Tag: salted caramel

meet in your kitchen | London: Clair Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Walking down one of east London’s quiet roads lined with cute brick houses on a Sunday morning was more than pleasing, but knowing that I would enter the private kitchen of one of the most acclaimed baking goddesses of the hour piqued my excitement. I flew to London to meet Claire Ptak from California who followed the love of her life to live in Hackney and start a baking business ten years ago. She learned her profession in Berkeley, at Alice Waters’ legendary Chez Panisse, before she left California for Europe and opened a sweet stall at Broadway Market in London. Her baked goods were well received from the start, the long lines leading to her mobile shop got longer and longer every Saturday. Claire had to turn her cozy London kitchen into a busy bakery to keep up with the production, two days of hard work from the early morning until late at night before the weekly market day was her weekend routine for years. The huge demand for her utterly delicious cookies, cupcakes, pies and cakes called for a change and Violet Bakery was born. She opened a cafe in 2010 on the same street where she lives with her husband, and today it seems like this is the place that everybody is talking about when it comes to the best sweets – not only in London.

Claire works with only the best ingredients, often organic, and she respects the seasons. Something she learned as a child through her parents. Growing up in a village, an hour outside San Francisco, she picked fruit from the trees and bushes in their garden when they were ripe and foraged for mushrooms and wild berries when they were in season. Her mother used to bake so many pies with her that little Claire mastered the perfect crust and fruit fillings at a young age.

Claire has a confidence, intuition and calmness in the kitchen that impressed me as soon as she took out the baking sheets for her amazing pecan shortbread and salted caramel sandwich cookies – Alfajores, the most addictive sandwich cookies ever. She works instinctively and uses her years of experience and, as a creative mind, she takes it onto the next level. It’s not a surprise that she has already written several cookbooks, as well as her own column for The Guardian and works as a food stylist for established authors, such as Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi. And she has one of the best cookbook collections I’ve seen in a long time!

Here’s the link to Claire’s fantastic new book – a baking bible – the Violet Bakery Cookbook!

Caramel Sandwich Cookies


Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Claire Ptak’s Alfajores – Pecan shortbread and salted caramel sandwich cookies

Makes about 12 sandwich cookies.

For the cookies

unsalted butter, softened, 250g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
icing sugar 100g / 1 cup
salt 1/8 teaspoon
plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
rum 1 tablespoon
pecans, finely chopped, 70g / 2 1/2 ounces
Icing sugar for dredging

For the caramel filling

double cream 150g / 5 1/4 ounces
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
water 4 tablespoons
caster sugar 250g / 1 1/4 cups
golden syrup 2 tablespoons
lemon juice 1 teaspoon
fleur du sel 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 65g / 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon

Cream together the butter, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the flour and mix just to combine. Add the rum and pecans and just until it all comes together.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C convection setting) / 350°F (325°F convection setting). Line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll your cookie dough out to about 3mm / 1/8″ thickness. Use a 60-70mm / 2 1/2-3″ round cutter (or a drinking glass will work too) and cut as many rounds as you can. You can re-roll to get a total about 12 sandwiches (24 individual rounds).

Bake until it just starts to colour. They should move out of their spot when nudged.

Sift over them with icing sugar whilst still warm and let them cool completely. Meanwhile, make the caramel.

In a heavy saucepan, measure the cream and vanilla. In another large saucepan put your water, sugar and golden syrup. Have the other ingredients measured out and ready to go. Begin by heating the cream. Keep an eye on this as it can scorch quite easily. Meanwhile start heating the water, sugar and golden syrup, all the while keeping an eye on the cream. As soon as the cream starts to bubble, turn it off. Do not stir the sugar pot, but you can swirl it if need be. Once it starts to colour, give it a few swirls. You want the sugar to turn golden brown and then almost black. A swisp of smoke will start to rise out and then you know it is done. Take the caramel off the heat and immediately whisk in the vanilla cream. Don’t worry about the pod at this point as it will continue to infuse flavour. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and butter until smooth. Allow the caramel to cool before using it in the cookies. Once the caramel is cool to the touch, it can be used. Caramel will also keeps well for up to two weeks in the fridge and three months in the freezer.

