This traditional german drink is magical… especially outdoors; the famous Glühwein (mulled wine). Spiced aroma and heart warming holiday drink perfect to forget the cold.hot wine german christmas

german mulled wine christmas

This warm and spiced wine is made to be taken outside, at the christmas market but it could also just be outside after a winter activity or to welcome guests over with this heart warming drink. My husband is German and his whole family enjoy every year going to the christmas market while sipping on that warm and spiced up wine. It makes you forget about the cold and dipping your nose into the cup (yes… a cup) makes you think of those perfect christmas memories. In Germany, they always use cups to serve the gluhwein, this way you can hold it better.

Taste, taste, taste

GluhweinThe secret to a good gluhwein finds itself into the spices. I suggest some mix here, with lots of cardamom but you could modify it slightly to your taste. Another important part would be the amount sugar used, I suggest a quantity again this is up to you really, so taste it as many times as possible to make it to your needs. It’s really hard to write down the exact amount of sugar because it depends of the wine you’ll choose and also how you prefer your gluhwein. Even in Germany, the gluhwein differ slightly from place to place, so be creative and make a personal mix of spices.


The technique

As we know, warming up wine can result into a disaster, spoiling it even. That’s why the main thing to remember here is to use a thermometer and bring the wine SLOWLY up to 70°C (160F) but never pass 80°C (175F). It’s not going to make bubbles at this temperature, simply vapor will rise. Slowly the spices and fruits will mix up into the wine. Also the sugar has a big part into the process; it’s going to help stabilize our wine and give the gluhwein its flavor. I’ve caramelised the sugar at first to make it syrupy and then added the rest of the ingredients rapidly once caramelized. But you could also make it without this first step. This caramelizing step will give this extra dimension to the gluhwein. I highly recommend it.

So let’s make this spicy christmas drink!


Gluhwein (german mulled wine)

  • Thermometer
  • 1 boGluhweinttle of red wine
  • 100g of sugar
  • 50ml of brandy
  • 10 green cardamom (crush them before use)
  • 1 orange cut into big pieces (organic)
  • 1/4 lemon wedge (organic)
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 anise star
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • nutmeg
  1. Start by cooking the sugar only in a big pot, let it melt/caramelize at medium high heat, without moving it
  2. When melted, turning yellow-brown, add wine rapidly and the rest of the ingredients
  3. Let the wine slowly warm up to 70°C (160F) do not pass 80°C (175F) or it’s going to be ruined. (keep a close eye on that)
  4. When you reach 70°C (160F) let the flavors mix up for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving.

Serve into a mug (the german way) and don’t forget to Enjoy!


Authentic Pretzel (Brezel) recipe made with lye, the real German way! A warm and moist inside with a flavorful crust and big salt. 

Brezel and Obazda

There is nothing like a freshly cooked Brezel (Pretzel), moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside topped with a bunch of those crystal salts. In Germany, the home of pretzel/brezel, those knot breads are spelled with a “B” (Brezel), while in english it’s a “pret”zel with a “P” and a “t”, so forgive me if I write it with a “B” throughout the post, it’s a automatism since my husband is german and call them Brezel.brezelpin


The origin of Brezel (Pretzel)

The precise origin of Brezel isn’t clear, but what is clear is; its history is an extremely old one. Being around since the Early Middle Ages and painted since the 12th century. Some say it was an Italian monk who invented the famous brezel to eat on the Lent fasting and its form reminded him of his arms joining to pray and the three holes of the bread were the Holy Trinity. Others says it was a baker prisoner who had to perform a perfect 3 holes bread in order to get out of prison and also there is simple story about a priest giving away those funny looking breads to kids who would pray. Encouraging them to pray, well… this is a good trick to make kids do stuff for sure… whether it’s praying or making the bed… just saying. There are too many stories out there to know the precise origin from those brezel… it could also be a simple mama in her kitchen having fun with the dough… who knows?


German Brezel; the Kings of Brezel

who-wants-brezelThe Brezel is mainly eaten in Beer Gardens (Biergarten) in south Germany, which are a popular place to eat and socialise in Germany. Those Beer Gardens spread throughout whole Germany, although its origin and the city famous for its Beer Gardens is beautiful Munich. You can bring your own food to share around those long tables in the parc or big outdoor terraces. In each of them you’ll usually find a small restaurant attached to it, and there you’ll ALWAYS find the famous Brezel, most of the time it a gigantic 30cm large size. The normal size ones from the bakery and indoors restaurants are mostly about 18cm large, like the ones from this recipe. But you could add a few minutes and make extra big ones if you prefer.

