Friday, September 22, 2006

A Simple Surprise – Sugar High Friday 23 ‘Surprise’ Edition

Surprises are not what they used to be.

In the old, old, old days, before times of embarrassing plenty and instant gratification of almost every whim, a surprise was a rare thing. It didn’t have to be something especially expensive. Because special things were so rare. They were precious simply because of how seldom appeared.

Of course, the old, old, old days had other problems, like black plague, and burnings at stake, and all manner of rapes, pillages and mayhem much worse in many regards than today’s issues (some frighteningly just the same today), so I am not wishing the past upon us.

Just setting some perspective.

When I first heard of this treat, I really couldn’t put myself in the frame of mind to see what the big deal was. There is a ‘surprise’ involved, but hardly seemed like one to make you turn off your iPod and log off the internet for. And if I wouldn’t do that, it certainly wouldn’t be worth it to fire up the Hummer, let alone the horse cart, to drive down to the local café to try one of these. Just google the cafe and get a picture of it, post it and done. We're so jaded.

But, age brings perspective. If not always wisdom.

Maybe it was the kids, exploring the world for the first time when they were young, things I no longer noticed occasions for exuberant excitement and surprise, with most of those things ending up in their mouths. And I see how one could find joy in a simple surprise, like a plum or a fig, baked deep into a pastry. Gently tearing open the sweet, still steaming dough to get to the juicy baked surprise in the center. Eating it all with some sweet, syrupy juices and fresh fruit. Maybe prepared for a special occasion. A holiday, or a birth.

So, with this acquired advantage of perspective, I immediately thought if this Bavarian treat for the ‘Surprise’ edition of Sugar High Friday. Sponsored this month by Alanna of A Veggie Venture .

A ‘Zwetchgennudel’ is basically a 'Rohrnudel', which is a sweet yeast dough, baked somewhat like a puffy roll, but in the center is stuffed (usually) a plum. Often with a cube of sugar inside the plum where the pit would have been. The plum, baked inside the dough, turns to a soft, sweet, mushy delight. Making a sort of instant topping for the pastry once it is torn open.

Well, the type of plums traditionally used in this, called Zwetchgen, are available here, but they are huge. Way too big to try to stuff into a roll like this.

So I went local, and used California figs. Making ‘Feigennudeln’, if you will. I have to admit I am not sure how to translate ‘Rohrnudel’ and ‘Feigennudel’ exactly. So I’m going with Bavarian baked pastry and Bavarian Fig pastry. I’m open to better translations. Maybe they are a sort of baked dumpling? Bavarian baked dumplings? Sounds better, but I digress …

Also, I didn’t want to use sugar cubes, as oddly enough no one here would eat them, so I went with honey. The trick being how to get the honey into the center of the figs, and the filled figs into the dough and baked. I froze the honey, and cut it into little cubes. I could then, if I was fast, get a cube of frozen honey into a cut open fig, and wrap the whole thing in the dough, pinching it shut, before the honey softened.

Lastly I made it with whole wheat flour. Just for TeenGirl. By the way, all the pictures today are again by TeenGirl (she's gettin' pretty good at this!).

So, a Munich specialty, updated. With figs, honey and whole wheat flour.

To go with this, people usually serve a sort of fruit compote.

I decided to go with the fig theme here too, and made a Fig and Pomegranate compote in Pomegranate syrup. Fresh pomegranates, squeezed, the juice boiled down with some agava nectar into a thick syrup. Delicious. I cooked the fig quarters in this for a few minutes, then tossed them with some remaining pomegranate seeds.

My surprise was that it actually came out halfway edible!

Eveyone else was completely surprised, expecting a plum, which is good but not such a surprise. And getting a wonderfully roasted fig. Which was a total surprise!