To assemble the sandwiches, turn 12 of the cookies upside-down and place a heaped tablespoon on caramel on top. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Sift over with a thick layer of icing sugar and devour! Will keep for two weeks in a cookie tin.

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

In 2010, you opened Violet bakery and café In Hackney, east London. What moved you to take this step?

I had been baking from home for 5 years but there was a moment when it had kind of taken over our home, so we decided to look for a location. Originally, I actually didn’t want to have a café, I just wanted to have my stall and have that kind of nice creative expression of what I like to cook and bake, and then do my styling and writing. I was very happy with that but there was something, I don’t know, the baked goods were so well received that it seemed crazy not to have a brick and mortar. I thought I could grow it a bit, get help, and hire good people, and I could still do the other stuff I wanted to do. Originally this was just going to be like a production kitchen for more markets but then the whole neighborhood was knocking on the door while we were fixing it up saying “this is so great, you’re opening here!”, so we thought “let’s do that”, it kind of came organically.

How did working as a pastry chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley influence your creative work as a baker?

I was really inspired by how much they place value in the ingredients and the quality of the ingredients. That is kind of everything about what she does, it’s really about eating things at the perfect moment and that could be like a day difference. So we were going to have something on the menu and we’d think “no, actually, those pears need another day to ripen”, so we’d change the menu and do it tomorrow. And that kind of detail is so incredible when you’re working in a restaurant because, so much of the time, in restaurants, it’s just like “that’s what we’re doing, make it work, turn it out!”. And there it was “we’ll make something else and it has to be exquisite”. Every single day everything changed. You’d have a guideline of what you’re going to do but then, if things weren’t right that day, you’d change it to make it as good as it could be. So in terms of my aesthetic, because that’s so integral to how I also cook, it’s pretty natural because I think it’s really about highlighting and emphasizing the ingredients but then making them feel professional but not mass-produced. If everything looks super homemade it’s not special enough, it’s nice to have something that’s a bit of a stretch, so you’d think “I wish I could make it look that nice at home!” – it’s about giving it a little extra lift and still being natural.

Have you always been more into baking than cooking? What fascinates you about baking?

I started baking at home, with my mum and my grandmother, when she’d visit or we’d visit them. I always had an affinity for the sweet side of things but my father is also a great cook and so I’ve always cooked as well. And now, with the bakery, it’s been 10 years as a business, I’m drawn a lot more to the savory side of the kitchen. So we’ll see, I think my next book is going to have lot more savory in it.

What fascinates most people about baking, is that you can start and finish a project in an hour. I think there’s nobody who doesn’t love the way that feels. To take an hour and just bake something is such a nice feeling of accomplishment.

What is the hardest part about running a bakery and café?

It’s managing all the staff, even though I’m so lucky, I have such a wonderful crew of people, you still have fifteen personalities, sets of emotions, and lives that you have to work within and around. I very much want to create a space where people are happy to come to work and enjoy their work. Part of having an open kitchen was about that, I don’t want to hide all my cooks in the basement. When people come in and buy the cakes the cooks just made, they get to see the reactions and appreciation. That’s so much more fulfilling as a cook. But still, it’s so challenging. Maintaining that good working environment and being a good boss is way more challenging than I ever imagined.

You studied film theory and video art at Mills College in Oakland, California. Although you didn’t choose to work in this field, how did this experience influence your food business?

Mills is a women’s college, it’s a great place to be, and I loved studying video art and film theory there. I wanted to go into film making, I wanted to be a writer and director. So the writing has always been there, although I wanted to write film rather than cookbooks. Somehow I also did a lot of cooking when I was in university, I did a lot of films with food in them, and I would focus on that in my work. But I ended up working for an LA director for a year and I decided that I’d rather not do that. It was brutal work and the kitchen seems like a walk in the park compared. I think I wasn’t passionate enough about it, I was more passionate about food.

You grew up in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now you live in London. What made you move?

