Recipe: Swiss Rice Tart for Easter

Discover a dairy-free version of a typically Swiss tart made for Easter with rice, vanilla, lemon zest and a thin layer of apricot jam.

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For our first Easter in Switzerland, I attempted a few dairy-free and egg-free Gâteau de Pâques. My experiments always looked bad, and the texture was never right. Honestly, I think some of it ended up in the trash. (Please note: For those of you still avoiding eggs AND dairy, I found an Easter tart recipe from aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse).

According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the first tarts in Switzerland resembling today’s Gâteau de Pâques (in French) or Osterfladen (in German) may have started as early as the 16th century, and several sources pinpoint Basel as the birthplace. These tarts typically contain either rice or semolina. At our local Suisse Romande bakery, the Gâteau de Pâques has semolina and a thin layer of apricot jam. One of the bakers I spoke with there said he preferred using semolina over rice because it makes a lighter cake.

I tend to prefer the semolina-based tarts, but for this year’s Gâteau de Pâques (which I can now make with eggs), I really wanted to tackle a rice-based tart—especially since my past attempts were so unsuccessful. My dairy-free recipe uses the apricot jam layer instead of the more traditional raisins (the thought of moist raisins mixed with sweet rice just isn’t appealing to me). Both of my sons loved this tart, so I’m finally ready to share my recipe below.


Gâteau de Pâques

Recipe adapted from cuisine de saison.
(dairy-free, nut-free)

Tools:
Tart pan, 24 cm (9-10 inches) diameter

Ingredients:
500 ml soy milk
60 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
120 grams rice (e.g., Camolino rice or risotto)
30 grams dairy-free margarine, melted
2 eggs, separated
about 320 grams prepared allergy-friendly pâte brisée (i.e., shortcrust pastry or pie crust)
100 grams apricot jam
powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

1. Stir together the soy milk, sugar and vanilla paste in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then add the lemon zest. Stir in the rice. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes until the rice becomes tender. Set aside to cool.

2. Add parchment paper to a greased tart pan (using dairy-free margarine), and then place in the prepared pâte brisée. Trim the sides, if necessary. Prick the bottom with a fork in several places. Spread the apricot jam evenly on the prepared crust.

3. Melt the margarine, and stir it into the cooled rice mixture. Separately, beat together the two egg yolks, and then stir them in as well, until well-combined.

4. Separately, beat together the 2 egg whites with an electric mixture (it will take forever to do this by hand) until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture. Take the rice mixture and spread it evenly over the apricot jam in the prepared crust.

5. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes at 180°C/350°F until it’s set (it doesn’t wobble when you take it out) and lightly browned.

6. Once the tart has cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar (I made a quick bunny stencil with a sheet of paper, which I held down against the cake with some dried beans).

School vacation starts tomorrow, so I’ll be offline for the next two weeks. Happy Easter! Joyeuses Pâques! Fröhliche Ostern! Buona Pasqua!

Swiss Retro Recipe: Riz Casimir

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An easy meal for kids, I’ve created a dairy-free version of a popular Swiss dish from the 1950s: Riz Casimir.

I first discovered Riz Casimir at Zurich’s Hiltl Restaurant in December 2013. When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t realize this curry dish was actually over a half-century old and known throughout Switzerland. Only after trying Hiltl’s vegetarian version did I start noticing this dish in other restaurants and among the prepared meals from Coop and Migros. Finally, after I came across a simple recipe for Riz Casimir in my Swiss cookbook for public schools, Croqu’menus, I decided to try making it myself.

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According to Betty Bossi, Riz Casimir is often mentioned as a favorite dish by people of all ages in Switzerland. The founder of the Mövenpick restaurants, Ueli Prager, developed this recipe in 1952 with ingredients considered exotic for the time: curry, pineapple and banana. Ultimately, it seems Riz Casimir is the Swiss interpretation of Kashmiri Rice, a northern Indian dish.

Instead of using cream, I’ve been making Riz Casimir with coconut milk. I also added a few other ingredients, like fresh garlic and ginger, and some optional toppings, like chopped cashews and cilantro, to give it a little more flavor and texture. My 3-year old isn’t a huge fan of curry, but this is a very mild recipe.

