Tuesday 6 December 2022

Advent 2022 - Fast Tracking #10


Today's Challenge: Fast from... using the dishwasher.

Another dishwasher-free day. It's also the Feast of St Nicholas so it was Stutenkerle for breakfast. Stutenkerle which are sometimes also referred to as 'Weckmänner' or, in Switzerland, as 'Grittibänz' are rather jolly, brioche-type buns baked in the shape of gingerbread men. For some reason, in addition to their raisin eyes and buttons, they traditionally carry a small clay pipe. You can get these oven-proof, clay pipes ('Tonpfeifen' in German) either in Germany itself or via Amazon to add to your own Stutenkerle, if you wish. 

I use my standard sweet bread dough recipe for these that contains a little sugar and some butter along with eggs and milk to mix the dough. I actually made the dough yesterday evening and let it prove and then popped it in the fridge overnight ready for shaping and baking first thing this morning. This is convenient time-wise, but more to the point, it makes the rolling out and shaping a great deal easier if the dough has had a long rest overnight and the butter has firmed up in the chill of the fridge. 

There are various ways of shaping the Stutenkerle - you can use a large gingerbread man cutter, like this one, which is what I've done, or you can go more freeform, using rectangles of dough and cutting away portions to create a person-shaped bun. Unlike cookie dough which you can cut out and the shapes bake more or less in the form you've cut them, bread dough has a mind of its own and, however it's cut, it tends to spread and swell in unpredictable ways so it's quite difficult to make them uniform in shape and demeanour - I rather like this element of unpredictability - it gives the Stutenkerle character and individuality and it makes no difference to how they taste, of course. 

It's also quite difficult to get the Stutenkerle to hold on to their Pfeifen properly! Despite having their arms tucked around them neatly and glued down with a bit of egg-wash before baking, several of them naughtily let go of the things completely and flung their hands wide in the oven! Fortunately the egg-wash has more or less kept the pipes attached despite this, although it has not prevented a few raisin-buttons bursting free from their rounded tummies! 

tea with unsweetened soya milk
apple juice
citrus fruit salad
Stutenkerle - see above

eating up leftovers - sourdough crackers, soup, fruit, yoghurt

black tea
Pfeffernuße from the batch I made a couple of days ago

a one pot meal consisting of giant pasta shells stuffed with spinach and ricotta and cooked in tomato sauce (from the freezer) in the pressure cooker. The recipe for this comes from here. I already use my pressure cooker a great deal but in the interests of cutting down the fuel I use in cooking, I thought Catherine Phipp's book might expand my under-pressure-repertoire which it certainly has done. I don't always agree with her on the timings she recommends as one of the reasons I use my pressure cooker is to make sure things like onions are very well cooked - they don't agree with me if they aren't - so I reserve the right to increase her suggested timings by a few minutes and add the correspondingly extra liquid required, if necessary, but apart from that, this book is very useful if you either want to expand your existing use of a pressure cooker (like me) or if you're a pressure cooker novice wanting to acquire a totally new set of skills, in the interest of keeping fuel costs in the kitchen down - something pressure cookers are brilliant at. 

Having said that, I don't feel that this recipe showcases the best that pressure cookers can do. It's a great idea, in principle, for a one-pot meal and the flavour was good but the pasta shells which, according to the recipe, are not pre-cooked before stuffing and cooking in the sauce were much too unpleasantly al dente for my taste. Worse, the tomato sauce which sits underneath the stuffed shells, burned horribly on the bottom - something reduced tomato sauces can do quite quickly in the pressure cooker. This didn't seem to affect the flavour of the rest of the sauce too much, mercifully, but it resulted in a thick layer of carbon welded to the base of the pressure cooker which took the concerted efforts of three of us, in turn, a good half hour of vigorous scrubbing with a pot-scourer to remove afterwards. 

The only consolation was that the dishwasher would never have lifted that black layer of carbonised sauce by itself, in a month of Sundays, so the scrubbing would have been inevitable even if it had not been a no-dishwasher day. But along with all the other washing up to do by hand, it was tedious to say the least of it. Next time I make this, I will par-boil the pasta before stuffing and then bake the stuffed shells nestled in the tomato sauce in the oven. It will take longer than the 5 minutes cooking time that this recipe boasted but I can be confident that the sauce won't burn and the washing up will require minimal effort compared to this evening's extravaganza!

baked apples stuffed with damson and hazelnut mincemeat as per yesterday - so good they had to be repeated!
E x

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