I grew up an hour outside San Francisco, quite a rural village, so we were picking wild blackberries and foraging, food was really central, which was great. Then I went to live in San Francisco for university and I loved the urban life as well. I was really drawn into it and I suddenly saw this whole other life. I loved the sort of country background that I have but then I really loved being in the city. I thought “this city is a small city and I’d love to see a bigger city”. I met my husband in San Francisco who’s from the countryside in England and we both thought it would be so great to live in London. So we moved here. It’s very different but with starting my business and having a real California influence on my business, I managed to make my California life incorporate into my London life. I try to bring it all together and it worked out really well. I miss San Francisco and I visit it, and whenever I go back, I think “yes, let’s live here” but at the end of three weeks I want to go back to London. 

In the 1960s, your parents moved to a community of intellectuals and artists, how did this lifestyle influence your relationship with food?

Automatically, growing up with the seasons, having a real strong connection to nature, both cultivated and wild, because we also did foraging too, for mushrooms and berries, seafood, my brother is a great diver, you’re already close to seasonal, organic, sustainable. All the stuff that everybody talks about and that’s trendy, in real life, it’s quite different. I realize, I’m very, very lucky to have grown up with that. I encourage that philosophy coming into mainstream but I would like it to be a bit more understood.

There’s the best farmers’ market in our (home) town because there are so many farmers and the weather is such that you can grow everything all year round. Just having that is pretty inspiring to cook when you have all that kind of raw ingredients around you. We had fruit trees and wild blackberries in our backyard, so my mum and I would make a pie because we had to get rid of the apples, and then, every year, you’d be so excited when the apples were falling outside. You had a real sense for when to do it and why to do it without having to have a theory behind it.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in London?

As a small business owner, I really value my local loyal customers who come to Violet for their morning coffee, and order cakes for special occasions. We feel so lucky to be part of a wonderful local community, and some of my favourite places in London are right on my doorstep! I regularly eat at Raw Duck, and love to browse J Glinert and Momosan Shop on Wilton Way when I’m passing by. If I’m meeting a friend for a drink after work, I love to go to Pinch on Greenwood Road.

Broadway Market will always be a special spot for me, as it’s where Violet began and still has a stall every Saturday. It’s a great place to pick up flowers, bread and organic produce for the bakery. I also love Chatsworth Market, which is where the wonderful London Borough of Jam – who suppliers our jam at Violet – is based. Spa Terminus is another seasoned favourite for beautiful ingredients from likeminded suppliers.

And for occasions, I always choose The River Cafe. The food is so special, it’s totally worth travelling across town for. When I’m in meetings in central London, I’ll often stop at Bao Bar, which is definitely one of the shining additions to west-central eating of 2015.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

Richard Olney because he edited all these good cookbooks (the Time-Life book series), I would love to have met him. He was a great influence on Alice Waters and they were great friends, he was an American living in France. Olney cooked everything in a fire pit in the garden, anything that he would make, if it’s a little piece of lamb and some beans, that’s what I want. Or a salad, I would just love him to make me a green salad.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

My husband doesn’t eat meat but he eats fish, so I love to just throw a fish over some potatoes, with some herbs, bake that, and make a salad.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

As a kid, pie, I was obsessed with fruit pies. As we had a lot of fruit growing, we’d make pies all the time. I got really into getting the pastry right and getting the fruit right. I’m really loving English fruit cake at the moment, I think it’s because of the season. It’s cold outside and the cake is warming. I’ve just been developing this recipe for my new column (for The Guardian) with dried figs and whiskey, it’s delish.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I love to cook with other good cooks, I can’t cook with people that don’t have the same level very well, it’s not fun. I prefer to cook with my fellow chefs, I love it.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

I like a planned meal, but it will still have a simplicity to it. I like to be organized.

Which meal would you never cook again?

I had a really hard time making fried chicken a year ago. I couldn’t get the oil hot enough. I made a mistake of having a huge pot of oil because we had so many people, rather than just quickly frying it in less oil. And it was so frustrating, it tasted amazing but it was pale.

Thank you Claire!

