Around the World #1: Germany and Swabian Apple Bread Pudding

The journey begins where it ended this summer:  in the beautiful Black Forest and Swabian Jura of Southwestern Germany.

While in Stuttgart, we stayed at Campingplatz Cannstatter Wasen, a convenient site wedged between the Neckar river and a vast fairground to the east.  All was quiet when we visited in June, but now it’s festival time and in September and October the Cannstatter Volksfest is in full swing.  The event started in the 1800’s as a one-day harvest festival, but has evolved into a three-week celebration considered to be the second largest beer festival in the world after Munich’s Oktoberfest.

Cannstatter Volksfest near Stuttgart

Cannstatter Volksfest near Stuttgart

It was in Stuttgart that I met Silvi and family for the first time, and when we said goodbye she presented me with a small gift – a cookbook that featured traditional Swabian recipes so that I could remember our visit.  In honor of new family and fond memories, my first recipe is a perfect way to celebrate autumn’s apple crop.

Swabian Apple Bread Pudding (Ofenschlupfer)

4 apples

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rum

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 bread rolls or 4-5 slices white bread

1½ cups milk (approximately)

4 tablespoons butter

5 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons sugar

pinch of cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

3-4 tablespoons ground almonds

butter to garnish, or 2 egg whites and 3 tablespoons of sugar

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, quarter and slice apples.  Mix with 3 T. sugar and rum and leave to allow flavors to blend.

Remove crusts from sliced bread or slice rolls into thin slices and moisten with milk.  Beat butter until fluffy and then blend in egg yolks, remaining sugar, cinnamon and ground almonds (I use a mini food processor).  Whisk egg whites separately until stiff.  Fold apple slices and raisins and egg white into the butter/egg yolk mixture.  Grease an 8″ square oven proof pan with butter or cooking spray and sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Layer the bread slices and apple mixture and dot with butter on the top.  Bake the apple pudding for 30-40 minutes at 375° until golden brown.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Apple Bread Pudding

 

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The Art of Baking

When my first daughter was a baby, I tried my hand at baking bread.  I loved the smell of bread in the oven, loved the taste of a warm slice spread with butter.

Homemade Bread

We didn’t have much money for cookbooks then, and didn’t have the internet with its millions of recipes.  So I went to the library, checked out books on baking, and set to work.  My first attempts weren’t too bad, but the results were irregular.  Sometimes the dough didn’t rise well, sometimes the finished bread was dark brown and hard.  I tried white loaves, healthy whole wheat, and even attempted to make French baguettes.

I continued baking over the years, and then met my friend Carlo.  Carlo was Italian, and returned from visits to his family with olive oil his father had pressed and jars of tomato sauce from his mother’s kitchen.  Carlo’s family often ate pizza, and he told me how his mama made the dough for the pizza crust.  “She has the touch.  Not everyone has it, you know.”  I knew what he meant, and I listened carefully as he shared her dough-making secrets.

Every Friday I made pizza.  I had cheated for a couple of years and used a kit bought from the grocery store.  The pizzas were fine, but I wanted to have the touch like Carlo’s mother.   I followed the directions that had been given like a gift to me.  The ingredients were simple, but it was the technique that counted.  Week after week I mixed and kneaded and baked, and as I worked with the dough I connected with generations of women all over the world who made bread with nothing but flour, yeast, water, salt and oil.  With the same ingredients I learned to make pita bread and foccacia, and with extra eggs, milk and butter I braided challah.  After many years of practice, I, too, had the touch.  I learned that I had to feel the dough and know what it needed.  The process became so familiar that I didn’t even have to think.

Now I am someone’s mama, and I bake bread.  Two of my daughters have already left home, and sometimes they miss our weekly tradition.  Every once in awhile on a Friday, one will call and ask, “Are you eating pizza?”  She may even tell her friends, “My mother has the touch.”  Not everyone does, you know.

Challah Bread

Homemade Challah