Bayerische Feigennudeln mit Feigen und Granatapfel Kompott
Bavarian Fig Pastries with Fig and Pomegranate Compote

Recipe translated and adapted from Bayerisches Kochbuch, 53rd Edition, by surfindaave

400 grams whole wheat flour
100 grams white flour
1 package dry yeast
¼ liter warm milk
2-3 tbsp agava nectar (or sugar)
pinch of salt
zest from one lemon
80 grams softened butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
Butter for greasing pan and buttering the 'nudeln'
8 fresh figs (not too large), tips trimmed, sliced about ¾ of the way through
8 tsp honey
Fig and pomegranate compote (recipe follows)

Place honey in a small dish in the freezer.

Mix the warmed milk and the agava nectar (or sugar).

In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Make a mound of the flour, with a depression in the center. Add the yeast to the depression, along with a few tbsps of the warm sweetened milk. Sprinkle with flour. Cover the bowl with a towel, and let rise until the yeast ball is doubled or more in size.

Add the softened butter, egg, lemon zest and most of the remaining milk to the bowl. Begin mixing the yeast ball into the flour (I use my hands for the whole procedure, but you can also use a wooden spoon). Mix the ingredients until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, and all the flour is incorporated.

On a lightly floured board, knead the dough vigorously, adding as little additional flour as possible, for a good 15 to 20 minutes.

Place the kneaded dough in a lightly buttered bowl, and cover with a towel. I let my dough rise at room temperature to get a finer pore structure, but you can also put it in a barely warm oven. At room temperature, it takes about 3-4 hours to rise the first time. I punch it down lightly after about 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Without adding any additional flour, divide the dough into eight fairly equal pieces. Form each onto a ball.

Butter a 10 inch baking form thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 360ºF (180 to 190ºC).

Remove the honey from the freezer. One at a time, stretch each ball large enough to completely wrap one fig. Place the stretched dough on a board, place one split fig on top, and quickly spoon a tsp of frozen honey into the center of the fig. Close the fig around the honey. Wrap the dough completely around the fig, pinching the seams tightly and completely, and reform into a ball shape. Place each wrapped ‘nudel’ ball into the buttered baking form. Leave some space between each ball.

Repeat the procedure for the remaining balls of dough. Drizzle all the balls with a little additional melted butter, and roll them to cover completely.

Let the ‘nudels’ rise, covered, until puffed and doubled in size, about an hour at room temperature.

Bake the ‘nudels’ for about 30 to 40 minutes, until golden. Its hard to tell when the center doughs are completely cooked through, so I usually bake a bit longer to be on the safe side.

Remove the ‘nudels’ from the oven, and invert them onto a plate. Let them cool, then separate them into individual ‘nudels’.

Serve along with the fig and pomegranate compote. Eat by pulling them apart at the center to release the 'surprise', and mopping up the pomegranate syrup with the ‘nudel’. Enjoy!

Fig and Pomegranate Compote
Recipe by surfindaave

1 pint small black figs, tips trimmed, cut into quarters
2 pomegranates
1/3 cup agava nectar (or sugar)
juice of 1 lemon

Cut the pomegranates in half. Using a hand juicer, squeeze the juice out of 3 quarters of the pomegranates, reserving the last quarter piece. Carefully remove the seeds from the last quarter and reserve for later.

Compine the pomegranate juice, the agave nectar (or sugar) and the lemon juice in a small heavy pan. Bring to a boil, and reduce by about ½. Remove from heat.

Carefully add the figs to the syrup. Cook the figs over medium heat for a few minutes, until the soften, but have not fallen apart. Remove the figs from the syrup.

Boil the syrup until it thickens somewhat. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool.

In a bowl, combine the figs, pomegranate syrup, and the reserved pomegranate seeds.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Alanna said...

What a creative family venture! Tell TeenGirl she AND Dad are both welcome at Sugar High Friday, this month and always! PS Look for the round-up later today ...

8:26 AM  
Blogger Brilynn said...

A fig would be a great surprise, I like it!

3:05 PM  

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