Caramel Sandwich Cookies


Caramel Sandwich Cookies


Caramel Sandwich Cookies


Caramel Sandwich Cookies


meet in your kitchen | Laura’s Apricot, Caramel & Buffalo Ricotta Cake

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Laura is a modern city hippie, with a big heart for people and sweets. The mother of four lives in the centre of Berlin with her family and created a peaceful oasis in this vibrant city. Her kitchen faces a little veranda and if you walk down a few steps you’re right in her fruitful garden. Pots are lined up densely, filled with the most beautiful flowers and vegetables, rucola, peas, herbs and potatoes – it’s a green paradise, as calming and gorgeous as the lady of the house.

When I visited Laura’s kitchen to chat and bake together, it felt like a Bohemian farm house scene set in summery Provence. The light that falls through the small window in the thick wall is a bit dimmed and adds a Mediterranean flair to the family’s home-made kitchen. It’s a very personal room and you can feel that this is the creative space of a woman who completely falls for her passion to bake. Her oven and fridge impressed me with their huge dimensions, the walls and shelves are filled with baking tools, pans and ingredients. Laura doesn’t need to show off with overly designed furniture, its her personality, her honest kindness and charming smile that makes you want to sit at her kitchen table all day, to watch her work on her amazing cake creations and listen to her family stories.

Growing up in Germany with her parents from Chile and Bolivia this woman is gifted with a rich multicultural background and a great sense for quality. Laura calls her mother and father two hippies, early pioneers of the organic, sustainable and self-sufficient food movement. They introduced her to this now rising trend. Growing your own vegetables in the middle of the city, using old pots, jars and bags to plant the seeds for your own produce became popular all over the world.  In Laura’s yard, it’s a very unspectacular reality, if you want to know what you have on your plates it’s best to farm it in your own ground.

This fascination for food in general, but for baking with the best ingredients in particular, led to a business which is one of Berlin’s best kept sweet secrets. Laura started Tausensuend a few years ago to offer her individual and luscious cake creations which are honestly out of this world. She follows her interest in raw vegan cakes (her ‘healthy cake line’) but she also makes the most decadent layered cakes with creams, meringues, fruits and caramel, spectacularly topped with huge flowers. This is eye candy in its literal sense.

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Apricots, Salted Caramel and Buffalo Ricotta Cake with Flambéed Meringue

Set the oven to 190°C / 375°F (top / bottom heat). Grease an 18cm / 7″ cake pan (tall) and line it with baking paper. You will need a tall cake ring of the same size to assemble the cake and a candy thermometer and blowtorch for the flambéed meringue frosting.

For the sponge cake

organic eggs, separated, 6
a pinch of salt
superfine sugar 240g / 8 1/2oz
vanilla pods, scraped, 2
plain flour (wheat or white spelt), sieved, 240g / 8 1/2oz

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed for about 5 minutes until very stiff. Add the sugar and continue mixing for 5 minutes until stiff and glossy. Quickly mix in the vanilla. Whisk the egg yolks with a fork and gently fold them into the stiff egg whites. Once it’s combined, gently fold in the sieved flour. Scrape the dough into the lined cake pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes, if the top of the cake turns too dark, cover it with baking paper. When it’s done, take the cake out of the pan and let it cool completely.

For the salted caramel

heavy cream 200g / 7oz
superfine sugar 300g / 10 1/2oz
butter (at room temperature), 240g / 8 1/2oz
fine sea salt or rock salt 1 heaped teaspoon

In a sauce pan, warm the cream on low heat (don’t bring it to the boil), set the pan aside.

In a large pan, melt the sugar on high heat, watch the pan as the sugar burns quickly. Whisk once in a while and try not to let the sugar forms large lumps. As soon as the colour changes to a light amber, reduce the heat, keep stirring until all the sugar has melted. Add the butter in batches and keep stirring. Carefully pour in the warm cream at the end, mind that it bubbles up and creates steam. Stir in the salt once the caramel is well combined, pour into a jar and set aside.

For the apricot purée

very ripe apricots, pitted, 10-12
a squeeze of lemon juice
lemon zest 1 teaspoon

Purée the fruits, lemon juice and zest in a blender until smooth and set aside.

