Recipe: Vanillesauce

Hallie from the Wordy Baker asked if I had a Vanillesoße recipe to go with the rote grütze recipe that I recently posted. (Sidenote: Check out Hallie’s blog! She shares some great recipes — Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream, anyone?) This sounded like a great way to enjoy some rote grütze and my Culinary Austria cookbook did indeed have a recipe for what I think is the Austrian equivalent, Vanillesauce.

1/2 liter (16 oz) milk, divided
100 grams (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
20 grams (3/4 oz) vanilla sugar*
2 egg yolks

1. Slowly bring half the milk and the granulated sugar to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, mix the rest of the milk with the vanilla sugar and egg yolks. Once the milk/granulated sugar mixture is boiling, pour in the milk/vanilla sugar mixture while whisking constantly.

3. Reduce the heat, give a short hard boil, and remove from heat to cool.

4. Season with rum to taste.

TIP: You can make a thicker, richer custard if you substitute half the milk with cream.

*Vanilla sugar is available on

Sehr gut!

Sehr gut!


How to ferment your own sauerkraut

My sauerkraut has fermented to the point where I am satisfied with the consistency and the taste is mostly acceptable (more on that later). I used the fermentation method described in the Joy of Cooking cookbook, which is also available on their website (see the instructions here). The short version is:

Remove the outer leaves, rinse, and dry 5 pounds cabbage. Quarter the cabbage, remove the cores, and thinly slice the remaining cabbage. Put the sliced cabbage in a bowl, add 3T pickling salt, stir well. Let stand for 30 minutes. Pack the cabbage into a storage container and if it has not released enough of its own water to be completely submerged, add brine (1 1/2T pickling salt per 4 C water) to cover.

Within a day or two the jar should start to bubble; this means that fermentation has begun and you’re on your way. The fermentation is complete when the bubbling stops, which the book says takes 3-6 weeks. After 7 weeks my sauerkraut was still bubbling away, so I gave it a good stir and put it in the refrigerator.  I discovered after the fact that the refrigeration doesn’t stop the fermentation, and you can put up the sauerkraut before the bubbling has stopped if it is to your taste earlier in the fermentation process.

The book did not specify to do so, but I opened the jar every day to release the built up gas pressure. The first couple times I did this I was sprayed with sauerkraut brine, which did not smell so great. The version of the instructions on the website said to cover the top of the jar so that it can still breathe (it suggested placing a light dish towel over the top and securing it with a rubber band), which would alleviate the spray issue. I am going to try that with my next batch.

My only issue with my first batch is that it was quite salty. I looked for pickling salt but could not find it, so I guessed that coarse sea salt would work. Again, I found out after the fact that this is not the case (in fact, the website specifically said not to use coarse sea salt… oops). Once I rinsed the kraut a lot of the salty taste disappeared and now I know for the next time which types of salt will work. And yes, there will be a next time because we’ve been converted to the sauerkraut cause.

For the sake of comparison, my kraut went from this:

Two weeks of fermentation

Two weeks of fermentation

to this:

Final product after 7 weeks of fermentation

Final product after 7 weeks of fermentation


Pretzel How-To

I spent yesterday morning making pretzels with my children, with fantastic results.

I need to work on my pretzel formation technique.

I need to work on my pretzel formation technique.

We used the Joy of Cooking recipe for our basic pretzels. I checked the Joy of Cooking website and the recipe is not available online, and I am not sure about the legalities of sharing recipes from a copyrighted cookbook. So, I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book to find the recipe, and also because it is a very useful book to have in general. I’ve not had a bad recipe from that book yet.

Poppyseed variation

Poppyseed variation

For the poppyseed variation I followed the Joy of Cooking recipe through the step where you roll the dough into 12″ ropes. I then melted an ounce of butter, and brushed the melted butter over both sides of the rope. I sprinkled on a cinnamon and sugar mix (1 T sugar and 1 t cinnamon) and poppyseeds, then twisted the rope. I formed the pretzels and skipped the boiling step, putting them directly into the oven for 15 minutes. The result: buttery sugary deliciousness.

What’s it all about?

My youngest child is starting Kindergarten this week and everyone keeps asking me, “what are you going to do with your new free time?” After much hemming and hawing, I came up with the most obvious solution: I’ll write an Austrian/central European cook book.

What, that’s not obvious? My family is enjoying the local food and I enjoy cooking. So far, so good. I have two English language cook books with Austrian recipes, neither of which truly reproduce the wonderful food. I also have German language cookbooks on Austrian, Slovakian, and Czech cooking that use metric measures. Converting recipes into English and American measures while I cooking isn’t practical, so I’ll just write my own cook book, dammit!

How, you ask? In three easy steps (I love my lists):

  1. Go to restaurants and when I find a food we especially like, write down the German name, make notes on its flavors, and photograph it.
  2. Search for a recipe, translate it into English, convert measurements into American standard, and cook it, tweaking the recipe until it tastes like we remember it.
  3. Publish the finished recipes here and compile them into a Shutterfly recipe album (hence the photographs).

Wanna play? When I publish a recipe, try it out. Tell me what you think of the taste and, if necessary, give me a reality check such as “we can’t buy that ingredient in the States” or “cooking time in a non-convection oven is actually (x).” You know you want to.