In terms of presentation, I modeled my version after the photo in my Swiss cookbook of a wreath of rice decorated with banana, pineapple and cherries, and the curry nestled in the center. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous arranging the fruit like this on the platter, but if it helps my finicky kids find it more appealing, I’ll continue to do it!


Riz Casimir

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 91).
(dairy-free, egg-free)
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin and bite-size pieces
100 ml white wine or allergy-friendly chicken/vegetable broth
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt, to taste

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro and cashews, pineapple rings and apple slices

Serve with hot basmati rice

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

2. Cook the chicken for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until its nearly done. Remove from the pan and set-aside. Add the wine (or chicken/vegetable broth) and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and curry powder to the wine in the pan, and whisk it together until well-incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cornstarch and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauces thickens slightly.

5. Serve immediately with basmati rice and optional toppings.


Recipe: Swiss-French Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Raisins

It’s that time of year again, when I try to serve more vegetables to my family after weeks and months of feasting on baked goods—and I’m usually the worst offender!

My latest plan involves trying to work vegetables into all three meals, and ideally in at least two dishes. For breakfast, that means scrambled eggs with spinach. At lunch or dinner, we’ll have a salad and steamed green beans with lemon, for example. With more and newer options, I’m hoping my kids’ interest increases so they actually like eating vegetables, instead of viewing them as a necessary evil.

After a recent Sunday walk, I tried out a new a new red cabbage salad recipe from a local Swiss-French cookbook. I served it as part of leisurely brunch during our last day of the holiday break. My husband, who usually HATES mayonnaise, liked this salad. Unprompted, my 7-year old said it tasted good after his first bite. My 3-year old gave it a thumbs up, but I think he really only liked (and ate) the raisins, to be perfectly honest. We’ll keep this cabbage salad in our mealtime rotation, and I’ll have to try another one I saw recently from Migros’ Saison.ch made with orange juice (here’s yet another salad recipe with cabbage, orange and fennel that also looks good).

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Sunday walk on Mount Vully


Salade de Chou Rouge (Red Cabbage Salad)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free)

Serves 6-8

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Salad:
500 grams red cabbage (about 1 cabbage)
1-2 apples, diced
about 1/2 cup raisins (I like golden raisins)
Optional: finely chopped chives and lettuce leaves

Sauce:
100 ml vegan mayonnaise (use really mayo if you can!)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Instructions:

1. Slice the cabbage into thin strips and place in a large bowl.

2. Prepare the sauce by whisking together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and toss until well-incorporated.

3.Stir in the raisins and diced apple(s). Best served the same day. Top with chopped chives and serve with fresh lettuce leaves, if desired.

For 2015, we have lots to look forward to in terms of managing my son’s milk allergy, like a food challenge next week and starting school in August. I hope you do too! Happy New Year, and Bonne Année, everyone!

Recipe: Swiss Stollen for Christmas

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For Christmas this year, I’ve started making Stollen. This rich yeasted cake originated in Germany, but you can find it in our Suisse romande bakeries and grocery stores (and I assume it’s even more readily available in German-speaking Switzerland).

I adapted a recipe from Croqu’menus—the Swiss cookbook students use in public school classrooms—so it’s dairy-free for my son. The dough is studded with raisins, flaked almonds and candied lemon and orange peel. My favorite part is the log of almond paste that spans the length of the cake.

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Swiss Stollen at a local bakery

Dating back centuries, the Stollen’s oval shape supposedly resembles the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. In particular, Dresden, Germany seems to be the international epicenter for this special Christmas cake. For more information about the history of the Stollen, the Food Network has compiled a quick summary.


Marzipan vs. Almond Paste

Stollen recipes vary, but from what I’ve seen, they often contain marzipan. For the first one I made, I used marzipan. Soon after, I came across a very helpful post from The Kitchn comparing marzipan and another similar product, almond paste. Before, I thought these products were the same thing, but when I visited our Swiss grocery stores, I noticed two different products to choose from: marzipan and pâte d’amandes.