Those delicious breads are as any other breads; the fresher the better. To be devoured within the day otherwise they loose there moist and fluffy interior and crispy exterior texture. You’ll often see them paired with traditional side dishes in southern Germany, for example; in the morning with the exquisite Weisswurst (white sausage) or in beer gardens you’ll often see the Mega Brezel eaten with an orange creamy cheese dip called Obatzda (Recipe here).  

Let’s talk about lye

Lye or sodium hydroxide is a strong alkali which dissolve into water perfectly to make it a basic solution. Chemistry classes coming back to you now? Well this solution is the jacuzzi bath in which the brezel will get its brownish color and tasty crust, this is also called Maillard reaction. You can easily buy lye online, especially made for cooking, but elsewhere it could be hard to find. The problem with this basic solution is… it can burn you up quite badly so you’ll need to know those few rules/protection before using it;

  • Never add the Lye in an aluminium container of any kind, it reacts to it, plastic and glass is fine (to calculate the grams)
  • Wear latex gloves and eyes protection when manipulating the lye (adding the brezel gently to the solution not to splash yourself)
  • Add the lye once the water quantity is right, add it to the cold water from the pot, otherwise it will react in hot water.
  • Start the ventilation while manipulating the lye before it hits the water
  • In case of accident; lye on your skin, or eyes, rinse it off immediately in cold water for 15 minutes, if it’s a lot, seek medical attention after the rinse.
  • Keep the kids away from the basic solution and lye (This one is a no brainer) no a recipe suitable for kids, although once cooked it’s their favorite and perfectly comestible.

Brezel and Obazda

I hope all those rules didn’t scared you off… The quantity of lye is pretty low; a 10g per litre and you’ll give the brezel just a quick 20 seconds bath in it. Don’t worry, once diluted and heated it’s not only perfectly comestible but gives this unique irresistible flavor and color to the brezel. Let’s say it’s “Dangerously delicious”! You can safely throw the basic solution in the toilet bowl afterwards and clean up the pot and ustensiles with a oil cutting soap (Dawn) with latex gloves still on. If you drop some solution on the counter, clean it up right away with a bit of vinegar, it will neutralize the basic solution.


Alternative to lye

There is another method, safer one, to make the brown exterior layer of the brezel; baking soda. This is another alkali element, but a way softer one. So if you want to play safe, use the baking soda version. Check this article up for more info. I believe though… the lye gives the best result for an authentic german brezel flavor.

So let’s make those dangerously yummy breads!


Brezel (Pretzel)

Makes 7 (18cm large) Brezel | Preparation: 1h30 | Difficulty: medium-hard

The doBrezel and Obazdaugh
  • 500g flour
  • 300ml warm water
  • 18g of dry yeast
  • 15g of butter 
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • salt
The Lye bath and topping
  • Big grain salt for the topping
  • 20g of lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 200ml of water
  1. Start by making the dough, add the yeast to the warm water and sugar and let the yeast do its magic for 10 minutes
  2. Add the butter and salt to the flour and work the butter with the hands to make it incorporate into the flour
  3. Add the yeast mixture and knead the dough for a good 10 minutes (by hands) (depending on the flour make the though not stick by add more flour)
  4. Let raise the dough for an hour, covered with a kitchen towel in a warm place (light on oven)
  5. When the dough raised, cut it into 7 or 8  balls and let them covered in a slightly humid kitchen towel
  6. Makes rolls with smaller end and a bigger middle part, then make a twist (node) with the smaller ends and pressure the ends into the sides of the Brezel
  7. Mix 20g of lye into 200ml of cold water and bring to a boil (with proper equipment (latex gloves, glasses and no aluminium)
  8. Add the brezel carefully, one at the time in the simmering bath for 20 seconds then take out and add to a the baking sheet cover with baking paperBrezel and Obazda
  9. When on the baking sheet, add big salt to the brezel and make a small cut into the larger end of the brezel with a knife (fine cut)
  10. Bake the brezel (pretzels) at 230°C (450F) for 15 minutes  (depending on their size a minute more or less)
  11. Let them cool to get a harder skin and serve


Serve as it is or with a creamy Obatzda. Enjoy!

