Poppy and Sweet Cheese Koláčky

What is it that makes us chase our dreams? That makes us go beyond just dreaming and drag our fragile vision into real life? To leave all our doubts and insecurities behind and rise above them is one of the hardest but also most rewarding experiences in life.

There are so many inspiring, creative people around me. Many have vibrant visions and ideas, building up exciting projects in their minds, and what they all unite, is a surprisingly ambivalent feeling: at the same time, they hope and fear that it might work out. A notion particularly present amongst women and, unfortunately, often the reason why many don’t even start chasing their dreams. Torn between the two, hope and fear, which is human after all, there’s only one way: belief in yourself, trust in yourself, and surrounding yourself with people who support and encourage you to do so.

One person who’s been in my life for quite a few years now and who’s been at my side like a rock, like a guide I can trust and rely on any time, and who makes sure that I always chase my dreams, is the baker Laurel Kratochvila. Born in Boston, she left the US in her early twenties as her heart felt a strong pull towards the European continent, a Czech man in Prague (who she married just months after meeting), and also European bakeries and baking traditions. In the end, she built up her own bakery in Berlin, Fine Bagels, and a wine bar, Le Balto.

Laurel is the kind of person who gives you the feeling that nothing can sweep her off her feet. Always guided by deep trust, precise instinct, and a good portion of healthy humor, Laurel learned to deal with anything that the universe throws at her. Yet when I told her that she needs to write a cookbook about baking, that she already is an author even when the pages weren’t written yet, she first refused to see it. Luckily, after even more encouraging words from other authors, like Helen Goh and Adeena Sussman, Laurel gave in, set down, and started writing. 

And here it is, her first book baby! New European Baking – or Neues Backen in German – an honest masterpiece. The book is a stunning collection of very accurate and thought-out recipes, covering sourdough bread, brioches and enriched doughs, laminated pastries (Laurel teaches you how to master croissants!), tartes and biscuits, plus 11 features of some of Europe’s most thriving bakers. Roberta Pezzella (PezZ de Pane – Frosinone, Italy) shares the recipe for her Wild Fennel Bread, Xavier Netry (Boulangerie Utopia – Paris, France) teaches you how to make his Caramelized Coffee Bread, and Ben McKinnon and Eyal Schwartz (e5 Bakehouse – London, England) share the secret for their Spelt Fruit Galettes.

New European Baking is one of the most exciting cookbooks in 2022 – and Laurel also proves, chasing dreams does make sense.

I baked the Poppy and Sweet Cheese Koláčky from the book, a sweet, soft, and fragrant yeast bun, filled with poppy seeds and sweet cheese. It’s one of the most popular pastries in the Czech Republic, I’m not surprised as it tastes heavenly, and you can find the recipe below.

You can buy – or order – New European Baking (and Neues Backen) by Laurel Kratochvila (Prestel Publishing) at any book shop all around the world, or online. And if you live in Berlin, you can buy the book straight from the author: Shakespeare and Sons is Laurel’s and her husband Roman’s book shop (in the same rooms as the bakery/ café Fine Bagels).

Poppy and Sweet Cheese Koláčky

by Laurel Kratochvila / New European Baking (Prestel Publishing)

Makes 14 koláčky

Day 1

For the basic milk dough

  • 520g (4 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 20g (1 ½ tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 7g (2 ¼ tsp) instant yeast
  • 9g (heaping ½ tbsp) table salt
  • 240g (1 cup plus 1 tbsp) whole milk, cold
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g (7 tbps) unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, yeast, salt, cold milk, and eggs and mix on medium-low for 6 minutes, or until the mixture comes together in a solid, medium-stiff mass with no dry bits. Reduce the speed to low, then gradually add the butter, a few pieces at a time. Continue mixing until no butter is visible, then increase the speed to medium and knead for 5–7 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a smooth, shiny ball.

Form the dough into a ball and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Reform the dough into a tight ball, then place it in a lightly oiled bowl with room for expansion, wrap airtight, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days. It will expand somewhat and stiffen during that time.

For the poppy seed filling

  • 150g (1 ½ cups) ground poppy seeds
  • 75g (⅓ cup plus 1 tbsp) granulated sugar
  • 210g (¾ cup plus 3 tbsp) whole milk
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp honey

In a thick-bottomed medium saucepan, bring the ground poppy seeds, granulated sugar, milk, butter, and lemon juice to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the honey, and refrigerate overnight.

For the sweet cheese filling

  • 300g (1 ⅓ cups) cream cheese (or quark or tvaroh)
  • 16g (2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • 16g (2 tbsp plus 2 ½ tsp tsp) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Zest of ¼ orange (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, all-purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, egg yolk, and orange zest, if using, and whisk until smooth; refrigerate overnight.

Day 2

For the egg wash

  • 1 large egg, plus 3 tbsp whole milk, whisked

To shape your koláčky, divide the chilled dough into 14 equal portions, about 70g (2.5 ounces) each. Preshape into tight balls and arrange smooth-side up (you’ll find very helpful instructions, including pictures, for shaping dough in Laurel’s book). Cover loosely with a damp towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, reshape the koláčky by pressing out the center of each ball with your thumbs and flattening the middles until each kolaček is about 10 cm (4 inches) across with a 1.25cm (½ inch) lip around each flattened center. Place the shaped koláčky, 4 cm (1 ½ inches) apart, on a parchment paper–lined baking tray, brush with the egg wash, and let rest at room temperature for 2–2 ½ hours, or until the dough is puffed and light and springs back slowly when pressed with a finger; cover lightly with a towel and set the remaining egg wash aside.