For the buffalo ricotta cream

fresh buffalo (or sheep) ricotta 250g / 9oz
heavy cream 75ml / 1/3 cup
sugar 75g / 2 1/2oz
vanilla pod, scraped, 1
a pinch of tonka bean (scraped)

Whisk the ingredients until creamy and set aside.

To assemble the cake

Cut the cake into 5 layers and lay 1 slice into the cake ring. Spread thinly with the apricot purée and sprinkle generously with salted caramel. Spread the bottom side of a new cake layer with the ricotta cream and lay on top of the cake in the ring. Continue layering the cake in the same order (cake-apricot-ricotta) until all the layers are used up, finish it off with a cake layer.

Put the assembled cake in the fridge and let it cool for at least 2 hours (overnight would be even better), the cake should soak up all the liquid of the filling.

For the meringue and decoration

For the flambeed meringue

very fresh organic egg whites 6
superfine sugar 300g / 10 1/2oz
a pinch of salt
vanilla pod, scraped, 1

For the decoration

fresh winter or bladder cherries (Physalis) 8
large edible flowers 3

Place a large metal bowl in a large pot with boiling water. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl and whisk lightly. Leave the egg whites on the heat until the mixture reaches 60°C / 140°F, check with a candy thermometer. There’s no need to whisk while heating the eggs. Take the bowl off the heat once the right temperature is reached, add a generous pinch of salt and beat with an electric mixer until thick and glossy. When it forms stiff peaks, stir in the vanilla.

Carefully take the cake out of the ring and cover it generously with the stiff egg whites. Flambé with a blowtorch until golden and decorate with fresh winter cherries and flowers.

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake


Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake

Tausendsuend is one of Berlin’s best kept secrets for the most luscious cake creations, when did you start using your fantastic baking skills professionally? What was the impulse that got your business started?

Oh thanks a lot, Meike! Working and playing around and experimenting with food, textures, colours and flavours has always been one of my greatest passions, even when I was a child. But baking, I would say, is my greatest love, and also the thing I always had the strongest connection to, due to the baking skills of my fantastic grandmother. It’s probably the mix of the smelling and tasting of the fresh ingredients and this sculptural way of putting a cake together, making the colours match, arranging the flowers, all the decorating, that interests me. A friend of mine, an artist from Los Angeles, once said, she has a strong feeling that we have the same approach to our work, and that is probably true! I worked as a cook for a couple of years, and then got asked if I wanted to take care of the sweets department in that place because I was somehow famous for my cheesecakes at that time. So I did that and it was a crazy success! Really cool! That was the point, when I started to focus on baking. I started Tausendsuend when I moved to Berlin in 2008, but it was really a long process of defining my own style and making the right connections. Also, I gave birth to 2 children within that time I must admit.

You pay a lot of attention to the quality and origin of each ingredient you use, for your healthy raw cakes as much as for your more traditional layered cream and meringue cakes. Is there a different approach in the creative process for these two kinds of cakes, how do you develop the recipes – healthy and conventional?

I personally love the raw cakes. It’s just great to develop something that satisfies this craving for sweetness and is so good and healthy and nourishing for your body and soul at the same time. I have 4 children and it is the greatest bliss to feed them a raw avocado and lime cake in the morning and make them really happy with it! This is also something that I suggest to parents of children who don’t eat any fruits or vegetables. I’m really lucky not to be one of them, I’m blessed with children who eat almost everything, from seaweed to artichokes to raw avocado lime cake.

The ‘traditional’ cakes are in fact more of a piece of art to me. Of course, I have the same high standards in everything I create, I want all my ingredients to be top quality and I’m pretty sure that these high standards are crucial to the final product. I want my cakes not only to look perfect, but most importantly to taste perfect. And of course, my children get their 5 layered, buttercream covered birthday cakes thickly coated in tons of sprinkles as well. I really don’t think there is something particularly bad about eating sugar, how could I … (laughing)

You were born in Hamburg and grew up in Germany but your father is originally from Chile and your mother from Bolivia. How do your South American and German roots influence your cooking and baking? What did you learn from these different cultures?