Brezel and Obazda


Mushroom knödelOn my way back from vacation in Germany, I had to use the next week to try out some of my favorite German recipes. German cuisine is often related to meat and potatoes, well this recipe is no exception. Knödel is a potato dumpling quite popular in Central Europe, although they call it Klöße in northern Germany. Usually for this particular recipe they would make a semmelknödel (bread dumpling) with it, not a potato one. I wanted to experiment more with the potato knödel, this week I’ve already done my first knödel with a beer beef stew which turned out great, although a bit too fluffy. This time I’ve changed the potato for a more waxy or “a less starchy” one which resulted in having to add lots and lots of starch and semolina. Conclusion: use potatoes with the most starch that you know of for those recipes, a russet potato for example, then the Knödel will hold great.mushpotatoepin

Mushroom knödelI’ve made a handful of my truffle kale chips to the Knödel, but you could also use a hand full of finely chopped fresh spinach or kale and add it to the mix. Just to give a touch of color and extra vitamins to the dish. Without saying… mushrooms and spinach is a great combination.

Mushroom knödelIt’s fall and mushroom season is at it’s peak, so… better make good use of them. Mushroom with a creamy sauce is an unavoidable winning combination. The knödel will absorb every bit of this velvety, rich mushroom sauce. I’ve used the popular button mushroom, nothing special here, for this recipe but you could have any type you’d like, even add a mix of button and some fried extra wild mushroom on top. It simply a basic broth, cream, white wine, nutmeg sauce made under 20 minutes.

So let’s roll those Knödel!

Mushroom sauce Knödel

Makes 4 portions (2 knödel each)

Kale Knödel
  • Mushroom knödel1 kg (about 8 medium sized) of “starchy” potato (ex; russet) or if you use a less starchy kind of potato (yukon,kennebec), double the amount of both semolina and starch to the mix
  • 80 ml of milk
  • 2 tbsp of starch (cornstarch)
  • 2 tbsp of semolina 
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 hand of finely chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 slice of white bread toasted cut into small cubes *optional
  • salt, pepper
The Mushroom sauce
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 200ml of cream
  • 200g of button mushrooms sliced
  • 100ml of vegetable broth (or chicken, beef)
  • 50ml of white wine
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (mix it with the cold white wine, so it dissolve better)
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
  • nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
The Knödel

*Make a single knödel as a test to see if it hold good, if not add starch and semolina to the mix

  • Peel and cut into small cubes the 1/2 of the potatoes
  • Cook in salty boiling water until soft
  • Reserve
  • Peel and grate finely the rest of the potatoes
  • Add to a cheesecloth, or kitchen towel and squeeze all the juice out into a bowl (let the starch separate, takes about 10 minutes)
  • In a medium size sauce pan, warm up the milk and add the raw grated potato , the semolina, butter, salt, nutmeg and pepper and mix well (take of the fire)
  • Make purée with the cooked potatoes and add to the mix
  • Chopped finely the spinach or kale and add to the mix
  • Eliminate the water from the drained potato juice and keep only the bottom starch
  • Add the starch to the mix and the extra cornstarch
  • Check for the seasoning a last time
  • Toast a piece of white bread and cut it into cubes *optional, add a piece or two in the middle of the dumplings.
  • Make a dumpling with wet hands and add to warm (barely simmering) salty water, don’t boil or the dumplings will get destroyed
  • At this point you make a single Knödel to test your potato mixture (optional but highly recommended)
  • Let them in the barely simmering water for 20-25 minutes
  • Serve with a pinch of salt and add some chives or parsley as a topping.
The mushroom sauce
  • Cook the onion in the sauce pan, medium-low, until tender
  • Add the mushrooms, garlic and broth and let cook, medium-high heat for 10 minute to reduce the broth
  • Mix the cornstarch and cool white wine in a small bowl and add to the mushrooms, mix
  • Let thickens for 2 minutes
  • Add the parsley, the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper, let simmer, low heat for 2-3 more minutes until warm
  • Serve the sauce with the spinach knödel