Just before you want to bake the koláčky, make your Streusel.

For the streusel

  • 50g (3 ½ tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
  • 50g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • 100g (¾ cup plus 1 tbsp) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

In a small bowl, rub the butter, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, and cinnamon, if using, between your thumbs and forefingers until it has an even, crumbly texture. 

Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F) (preferably convection setting).

When the dough is ready, brush your koláčky with egg wash a second time. Use a fork to gently poke holes in the flattened centers of each bun, being careful not to deflate the puffed rims. Spoon a generous amount of the sweet cheese filling in the middle of each bun, followed by a large spoonful of the poppy seed filling. Sprinkle all over with the streusel, then bake for 10–12 minutes, or until golden brown.

NOON – a new cookbook

I decided to write a new cookbook! It’s called NOON, it will come out in the fall of 2023, and it’s published by Chronicle (English) and Prestel (German).

Since my last book, 365, came into the world in 2019, a lot has changed. Globally, personally, it felt like the world turned upside down and I turned with it. So for a long time, I had no idea if I would ever write a book again and if so, what this book would be about. Until January 2022. A dinner at my place with my friend Gabi changed everything. Gabi runs a cafe in my neighborhood, which I visit often, rather daily, for a good cappuccino and an even better chat. Over the pandemic and many conversations about food, the arts, and life in general, we became friends.

During our dinner, we munched on oysters, braised beef shanks, bone marrow on crostini, and cheese – and discussed Gabi’s lunch misery when she’s at work. Although I’ve always worked from home, it wasn’t new to me that many are struggling making satisfying lunch choices, being at home or out at work. So for days I didn’t think about our conversation; until one cold afternoon, when I was sitting on a bench in a park close to my flat. It had snowed the night before, the sky cleared up, and the low winter sun was hitting me right in my frozen face.

I will never understand what exactly happened in that moment but all of a sudden the vision for my 3rd cookbook was fully there. The title, NOON, the concept and angle, and almost 120 recipes came together in less than a week. It didn’t actually feel like work, I just had to sit down and let it pour out of me.

So here I am, not even four months later, sitting right now in the cafe where everything started, chatting with my friend Gabi while I’m writing these words. All the recipes are written down and cooked, the pictures are taken, and I think I never felt happier, more satisfied, and more at ease with a book of mine than with NOON. I still love my first two books, eat in my kitchen and 365, but I think I’ve never been so at peace with myself as I am now, which makes the work flow very intuitive.

But what is this book about? The recipes are fun, quick and simple, perfect for lunch – but also for dinner. The dishes are based on exciting flavors and combinations, not many ingredients; rather choosing the ones that enhance taste and decrease stress and labor. The focus is on vegetables but there are also meat and seafood dishes. It’s basically about food that makes us feel good, that we can share with others but also enjoy just for ourselves. NOON stands for a feeling, recurring during the cycle of each day, a desire for a break, for something uplifting, for some time for ourselves and our very own needs.

NOON is dedicated to 3 women and a 3-year-old: For Anne, her daughter, Gabi, and Laurel. To friendship.

Seeing that I always share a recipe in a blog post, I will share one of the first recipes that led to NOON. It’s so simple, using pantry staples, or products that are easy to get. It seems like the weirdest combination – but it‘s genius. Hummus and (uncooked) sauerkraut on a slice of crusty dark bread. It‘s so good that I couldn‘t believe it and had to turn to my friend Laurel Kratochvila of Fine Bagels in Berlin for consultation: “Hummus and sauerkraut? I‘ve never had it before but it makes sense – a good hit of acid!“ You can use homemade hummus or get it from your favorite deli.

The picture of me is by Anne Deppe.

Meet In Your Kitchen | Berlin’s Best Beet at Vadim’s Otto

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

That was probably the most intense time of my life. It was the restaurant I looked up to the most. I thought this is the best restaurant in the world. – Vadim Otto Ursus

Smoky pans and blazing fire at Noma‘s Pop Up in Tulum, screaming and rushing, the air filled with adrenalin like a ballon ready to burst, tweezers in your hand to arrange plates to fragile perfection – Vadim Otto Ursus wanted to experience all of this and he got it. Born in Berlin, raised in Berlin, and he even returned to his city although he had the chance to keep working at Noma and other illustrious restaurants.

Vadim’s parents lived in a squat in Berlin Mitte, one of the many empty houses in the 90s that people just moved into, put a lock on the door, and called it their home. It was common, no one cared. You payed one D-Mark, symbolically. There was no heating or warm water but lots of freedom and all the possibilities in the world. Vadim’s mother is an artist, his father is a media historian, the wall had just fallen, and they decided to move to Berlin. Galleries popped up all around their apartment, there were exhibitions at every street corner – and young Vadim was right in the middle of it.

“You did the same thing most of the time, just when everything worked smoothly, the chef, René Redzepi, would say OK, change positions! to keep the adrenalin level at 120% so that you wouldn’t rest but always be pushed to maximum pressure.” – Vadim Otto Ursus

Before he even had a chance to get lost in Berlin’s party world, which he loved and that was equally exciting at that time as the art world, his mother involved him in her art projects and his father introduced him to a little restaurant on Schönhauser Allee. A bunch of young chefs, pioneers in Berlin’s – at that point – culinarily wild and not very refined East, sparked something in Vadim. After having been surrounded by the arts, boundless creativity and freedom, he was hungry for a life that was a bit more structured, where cause and effect were a bit more predictable; less interpretation, more facts. Cooking is a craft, you cut your ingredients, you choose a technique, you improve your skills, and at one point you can pretty much say what the result is going to be like. Vadim liked that idea.

