil (be careful with the heat in case you are using a cast iron pan) and to clean out the pan every once in a while in order to avoid any of it burning.
For extra sweetness (it’s Valentine’s Day, remember?) you can fill your quarkini with red marmalade of your choice using a new syringe or a cookie press – and in doing so you will replicate a tiny version of the German doughnut, Berliner, the thing that made JFK’s speech in Berlin during the Cold War famous. (Fun little fact: every region in Germany has a different word for this type of pastry, the people in Berlin actually say “Pfannkuchen” which translates into “pancakes” – that kinda takes the fun out of the political scandal for JFK, no?) Some people have been known to poke small holes into their quarkini with a sharp knife and fill them with jam using a small spoon! This is much less elegant, especially for the end result, but it gets the job done.
The best part about this recipe is that you can freeze the finished quarkini, prior to coating them with sugar. In fact, I don’t recommend making these a day ahead of eating and suggest serving them only on the day that you prepared them. Gluten-free baked goods do a poor job of keeping their moisture overnight. So freezing is the answer! Then, when you want to actually eat your quarkini, bake them briefly in your oven (for about five minutes) until they are completely defrosted and hot, then remove them from the oven and wait for them to cool down for a few minutes on a baking rack. You can then cover them with sugar and fill them with jam and serve!
Gluten-free Quarkini with Marmelade Hearts
250g gluten-free flour mix (I used one third Schaer Farine, one third Harina de Reposteria from AdPan and one third Pastry Flour from Komeko)
2 tsp dry-active yeast
¼ cup milk (I used low-fat and I’m sure you can use soy or almond milk)
1 package baking powder
1 tsp gluten-free helpers (e.g. xanthan and guar gums, carob and arrowroot flours)
1 package vanilla sugar
1 dash of salt
250g quark (alternatively you can use ricotta or drained yoghurt)
3 eggs (mine were medium)
Vegetable oil for frying
A wooden BBQ stick (for turning quarkini over in the pan)
Sugar for decoration and jam for the filling.
Combine the sugar, vanilla sugar and the yeast in second (larger) bowl. Add the milk (it should be at least room temperature) and whisk until the yeast and sugar have dissolved. Add the quark and the eggs. Whisk until it has been incorporated into the batter. Add the dry ingredients and knead until the batter is smooth and lumpless.
Allow dough to rise in a warm place (e.g. in a plastic bowl covered with a wet kitchen towel) for about half an hour.
Line a baking tin with baking parchment. Turn on your oven to 200°C.
Heat your cast iron pan and distribute a fair amount of vegetable oil in each of the holes and on the surface between them. Drop a small piece of dough into each of the openings with the help of a tablespoon. You can also use a cookie press, if you like. Using a wooden stick, turn the quarkini over. When the lower half of your quarkini are also golden brown, remove from the pan and place onto the baking parchment. Immediately place the baking tin into the oven and bake quarkini for about five minutes, until they are cooked and golden brown.
Repeat the process with the remainder of the batter. I usually keep on frying up the remainder of the batter into quarkini and then just pop open the oven door and add them on different sections of the baking parchment. When the time is right, I remove the ones that are already done and let them cool off on a baking rack.
Then, place half a cup of sugar into a medium-sized tupperware. Place a few quarkini into the tupperware, close the lid and shake. Remove quarkini from bowl and serve. You can also do this on a plate, but it will require more work by your hands in tossing and turning the quarkini until they are covered in sugar.