Mushroom knödel

Krautstrudel with horseradish sauceWhen you think of Strudel, you probably automatically picture a sweet apple strudel. Am I right? Well in Central Europe they make some great savory ones also. You can find some pumpkin, spinach, sauerkraut and more strudel types here and there. The one here is a simple cabbage and smoked bacon bits one, served with a delicious homemade horseradish-dill sauce.strudelpin

The original dough to cover Strudel is usually a thin and elastic puffy dough, but for this recipe I’ve used stacked phyllo sheets with a light spray of olive oil in between the sheets. I like the flakiness of the phyllo, plus it contain way less butter than the flaky puff dough. The only thing with phyllo is to make sure you to overlap the sheets so the liquid don’t escape from the strudel. Also when you cook with it, better add the strudel on the bottom level of the oven, than the bottom part can cook at the same pace than the top.

Krautstrudel with horseradish sauceAs for the filling, a simple white cabbage thinly sliced, an onion and smoked bacon bits with the typical German aromatics of sweet paprika and caraway seeds. Those 2 spices are what makes the German flavor here. I was surprised by the amount of sweet paprika german cuisine uses in so many of their traditional dishes. As for the caraway seeds, if you don’t know them yet, they look like cumin seeds although they taste nothing like it. They have a certain bitter-sweet taste to it nobody can resist and they are well known to help with digestive problems like heartburn, gas, bloating, etc. Often used in sauerkraut for it’s counter effect of the naturally gazy meal, the caraway should be an essential to any cabbage meals.
horseradish sauce

To accompany the KrautStrudel is a great and healthy dip; a horseradish-dill sauce. The original sauce is made with sour cream, which is kind of impossible to find where I live, so I’ve exchanged it for a natural greek yogurt. The resulting sauce is just sublime and accompany to perfection this KrautStrudel. The horseradish give a welcomed spicy kick to the whole meal.

So let’s roll this Strudel up!

Krautstrudel (German Cole and bacon roll)

Makes 4 portions

The Strudel
  • Krautstrudel with horseradish sauce1/2 a white cabbage finely sliced
  • phyllo pastry frozen pack
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 150g of smoked bacon cut into small pieces
  • 150 ml of vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 30g of butter
  • 1 tbsp of cornstarch (to thickens the leftover liquid in the last step)
  • 100g of plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp of caraway seeds
  • salt and pepper
The horseradish-dill sauce
  • 150g of plain greek yogurt or sour cream
  • a few branches of fresh dill 
  • 2 tbsp of grated horseradish
  • 1 squeeze of 1/4 lime or lemon
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt and pepper

*Make the horseradish sauce ahead and make sure to defrost the phyllo minimum 1 hour before use.

  1. Start with making the horseradish sauce by mixing all the ingredients and leave in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours before serving
  2. Add to a big pan the onion, butter and salt at medium-low heat and let the onion softens for 5 minutes
  3. Add the bacon bits and bring up the heat (medium-high)
  4. When the bacon bits are well cooked, add the white cabbage, the broth, the paprika and caraway seeds
  5. Let the cabbage cook through and the broth reduce until almost gone, about 10 minutes
  6. When the volume is down by half, add the cornstarch and mix until no more liquid or barely any liquid left
  7. Take off the fire, add the greek yogurt and check the seasoning (salt and pepper)
  8. Let the cabbage mixture cool
  9. On a big piece of baking paper, stack the sheets of phyllo one over the other to make a big rectangle the size of the oven metal baking sheet, while having a layer of olive oil (spray or brush) in between each sheets
  10. Add the cabbage mixture to the low-center of the rectangle and close the 3 sides over the mixture and then roll up the Strudel with the help from the baking paper and transfer to baking sheet
  11. Add an extra layer of olive oil (I use a spray, then it’s just a fine layer) on top of the Krautstrudel, some extra paprika, caraway seeds and salt
  12. Cook at 200°C (400F) for 20 minutes on the lowest level of the oven, or until light brown
  13. Let cool a bit and serve with the horseradish sauce


Krautstrudel with horseradish sauce

German beer beef stew with knödelnComing back from holiday in Germany and I got myself some nice cooking books, my german isn’t so good yet, so it takes forever to understand a single recipe. But the one recipe I’ve always wanted to reproduce is the famous Knödel. This potato dumpling is in so many meals up in Germany or Central Europe for that matter, it’s accompany to perfection any meal with some type of gravy or sauce, even soups. There are tons of different styles of Knödel, for example with mushrooms, meat, spinach, etc. Also, I don’t want to make the easy kind Knödel made with bread or eggs… no…no… I want to learn the difficult one made just with potatoes (cooked and raw). I have to say in those 3 books I bought, I took the version of this recipe that had the most steps. I’ve learn this isn’t so easy to make so better be well informed before starting, no?germanstewpin