My Swiss recipe calls for pâte d’amandes, which I used in my second batch of Stollen, and I thought the consistency was better than marzipan. The pâte d’amandes seemed a little softer and less sweet. I think you can certainly use marzipan, but I prefer the almond paste—even though they only have a slight difference both in taste and appearance.


Stollen de Noël

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 268).

Makes two loaves

Dough:
150 ml milk substitute (I used soy milk)
20 grams fresh yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
300 grams all-purpose flour (and about an extra 1/4-1/2 cup for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt

Dried fruit and nut mixture:
5 tablespoons raisins (I used golden raisins)
5 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon candied lemon peel, chopped
1 tablespoon candied orange peel, chopped
2 drops of almond extract (essence d’amandes amères)

Filling:
100 grams almond paste (pâte d’amandes; marzipan works too if you can’t find almond paste)

Topping:
50 grams dairy-free margarine
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)

Instructions:

1. Add the fresh yeast to the soy milk and sugar. Let is set for a few minutes and then stir until completely dissolved. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture, along with the egg and spoonfuls of the softened dairy-free margarine. Stir together until a soft dough forms.

3. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Please note: The dough is very soft and sticky to start, but be patient. Add some flour to prevent sticking, but only a little at a time. Try not to add too much so it stays nice and soft. I even use Paul Hollywood’s dough-throwing method for this recipe, because the dough is difficult to handle at first.

4. When the dough is ready, quick knead in the fruit and nut mixture, along with the almond extract, just until well incorporated throughout the dough. Please note: I find it easier to do this final knead back in the bowl, rather than on a flat surface.

5. Place the dough in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a towel and let it rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.

6. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half. Roll each of the two pieces of dough out and make two ovals about 1-inch (3 cm) thick.

7. Divide the almond paste in half, so that each piece weighs about 50 grams. Using your hands, roll the paste into 2 logs measuring a little less than the length of the two ovals. Place them in the center of the ovals. Fold the dough in half, covering the log of almond paste.

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8. Cover the loaves in plastic and let rise for another hour or so.

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9. Melt the margarine and brush some over the loaves, saving about 2/3 of the margarine for two additional coatings—the second about halfway through the baking process, and the third and final coating brushed on after the loaves are out of the oven, but still warm.

10. After the first coating of margarine is brushed on, bake the loaves at 200°C/400°F for about 20-30 minutes, until the loaves have developed a deep brown color. About halfway through the baking process, give them another coating of margarine.

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11. Take the loaves out of the oven, and while still warm, brush the rest of the margarine over them. Let them cool on a wire rack.

12. After the loaves have cooled, mix together the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and coat the loaves generously with this mixture. Store them tightly wrapped in plastic. Tie them with a ribbon for a perfect holiday gift! Best eaten the first day or two after baking.

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I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2015! Please check back the week of January 5th for my next post. Joyeuses fêtes, et bonne année!

Save the date: January 27, 2015 – Benefizkonzert der stiftung aha! Centre d’Allergie Suisse in Bern

Recipe: Magenbrot – Chocolate Gingerbread

‘Tis the season for Christmas markets in Switzerland, and I hope to visit one soon! To date, I’ve strolled through these festive markets in Montreux, Neuchâtel and Zurich. With a steaming mug of vin chaud in my hands, I have to always stop and admire all the sweet Swiss treats. I still have many to try, but one of my favorites is Magenbrot—small cocoa gingerbreads coated with dark chocolate icing.

Christmas market stall - Zurich

Zurich Christmas Market, December 2013

magenbrot - onion festival

Onion Market in Bern, November 2013

Magenbrot means “stomach bread” in German. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the name developed because the spices and sugar contained in the bread were supposed to aid digestion. Instead of wheat flour, recipes for Magenbrot call for rye flour, which gives the gingerbread a little more texture. You can typically find these at fall festivals in Switzerland, like the Bern Onion Market, and at Christmas markets. Bakeries that make Magenbrot traditionally sell them wrapped in pink paper.


Magenbrot

(dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free)

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi.

Dry ingredients:
300 grams rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
125 grams sugar
150 ml rice milk
1 tablespoon kirsch

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well-blended.

2. In a separate container, whisk together the wet ingredients and then pour into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms.

