Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recipe: Wine-Fruit Brownie Sauce

Wine-Fruit sauce for Brownies

Adapted from: Rebekah in Germany

Note: This recipe is a work in progress

I invited my former Volkshochschule classmates to the house for dinner on Saturday night. The family was out for the weekend; I had the entire place to myself. Only Ingrid, a classmate from Columbia, replied. She brought her husband and son along.

We started out with a beef stew made with a ¾ to ¼ red wine to water base. As a side I’d roasted Kohlrabi. However, in trying to keep them warm I managed to burn most of them to a crisp. Note to self: don’t leave Kohlrabi in the oven while baking anything else. Also, I learned NOT to use sea salt on roasted kohlrabi. The sea salt adds too much saltiness in too little space. Ingrid’s husband seemed to like them though; we had an entire conversation revolving around Kohlrabi. It’s a cousin of the turnip. I’ll write its recipe later.

I also picked up .40 Euro cents garlic bread baguettes. Quite delicious by themselves and go great with the beef stew.

After the stew we moved on to a “Bavarian Apple Torte,” which did not turn out as planned, and brownies coupled with the subject of this recipe: a syrupy wine-fruit sauce. As I wrote, brownies. Gotta love ‘em.

The definition of a perfect brownie changes from person to person. To me, perfect is on the just-cooked, fudgy side; the cake side is reserved for cake. However, this recipe is not for brownies. It’s for a sour, sucker-slapping syrupy fruit-wine sauce that goes with, on or next to a brownie.

The wine to use changes with the fruit. Peaches and nectarines go well with a white wine, possibly with a splash of red. Strawberries and raspberries go better with a red wine, possibly with a splash of white. But, ultimately, the cook should make the decision on wine-and-fruit paring. I’m no wine authority. It doesn’t hurt to remember that red wine usually goes great with chocolate. However, a glass accompanying dessert is probably better than putting peaches in a red wine sauce.

Wine, wine, wine. Wine is a beautiful thing. And wine is an inexpensive thing here in Germany. I find myself using it all the time when I cook now. The not-very-good tasting wines are downright cheap. They’re close to the price of organic milk, if not cheaper in some cases.

I used terrible-for-drinking (and downright cheap) boxed wine for the sauce. Not space-bag boxed wine but honest-to-god, wine in a box. Much like milk comes in a 1-liter container, so does crappy wine. It cost under a euro. 9.5% alcohol content.

The sugary taste of the sauce gets both chopped down and spiked with the lime. I’m very much a chocolate and fruit person, so this recipe is love to me. The sour, with the wine, really brings a new taste to the brownie.

My personal favorite matching is raspberries with anything chocolate. When I made this with nectarines and juice of about ½ a lemon it contrasted beautifully with the sweetness of the brownie. Ingrid’s husband and I were in love with the combination. Ingrid and her son didn’t like the sauce because of the sour. I loved the sour. The recipe and pairing are, alas, not for everyone.

The recipe calls for boiling or cooking/reducing the wine to about half of where it was. One can reduce it more, or less. The alcohol taste was gone from the sauce when I called it quits on reducing.

I’ve yet to work on presentation. You’re on your own for that.

This recipe/concept came (to me) from a fellow expat who’s living on an Army base here. In a previous life she cooked professionally. We’re in good hands.


2 cups chopped fruit, separated into 1 cup each

2 cups red, white or rose wine

1-2 tablespoons white granulated sugar, to taste

Juice from ½ a lime or lemon


In either a deep sauce pan or a small pot add 2 cups of chosen wine. Bring to a boil, mix in the desired amount of sugar until its dissolved and half the fruit. Boil or cook/reduce the sauce until it’s about half the amount it was before boiling. The previously strong (warm/hot) alcohol taste should be gone. Add the rest of the fruit and serve with the brownies or other dessert.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Profound questions about God -- or, puberty

Thursday night, dinner. We were talking about Ferdinand's confirmation classes. And Ferdinand professed that he doesn't believe in God. He then asked me if I do. I answered no, I'm an atheist. Then the conversation devolved into Ferdinand denouncing a God who can allow bad things to happen in the world.
"I ran into the wall today trying to get the ball. God didn't stop me from running into the wall and it really hurt," he said. (I'm both cleaning up his English, because I forgot his exact diction.)
He then went on about how "everyone" says God is with them, or everywhere, or always helps, or some such, but God never helps him. (Never mind how self centered the view is.) Also, he says, God never helps anyone. How could God (as opposed to a god, I think. Although I don't think he understands enough to make that difference)allow all the suffering in the world if God is in fact God. And his pencil broke (as far as I understood.) And a god that exists wouldn't allow his pencil to break.
Near the end his voice started to crack, to lose it. Then he started to lose it. Then he started to cry and complain about God, and complain about having to go to Confirmation class, and about this and that and everything. Because he didn't get a choice to go to Confirmation classes. Because it's so stressful to go to Confirmation and then have to go to soccer straight after.
Yes, his mom said. I made the choice for you.
Yes, your life's so hard, Anja said. There's so many other children out there whose lives are so many times more stressful all the time.

