Embracing Butter

Baking

The best pizza in Hamburg

Inside Zweipunktnull in Altona / Ottensen

Inside Zweipunktnull in Altona / Ottensen

It’s no secret that my family and I love to eat. Let me clarify - I love to eat. and not sure by nature or nurture, but somehow I’ve succeeded in passing down my love of all things culinary to my kids. Which makes may heart very happy. My youngest son learned to make authentic Wiener Schnitzel by age 6 or 7 (no joke – they are the real deal – benefits of being with an Austrian!). My middle kid can fry up – thanks to YouTube – a tasty, juicy, burger that rivals restaurants. And my daughter has been baking and decorating beautiful cake creations for quite some time now.

So yes – we enjoy cooking, baking, and mostly eating. I used to joke that food is my love language, but in the meantime, it’s no longer a joke. Food is in fact a way I show and receive love. But let’s talk more about that another day. For now, I want to tell you about the best pizza you can eat in Hamburg. And maybe even the best in Germany. Honestly.

I’m not a professionally trained chef. I never studied the culinary arts in an official capacity. I have, however, been eating my whole life (which is now four solid decades of experience!). I also started baking cakes, biscuits, and pizza for my very large immediate family at age 10. I have run my own food business though, and I’ve traveled the world and if practical eating experience means anything, then yes – my loads of experience stuffing my face all over the planet means I know good food when I see – and taste it.

The first pizza recipe I wowed people with was from the PBS show Reading Rainbow. It was by no means Italian quality, but it was a tasty homemade pie that everyone enjoyed. That was the only pizza I baked myself for ages, because at some point interest in cake took over, and if it wasn’t sweet, I had no interest in baking it.

Fast forward to last year, when we left Berlin for Hamburg and my Austrian fiancé developed an obsession with all things dough, including pizza. He bought a book called Flour Water Salt Yeast and we discovered that you could make amazing, authentic-as-in-Italy pizza at home.

Around the same time as we were discovering the delicious simplicity of homemade dough, we were also out exploring Hamburg and it’s culinary offerings. He had been here longer than I and kept talking about a pizza place he’d been to with really good pizza called Zweipunktnull (which means two point zero in English). I was curious but slightly dismissive, because how good could pizza be at a place with that kind of name? Yes, I can be superficial like that.

The tastiest pizza

The tastiest pizza

Then one summer evening he took me to Zweipunktnull and my pizza life changed forever. Not even kidding. I couldn’t believe how delicious this pizza was/is. You get an entire plate of perfectly fluffy, chewy dough, charred in places from the hot stone oven it’s baked in, and with a depth in flavor that is simply unbeatable. The toppings are fresh and of the highest quality – I promise you. It’s as though they caught the red eye to Italy to purchase mozzarella and salami and flew right back to the restaurant with it – it is all that tasty and authentically Italian. And how could it not be?  Their pizza chef is in fact from Italy.

The restaurant itself is also lovely, as you can see in the photo above. In the summer they have outdoor seating, which of course fills up fast, so if you want to be sure you’ll get a place, take a couple minutes and reserve a table. It can also take a bit of time to get your food, so this is not the kind of restaurant you go to if you’re in a hurry. That said, it’s worth the wait. Believe me – if you’re a pizza lover, as I and my family are, do yourself a favor and make your next meal out be at Zweipunktnull. Then please come back and tell me about it!

 

Cake of the week: Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Sundays are almost always cake baking days in my world. Except during Lent, which has – thankfully – ended with today’s Easter celebration. Which wasn’t much of a celebration this year, as I woke up with a stiff neck and a UTI (too much information, I know … but as I said before, I like to keep it real here), so instead of taking my kids happily to church to celebrate the Resurrection, I ended up in the emergency room to get antiobotics and subsequently spend the day catching up on movies I’d missed over the last decade.

But back to the cake! This week’s Easter cake was a cheesecake – or cheesecake cupcakes, to be exact. I found the recipe on Pinterest weeks ago. Since I’d given up cake for Lent, I could not wait to make – or eat – these tasty treats. Which means I sort of cheated by baking them the night before and eating the first one the same night as well. I’m pretty sure it was midnight by the time I got around to taste-testing these, which means that technically it was Easter Sunday and I was in the green zone.

Regardless of whether I was “allowed” to eat cake again or not, these little lemony cakes were delicious. Lemon curd is part of the recipe, and as I’m cheap and love any excuse to make fresh lemon curd, I made it myself earlier in the day, using another recipe found on Pinterest. The lemon curd turned out pretty delicious and was worth the extra time it takes to make it. I listened to their advice to use a hand blender to puree the curd rather than straining it. This resulted in a sort of fluffy curd, which was very tasty and easier than straining. What I didn’t love so much was that the mixing lightened the color, so that lovely yellow curd color ended up a very pale yellow. But the taste and texture tasted divine.