3. Turn the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll with a floured rolling pin until you have a rectangle, about 2 cm thick. Cut the rectangle into about 5 strips of dough with a sharp knife. Please note: The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a little extra flour to help shape it.

Magenbrot dough

4. Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. When still warm, cut into pieces, approximately 2 x 4 cm. Let the pieces continue to cool while you prepare the glaze.


Magenbrot Glaze

100 grams allergy-friendly dark chocolate
20 grams dairy-free margarine
100 ml water
250 grams powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the first three ingredients together, just until the chocolate is melted and well-blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

2. Put the cooled Magenbrot in a large bowl and pour the warm glaze over them. Toss them gently in the glaze until well-coated.

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3. Place the Magenbrot on a wire rack to cool and for the glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.

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I just froze some homemade Magenbrot so my son can have an allergy-friendly treat during our next visit to a Swiss Christmas market. They’re easy to make and highly addictive!

Recipe: Swiss Pumpkin Pie – Tarte à la Courge

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Are you looking for a dairy-free dessert for Thanksgiving? If so, please check out my recipe below for an elegant Swiss tart that can be made with either squash or pumpkin.


Our Third Swiss Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week has arrived, and 2014 marks our third time celebrating this very American holiday in Switzerland. This Thursday, my son will go to school and to his piano lesson. My husband will go to work. In the evening, we’ll all meet back at home for a small-scale version of Thanksgiving—although this year our turkey may be in the form of Fondue Chinoise (the boys love it, and it’s easy for a weeknight!).

I feel thankful this year for many things, but in terms of food allergies, I’m overjoyed that my son is “only” allergic to milk, and there’s a good chance he’ll outgrow it. We had three food challenges this year, two of which were negative and allowed us to introduce new foods into his diet—almonds and raw/undercooked eggs. Then, in January 2015, he’ll begin a new round of milk-based food challenges, starting with baked milk. With cautious optimism, I’m beginning to imagine what life could be like for my son, if he outgrows all of his food allergies. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, we’re still living dairy-free in Switzerland for him. Our Thanksgiving will be free of milk products again this year, but I love being able to use eggs without any concerns—especially when making a Swiss-style pumpkin pie: Tarte à la Courge.

Courge actually means squash in French, but you can use pureed citrouille or potiron (pumpkin) instead. When I made it this week, I used one large potimarron squash, like those shown in the photo below. This tart has a delicate squash flavor that’s complemented by a cinnamon and sugar topping and a thin, sweet layer of crushed speculoos cookies underneath.

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Please note: If you’re looking for a dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free pumpkin pie, we used a recipe last year from the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation’s online community.


Tarte à la Courge (Squash Tart)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

Makes one large tart in a 28-cm (11-inch) diameter pan.

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Crust:
350 grams dairy-free pâte brisée (i.e., an American-style pie crust. My husband makes this for me, as I have absolutely no patience to do so. His favorite recipe calls for vodka and comes from Cook’s Illustrated.)

Filling:
50 grams dairy-free speculoos biscuits, crushed (I used Biscoff cookies)
2 eggs
50 grams sugar
7 grams vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
200 ml almond milk
50 ml soy cream (or another non-dairy cream)
50 grams all-purpose flour
700 grams squash or pumpkin puree (I roasted and pureed a potimarron squash)

Topping:
A few dashes of cinnamon
100 grams sugar

1. Grease the pan with dairy-free margarine and line it with parchment paper. Roll out the dough for the crust and gently lay it in the pan. Using your fingers, press the dough into place in the pan, making sure it’s evenly spread out.

2. Prick the crust in several places with a fork, and then sprinkle and spread the crushed cookies on top of the dough—only on the bottom, don’t worry about the sides.

3. Whisk together the eggs, almond milk, sugar, vanilla sugar, soy cream and flour until well-blended. Then, stir in the squash or pumpkin puree. Pour the mixture gently into the prepared pan, and spread evenly.

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4. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top of the filling, and then sprinkle the sugar evenly over the cinnamon.

