Monday, 4 April 2016

Thüringer Mohnkuchen; German Poppyseed Cake

I feel a little bad about posting this recipe, even though it's a damn fine recipe and makes a damn fine cake.

The problem is grinding the poppyseeds. In the recipe I say "Grind the poppyseeds and set them aside with the raisins." Here's how that actually worked for me: first; I spent several years (off and on, admittedly) trying to grind poppyseeds using a food processor (no), a Vitamix (no), and a coffee mill (no). Then I got taken on a riverboat cruise of Europe (Thanks, Mom!), and while in a large German town (was it Nuremberg? Maybe; but it might have been Regensberg) I dragged my mother and Mr. Ferdzy all over town until I found a kitchen supply store, where I went in and bought a little hand mill designed to grind poppyseeds and nothing else, and paid 22 Euros for it. We then had to RUSH to catch our boat and I dragged it - a solid little metal object - around with me for the rest of the trip. Your dedication to being able to make baked goods requiring ground poppyseeds may vary.

Anyway, I have to say this is delightful, if you like things made with poppyseeds, and plainly, I do. The texture is like a kind of seedy cheesecake and it is not too sweet, which suits me.

Unfortunately I've never heard of locally grown poppyseeds, and whenever I have planted them they have been resolute in their refusal to germinate. When I say "semolina" what I used, living in the boonies and all, was Cream of Wheat.

I'm allowing 1 1/2 hours to prepare the cake for baking, which is a  lot. But I'm assuming that, like me, you will grind some poppyseeds (hand cranking!), get tired, take a short break, get back to it, etc. I have never tried eating this cake the day it was made either; it just seems like one of those things you instinctively know will be better for thoroughly cooling and even a little resting. Refrigerate it, though.

This is also a mighty big cake and next time I might make half the recipe and bake it in an 8" springform pan. On the other hand, it freezes very well.

If anyone has any insight into grinding poppyseeds without a specialized mill, or even any suggestions as to how to find such a mill without actually flying to Europe, please comment!

12 to 16 servings
3 hours - 1 1/2 hours prep time

Thüringer Mohnkucken; German Poppyseed Cake

Start the Filling:
1/2 cup raisins
300 grams (10 ounces) black poppyseeds, ground
1/4 cup semolina
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup unsalted butter

Chop the raisins, and put them  aside. If they are dry you may wish to sprinkle them with a little rum or apple juice. Grind the poppyseeds and set them aside with the raisins.

Put the semolina, salt, and milk in a large (2 litre/quart) pot with the honey and butter, and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring frequently. Let it simmer a minute or two, until it thickens and then remove it from the heat and add the raisins and poppyseeds. Stir until completely blended and set aside to cool.

Make the Base:
1 cup soft unbleached pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup soft unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Cut the butter - which should be at room temperature - in with a pastry cutter, until the butter is all in bits the size of a small pea, or smaller. Break in the egg, mix it a little, then add the vanilla extract. Mix well until it all comes together to form a ball of stiff dough.

Line a 10" springform pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll or pat out the dough to line the bottom of the prepared pan; use a little flour to keep it from sticking.

Finish the Filling:
1 large cooking apple
1 large egg
1 cup full-fat thick yogurt OR sour cream

Peel and grate the apple; discard the core. Add the grated apple, the egg, and the yogurt or sour cream to the cooled poppyseed filling mixture.  Mix thoroughly. Pour this over the prepared base in the springform pan. Level it out as evenly as possible.

Make the Topping:
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup full-fat thick yogurt OR sour cream

Beat the eggs, sugar, and yogurt or sour cream in a small mixing bowl until very smooth. Pour this over the poppyseed filling of the cake, gently smoothing it out to cover the top of it as evenly as possible.

Bake the cake at 350°F for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the topping is set and browned around the edges. Let cool completely before serving.

This can, and perhaps should, be made a day before serving. It also freezes very well. Allow 24 to 48 hours for it to thaw in the fridge before serving.


Megan said...

Knowing that food processor and coffee grinder don't work, I would probably turn to mortar and pestle. Maybe an Indian wet mixer (which is used to grind lentils and rice into batter for dosa) might work too, if the poppy seeds were soaked in the milk first. But most people who don't make dosa on a regular basis wouldn't have a wet mixer. Probably a flour mill would work too (particularly one that allows you to choose the coarseness of the grind). Again, a pretty specialized instrument. Hmmm. Seems worth trying out this recipe just for the experimental challenge.

Ferdzy said...

Thanks for the suggetions Megan. I have a mortar and pestle, but wow, what a lot of grinding. I guess if I was REALLY dedicated! Otherwise, yes, it weems we are into pretty specialized equipment. The trouble is the seeds are so small that anything with blades just seems to whirr harmlessly between them.

MMeadows said...

Another way to get around this: European Deli stores in Toronto West End sell ground (wet) poppyseed, but may be just around Christmas and Easter.
But I would love a wet blender, it would probably also be great for halva.

Ferdzy said...

Thanks, MMeadows. I wasn't familiar with the concept of a wet blender; it sounds like it has definite possibilities.

mama said...

It might be interesting (though of little practical use): here in Eastern Europe we use this dedicated equipment for grinding the poppyseeds:

The seeds got broken by passing between two metal cones.

Gabriella (from Hungary)

Ferdzy said...

Thanks, Gabriella. Yes, what I bought was a newer version of the item pictured. The trouble is to find such a thing on this side of the water...

Pam said...

Thermomix works well, grinds anything no matter how small.
I can make the who;le recipe using my machine BUT of course a small grinder much cheaper!