Monday, August 27, 2007


One Year of Blogging - Pflaumenkuchen

One year has passed since I first started this blog. What originally began as an exercise in both relaxtion and avoidance became a serious hobby and a marker of my evolution in the kitchen. Although this year started off well, the move back to New Zealand saw fewer forays into the kitchen. My interest, however, never dulled. Always amongst the works of theoretical investigation I am doing for my Master's thesis are a mix of single-subject (usually dense, often referred to as "scholarly") and favourite cookery books (the two are not mutually exclusive, of course). If I don't have the time to cook, I am often thinking of cooking during any future moment of "free" time.

Cooking has become an integral part of my life, an outlet through which I assert and explore my identity. It is a way of expressing facets of my personality as it is a way to share, enquire, and comfort. While my exploration is still nascent, I have come to understand how my palate works, what excites me (for now, as I understand that the palate lives and is constantly changing), and some of the principles of cookery. I am emboldened by the realisation that this is a life-long discovery.

Because writing is a component of this blog, it, too, is an exploration, principally of style, tone and focus. Perhaps it is the social scientist in me that values empiricism expressed through contextualisation, but I am as much inspired by the written words of cookery book authors as I am by singular recipes. My own writing is neither erudite nor fully-formed, but it is enhanced and driven to be more precise by those writers who best marry fact, history and other observations of social phenomena through the expression of carefully chosen recipes. I hope to one day match their enthusiasm and knowledge, a desire I didn't know existed in me before I started this blog. If you're interested to know, my favourite posts of the year, limited to only three, are: Egyptian Feast, my first Weekend Cookbook Challenge for which I made Cornish Hens stuffed with Bulgur, Raisins and Pine Nuts, Okra with Garlic and Ginger, and Almond Fingers; Thanksgiving, for which I made Roasted Root Vegetables with Honey, Balsamic Vinegar and Goat Cheese and Pumpkin Pie and Candied Pepitas served with Dried Fig and Coffee Ice Cream; and Feijoa Curd.

On this anniversary of my first year as a food blogger, I am happy to share a recipe that was passed on to me by my darling friend and mentor in politics, the intellectually-ferocious and generous Anita, who, in turn, was taught this recipe at the side of her German grandfather. Not only is this perfect for afternoon tea on any day in Summer or Autumn, but it is a wink to my first post for which I used a plum hybrid: Dapple-Dandy Pluot Tart.

Pflaumenkuchen is translated to "plum cake" in English, yet the base for this particular recipe, a doughnut-like sponge, requires yeast and the result is more reminiscent of bread. Tart plums are best for this, to offset and add interest to the sweet base, but which is further enhanced at the end with a dusting of sugar and cinnamon. I decided not to use damsons because, if childhood memory serves me right, the pits require a lot of time to extricate. Also, I didn't see any at the market, perhaps because they come out in the late Fall. I decided on red-skinned, orange-fleshed Pipestone plums. Also, if your baking tray (sheet pan) is not of the same dimensions, a bigger one will only yield a thinner base, which is what you may prefer - just make sure you have enough plums.


4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
1 oz/30g fresh yeast or 1/3oz/10g active dried yeast
8 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1 cup milk
1/3 cup/75g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 pinch salt
3 pounds/1.3kg medium-sized plums
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1) Put the flour into a large bowl and create a well in the centre.
2) Crumble fresh yeast or active dried yeast that has been stirred into 1/2 cup of tepid water into the well and stir into the flour, pulling from the sides of the well, with 1 tablepoon of sugar and the milk. Though the ingredients should come together, the resultant mixture should look quite wet.
3) Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
4) Mix in 3 tablespoons sugar, melted butter, egg and salt.
5) Knead with floured hands until the dough is pulling away from the side of the bowl. I almost used an extra cup of flour until I got a dough that was smooth. The kneading process took about 10 minutes.
6) Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 25 minutes.
7) Prepare the plums by cutting them lengthwise and pitting. With a paring knife you can smooth out the groove in which the pit sat, but I like to see the indentations it leaves behind. Cut each plum half so that they open up like a book, that is to say, make a hinge.
8) Grease a baking tray, about 11 3/4" by 15" (30cm by 38cm).
9) Preheat oven to 425F/ 220C.
10) Remove yeast dough from bowl, knead once or twice, and roll out on a baking tray with a floured rolling pin.
11) Place plums on dough in close rows, pressing slightly into the dough.
12) Let rise for 15 minutes.
13) Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden on top and juices are running from the plums.
14) Mix 4 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon and use as much of this mixture as you prefer to sprinle over the still-hot pflaumenkuchen.