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5. Bake at 200°C/400°F for 35-40 minutes until filling has set, and the crust has browned slightly. Allow to fully cool and then serve with a generous dollop of dairy-free whipped cream.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If you have any allergy-friendly recipes to share, please leave a comment below. I’m still planning our menu for Thursday…

Bundt Day 2014 Recipe: Lemon Gugelhupf

Gugelhopf Bundt

Happy National Bundt Day 2014! One of the most satisfying celebrations of the year, Bundt Day marks the start of the holiday baking season. I usually end up with about 3-4 cakes to share with family and friends. This year is no exception. We’ll be making and eating way too much cake today.

Bundt Cakes - state fair

Prize-winning Bundt cakes at the Minnesota State Fair (Source: M. Nieuwsma)


The Swiss Bundt: Kugelhopf/Gugelhupf

As I’ve written before, Switzerland has a rich history of making the precursor to Bundt cakes—the kugelhopf (a.k.a. gugelhupf and many other names). Since the early 19th century, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, nearly all Swiss cookbooks contained at least one recipe for this fluted cake with a whole in the middle. In comparison, the Nordic Ware company introduced the Bundt pan to the United States in the 1950s.

I love discovering old Swiss-style molds for these cakes and need to add one to my collection. The photos below show some examples of these antique molds, which are on display at the Alimentarium in Vevey, Switzerland

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Antique kugelhopf molds at the Alimentarium

I recently found a recipe for a gugelhupf in a Swiss cookbook for children that I borrowed from a friend. Here’s dairy-free version of the gugelhupf, which reminds me of an American-style pound cake. It’s delicious served with fresh berries and a big dollop of whipped dairy-free cream.


Lemon Gugelhupf

Adapted from Backen mit Globi (2013).

(dairy-free, nut-free)

Wet ingredients – Mixture #1:
7 egg yolks
250 gram dairy-free margarine, soft
100 grams powdered sugar
7 grams vanilla sugar
zest of 1-2 lemons

Wet ingredients – Mixture #2:
7 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
150 grams sugar

Dry ingredients:
150 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams
corn starch

1. With dairy-free margarine, grease and flour a cake mold with a diameter of 20 cm (8 inches) or a 10-cup Bundt pan.

2. Mix together all the wet ingredients for mixture #1 in a large bowl until well-blended. (Please note: separate the eggs and save them for mixture #2).

3. In a separate bowl, mix the egg white and salt vigorously until they form stiff peaks. I did this by hand, but use an electronic mixer if you have one! Then, stir in the sugar.

4. In a third bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.

5. To the large bowl with mixture #1, gently fold in mxture #2 and the dry ingredients in multiple and alternating batches. Do not overbeat.

6. Pour the batter into the pan, and spread the batter evenly. Bake at about 45 minutes at 180°C/350°F until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

7. Leave the cake in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes, and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cooled, dust generously with powdered sugar.

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Are you making an allergy-friendly Bundt cake today?
If so, please share your recipe in a comment below or send me a photo. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here’s a video of some of my dairy-free Bundt cakes from over the years.  Bon week-end!

Swiss Bread Recipe: Grappe de Miche

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The Swiss bake their bread in all different sizes and shapes, and in Suisse-Romande, there’s a loaf resembling a cluster of grapes—Grappe de Miches. Last weekend, when our small Swiss city celebrated the grape harvest with its annual te des vendanges (wine festival). I noticed two boulangeries with these festive loaves prominently displayed in their windows.

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With the start of October and cooler temperatures on the way, I will start baking again in earnest. This grape-inspired loaf seemed like a good way to kick of the season!


Grappe de Miche

Inspired by the  “Pain blanc en couronne” from Supertoinette.

(dairy, egg, nut and soy-free)

500 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
7 grams of dry active yeast
300 ml of water, very warm
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (plus about 1 tsp. more)

1. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

2. In a separate container, add the yeast to the warmed water and set aside for a few minutes to let it dissolve. Stir until it’s completely absorbed in the water.

3. Pour the yeast mixture and the sunflower oil into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir together until a dough forms. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it become smooth and elastic.

4. Add about 1 teaspoon of oil to a large bowl, and turn the kneaded dough in the oil mixture. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour, until it’s doubled in size.