For an art project, the mother-son duo went on a trip to Mexico together. For two months, Vadim cooked in a food truck at a market in Mexico City and his mother curated a flow of people from different backgrounds bringing ingredients to the truck, or just their stories, all of them coming together at the table for lunch. Working with local produce, working with fire, using techniques he had learned in Germany, the puzzle slowly started to come together.

“The plates, the dishes were delicious and looked almost perfect but I don’t understand how anything good should come out if it was created with so much hate, anger, and fear.” – Vadim Otto Ursus

The freedom and harmony that had surrounded him all his life was something the young chef never took for granted. He was curious about the other side where chefs scream in steaming kitchens, where pots are flying, and single leaves are meticulously arranged with tweezers for hours. So he ended up at Quintonil, no. 27 in the World’s 50 Best, and just at that time René Redzepi and his team visited Quintonil‘s kitchen right before their Noma Pop Up started in Tulum. Coincidence or destiny, Vadim joined their team and cooked at the world’s most famous Pop Up. Vadim calls it one of the most intense experiences of his life, teaching him bold techniques and wild freedom in cooking he had never seen before, but also introducing him to a way of working that he didn’t want to assimilate in his life.

Koks on the Faroe Islands, Maaemo in Oslo, Loco in Lisbon, Vadim got his fair amount of Michelin stars, flying pots, and tweezers – and he missed Berlin. In 2019, at the age of 25, he opened his own restaurant close to where he grew up, in Prenzlauer Berg: OTTO. The ingredients are local, the techniques are international, the atmosphere is very relaxed, and community – on both sides of the kitchen – is at the core of this restaurant. Various plates to share with each other fill the tables, honest fireworks, almost humble and not pretentious, convince your palate within split seconds that the best often lies very close to us.

“I knew it before I went there but Mexico made it so clear to me: eating together, plates often placed in the middle of the table, huge piles of tortillas, using your hands, it can get messy, it’s spicy, bold flavors, that’s so much fun!” – Vadim Otto Ursus

And what does Otto taste like? The smokey, earthy note of a whole grilled butterflied boneless brook trout from a local farmer served with garum – a fermented fish sauce made at the restaurant of the fish’s leftover bones and fins. This dish combines strong flavors from two culinary worlds: earthy local German trout and a fish sauce packed with umami, originated in Asia but made from a very common German fish.

Beet, cooked twice in sloe berry juice and dried in between, with a unique texture close to prunes meets labneh and brown butter (this is also the recipe Vadim shared with me, see below). Grilled sourdough bread from a local bakery is served with koji butter, fermented buckwheat that lends the fat a very ripe, cheesy note and that you can also buy from them online. Grilled kale is tossed with a green salsa made of herbs that Vadim harvests in the countryside outside Berlin. So what do we learn? Traveling and experiencing the world outside of our box doesn’t detach us from ourselves, from our roots, it refines who we are and makes the bond even closer.

The podcast episode with Vadim Otto Ursus is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Vadim on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Beet, Sloe Berry, Labneh and Brown Butter

by Vadim Otto Ursus

Mind that you have to start preparing the beet and labneh a day in advance. The beet is cooked then it sits overnight, is dried in the oven for 7-8 hours the next day, and then briefly warmed up in the juice again.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1kg / 2 1/4 pounds medium beet (with skin)
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1l / 4 1/4 cups sloe berry juice – alternatively, you can use 700ml / 3 cups plum juice mixed with 200ml / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, 100ml / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 500g / 17 1/2 ounces full-fat yoghurt (cow milk or sheep milk)
  • 100g / 1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • A few leaves of Belgian endive, radicchio, or sorrel, torn into bite size pieces, for serving

Day 1

Add the beet to a large pot and cover with water then add 3 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cook for about 50 minutes or until tender. Transfer the beet to a colander placed in the sink and, while you keep the water running, use your hands to rub the skin off the beets. Cut each beet into 6 wedges and transfer to a large bowl then mix the sloe berry juice with 2 tablespoons of salt and pour over the beet. Cover the bowl with a lid and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To make the labneh, line a colander with a cotton kitchen towel or muslin cloth then place it over a large, deep plate. Mix the yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of salt and transfer to the lined colander; let it sit overnight at room temperature.

Day 2

In the morning, preheat the oven to 70°C / 155°F. Line 1-2 baking sheets with baking paper.

Transfer the strained yoghurt to a bowl and keep it in the fridge, discard the liquid. Remove it from the fridge and keep it at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving.

Reserving the juice, transfer the beet to a colander to drain for a few minutes then spread them on the prepared baking sheet(s). Leaving the oven door slightly ajar by using the stick of a wooden spoon, dry the beet in the oven for 7-8 hours, or until they resemble soft (and not too dry) prunes. Season the reserved sloe juice with a little salt and set aside.

Just before serving, slowly cook the butter in a large pan over medium heat until it is golden brown and smells nutty (it shouldn’t burn!); set aside and keep warm.

Transfer the dried beet to a large pot, add enough of the reserved sloe juice so that the beet is almost covered then bring to a boil and immediately remove the pot from the heat.