He's still crying.

He then brings up that I don't believe in God. Which means nothing in the context.

He professed again to not believe in God. He said he was full, was going to bed. Slammed the bathroom door. Crying in the bathroom. Slammed the bedroom door. Crying in the bedroom.

He muttered to himself about how unfair life and God are.(audible to us through the closed door. The his door opens into the upper-middle cavity of the room in which the dining room currently is. Half is entry way area, half is the dining room table and the rug it sits on.)

"Ferdinand, you haven't said good night to Wheeler"
"Yes I did!"
"No, you didn't"
He opened the door, looked at me and said "Good night Wheeler."
I said good night and he closed the door with the force of a child gripped by emotion. Or hormones. Or emotions caused by hormones.
"You didn't say goodnight to me."
"Good night Mama!"

He's only 12 yet exhibiting symptoms of puberty in the context of an existential crisis.
I've always thought existential crisis come later on in life. Not for him. However, I think it's merely a shallow existential crisis. Possibly caused by something going on at school. Involving the pencils, or possibly the pens. I'm not sure.

For dinner:

I stuffed a pork roast with dried fruits, apricots and prunes and the likes with a side of pears in wine and butter sauce and some wine gravy. The pork was mediocre at best. I think I overcooked it and put too much pepper in the rub. And, should have punctured the muscles to get more seasoning in the meat, not just on the outside.

I do like how the pork looked, however. To me, it is a yin and yang of apricots, possibly some other yellow dried fruit, and prunes. An omen of the dinner conversation? Maybe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

I could make excuses or give reasons for not having written about vacation yet, but I won't. Instead, I'm going to share a recipe for Irish Soda Bread that I made last week. Before I give the recipe or subsequent notes on it, I'll rap about it because I personally love recipes with a story behind them -- a recipe with no notes, no story, no nothin' is not only less appealing to me but also dry. I should say, the whole reason I made the soda bread was a beef stew which I'll hopefully make soon again, takes pictures of and write up. A glut from two grills the last two nights engendered the beef stew, which spawned the soda bread.

I think sourdough bread goes better with beef stew, or lamb stew, or pork stew rather than soda bread, but this may just be nostalgia speaking. The soda bread goes well with the beef stew, is semi-authentic and as a plus the bread is great – it merits repeating – with a little butter and good honey.
I picked up the recipe from (credit to “MP Welty”) and changed it for my tastes. My tastes at the moment are for whole wheat goodness wherever and whenever possible. So far this has been an apple crisp, the soda bread and pancakes.
Below the recipe will be given in both metric and imperial, but small measurements will be given exclusively in imperial. I personally use metric because I'm in Germany and actually I found measuring by grams to be a bit easier than the normal packing and sifting ways. However, I've found with American recipes, this difference can be a bit of a problem.

I made the soda bread with 50 percent normal flour and 50 percent whole wheat. Next time I’ll try all whole wheat. The original recipe calls for only normal flour.

I added a little bit of extra sugar to my batch – gave the bread a slightly sweeter taste (Ferdinand [my au pair child] told me it tasted like cake, which I don’t agree with at all) that made it incredible with a spread of butter and honey.

Irish Soda Bread belongs to the chemically-leavened bread group. Instead of yeast, soda bread uses baking powder and baking soda.
The dough has a liquid baste that should be applied to the top of the bread as the baker sees fit. I found it problematic to add the baste more than once or twice because of the lost heat of the oven. However, I think the basting helped develop the crust of the bread.

The original recipe calls for a cook time of 45-50 minutes at 375° F/190° C. When the bread is formed into a big ball, the middle stays a little doughy while the crust begins to get a bit too cooked. I suggest decreasing the temperature and cooking the bread for longer. It’s done when a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out clean.

Annotated ingredients (metric):


250 grams all purpose flour (<-- I used a 50/50 mix. Haven't tried all whole wheat or all all-purpose) 250 grams whole wheat flour OR 500 grams whole wheat flour OR 500 grams all purpose flour 50 g white sugar (I used a little more than 50 grams [probably 60-65] -- gave it a sweeter flavor that went incredible with a little butter and honey as spreads)
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
115 g softened butter or margarine
235 ml buttermilk
1 egg

55 g butter, melted
60 ml buttermilk

Ingredients imperial:


4 cups flour

4 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup margarine/butter, softened

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg


1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup buttermilk

Ingredients metric:


500 g flour

50 g white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

115 g margarine/butter, softened

235 ml buttermilk

1 egg


55 g butter, melted

60 ml buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to a few degrees below 375° F/190° C

2. Mix together all the dry ingredients. Mix in the butter/margarine. Once the butter is mixed in, add the egg and buttermilk and mix well until a dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and knead dough briefly.

3. Form kneaded dough into a ball and put on a baking sheet prepared with baking paper. Mark an X on the top of the bread ball lightly with a knife or other sharp instrument.

4. Put part of the dough-baste on the dough ball and put in the oven.

5. Baste the dough 2-3 times over the course of the 50-60 minute cooking period. 50-60 minutes at a lower temperature, 45-50 minutes at a higher (375° F/190° C.)