5. Next, divide the dough into about 13 pieces. Form 10 round buns of equal proportions as the “grapes.” Arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, as shown below, leaving a little room between the buns. Next prepare the decorations (I used a maple leaf cookie cutter and made a small grapevine) and place them on top. Finally, using the remaining dough to make a stem. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.

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6. Sprinkle the loaf generously with flour and bake at approximately 30 minutes at 200ºC/400ºF.

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7. When the top of the loaf is nicely browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, then it’s done. We like eating this when it’s still warm, but the buns can be kept for a day or two, if they’re tightly wrapped in plastic.

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My 3-year old and I had a picnic yesterday with sandwiches made from our Grappe de Miche, while my 7-year old hiked along the lake with his school. I hope you have a wonderful first weekend of October. Bon week-end, all!

Recipe: Swiss Comfort Food—Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey

benedictine stew

Public schools don’t provide lunch here in Switzerland, as I’ve mentioned before. Kids either go home for lunch or to a grandparents house, for example, or they participate in an offsite parascolaire program. These programs in our Swiss city pick up kids from school at 11:40 AM, feed them and then bring them back to school by 1:45 PM.

Since I’m still working as a mère au foyer (i.e., stay-at-home mom), my son comes home for lunch. With a fixed amount of time to get him fed and returned to school, I find myself needing to do some meal prep in advance. This way, our time together isn’t too rushed (i.e., I keep my cool and don’t yell as much!), and he’s not late getting back to class.

This week, I wanted to share a very Swiss recipe from the canton of Schwyz that I’ve adapted to be dairy-free: Benediktinereintopf Kloster Einsiedeln (Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey). It’s a hearty Swiss-style meal that can be made relatively quickly, with a little chopping done beforehand. So far, I’ve served it with mashed potatoes (which most of us prefer) and elbow macaroni (which my son with food allergies prefers). Surprisingly, it’s a dairy-free cheese that makes this dish work!


Einsiedeln Abbey

Our family visited the Einsiedeln Abbey this summer, where the Benedictine Stew apparently originated, but the torrents of rain prevented us from having a leisurely visit. We still enjoyed our time there, but I would love to return someday during the holiday season for the town’s famed Christmas market, as the Abbey makes a dramatic backdrop to the festive stalls of craft makers and food vendors.

Einsiedeln Abbey front

Einsiedeln Abbey in the pouring rain, July 2014

The current Monastery and Abbey Church in Einsiedeln were constructed in the 18th century, but religious pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. The courtyard include stables for the historic Einsiedeln breed of horses. The boys would have loved seeing them, but it was raining so hard that day, none of us wanted to venture out across the courtyard!

Einsiedeln Abbey interior

Courtyard of the Einsiedeln Abbey; stables in the background

Back home after our trip, I came across the Benedictine Stew recipe in my Betty Bossi cookbook. Other than it being from the Einsiedeln Abbey, I haven’t learned much else about this Swiss dish. Although, I saw the Jewish Museum Berlin has a recipe online for a cheese soup served at the Abbey on “minor fasting days,” with leeks as a suggested addition. If you know anything else about the Benedictine Stew, please let me know!

The Betty Bossi recipe calls for a soft cheese with herbs, like Boursin. Instead, I substituted a dairy-free alternative: CreamyRisella, a soft Italian cheese made from brown rice. For the herbs, I just added some fresh tarragon. If you can use real cheese in this recipe, you should! However, if you’re like us and need to avoid milk-based products because of an allergy, CreamyRisella is a very good alternative.

Benedictine stew ingredients


Benedictine Stew

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi’s “The Swiss Cookbook” (Zurich, 2010).

Ingredients:

400 grams ground beef
1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
400 grams leeks, cuts into thin strips lengthwise (or into rounds—it’s easier and tastes the same!)
3 small onions, finely chopped
500 ml vegetable broth
200 grams CreamyRisella (or another very soft dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

Instructions:

1. Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Remove the beef and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan.

2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dairy-free margarine to the same pan, and sweat the leeks and onions slowly for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.