My grandmother, originally from Hamburg, lived in Bolivia for over 30 years. I loved her stories about shopping at the farmers markets in La Paz, the enthusiasm you could hear in the way she described the Indian women in their traditional garb. She told me a lot about the Bolivian habits, how the Indians made the Chicha, a traditional schnaps (spirit) that is made by chewing white sweetcorn and spitting it into a bucket to let it ferment. Or the kilo bags of dried Bolivian chili peppers of which she used to make the extremely spicy traditional Aji Sauce. And the Yerba mate of course, a herbal tea that you drink out of hollowed dried pumpkins with a pewter straw. This you do in Chile as well.

My father has always been the one who cooked most of the time for us as a family. He made a million empanadas for every occasion, school treats, dinners with friends and so on, one of the national dishes in Chile and Argentina, traditionally filled with beef, onions, raisins, black olives and boiled eggs, that everybody loved, and still does. My children go crazy about them. I think my favourite dish as a child was Pastel de Choclo, a casserole dish made of minced beef and mashed sweetcorn with a sugar crust, so good!! My father is an incredible cook, definitely the person I feel the strongest similarities with in the way I create food. A freestyler and always super curious about discovering new flavours and combinations. I’m very lucky that I have always been surrounded by people who had a very strong interest in food.

Your parents were early pioneers in the organic, sustainable and self-sufficient food movement that is so popular today. How did this affect your relationship with food and your definition of quality of life in general?

My mother was always the one who had the more ecological, political attitude towards how to consume and produce food. She went to shop in small organic grocery shops that were really rare at that time and she had a strong focus on whole foods. She used a lot of millet, quinoa and amaranth in her cooking, things that, at that time, were totally unknown to most people. This curiosity and trying out new and unknown things is something that influenced me extremely. In general my parents were very political and taught us to call things into question. That had a strong influence on all fields of activity in my living and working.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

I find a lot of people inspiring, for very different things. My father is still one of my biggest inspirations, because he is such an artist in juggling with flavours, but there are also a couple of books that I bought in the last years that I find very inspiring, Tartine Bakery for example makes great classic stuff! And the Canadian raw food cookbook author Emily von Euw is so great as well, what an artist!

Which are your favourite Chilean, Peruvian and German dishes?

Oh, that is so difficult to say as I love eating so much and it’s really hard for me to say what dish I like more than the other. As I’m from Hamburg, I have a strong connection to seafood and I still enjoy to go to the Fischmarkt (fish market in Hamburg) on a Sunday morning so much, to grab a sandwich overloaded with the freshest shrimps and rémoulade or some matjes (herring) with tons of fresh onion! I would say I prefer the simple, yet flavourful over the super sophisticated kitchen. My sister, who moved back to Chile after finishing school which is now almost 20 years ago, makes the most incredible ceviche which totally became my favourite Chilean dish. The Bolivians make small super spicy pasties filled with chicken called salteñas that are pretty amazing! But to be honest, there are really only very, very few things that I do not eat.

Where do you find inspiration for new creations?

Absolutely in nature. Strolling through organic farmers markets, smelling fresh fruits. I just visited a friend who moved from Berlin to the Uckermark (an area in the countryside), being in nature, in the countryside fills me with energy and inspires me a lot.

Why do you like to decorate your cakes with giant flowers which became your signature style?

I have a strong love for flowers which I most probably got from my grandmother. She used to live in the suburbs of Hamburg which almost felt like being in the countryside. There was a small farm within walking distance from where she lived and she taught me all the names of the flowers, wild berries and herbs, of all the small insects and butterflies. She also had edible flowers on her terrace and told me how to use them. My first job as a teenager was at a flower shop. If I had not focused on working with food I’d most probably be a florist today.

Do your kids join you in the kitchen? How do you introduce the younger ones to the world of food, how do you spark their interest?

Absolutely. I let my kids join me in the kitchen whenever they want. We do the shopping together, I let them select the vegetables, I let them help me with the cleaning and cutting and they always get a bit of dough when I bake. The older ones (my kids are 4, 6, 10 and 11) even start to cook on their own now with our help. To let the kids take part in the process of buying and creating food and to let them develop their own likes and dislikes and their own taste is the greatest and most successful way to raise their interest in food and eating.

