Friday, 24 August 2012

A food journey down memory lane...

It was one of those days when I was stumped for something exciting and fun to cook. I wanted something to recapture the magic of baking in the kitchen, and also for it to be something I longed to eat! I'm always not he search for new recipes that I've never tried before, and even better when they are things I've never even considered making!
So on this one particular day, I had a request for a cherry tart. Jackie, a friend of mine begged me for something with cherries in it. "Its my favourite! Please! You don't understand, cherries are just my favourite thing. Please make me a cherry tart!"
Cherry tart? I wasn't sure how to go about this. I didn't want raw cherries on a blind baked pastry case. No amount of silky vanilla creme patisserie would make that the best possible cherry tart.
Then I remembered. Kirschstreusel! That was it. We have a winner.
When I was a young girl, my family and I lived in Berlin for a few years, and for some of those years, above a bakery. Naturally I would visit, once or twice (a day), work my way through the goodies. Poppy seed cakes, delicious bread rolls for 15 pfennig, but my absolute favourite was Kirschstreusel. A sour cherry cake, with a soft chewy base, more like a chewy cake, a layer of tart cherry jammy goodness, and a sweet crispy crumble-like topping. Divine.
It had never occurred to me to try and recreate this before, a new recipe was exactly what I was craving. And of course, the inevitable tasting...

Kirschstreuselkuchen, or Cherry Streusel Cake

The secret to the authentic sour yeasty taste in this cake is the sweet bread dough base. That gave the cake the authentic bakery flavour I remember from all those years ago.

Recipe: makes one 9" tart. Use a springform pan or tart tin with a removable base.

Bread dough base:
225g plain flour
15g fresh yeast, or 7g dried yeast, or 3.5g fast-action dried yeast
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 pinch salt
100ml milk
2 tbsp butter

450g pitted sour cherries (I only had sweet English cherries, which worked fine, but did mean the tart lacked its addictive tart quality that I love!)

110g butter, cold, chopped
110g caster sugar
75g plain flour


Grease your springform pan with butter and preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. 
Make the bread dough: I use a classic bread dough technique: scald the milk in a saucepan, then add the butter to the hot milk to melt the butter, and simultaneously cool the milk. Sift the flour and salt together into a medium sized bowl.
Add the sugar to the warm milk and butter mixture, then when the liquid is blood temperature (warmer than lukewarm), add 1 tbsp to the yeast to dissolve it, then add the remaining liquid and mix well.
Make a soft bread dough by adding the liquid to the flour in one go, mix well then bring to a dough in your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few minutes until you have a soft smooth ball, then allow to rise for 30-60 minutes in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile wash and pit your cherries. A serious labour of love if you don't have a cherry stoner. You can also prepare your topping: mix then sugar and flour together, then add the cold chopped butter and crumble together. This will warm up quickly and get sticky to do this as quickly as possible, and if it gets too warm, put in the freezer for a few minutes to cool down again.

When your bread dough is ready, knead it again slightly then roll it out into a circle big enough to cover the base of the tin. Press into the tin, and press up the sides of the tin slightly to create a slight edge to the tart. Cover and leave for 15 minutes for the dough to prove slightly.
When your dough has risen slightly, cover with the fresh cherries, you can press them down into the dough slightly. Then sprinkle with your crumbly topping, and its ready to hit the oven!

Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-45 minutes, until the cherries are bubbling and the topping is golden brown. The doughy base will also remain slightly chewy and undercooked, don't fret about this, it is part of the cake's charm. Just make sure that the underneath is lightly golden and crisp (you'll just have to cut into it and try it to do this, chef's perks!).

Sprinkle with caster sugar or icing sugar, and enjoy...probably with vanilla or almond ice cream. I like it best cold, but that's just because its how the bakery always served it...