Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Herman the German friendship cake recipe

I wanted to tell you about a delightful little phenomenon that was shared with me recently. I mentioned a little while ago that my friend Nicole gifted me with the beginnings of a Herman the German friendship cake. For those of you who have never heard of it, it's a sourdough starter - and what makes sourdough bread different to regular bread is that it takes a few days to prepare the yeast and to let the dough rise, resulting in a stronger, sweeter taste. This particular starter is not intended for making bread, though - it's instead used to make a delicious apple cake.

As I said, my starter was given to me from a friend, who received it from her friend, who received it from her friend, and on it goes. It comes with a list of instructions but to summarise, 10 days after you receive your starter, it's ready for use in your cake. You divide the starter into four pieces, use one in the recipe and in turn give the remaining portions to your friends. I - somewhat unorthodoxly - kept one piece so I can use it again in 10 days - if cared for well, your starter can be kept forever (apparently there's a starter in the Barossa valley that has been kept alive for over a century). If you prefer, you can make your own starter from scratch and again, the Herman the German website has a good set of instructions.

The cake is delightful and very autumnal, being filled with apples and cinnamon. The starter can be use for a plethora of other desserts and, of course, to make sourdough bread.  I've been experimenting with bread making recently, to varied degrees of success. Kneading the dough is wonderfully calming and the whole process of making something so basic is quite satisfying.

 For the cake itself, I tinkered with the ingredients of the original recipe just slightly - it's delectable.

  •  one portion of the starter (around 300g) - follow the instructions here to prepare your starter
  • 1 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour (10oz or 300g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup of cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 cooking apples (I used Granny Smith), cut into chunks
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 60g butter
  • Preheat the over to 180 c.
  • Mix everything together, reserving 1/4 cup of brown sugar. 
  • Pour into a baking tin. (Mine was about 30cm wide) 
  • Melt the butter.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar and pour over the melted butter.
  • Bake for 45 minutes 
The original recipe calls for regular sugar in the main mixture and 2 teaspoons cinnamon (not cinnamon and nutmeg). I just felt let personalising my version a little. I have a little sachet of "Apple Cake Spice", purchased from the delightful Gerwurshaus in Melbourne, that would work well - a mix of nutmeg, cassia, clove and roses. I hope that you try out the recipe and enjoyed discovering this curious culinary phenomenon!

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