This round Heather, at girlichef, selected The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy for our August-September Cook the Books project. It was Heather's favorite read of 2012 and I can tell why. It's fantastic!
Serendipitously, the author herself will be judging our entries. No pressure...
The novel has one foot in the past and one in the present. Centered around two bakeries on two different continents - Schmidt Bäckerei in Garmisch, Germany and Elsie's German Bakery in El Paso, Texas -, there are Nazis, hidden Jews, illegal immigrants, border patrol, weddings, deaths, recipes, and romance. Several plot threads are woven together to create a masterful novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don't want to give too much away. If you haven't read it, and you like foodie tomes, read it. Stat. It's masterful, beautiful, and haunting.
I'll just share my favorite passage and get right to the food.
Reba sat alone at her kitchen table nibbling on the edge of the lebkuchen. Decorated with almond slices fanned like flower petals, the squares were almost too pretty to eat; but it'd been a long day and she had no remaining self-restraint. The rich molasses and dry cinnamon stuck in her throat, so she poured a small tumbler of skim milk, froth bubbling on the surface and coating the glass pearly white. ...The sweet smell permeated the kitchen, the den, up the condo's stairs to their room where she sat in bed transcribing notes. Finally after the sun melted into the desert and the autumn moon rose orange like a Nilla wafer, she gave in to the loneliness, came down, and found solace in the sugary snack.
Given that the story takes place in two different bakeries, there is no dearth of baked inspiration. I considered making lebkuchen and springerle, traditional spiced Christmas cookies; I toyed with which yeasty dough would be my favorite - brötchen or sonnenblumenkernbrot. But, after giving the boys the options, they all voted for schwarzwälder kirschtorte - Black Forest Cake.
I've always steered clear of Black Forest cakes; just looking at them makes my teeth hurt. All that icing. Then I looked at the recipe include in the book and realized that it actually wouldn't be too sweet. I made some adaptations that render it non-traditional because I used what I had in my kitchen. It was amazing...and the perfect way to wrap up my love-affair with The Baker's Daughter. We washed it all down with apfelsaftschole, half apple juice and half mineral water.
2-1/3 C white whole wheat flour
1-1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
3 t baking soda
1 C butter
2-1/2 C organic granulated sugar
2 t pure vanilla
3 C buttermilk
1/2 C maraschino liqueur (traditionally you would use kirschwasser, but I actually had maraschino in my cabinet, so instead of going out to buy more cherry-booze...)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your baking dishes, line the larger baking dishes with parchment, cut to fit. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and lightened in color. Add eggs and beat. Add vanilla. Sift in flour, alternating with buttermilk, until just combined.
Pour into pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Check that a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely. At this point, I wrapped both layers in plastic wrap and froze - to make it easier to cut them in half.
Cut each layer in half, horizontally, making four layers total. Brush each layer with maraschino liqueur.
2 C organic heavy whipping cream
2 T maraschino liqueur
1 C organic powdered sugar
2 C pitted cherries (I couldn't find any fresh cherries, so I used some jarred Morello cherries from Germany)
In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream stiff. Add the powdered sugar and the liqueur. Beat again. Spread each layer of the cake with whipped cream and dot with cherries. Repeat with the remaining layers. Then spread the rest of the cream over the top and sides of the case, completely encasing the layers in whipped cream.
dark chocolate shavings
more Morello cherries
Decorate the top of the cake with chocolate shavings. Place ten cherries around the top - they'll help you know where to cut your slices.
*This made a 4 layer 9" round cake + 4 ramekins that I kept non-alcoholic for my mini-boys.
Well, that's a wrap for this round of Cook the Books. Next time we'll be reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Join us, if you're inclined! I've read the book once before, years ago. Looking forward to reading it with an eye on something to cook from it. Can't wait.