German beer beef stew with knödelnFirst of all, the potato choice is important to achieve a great Knödel. You’ll need a starchy potato like Russet or a multipurpose potato like the famous Yukon or Kennebec. Truely… just the amount of starch you’ll have to calibrate yourself to make the dumplings hold depending on the type you’ll use. I’ve used this time a potato multi purpose called “agria” (in Spain) and it did need double the amount of starch from the original recipe. So the best way to know if you have the good amount of starch is to test your Knödel. You make one test and you’ll see if it still holds after 20 minute in warm water you ready to go… if not… you add a tablespoon of starch and semola. So I had to change the amounts of the original recipe, and you might probably have to adjust your recipe also. The trick is to make tests and once you reach a good mix, then you’ll keep it for life.

German beer beef stew with knödelnAs for the stew, I’ve used all German typical ingredients although it is my own recipe, not a traditional one. It’s basically a “boeuf bourguignon” but I’ve exchange the wine for a nice German dark wheat beer, add some German aromatics like caraway, juniper, laurel and parsley for my aromatics. Also to make it a touch more creamy, I add a touch of heavy cream to calm down all the strong flavors and make it onctuous.

So let’s get to it!

German beer beef stew with Knödeln (potato dumpling)

Makes 4 portions

For the stew
  • 600g of beef cubes of 5cmGerman beer beef stew with knödeln
  • 500 ml of dunkel weissbier (Franziskaner) or a wheat beer of your choice
  • 50ml of heavy cream
  • 30g of butter
  • 1 carrot cut into dices
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 6 mushrooms (button or else)
  • laurel leaf
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 5 juniper 
  • 1 tbsp of cornstarch (in a bit of cold water to thicken the soup in the final stage)
  • salt and pepper
The Knödel
  • 1 kg (about 8 medium sized) of “starchy” potato (ex; russet) or if you use a less starchy kind of potato (yukon,kennebec), double the amount of both semolina and starch to the mix
  • 80ml of milk
  • 1 tbsp of starch (cornstarch)
  • 1 tbsp of semolina 
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 slice of white bread toast cut into small cubes
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg *last one optional
The stew
  1. Season with salt and pepper the beef dices
  2. Add the butter to a deep pan and bring to high heat
  3. Add the pieces of beef and brown them on each side
  4. Add the onion, carrot and aromatics (juniper, caraway and laurel)
  5. Add the whole beer
  6. Let simmer for 2h30 hours, moving it to make sure the bottom doesn’t stick
  7. In the last 30 minutes, add the mushroom
  8. In the last 5 minutes, add the cornstarch mixed with cold water to thickens the broth
  9. Check the seasonning and take off the fire
  10. Add the touch of cream
  11. Serve
The Knödel (potato dumplings)
  1. Peel and cut into small cubes the 1/2 of the potatoes
  2. Cook in salty boiling water until soft
  3. Reserve
  4. Peel and grate finely the rest of the potatoes
  5. Add to a cheesecloth, or kitchen towel and squeeze all the juice out into a bowl (let the starch separate, takes about 10 minutes)
  6. In a medium size sauce pan, warm up the milk and add the raw grated potato , the semolina, butter, salt, nutmeg and pepper and mix well (take of the fire)
  7. Make purée with the cooked potatoes and add to the mix
  8. Eliminate the water from the drained potato juice and keep only the bottom starch
  9. Add the starch to the mix and the extra cornstarch
  10. Check for the seasoning a last time
  11. Toast a piece of white bread and cut it into cubes *optional, add a piece or two in the middle of the dumplings.
  12. Make a dumpling with wet hands and add to warm (barely simmering) salty water, don’t boil or the dumplings will get destroyed
  13. At this point you make a single Knödel to test your potato mixture (optional but highly recommended)
  14. Let them in the barely simmering water for 20-25 minutes
  15. Serve with a pinch of salt and add some chives or parsley as a topping.


German beer beef stew with knödeln