Baking with Oma: Takes the Cake

I know everyone always says their grandmother is the best baker, but mine really is. Really. I think I might actually have a case here because my Oma’s baking isn’t even similar to anybody else’s. Her recipes all come from some undetermined german-hungarian-romanian-austrian place. They’re never too sweet and they always contain a twist ingredient that makes the other ones come alive. The only problem was that up until recently she had a monopoly on her recipes because silly Oma is from the “old country” and Europeans have magical skills and don’t need recipes. But we’ve realized recently that she’s no longer 35 (or 75) and while she shows zero signs of going senile… you never know, and this is not a risk worth taking. So yesterday we had her over for our first Baking with Oma session, where she wrote down the steps as best as she could and we translated them into recipes we (and you) could actually follow.

 

Oma's Incredible Bittersweet Chocolate Yeast Cake – transcribed from memory, like nothing you've ever had | The Road Home

 

We started with two recipes, or Oma cautioned that we would be up until 3am. Mom made an apple tart which went… um… I’ll let her tell you the story. But I made Oma’s So Superbly Perfect We Can Only Have It Twice A Year Because Otherwise We’d Eat It Three Meals A Day And Get Superbly Fat Bittersweet Chocolate Yeast Cake. Which is superbly perfect, no lie. We only get it on Christmas and Easter and it’s more or less the highlight of both holidays. It’s fluffy yet dense, and not at all too sweet – which is why we can get away with eating it for breakfast even though it’s totally cake. It peels apart in flaky, chocolatey layers and shimmers with subtle underlying notes of anise. And mine came out! I think I just got lucky but I’m still bragging like I got skills because I’m really excited and I’m super proud. I urge you to make it for yourself – it’s an amazing flavor, and not one you’ve ever had before. The only thing about it is it’s neither quick nor particularly easy – I would recommend having some experience with yeast before you try this one out (I think they  made it challenging so we wouldn’t make it too often). But I promise it will be worth all your time and effort – there’s no doubt it will rock your world.

 

Oma's Incredible Bittersweet Chocolate Yeast Cake – transcribed from memory, like nothing you've ever had | The Road Home

 

Do you have any special recipes handed down through the generations in your family? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Oma's Incredible Bittersweet Chocolate Yeast Cake – transcribed from memory, like nothing you've ever had | The Road Home

German Chocolate Chip Yeast Cake

From: Oma (Edith Lang), recorded by Gabrielle Siegel

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar (you can add 2-3 tbsp more if you like it a little sweeter)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 packet yeast (I think active dry, but I actually need to get back to you on that)
  • 1/2 tsp anise seed
  • 1 package of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips (or same amount of whatever kind you want)
  • Stand Mixer
  • Bundt Pan

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of the flour with all of the sugar, yeast and salt.
  2. Place the butter and milk together in a small saucepan and heat until the butter is just melted. The temperature should be about 130° F, or lukewarm to the touch, but if it’s not, heat or cool accordingly.
  3. Add this to the bowl with the flour, and mix on low with the paddle attachment until just blended.
  4. Add the eggs, yolks, vanilla and anise to the mixing bowl, and blend with a paddle attachment on speed 4 for about 10 minutes, and then on speed 6 for about 30 seconds – 1 minute, until a soft dough has formed.
  5. Take off the paddle attachment and replace with a dough hook, and add 1 1/2 cups more flour. Blend on speed 2, until flour is incorporated, and a stiff dough has formed, about 5 minutes. Feel dough – it should be moist, but not too sticky, workable, but not too dry. If you need to, add up to 1/2 a cup more flour, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached. 
  6. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, and kneed vigorously for 2-3 minutes, to make sure the texture is correct.
  7. Place the dough in a large oiled or buttered bowl, and place in a warm, moist area to rise, until doubled in size. Be patient – this could take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. For best results, cover the bowl in a moist tea towel.
  8. When the dough has risen, punch it down, and turn it out onto a floured surface.
  9. Using a piece of string, measure about how big around your bundt pan is. Roll out the dough to about that width, and as long as it takes to make it about 1/3-inch thick.
  10. Evenly distribute the chocolate chips over the dough, and tightly roll up the dough.
  11. Butter the bundt pan, and place the dough inside, and set it to rise in the same warm place, covered with a moist towel, until doubled in size. Heat the oven to 350° F while you’re doing this.
  12. If desired, brush the top of the dough with an egg-wash made of a beaten egg with about a tablespoon of water (does not need to be precise at all) and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes to an hour, until cake is a deep brown, and not too squishy when you poke it (not scientific I know, but it’s the best litmus test Oma could give me).
  13. Cool for about 15 minutes in the pan and turn out onto a cooling rack until completely cool. Eat immediately, or cover very tightly until you’re ready. Try to eat it within 1-2 days, though if you cover it tightly it will keep a little longer. It’s a really good excuse to have people for tea.
  14. Enjoy the heck out of this cake – eat it for breakfast, etc. You worked hard for this, so make it worth it!

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup

Cooking for a living has begun to take over all of my thoughts. Isabella’s newly sewn pink dress isn’t an article of clothing, but a piece of watermelon. Everywhere I go I think about new dishes and ingredients, and there is no off button to press. Just dials on the stove to let me make more food. I feel like a composer sometimes, only instead of notes, I hear shallots, pancetta and fried chicken. It’s driving me crazy, really it is. I love love love teaching people to cook… but seriously. Enough is enough.

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

 

This recipe was born out of one of these fits of inspiration. We often teach a cream of asparagus soup in our spring classes, but I was making a Thai dish one day and the idea to infuse it with coconut, lemongrass and ginger just jumped into my head.  It has quickly become a family favorite and it worked out so well that I used it for my latest appearance on Connecticut Style. Although a video exists on WTNH, it was very fast, and we thought you’d appreciate seeing how to make this lively Asian inspired soup step-by-step, so here it is:

 

 Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

We start with the freshest ingredients, which includes, lemon juice, lemongrass, ginger, asparagus and coconut milk,  but there are others as well, including yellow onions and chicken or vegetable broth.

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

First, we need to peel the lemongrass, an ingredient commonly found in Asian food stores and in some supermarkets, especially Whole Foods.

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

Then you have to cut most of the stalk away. We only want the part of the lemongrass that has purple rings.

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

Then – and really pay attention to this or the lemongrass with be tough and stringy – you have to smash it hard several times with a knife. Until it looks like this

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

 

Then put the lemongrass in a mini food processor with a teaspoon or two of oil until finely minced and looks like this:

 

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger, lemongrass and love | The Road Home

 

 

Then you need to peel the ginger. You can peel it in many different ways by using a melon baller, sturdy spoon or vegetable peeler. Afterwards, finely  mince the ginger in a mini chopper as well. You can, obviously, do that by hand, it will just take much longer.

 

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

 

 

After sautéeing the onions until they are glassy, add the lemongrass and ginger and continue sautéeing until the ginger and lemongrass start to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the asparagus, salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

 

 

Add the broth (chicken or vegetable – we like to use vegetable when we’re cooking for a crowd, since then we can make this vegan and everyone can eat it!) and give the mixture a good stir in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then puree the soup either in a blender (after letting the mixture cool) or an immersion blender right inside the pot, our preferred choice.

 

 Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

 

Add a bit of lemon, give it a good stir, and serve. The great thing about this soup, next to the amazing flavor, is that it tastes great for several days and can certainly be made the day before company. And there you have it! Serve with a garnish of mint, or chives.

 

Thai Scented Asparagus Soup, with coconut, ginger and love | The Road Home

 

Click here to get the complete recipe written up on Food52!