Coming from Austrian Germanic roots, the Black Forest was always on my bucket list. When better to go that just before Christmas! At that time, one of my restaurant chefs who was German, still had family in Europe, so I went over to meet them near Berlin. From there Gudi and I travelled near and far…we saw every castle or “schloss” around, went to Heidelburg, as well as other towns with famous castles, and any number of charming mountain towns reminiscent of Hallmark Christmas cards with their well kept stores, jolly storekeepers, frosty firs and town squares…..and gourmet shops.
Can you say Wurst? The sausages were amazing and varied. Oh and the cheese…. stinky “hand cheese” for breakfast, Allgauer Berkkase, which is similar to the better known Emmentaler, Edelpilz, a bleu to remember, Hirtenkase, or Herder’s cheese, an aged Alpen cow’s milk cheese and the infamous Limburger. You’ve got to love a culture that enjoys cold cuts for breakfast with a good, smelly cheese! Chase that with schnitzel, chocolate and a beer and you have my diet while in Germany.
Back to that chocolate, we often received real European chocolates for Christmas along with other gifts from Austrian great Aunties. Gifts we couldn’t fathom at the age of seven…like Lederhosen and real artisan puppets, like Marionettes. How I wish we still had those beautiful Marionettes. We, as a family, had a formidable beer stein collection as well as Meersham pipes passed down from Grandpop Marad. And Grandmother that cooked sour cherry pies, Sauerbraten and pork with Sauerkraut, not to mention the best Christmas cookies around!
But I digress I wanted to get to the Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. I was after a cockoo clock as my souvenir of choice…something I couldn’t eat in a weak moment. Here’s an image of the one I picked out. It’s in my office now at Laura Cabot Catering. It will always remind my of the pristine mountain air, winding roads, and snow frosted forests, yes, deep and dark, that defined the Black Forest so beautifully.
And for those of you thinking about Holiday baking, consider these Pfeffernusse (the name means pepper nuts) Cookies one of my Grandmom Marad’s seasonal specialties. These cookies are so beloved in Germany there is a national Pfeffernusse Day! My recommendation is to buy your spices fresh for these cookies, it makes all the difference!
1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, I use light brown
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon soda, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and crushed anise seed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, allspice and cardamom
A dash of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Cream butter, sugar and molasses in bowl or mixer until fluffy. Add the egg, beat to combine.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until combined.
Cover and chill this dough in the fridge for at least one hour
‘Preheat oven to350 degrees. Scoop out a small amount and roll it into a ball. Place on parchment and bake until firm.
Let cool before rolling in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.
This recipe doubles and keeps well, good for gift giving for a real European experience!