Arrange some of the beet and a little of the sloe juice that it’s been warmed up in, in the middle of a deep plate. Drizzle with a couple spoons of the brown butter and place a generous dollop of the labneh next to the beet. Arrange a few pieces of Belgian endive (or other leaves) on top and serve immediately.

Hamantashen with Lemon-Parsley Ricotta

Hamantashen are little pastry pockets, not more than a small bite, usually sweet and filled with poppy seeds, jam, or dried fruit. I turned them into a savory treat with a very lemony ricotta filling refined with lots of chopped parsley. It’s a traditional Ashkenazi pastry, baked and shared during the Jewish holiday of Purim, starting this year on the evening of March 16th and ending 24 hours later. So why am I baking them? And why now?

My friend, the Berlin-based American baker Laurel Kratochvila of Fine Bagels spontaneously started Hamantashen for Ukraine, a show of worldwide bakery solidarity for the people of Ukraine. Profits of the sales are being donated to the Polish Humanitarian Action to help and support Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border. Laurel and her bakery friends will bake and sell hamantashen between now and March 17th, the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. To find out where you can buy the charity pastries click here for the ever expanding list of participating bakeries all over the world.

Purim is celebrated to remember the saving of the Jewish people – thanks to queen Esther – from Haman, a vizier of the First Persian Empire who wanted to kill all Jews in the empire. Traditionally, food, drinks, and gifts are shared on this holiday, hamantashen are enjoyed together in the community, donations are given to the poor, and children and adults alike dress up in costumes. Maybe most importantly, these days there’s often a reflection on modern day Hamans in the world. That’s where this fundraiser comes in.

Laurel shared her recipe for sweet hamantashen with poppy seeds with me and I’ll share my first attempt to bake hamantashen with you. Not sweet but packed with lemon-parsley ricotta.

Thank you, Laurel!

Hamantashen with Lemon-Parsley Ricotta

Makes 22 hamantashen

For the pastry

  • 285g / 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 120g / 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, cold 
  • 1 large egg 

For the filling

  • 125g / 4.5 ounces fresh ricotta, drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 30g / 1 ounce Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 1 scant tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Coarsely ground pepper

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined. Add the egg and briefly mix with the paddle until crumbly. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the filling, whisk together the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a generous amount of pepper in a medium bowl. Season to taste with additional salt.

On a work surface, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out until it’s about 3mm / 1/8 inch thick. Using a 7cm / 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles, re-rolling any pastry scraps. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. To shape, fold 3 sides inward to make a triangle, either overlapping or pinching where the edges meet. Transfer to a large platter and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Transfer the hamantashen to the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 18 minutes or until the pastry is golden and just baked through. Let them cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

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Hamantashen with Poppy Seeds

by Laurel Kratochvila / Fine Bagels

Makes 40 hamantashen

For the pastry

  • 440g / 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 240g / 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 130g / 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely ground almonds
  • 120g / 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 2 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 150g / 1 1/2 cups ground poppy seeds
  • 75g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 210ml / 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 2 tablespoons honey

For the pastry, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour and butter on low speed until sandy in texture, no bits of butter remaining. Add the ground almonds and confectioners sugar and mix until well combined. Add the salt, eggs, and vanilla and mix on low until the dough has just come together and no dry bits remain. Press the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or up to 48 hours.

For the filling, in a heavy, medium saucepan, bring the poppy seeds, sugar, milk, butter, and lemon juice to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the honey, and let cool completely before using. Covered airtight, you can refrigerate it for up to 1 week.

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 340°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To use the chilled pastry, you must break it: Fold it in half and roll it out once. It will crack. Fold the dough back up and roll out a second time. Now it’s ready.

On a work surface, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out until it’s about 3mm / 1/8 inch thick. Using a 7cm / 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles, re-rolling any pastry scraps. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. To shape, fold 3 sides inward to make a triangle, either overlapping or pinching where the edges meet. Transfer to a large platter and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Transfer the hamantashen to the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and just baked through. Let them cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Meet in Your Kitchen | Kristiane’s Kaiserschmarrn, Pars and Pralinés

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“I thought I wasn’t allowed to do something that was different from what I had learned. I felt trapped in the traditional framework of the patisserie. I was very nervous to dive into a new scene where I felt I didn’t belong to.” – Kristiane Kegelmann

Whenever we create something we use our senses. No matter if it’s about the arts or crafts, we see, we feel, we smell, and when it comes to food, we also use our taste. Kristiane Kegelmann loves working with the whole sensory spectrum, in her art and in the food she creates – and especially when they both merge.

During her early years as a pastry chef in Vienna, at the traditional Demel confectionery founded in 1786, Kristiane often pushed the boundaries of her craft. Although the budgets for customized cakes, torten, and gateaux were often almost bottomless, the freedom, the expectation of how a sweet creation should look like was limited. In size larger than herself, the costs sometimes reaching the price of a small car, yet her creativity was forced to stay within a certain range, the rigid range of the classic patisserie, of its craft and creations, defined over hundreds of years.

There was no tolerance when her aesthetic feeling, and her curiosity, left the frilly cream toppings and sugary ruffles and roses behind. Kristiane likes cubistic shapes reminding of the concrete architecture of the 60s and 70s, of brutalism, Le Corbusier and Gottfried Böhm, or the angular shapes of Daniel Libeskind’s buildings. Her approach is far from sweet, cute, and superficially pleasing. Her aesthetic is definitely challenging for the stubborn pastry traditionalist.

