Gutes Essen und Gastfreundschaft

 Six months ago, Hubby Bryan and I were in Germany, taking in the sights, sampling beers, eating pretzels, renewing old relationships and making a few new friends along the way.

A few nights ago, we tried to re-create some of that German Gemütlichkeit — a cheerful mood, peace of mind, with connotation of belonging and social acceptance, coziness and leisure — during a late-season Oktoberfest party at our house.  Bryan and I cooked up a somewhat Americanized German feast —bratwurst, cooked red cabbage and meatballs, all similar to what we had enjoyed during our time in Munich and Crailsheim, but with mac & cheese in place of the spätzle noodles. Bryan also brewed up a special keg of beer for the occasion. Our guests were encouraged to contribute to the buffet, and a few truly got into the spirit of the occasion with some Bavarian fare.

Always game for a culinary challenge, Myra Palmer brought both an appetizer and a dessert to the table, both stunning to look at and delicious to eat.

Reuben Crescent Bake

Unroll 1 tube of crescent dough into one long rectangle. Press onto the bottom of a greased 13- by 9- inch baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Layer with ½ pound sliced Swiss cheese and 1 pound sliced deli corned beef. Rinse and drain one 14-ounce can sauerkraut. Combine sauerkraut with 2/3 cup Thousand Island salad dressing; spread over beef. Top with another ½ pound Swiss cheese slices.

On a lightly floured surface, press or roll a second tube of crescent dough into a 13- by 9-inch rectangle. Place over cheese. Brush with 1 egg white, slightly beaten; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon caraway seeds.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes or until heated through and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

Black Forest Chocolate Cheesecake

In a bowl, combine 1¼ cups graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup baking cocoa, ¼ cup sugar and ½ cup melted butter. Press into the bottom or a 9-inch springform pan.

Combine 16 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 cup sour cream and 1¼ cups sugar in mixer bowl; beat until smooth.  Add ½ cup cocoa, 3 eggs and 1½ teaspoons almond extract; beat just until blended.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until center is almost set.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.  Loosen from side of pan; remove side.  Chill, covered, until serving time.

Beat 1 cup whipping cream, ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar and ½ teaspoon almond extract in mixer bowl.  Pipe around edge of cheesecake; spoon chilled cherry pie filling into center.  Makes 12 servings.

The dessert table was a popular place on Saturday evening, with several decadent offerings making it a difficult choice. Roxanne Hayenga Johnson successfully experimented with these Gingerbread Cupcakes, a good option with the holiday season on the horizon.

“This is a great recipe if you have some younger helpers —ingredients are pretty straight forward as are the measurements,” said Roxanne. “Owen, my 8-year-old was pretty excited to help through the whole process, and as a reward he got to lick the spatulas and the bowls clean.

“The recipe makes 18,” Roxanne added. “When I bake cupcakes, I use a ¼-cup measuring cup to measure out the batter  —your cupcakes are the right size, and they all turn out about the same.”

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with baking cups.

Using whisk attachment, combine ½ cup vegetable oil, ½ cup sugar and ½ cup molasses; then add 1 beaten egg until well mixed.

In a medium bowl whisk 1½ cups flour, ½ tablespoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Whisk into molasses mixture until well combined.

Boil ½ cup water and remove from heat. Add baking ½ tablespoon baking soda and whisk into batter.

Fill baking cups 2/3 full and bake for 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Set aside to cool.

Top with Brown Sugar Butter Cream. Garnish with gingerbread man cookie.

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream

 In a large mixing bowl, whisk ½ cup softened butter and ¼ cup vegetable shortening until fluffy. Add 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar, pinch of salt, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

Continue mixing until well blended. Gradually add 3 cups powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, until you have a very thick gooey mixture.

On the highest speed of your mixer, stream in ¼ cup heavy whipping cream, pouring slowly until desired consistency. (You may need more or less cream depending on temperature and humidity).

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