I admit to a sweet tooth. Say the words donut, pie or cake and I swoon with desire. Not only do I eat and buy pastries, often and regularly, but my sweet tooth extravaganza extends to watching cupcake shows, bake-offs and the like. My current favorite TV show is “The Great British Bake-Off” wherein amateur bakers compete by making their favorite family recipes, vying to stay into the next round of baking without getting eliminated. After watching the shows, I am inspired to bake a cake or torte, but always end up making the proven thing – chocolate chip cookies.
My husband who collects cookbooks and reads them like novels, recently purchased the newly published “Classic German Baking” by Luisa Weiss. He often urges me to use his cookbooks as inspiration to make something, anything, but I decline. This time I decided I would meet my husband’s challenge and bake something out of his new cookbook. As I perused the recipes, pondering making an apple strudel, a black forest torte or cookies, I settled on kranzkuchen – an almond-paste and rum-raisin-stuffed sweet wreath with an apricot jam and white confectioners sugar glaze.
I gathered up the ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, lots of it, yeast, almond paste, raisins and rum. Baking is a precise science with exact measurements or the cake may settle, come out dry or not rise. My husband purchased a scale for the baking event, providing me the correct tool to weigh all the ingredients with precision, thus ensuring my baking success.
The hardest part of baking was the kneading. I actually got hot and built up a sweat doing so. The dough was sticky, making my fingers all gooey, but I kept kneading until the dough was silky and smooth. During the process, I wanted to refer to the recipe, but I couldn’t turn the page due to my dough encrusted fingers. I called my husband over to turn the page for me. He was reading an article and hates to be interrupted when he is reading, which is pretty much all the time, but he did come over to help.
Once he flipped the page for me, I asked him for more assistance in helping me to understand the recipe. Together we read through the it several times but were still confused as to how to shape the dough into a wreath. I wanted to move forward and figure it out as we went along. He wanted to understand the steps before we started. A small argument ensued.
I rolled out the dough as evenly as possible. It was thick in some areas, but I was pleased with it. He did not think it was thin enough and a few heated words were exchanged. I tried explaining the next step to him, but he had his own point of view and we bickered . The last bit of help I needed was lifting the wreath from the counter onto the baking sheet. We managed to do it without too much mangling of the wreath, but there was plenty of discussion as to how best to do it.
The dough had risen as expected and was cooked throughout, although it was a bit of a lopsided wreath. We let it cool, then cut into the kranzkuchen. Inside it was sweet and moist with the raisins and marzipan coming together lovingly for an exquisite taste. My husband said I should make it for Christmas morning. Depending on the amount of help I need, it could become a family classic or not.