It was only through the arts that she felt able to free herself, to go beyond her own expectations in her craft. Working with an Austrian sculptor, experimenting with architectural forms and structures, combining edible and non-organic material both in her art and in her pastries and chocolates, and in the end leaving Vienna to move to Berlin, were the necessary steps to become the artist and pâtissière she wanted to be.

“Chocolate allowed me to fill a shape with a surprise. I felt, seeing that this is what I’m good at, I’m allowed to turn it into art.” – Kristiane Kegelmann

Growing up in Munich in a family where food in general, but each ingredient in particular, was given a lot of attention, a huge effort was made to strive for quality and track the origin of the products that ended up in her mother’s kitchen. Kristiane knew about buckwheat – and wasn’t particularly fond of it – when the other kids were still munching on soft wheat bread sandwiches with flappy cheese. Her sense for flavors, for quality, started to become more and more refined even before she became aware of it.

Arriving Berlin in 2015, all of a sudden Kristiane had all the freedom, and the space, to create art and food according to her own ideas. Some of her works are edible, like her chocolates and pralinés, some aren’t, which turned into a new conflict: where are the two disciplines interwoven, where shouldn’t they, where does one start and the other one end? It’s an ongoing process and the price you pay for creative freedom.

“In our traditional food, we used to be much closer to the original produce than we are today. It’s a process of simplification, of industrialization.” – Kristiane Kegelmann

At least at her pars pralinés shop, you can eat everything the pastry chef puts in front of you – and that is spectacular. Kristiane puts the same attention into her sweet creations’ fillings as she puts into their shapes and (natural) coloring. Once you bite into the delicate chocolate shell, you might be surprised by a fragile crunchy dill flower, or pear combined with sesame – which is a fantastic combination. Hops and lavender also go very well together, and a classic hazelnut praliné impresses with the intense, pure taste of hazelnuts that come from Kristiane’s home region, from Bavaria.

We would have loved to share a praliné recipe with you but unfortunately, the preparation is too complex, so instead we went for a very comforting Austrian breakfast/ brunch/ teatime/ dessert classic: kaiserschmarrn – a torn pancake – with hazelnuts and apple purée.

The podcast episode with Kristiane Kegelmann is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Kristiane on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Kaiserschmarrn with Hazelnuts and Apple Purée

by Kristiane Kegelmann / pars

Kristiane uses her own pure hazelnut spread (Nussmus) for serving, which you can buy online from her shop, but you can of course replace it with any other quality hazelnut spread (although hers is particularly delicious!).

She refines the apple purée with cherry blossom sugar (fresh cherry flowers mixed with sugar and stored in a jar, it’s divine!) but you can also use regular sugar.

Serves 4

For the cherry blossom sugar (optional)

  • 1kg / 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 handful fresh cherry blossoms

Combine the sugar and cherry blossoms, rubbing the sugar and blossoms with your hands to intensify the flavor, and store in a large jar.

For the apple purée

  • 50g / 1/4 cup cherry blossom sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 120ml / 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 4 medium, sour, firm apples, cored and cut into small pieces (don’t peel the apples)

In a large pan, caramelize the sugar over medium heat then add the apple juice and stir until the caramel dissolves. Add the apples and cook until soft then sweeten with sugar to taste. Using a blender or a blender stick, purée the apples until smooth. If you prefer the apple purée a bit thicker, transfer it to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired texture.

For the kaiserschmarrn

  • 1 ounce / 25g whole hazelnuts with skin
  • 4 large eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • 30g / 2 generous tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 350ml / 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 160g / 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Unsalted butter, to cook the kaiserschmarrn
  • About 4 tablespoons hazelnut spread, whipped until soft, for serving
  • 1-2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted, for serving

In a medium pan, roast the hazelnuts, stirring constantly, over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until fragrant; let them cool for a few minutes. Using your hands, rub the skin off the hazelnuts then chop them roughly and set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and salt for a few minutes until stiff then transfer to a large bowl and whisk the egg yolks and sugar for a few minutes until light yellow and creamy. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold 1/3 of the milk into the egg yolk mixture, followed by 1/3 of the flour. Repeat with the remaining milk and flour, folding until combined, then gently fold the egg white into the batter just until combined.

In a large pan, heat a generous tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat, add half the batter, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for a few minutes or until the bottom of the pancake is golden. Cut the pancake into 4 pieces, add a little more butter to the pan, then flip each piece and cook until the bottom is golden. Using 2 forks or spatulas, tear the pancake into chunky pieces. Sprinkle with a little sugar, add a bit more butter if necessary, and cook the torn pancake, stirring, for a few more minutes or until golden brown then transfer to a large platter, cover, and cook the remaining batter in the same way.

Divide the kaiserschmarrn between 4 plates, sprinkle with the hazelnuts, drizzle with the hazelnut spread, and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Add a dollop of the apple purée and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Meet In Your Kitchen | Rhinoçéros Bar, Jazz and Béné’s Shrimp Cocktail

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“Music is love, food is fun.” – Bénédict Berna

From French rap music via Berlin’s club scene right into jazz: Bénédict Berna‘s musical journey reflects the chapters in his life. Each musical genre is woven into his work projects, musical fragments becoming the tune of his life.