3. Pour the vegetable broth over the leeks and return the ground beef to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the CreamyRisella (or other cheese substitute) and tarragon, over medium heat, until both are fully incorporated and the dish is heated throughout. Serve immediately over your choice of an accompaniment: allergy-friendly boiled or mashed potatoes or elbow macaroni.

Benedictine Stew 2
The Swiss holiday, Jeûne Fédéral, is this weekend, so I’ll be making a Tarte aux Pruneaux to celebrate. Bon week-end, everyone!

Recipe: Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Petits Pains

Every year on August 1, Switzerland celebrates Swiss National Day. Here in Suisse romande, we know this holiday as Fête nationale or 1er août. Given the Swiss affinity for bread, it’s not surprising that there’s a special bun prepared for the holiday. Known as August-weggen (German), Pain du 1er août (French) or Panino del 1° agosto (Italian), the small and large versions are cut and baked to look like there’s a Swiss cross on top. They’re typically decorated with a small paper version of the red and white Swiss flag.

This year marks our first time celebrating Fête Nationale in Switzerland. Our first year here, we arrived one day after the celebration on Saturday, August 2, 2012. Now I understand why everything was so quiet the morning we drove from the airport in Zurich to our new home! The Swiss were sleeping in after a day of local celebrations and feasting—traditionally an outdoor brunch at a local farm—and watching fireworks late into the evening.

Instead of heading to a farm for a local brunch on Friday—which would undoubtedly have tables heaped with delicious Swiss cheeses and other milk and egg-filled dishes—we’re choosing to have our own picnic and bonfire at a local park. We’ll be roasting cervalas, often referred to as the Swiss national sausage, as well as marshmallows, to give our celebration an American twist. I’ll also be serving my own version of Petits Pains du 1er août, but mine will be made without dairy.


Rütli Meadow: The Birthplace of Switzerland

To give you some background, Swiss National Day commemorates the founding of Switzerland in 1291. The story goes that the leaders of three cantons—Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri—came together at the Rütli Meadow to form a strategic alliance. The pact made by these three original cantons ultimately led to the formation of Switzerland and the 26 cantons we know today (there’s a great video from Swissinfo.ch with some beautiful images of Rütli and more detailed info about its history).

We visited the Rütli Meadow earlier this month when we stayed a few nights in Brunnen (as an aside, we had a pleasant stay at the Hotel Schmid & Alfa, which has a few apartments with kitchens, so we could make our own meals). From Brunnen, we took a 10-minute ferry ride across Lake Lucerne to Rütli. During our visit to this historic site with incredible views, only a few other families crossed our path. We had a peaceful time exploring the pristine meadow, seeing happy Swiss cows and having a snack at the picnic area (that’s shown in the video above). If you’re in the vicinity, it’s certainly worth a stop.

Rutli Meadow

The view from Rütli Meadow

Swiss National Day started in 1891, but it became a federal holiday over a century later in 1994. Also, the Swiss didn’t start making Pain du 1er août until 1959, when it was invented by the Swiss national association for bakers and confectioners. The small version of the buns are very similar to Petits Pains au Lait, except they have a patriotic shape cut into the top.

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Pain du 1er août in a Suisse romande bakery window

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Pain du 1er août (even a chocolate version) at the supermarket


Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Recipe adapted from one of my favorite Suisse romande bloggers, Delimoon

(dairy/nut-free, can be made without egg)

Makes 8 rolls

500 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml soy or rice milk,
very warm
7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
1 egg,
beaten (or 1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled)

1. Whisk together the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add the softened margarine. Set aside.

2. Add yeast to the warmed soy or rice milk, along with a pinch of sugar. Gently stir and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture begins to foam slightly.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture and margarine. Stir until a dough forms. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, stopping when it becomes smooth and elastic.

4. Let the dough rise for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Punch down the dough and cut into 8 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into round buns and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 minutes.

5. With a pastry brush, gently brush on the egg wash (or melted margarine). Then, using kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, make cuts into the dough that resemble the cross on the Swiss flag.

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6. Bake the buns for 20-30 minutes at 200°C/400°F. Remove and tap the bottoms. If they sound hollow, then they’re done. Place on a wire rack to cool.

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Happy Swiss National Day! We’re looking forward to a 3-day weekend. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Bon week-end, all!