The cheesecakes themselves were delicious as well and worth making if you like lemon. I’m not sure that ricotta cheese was necessary, either in the recipe or the title, as I couldn’t really taste a difference between regular cheesecake made from cream cheese, and this one with cream cheese and ricotta. In any case, they turned out yummy. The cheesecake had a nice, light lemon vanilla flavor, the crust was sweet, and the curd on top added a great tangy pop of lemon too. (As a side note, you can’t easily find graham crackers here, so I use the German “Butterkeks” instead, and that works fine for crusts).

I’m embarrased to admit how many of these little sweets I have eaten since making them last night, but I’m certain it was more than cheesecake than anyone should eat in a 24-hour period. But hey, I went about 40 days without cake, so I think a big cheesecake splurge was in order. ;)

This week’s cake creation: Rustic Chocolate Cake

Rustic Chocolate Cake

(This photo is not mine – it’s from the blog where this recipe is originally found, Eat Drink Binge

One of my secret talents is being able to look at a cake recipe and know before baking whether it’s going to be a good one. Only rarely am I wrong, and I can generally tell by the ingredients and how they are listed. Call it sixth sense, call it random, but I like that I can tell if a cake will be good – because really, who has time to bake a bad cake? I certainly don’t.

This cake was no exception. It turned out perfectly – the layers didn’t fall apart. The Whipped Chocolate Ganache frosting actually did, to my surprise – turn out to be a thick, mousse-like frosting that held the layers together perfectly. And the remaining darker ganache draped across the top of the cake lusciously.

It looked like a masterpiece and tasted the same. It was a perfect chocolatey that was sweet but not so sweet that it will kill you. And pretty, but in a slightly messy, naked-cake kind of way. My kind of pretty, that is. I veered away from the recipe only a bit, by making fat chocolate curls to put on top of the cake instead of shards the recipe calls for. I also refrigerated the Whipped Ganache Frosting a bit longer than the thirty minutes recommend in the recipe. It just wasn’t ready sooner. Remember that recipes can be tweaked – good bakers know when to flex a bit to make sure the result is just right.

So if you’re looking for a yummy chocolate cake that’s a crowd-pleaser and fairly fool-proof, this is a good one. It will cure and chocolate craving and give you the satisfaction creating something beautiful with just a couple hours of work. And while I generally like to focus solely on baking when I bake, this one got baked while I was Face-timing with family back in the US, managing my three kids, and chatting with friends online.

You can find the recipe here, so go for it!

 

This Sunday’s sweet treats: Vanilla Latte Cupcakes

Cupcakes

Vanilla Latte Cupcakes – delicious!

I love cake. Especially good cake. And therefore I enjoy baking, and I’ve loved it ever since I was a child and figure out that mixing together a few ingredients could result in something as magical and delicious as a yummy cake topped with buttercream goodness.

And I do bake a great cake. It’s just the truth. But before you think I’m bragging based on some sort of special talent or skill, the reality is that when you start baking as a 9 or 10 year old and you’re well into your thirties, do the math and you have about 25 years of baking experience under your belt. So yes, it would be pretty sad if I couldn’t make a good cake after all of this time, wouldn’t it? It would.

My first foray into the world of baking was decorating buttercream-frosted gingerbread cookies with my dad (yes, my dad was more the cook in the home than my mom, but shhh! If you happen to know Annie, please don’t tell her you heard this from me!). Our family didn’t have many holiday traditions, but decorated gingerbread cookies was one of the few, and rarely did a holiday go by without a messy kitchen, a frustrated man who overextended himself by doubling the recipe, and dozens and dozens of sugary frosted spiced cookies.

But back to the present … what was I saying? Oh yes, that I love baking. I do love it, although I love it a little bit less when baking in a small European kitchen with a hand mixer as opposed to a spacious American kitchen equipped with a KitchenAid. I didn’t really cook at all the first 2 years we lived in Berlin, because adjusting from a massive kitchen to a tiny one took me some time and a big attitude adjustment.

In the meantime, while I am not quite back to cooking and baking at the capacity I was stateside, but to be fair, I was also operating a catering business from that lovely kitchen. In the meantime, I have learned that you can bake great cakes, host lively dinner parties, and even throw the occasional big bash of a celebration with a tiny kitchen. And my daughter and I bake some amazing cakes and cupcakes, including yesterday’s deliciousness: Vanilla Latte Cupcakes.

I won’t waste time rewriting the recipe here when you can find it over at Lemon Sugar. I will also go ahead and admit that I borrowed their picture of the cupcakes as well, because the most photo-worthy pictures of ours were eaten before I managed to break out the camera. Yes, they are that good! If you’re looking for an easy recipe that you can even split in half (we baked only 12 cupcakes, not the full recipe amount of 24 and they turned out fantastic), then this is it. Sweet, vanilla cupcakes with a hint of coffee flavor. Yum!

Try them, you won’t regret it!