21 Nov 2016

Book Review: How “Classic” or “German” is Luisa Weiss’ “Classic German Baking”?

Posted by khk

I know a thing or two about baking… Actually, I know a thing or two about German baking…

I had never heard of Luisa Weiss before I read about her new baking book “Classic German Baking” from David Lebovitz, I was intrigued. I am always looking for authentic German recipes.

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I usually refer to the “Bayerisches Kochbuch” when I am looking for e.g. recipes for Christmas cookies, and online resources for bread recipes. I looked up Luisa Weiss’ online presence at The Wednesday Chef. The information posted on her blog showed me that she actually might know about German baking as well, so I ordered the book.

As I always do with a new cookbook – or in this case a baking book – is to look up a recipe I am very familiar with and then compare what the new resource suggests with my experience. Luisa’s book passed this test with flying colors. The recipes I looked at were “Versunkener Apfelkuchen” (I posted about my recipe a while ago: Apfelkuchen) and Brezeln. In addition to that, I also verified that the instructions to make Quark were correct.

Both these recipes were spot on, so I decided to test a couple of the recipes I was not familiar with.

The first recipe I tried was the “Mandelhoernchen” (or Chocolate-Dipped Almond Crescends). This recipe only has a handful of ingredients, and I was a bit surprised about it’s simplicity. However, once done, the Mandelhoernchen were absolutely delicious. There was one point during the process when I thought that the sticky mess I had one my hands (literally) would never end up looking anything like the picture in the book, but it all came together. I used commercial almond paste, but there is a recipe in the book that describes how to make almond paste from scratch.

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After looking through the remaining recipes in the book, I found one that I always wanted to try: Baumkuchen – this is something that usually requires some gadget, so that the cake can be baked on a spit. And be assured, I spent enough time online to come up with a plan for just such a machine… There is however a simpler – but not quite as impressive – approach, and that is what the recipe in the book describes. I had never attempted this before, so I just followed the recipe and ended up with not just a delicious cake, but something that looks spectacular when cut into it.

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As my third recipe, I selected one from the appendix, in which Luisa describes how to make certain ingredients that may not be available as readily in the US than they would be in Germany. I picked the almond paste, that goes into the Mandelhoernchen. I followed the recipe, and at the end, I did actually have almond paste, but I guess I may have added a bit too much water: When I used my own paste in my second attempt to make Mandelhoernchen, they did not hold their shape as good as in my first attempt: They spread out a bit, and looked rather flat. I do not blame the book for this, I think I just was not patient enough to wait until the almond paste came together on it’s own. There is a range given for water to add, and I ended up with a little more than the recipe asked for.

The recipes are all for true authentic German baked goods, and based on my review and my tests, I can say that they produce excellent results.

However, there are a few things that could have been done a bit better in the book:

My biggest gripe is about the pictures – or the lack thereof – in the book. Only a few recipes actually have pictures of the finished product associated with them. Sure, I can google for the names of the different baked goods, and can find pictures online, but part of the fun of browsing through a cook/baking book is to look at the pictures. And, oftentimes it helps to know what the end product is supposed to look like. #luisawherearethepictures

For critical measurements, weights are expressed in metric units in addition to volumetric measurements. I wish this would have been done for every ingredient. In most cases, this is not a big deal, but when we are talking about the lye solution for making pretzels (or Brezeln as they are called in the book), having a more accurate recipe for mixing lye and water would not have hurt. For those who want to know: This is usually done with a 4% solution of lye in water. To create that 4% solution, 40g of lye is added to 1000g (or one liter) of water, or 20g of lye is added to 500g (or half a liter) of water.

So, at the end, this is a great resource for anybody who wants to bring some authentic German recipes into their baking.

Full disclosure: The two links to books on this page are using my Amazon.com associate account, which means that I will earn a few cents when you order via these links. Here are the links again:

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3 Responses to “Book Review: How “Classic” or “German” is Luisa Weiss’ “Classic German Baking”?”

  1. Hi there-

    I am considering buying this book. However, I do not speak or read German. Do you think that I would be readily able to translate the recipes via google translate?

     

    heather

  2. And for clarification by “this book” I am referring to Bayerisches Kochbuch.

     

    heather

  3. Heather, I’ve never tried it, but – especially with baking recipes – Google translate may not be able to capture every detail of a recipe. Do you have anybody with any level of German knowledge in your circle of family/friends? Try hat might help to get over some problems. The cookbook is great, but does also not have many pictures.

     

    khk

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