What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

My very first steps in cooking were with my grandmother. She always took me to the farm, which was close to where she lived. The old farmers couple loved me and let me slip into every little corner. I was allowed to pick berries, to take the eggs out of the henhouse, they even allowed me to be present when the little yeanlings were born. My grandmother made little crocheted shopping bags for my sister and me where we put in all the treasures that we got at the farm. I must have been around 3 when my grandmother first suggested to make scrambled eggs out of my freshly collected eggs. I remember it being a mix of heartache and excitement to break the little eggs into this cute little pan that my grandmother bought for us. I still have that pan.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in Berlin

I still like the small organic farmers market at Kollwitzplatz on Thursdays right around the corner from where I live. Some say, this market became too touristy within the last years, but still, it provides a great variety of organic locally produced goods. There, I also buy the edible flowers for my cakes from two lovely old ladies who have their own flower garden in Marzahn.

Only a few hundred steps from my house I have a fantastic small delicacy store (Le Flâneur) that sells the best cheese I’ve ever tried and a small assortment of really good Champagne (yes, I love Champagne!).

Every couple months I ride my bike to the Dong Xuan Center in Lichtenberg, an Asian food market, where you can buy every single Asian ingredient you could ever dream of. I travelled through Asia for a while and this place really reminds me so much of it. It’s a bit like plunging into another small world. You also get an incredibly good pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) there.

Frischeparadies Lindenberg is a safe address for fresh, high quality and rather rare products. Even if they don’t have an ingredient in stock, you can always ask, their staff is very helpful and friendly, and they will do their best to try and get what you’ve been searching for. I recently searched for the very rare and hard to get fresh Scandinavian cloudberry, Lindenberg was the only place that could help me to get the fresh berries.

And then there is this fantastic organic butcher in Berlin Wilmersdorf (Bachhuber). That place…wow!

You shared your Apricot Salted Butter Caramel Meringue Cake on eat in my kitchen, what do you like about this combination?

Well, it was freestyle mostly. When I did the shopping the day before we met I just could not resist the floral smell of the fresh apricots. Apricots are also just such a winner with salted caramel, don’t you think? And the flambéed meringue is always my ace in the hole, when I really want to impress somebody!

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

I would love to meet the biodynamic Champagne producer David Léclapart and his daughter Sylvie Gerard Maizieres. She runs a small boutique museum dedicated to Champagne where she organizes Jazz concerts and cooking courses as well, called Pré-en-bulles.

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

I would definitely ask my dear friend Malin from The Bread Exchange for bread. Since we know each other, I bake her cakes for special occasions and she bakes her outstanding sourdough bread for my dinners in return. I would get a variety of good cheeses and butter, fresh artichokes with a light vinaigrette, make a cold or hot soup (I love soup) and a big bowl of fresh salad. And yes, of course, there would be a cake. That’s what everybody expects when being invited to my house.

What was your childhood’s culinary favourite and what is it now?

My grandmother’s caramelized apple pancakes were a total hit, unbeatable! Right now I would say everything that is produced freshly and with a whole lotta love. At the Bite Club (Berlin street food event) I recently had a pancake made of cabbage, okonomiyaki, wow! That was so good! I love spicy food, I love Asian food, I love fresh veggies, I love a good organic sausage, I love seafood … the list goes on and on! Oh and I could live off ice-cream for a very long time, my favourite parlour is Rosa Canina.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

I love to have people around me, but to be honest, I tend to be a bit bossy in the kitchen, so it’s more the question if others want to cook together with me.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Improvised, definitely!

Which meal would you never cook again?

I can not think of any, actually. Well, I’m not fighting to make empanadas, that is a shit load of work, the dough is made of boiling saltwater, screaming hot fat and flour which you have to stir together with a wooden spoon and then knead it while it’s still really hot. My father is a lot better at it anyways …

Thank you Laura!

Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake


Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake


Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake


Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake


Apricot, Salted Caramel, Ricotta Meringue Cake