As a music producer in France, it was the beat and the political message of rap pulling him into the studio. This, and the fact that there was no place to go to as a teenager, made him organize concerts and parties at the age of 16. He admits that it wasn’t an altruistic move, he wanted to play in bands but the other kids wouldn’t let him. So at his parties and concerts, Béné would add himself on the lineup – and place himself at the drum machine – and the other kids had to give in.

He was hooked, he loved the energy bursting out of these events. Creating a place, a period of time, that makes other people simply happy became his passion and profession.

Berlin was like a huge kindergarten. There was space, air to breathe, you didn’t have to fight for your place. – Bénédict Berna

Born in Valence and growing up in Donzère, a small and not too exciting town in the Rhone valley between Lyon, Montpellier, and Marseille, Béné got used to moving around, networking, and organizing concerts wherever the crowd was hungry for it. His appetite also grew yet he felt the creative limitations of the smaller towns and cities. Paris wasn’t an option for him. He says it’s too snob and rigid, all places have been taken and occupied a long time ago. But Berlin was the exact opposite to that.

In 2003 things were still rather wild in Germany’s capital, especially in the party world. So when Béné arrived it didn’t take too long for him to find his way straight into the clubs, soon taking care of the set lists, bands, and DJs of Club Maria and Club Chez Jacki. The clubs and bars were the pumping heart of a city that didn’t know any limits or regulations. It was total freedom – and innocence – at least for a little while.

 “I don’t want to become an icon, I don’t want to be an institution. I want people to have a good time.” – Bénédict Berna

Berlin changed and grew up, at least a little bit, but change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Béné left the clubs behind and became the manager of a wine bar, Brut on Torstraße. It was one of the earlier places where finally wine, cheese, and bread all tasted fantastic. Something that shouldn’t surprise but back then it did because the general quality level in the city was just so bad. At Brut, you were never really sure who was a guest and who worked there. It was one big family.

All those years and experiences shaped the formula for Béné’s own bar that he opened in 2017 together with his wife, Martina. So it’s not a surprise that Rhinoçéros is a bar that does everything right. French wine and cheese, crunchy baguette, Japanese whiskey, the atmosphere warm and intimate, it feels a bit like home, just more special.

All this would already be enough to win my heart but Béné’s love for jazz, vinyl, and vintage hi-fi sound systems – and for organizing events – made him turn towards a Japanese phenomenon: the Tokyo Jazz Kissa. It’s basically a bar (or coffee shop) where people listen to vinyls while drinking tea – or whiskey, or wine. So at Rhinoçéros, they have special nights, curated listening sessions, where no one talks but sits still in front of 1976 wooden Bowers & Wilkins speakers, kind of like at a concert, to peacefully listen to the whole length of legendary jazz recordings. Béné says that he himself is surprised at times by the intimacy that these nights create. But that’s the power of great music, food, and wine – and great hosts.

When I asked Béné which recipe he’d like to share with us, he suggested a Shrimp Cocktail. First I was surprised then I indulged in nostalgia. So thanks to this dinner party classic, we’ll have a proper 80s revival in the kitchen (Béné says it’s actually from the 60s). Béné’s version is super quick to prepare, perfectly balanced, and, thanks to tangerines giving it a hint of acidity, it’s even refreshing. And it goes extremely well with oysters and champagne for lunch, that’s what we did – just don’t expect you’ll get anything done after this so save it for the weekend.

The podcast episode with Bénédict Berna is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Béné on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Shrimp Cocktail

by Bénédict Berna

Serves 4

  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons cognac
  • 4-5 drops Tabasco
  • Freshly grated orange zest, to taste
  • 450g / 1 pound medium shrimps or prawns, cooked and peeled, cold
  • 2 large Belgian endives, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 tangerines, peeled (skin and white pith removed) and cut into segments

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, cognac, Tabasco, and a pinch (or more) of orange zest. Add the shrimps and toss to combine.

Divide the Belgian endive, shrimps, and tangerines among 4 bowls (or wide champagne glasses) and serve immediately.

Meet In Your Kitchen | Erik Spiekermann’s Lemony Mushroom Risotto

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“I’m incredibly chaotic and I’m incredibly precise. When I do work like typesetting and stuff, I’m 100% precise. I do the shittiest detail that nobody would ever know, but I’m also incredibly chaotic in my approach.” – Erik Spiekermann

Erik Spiekermann‘s greatest gift is that he never stopped thinking like a child. He’s still driven by the same stubborn persistence, by a tireless curiosity, and the imperturbable will to find out what lies underneath the surface. The acclaimed designer and typographer, responsible for the corporate looks of brands like Audi, Bosch, and Deutsche Bahn, creator of Meta – the Helvetica of the 90s – and the man who decided that the BVG, Berlin’s public transportation system, needs to be yellow, is basically still a child, just in the body of a man.

“My curiosity is my biggest feature. I’ve always been curious, so much so that I have been careless. I mean I’ve done things like hitchhike to fucking Norway at 9, which is stupid, it’s the dumbest thing to do if I look back now but I was curious and I was innocent, and innocent and curious are the same. You’re innocent about something so you wanna find out how it works. And I’m still curious and I will try everything because it’s interesting and I think curiosity is one of the greatest human features otherwise we wouldn’t have invented the wheel nor the fire.” – Erik Spiekermann

When Erik was nine years old he hitchhiked to Norway on his own. He was part of a Boy Scouts group, his older travel companion didn’t show up so he decided to go up north on his own. I asked what his mother said, and Erik’s brief answer was “She didn’t know, only when I came back weeks later, rather tanned.”