I love the pink stain left behind by the red skin of the plums, and I love the rich and round flavour of baked plums. As mentioned above, the dough is doughnut-like, spongey and sweet, but not cloyingly so. Cinnamon and baked plums are a match made in heaven. This is perfection on its own but enhanced with the bitter caramel edges of an espresso.

Post script See Pille's plum cake, Lihtne Ploomikook, using Emma Leppermann plums.

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We picked ten kilograms of juicy ripe plums at my mum's place last night, and we're in the process of eating/cooking/baking/preserving them. Your pflaumenkuchen looks like a dream!
Congrats on your first blogging anniversary from a fellow social scientist on the other end of the world:)
You rock, just in case you didn't already realize that. Keeping a blog is about writing, not just about blathering aimlessly, and I'm so happy that is something you take seriously--it shows in your thoughtful posts. I'm looking forward to many more years of your blog.
Congrats on the first-year anniversary of your blog. Your passion for cooking is impecciably demonstrated through your writing as well as the foods you make/create. What a journey huh... you've given me some more things to think about as I too ponder my indentity through food.

It is a pleasure visiting your blog Shaun and I look forward to many more years of your food and posts.
Happy first birthday to you Shaun =) Hope you have many more!

You're a good writer, you write from the heart with real passion for your subject.

I like the name Pflaumenkuchen
it both exotic and comforting sounding at the same time, and it looks gorgeous with it's pink-peach plums.
Happy anniversary! And that pflaumenkuchen looks absolutely wonderful.
Shaun, you certainly have the enthusiasm of any of the writers you are taken with. As far as knowledge goes, it is impossible to know everything, making for new and pleasurable discoveries for even the most experienced cooks. Creativity in any form is a process, inexplicable at best, and not a goal. You are already there; you just don't know it. Happy Blog Birthday! BTW, wise choice to go w/ the Cornish hens; poussin are almost impossible to find, and at a size no bigger than a fist, offer very little meat.
Congratulations my dear friend! Here's to another beautiful year of food blogging!
Hi Shaun,
Congratulations on your one year blog anniversary! I'll have to look back at your archives to see how much your style and writing has evolved - you write very well.

This pflaumenkuchen looks wonderful. I very good friend of mine is German and her recipe uses sugar plums. I can't wait to make it again when stone-fruit season comes again.

p/s: I didn't realise that you are back in NZ. I'll get there someday soon. :-)
Pille - Lucky you for access to such bounty. I hope you inform your faithful readers of what you do with them! Thank you for kind words re: my anniversary.

Christina - Hah! No, I didn't know, but I appreciate the support. I, too, enjoy yours for the quality of writing.

Cynthia - Thank you so much for the kind words. I have learned so much from your point of view and feel my knowledge of various produce is greatly expanded on account of you sharing your corner of the world with us.

Kelly-Jane - You are so sweet. Thank you, as always, for the support and for your kind comments. Yes, I, too, adore the name of the dish. In fact, one day I would love to learn German. In the meantime, I'll just happily eat pflaumenkuchen.

Jeff - Thanks for stopping by...Haven't *seen* you in a while. The pflaumenkuchen was indeed wonderful and will become a family favorite forever. I sincerely hope all goes well with the new place in MN.

Susan, lovie - Indeed, this is a learning process, each recipe I follow or adjust, shows the wealth of knowledge yet to be gladly attained. I hope next year will allow me to really absorb and experiment more. Thank you for your unwavering support and kind advice that has always set me on the right track. I'm glad, too, to have a kindred spirit in the kitchen, even if a coast, and occasionally an ocean, comes between us.

Ivonne - Can you believe it has been one year already? I thank you so kindly for your support. I love and am inspired by the beautiful work on your blog.

Nora B - I bet sugar plums are wonderful in this, for their spicy sweetness is so festive, perfect during Winter when one cannot have stone fruit. I hope you enjoy the archived posts, should you be bored or interested enough to venture.
Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes this style of plum cake - I made a very similar recipe last month at

Yours looks delicious!
Shaun - a very happy anniversary to you! The cake is lovely - well done.
AWW, Happy Blog Birthday! =) You should put candles on your Pflaumenkuchen! =) It looks lovely by the way, sometimes it sucks big time being gluten-free. =)
Columbus Foodie - It is always interesting to learn the variations of traditional dishes. I'm glad to learn of your take on pflaumenkuchen.

Sara, darling - Thank you for your anniversary wishes. I know how long you've been doing it (and how well, too!), so I appreciate greatly your constant support.

Victoria - Thank you for your sweet "birthday" wishes. What a hoot to put candles on the cake, eh? It is really hearty, but I'm sure you don't need to be tempted any more because you need to be gluten-free. Good on you for keeping up with it and making a really important decision for your health.
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