As a teenage boy, he was already fascinated by press printing. He got his first printing machine from his father, a mechanic who Erik thinks passed his strong passion for heavy machinery and their mysteries on to him. Whenever he got the chance, he sneaked into a friend’s printing firm at night, trying to figure out how all of this works. Setting type and ruining one plate after the other until he internalized the concept – letting any proof of his failed attempts vanish by dawn – but when he finally filled the white pages with his own hands and ideas he was hooked.

Post-war Germany wasn’t an easy playing field for a pubescent boy and young man, chances had to be made by yourself and Erik created plenty of them. First in Berlin, then he moved to London in the 60s with his young family, always managing to convince the people around him that he has the ideas that they need.

“We need to make things, we need to touch things with our hands, otherwise we’re gonna become very funny sort of reptiles or robots.” – Erik Spiekermann

It only takes a few seconds to understand how Erik always manages to get people’s full attention – and their trust. He is very charming but he is also a road roller. For the podcast recording at my place, he ran up the stairs with his racing bicycle on his shoulder (mind he’s born 1947), he wasn’t out of breath at all but ready to dive into hours of talking about design, life, and food. Erik used to often bake with his mother, never measuring anything, but sensitively adjusting texture, taste, and smell by feeling. Even then he didn’t need anyone to tell him what to do, just a mother who taught him to refine his senses and listen to them. He is still very protective of his ideas and visions, fighting for them if need be, summed up in one of his many popular quotes: “Don’t work for assholes. Don’t work with assholes.

After years of designing and teaching, Erik decided to go back to his roots. All his printing equipment burnt in a severe fire in London in the 70s. A painful chapter that he never felt he had closed, a story he still wanted to continue writing, so he founded p98a a few years ago. It’s a Berlin based non-profit experimental letterpress workshop stuffed with old equipment dedicated to letters, printing, and papers. Together with a group of designers, he passes his knowledge and skills on to the next generation and enjoys the play of old traditional analogue equipment and new digital techno­logies. You can order books, or posters and postcards with Erik’s quotes and wisdoms, and join workshops with the master himself.

Although Erik would have loved to share his no-recipe-cantuccini recipe with me, I was worried that no one would be in the mood for cookies in January so instead, Erik and his wife, Susanna, shared the recipe for their delicious Lemony Mushroom Risotto with me.

The podcast episode with Erik Spiekermann is in English. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Erik on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Mushroom Risotto with Lemon and Thyme

by Susanna and Erik

Serves 4 to 6

For the risotto

  • Fine sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 420g / 2 cups Carnaroli rice, or Arborio rice
  • 240ml / 1 cup dry white wine
  • 70g / 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 60g / 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated, plus 30g / 1 ounce for serving
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

For the mushrooms

  • 450g / 1 pound cremini or white mushrooms, trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 30g / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 medium sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 small garlic cloves, crushed (optional, Susanna loves it, Erik doesn’t)

For the risotto, bring 2.5 liters / 10 1/2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan then remove the pan from the heat, cover, and keep warm.

In a large pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until golden and soft. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and let it simmer for a few minutes then add a ladle of the hot salted water, the rice should be covered. Let it simmer very gently and, as soon as the liquid is almost fully absorbed, add more of the salted water. Keep adding a little water at a time, stirring gently once in a while. When the rice is al dente and the liquid is more or less absorbed, you might not need all the salted water, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Add more of the salted water if the texture isn’t creamy (not soupy!) and season to taste with additional salt if necessary. Gently stir in the lemon juice, adding more juice to taste, then cover the pan and set aside.

For the mushrooms, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat, briefly cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until browned and still firm (not mushy!). Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the butter, 6 sprigs of thyme (keeping 2 sprigs for serving), and the garlic then reduce the heat to low and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are al dente but not soft.

Divide the risotto and mushrooms among bowls, sprinkle with a little Parmesan, some ground pepper, and the leaves of the remaining 2 thyme sprigs, and enjoy immediately.

Meet In Your Kitchen | Alfredo Sironi’s Pizza with Cima di Rapa and Salsiccia

This post is part of my Meet in My Kitchen podcast series:

How did we get to where we are in life and what does food have to do with it.

“Food means a lot, not everything, but a lot. I enjoy cooking more than eating.” – Alfredo Sironi

There are two things Alfredo Sironi does all the time: chatting and eating while constantly moving around. When I sat with him outside his Sironi La Pizza restaurant in Berlin’s Goltz Kiez, an endless flow of children, neighbors, staff, and guests stopped by to talk to the baker, always having his full attention. When we were at his Sironi il Pane di Milano bakery, at Kreuzberg’s Markthalle Neun, he grabbed the pepper grinder from one of the stalls next to him, exchanging it for a piece of pizza and a quick chat with the chef. He nibbles bites of warm salsiccia from a tray while passing by and allows himself a couple minutes to indulge in the pizza bianca that we just baked together, but he won’t sit still. Only quick moments of pleasure, before the man moves on to the next venture.

Alfredo says he’s a better cook than eater. He blames his childhood. When you basically grow up right in a family restaurant you’re always on the run, always looking out for problems that need to be solved and people who need to be taken care of. You have a quick nibble in between chats but you barely sit down to eat. It runs through his family, he says.

“Everything we describe as tradition is fake. There weren’t potatoes in Germany, there weren’t tomatoes in Italy. Noodles, pasta come from China. It’s a cultural process, every day rewritten over and over again. – Alfredo Sironi

Growing up on a farm in Lombardy – between Milan and Como, close to northern Italy’s buzzing industrial center yet at the same time, you’re surrounded by lush green fields, paddocks, and horses – his life was about his parent’s restaurant, his family and friends, and the restaurant’s regular guests. Women always played an important role in his world. Although his father started the business, and he’s also the most passionate cook in the family, it was Alfredo’s mother who kept the motor running smoothly. Due to the region’s economic success, the women in northern Italy already ran thriving businesses in the 50s. The cliché of the mother, cooking and staying at home in the kitchen, wasn’t Alfredo’s reality.

The Sironi family comes from Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna so the family’s home cooking mirrors the best of what the four regions bring to the table. Bread and pasta is a staple, always homemade and part of every day’s lunch and dinner. Everyone knows how to make it, it’s in their blood. And exactly this would become one of Alfredo’s greatest assets.

“You can’t prepare yourself for your failure but you have to be prepared for your success. When you start a business, you only focus on avoiding that it crashes. You hope that customers will come, that you can pay your bills, and that it will all work out. But in reality, everything can be totally different, that you are successful. And then the bakery was too small, I hadn’t considered this option in the beginning.” – Alfredo Sironi

Until Alfredo moved to Berlin at the age of thirty, he never questioned his cosmos circling around the food and the people that were simply there all his life. It could have been so easy for him to just stay there, to take over the family business at one point, to live this beautiful life in this beautiful place with all the people he loves – but he was hungry for something else. So when Alfredo came up north to move to Germany’s capital, he used his memories of the people and the food in Italy, the memories of his daily life, to found his own bakery. Although he studied history in Milan and already saw himself following an academic career, things changed.

In 2010, Berlin’s food scene was buzzing and hungry for the new. Carbs are Alfredo’s passion. Every day, bread was freshly baked and pasta freshly rolled at his family’s restaurant and he helped out whenever a hand was needed. For him, good bread isn’t science, it’s knowledge and experience. He knew Berlin didn’t have anything like the Milan-style bread he grew up with and felt the city would love it yet he was also aware of the risks.

In the end, there was nothing to worry about. It only took a few months for the Berliners to fall in love with the baker and his goods. Right from the start, you could always find Signor Sironi on the annual Berlin’s Best Bread lists. His sourdough loaves are praised, his sheet-pan pizza is the reason for ongoing pilgrimages of the carb loving crowds to his bakery in Kreuzberg and to his new pizzeria where the pizza is round. Alfredo Sironi knows his dough, maybe it’s as simple as that.

Alfredo shared the recipe for his Pizza Bianca with Cima di Rapa and Salsiccia with me. It’s a recipe that I love so much that when I first ate it a few years ago, I came up with my own take on it for the blog. It proves that reducing the toppings for pizza often leads to the best results.

The podcast episode with Alfredo Sironi is in German. You can listen to the Meet in My Kitchen podcast on all common podcast platforms (click here for the links); there are English and German episodes. You can find all the blog posts about these podcast episodes including my guests’ recipes here on the blog under Meet in Your Kitchen.

Listen to the podcast episode with Alfredo on:

Spotify / Apple / Deezer / Google / Amazon / Podimo

On Instagram you can follow the podcast @meetinmykitchenpodcast!

Pizza Bianca with Cima di Rapa and Salsiccia

by Alfredo Sironi

Makes 2 to 3 pizza sheets (using 30 x 40cm / 12 x 16“ baking sheets; if you make 3 sheets the pizza base will be thinner and crunchier, 2 sheets will lead to a thicker, softer base)

For the dough

  • 700ml / 3 cups water, lukewarm, plus more as needed
  • 10g / 1/3 ounce fresh yeast, crumbled
  • 1kg / 7 2/3 cups high gluten wheat flour (German flour type 1050)
  • 20g / 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (or rice syrup, or molasses)
  • 20g / 4 teaspoons fine sea salt

For the topping

  • 4 – 6 salsiccie (or any other coarse sausage), skin removed, sausage torn into bite size pieces
  • 800g – 1.2kg / 1 3/4 pounds – 2 2/3 pounds cime di rapa, blanched or sautéed (you can also use drained jarred cime di rapa or replace it with broccoli)
  • 500 – 750g / 1 – 1 2/3 pounds drained mozzarella, cut into french fries-shapes
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the hook attachment, whisk together the water and yeast and let it sit for a minute. Add the flour, syrup, and salt and knead well for about 5 minutes or until smooth; add more water if the dough is too firm. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit for 10 minutes (the ideal ambient temperature is 26-30°C / 80-86°F; you can use the oven or place the bowl on a heater).

After 10 minutes, leaving the dough in the bowl, grab the dough from underneath and fold it on top of itself then turn the bowl by 90° and repeat folding and turning the bowl for 4-5 times. Let the dough sit for 15 minutes then repeat the same procedure once again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or put it in a rubbish bag and close it; you can also use a container with a tight fitting lid. Keep the dough in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, divide the dough in 2 or 3 portions, roll out each portion so that it’s roughly the size of your baking sheet then oil 2-3 baking sheets and arrange the prepared dough on top and cover with kitchen towels. In a warm place, let the dough rise until it roughly doubles in size; depending on the ambient temperature, this will take 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature setting (at least 250°C / 480°F).

Divide the salsiccia, cime di rapa, and mozzarella among the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10-13 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some pepper, and enjoy immediately!