Jürgen Krauss’ New Cookbook Is A Celebration Of German Home Baking
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Jürgen Krauss’ New Cookbook Is A Celebration Of German Home Baking

Jun 17, 2023

The German Baking Book cover.

If you’re a fan of The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off), you’re probably familiar with Jürgen Krauss, a former database administrator turned professional baker who despite putting up some of the best bakes the competition has seen and being awarded Star Baker three times was eliminated at the semi-finals (#JusticeforJurgen). While he didn’t win his season of GBBS, he captured the hearts of baking fans around the world and this week he releases his first-ever cookbook. The German Baking Book: Cakes, Tarts, Breads, and More from the Black Forest and Beyond is out on August 29.

A self-taught baker, Krauss’ love for baking began at his parents’ house, where he helped his mom in the kitchen, especially during the Christmas season. As a teenager, he’d make the occasional cheesecake or Linzer torte from scratch with ease, but it wasn’t until 10 years after moving to England that baking became a big part of his life again. “I was missing German bread and looked into making good bread. The book landscape had changed a lot since I last tried making bread in Germany (very unsuccessfully),” he said. He baked different kinds of bread and cakes (a popular request among friends and family, who encouraged Krauss to apply for GBBS). And the rest is history.

Inside his cookbook, you’ll find German classics like Black Forest gateau and coffee cake, plus festive bakes like Lebkuchen and gingerbread. Recipes range from simple to complex, and many of the components (from cakes to creams to glazes) can be mixed and matched to create something new. “It’s a very personal book, filled with many of the things I liked to eat as a child, which we baked at home or bought at a bakery,” he said. “It’s a cross-section of baked goods you’ll find in Germany; it’s not all fancy cakes and it’s not all yeasted things.” There’s something in the book for everyone.

Krauss has graciously shared his recipe for Black Forest gateau (below), one of his all-time favorite desserts. “I think it’s just a wonderful combination of chocolate, sour cherry flavor, this acidity, and then the lightness of cream as well which is flavored with kirsch,” he said. “Even if you leave out the kirsch to make a nonalcoholic version it’s really nice. (Of course, a good artisan kirsch will really elevate it to something very special.” This recipe was a no-brainer for the cookbook, in part because of his first signature bake on GBBS (Schwarzwald Mini Rolls) and also to set the record straight on what makes a Black Forest gateau a Black Forest gateau. “I noticed that in Britain the perception of Black Forest gateau wasn’t quite right, people call things Black Forest if it’s just cherry and chocolate or if it’s just chocolate and cream,” he said. “For me, it has four main elements—chocolate, cherry, cream and kirsch—and they need to be balanced.” His version also has a shortcrust pastry at the bottom with a bit of apricot jam, which adds some crunch and sweetness and makes it easier to serve.

Recipes and photos from “The German Baking Book” Copyright © 2023 by Jürgen Krauss. Published by Weldon Owen.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau).

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau)

As every viewer of The Great British Bake Off knows, this is my personal favorite. It is the measure by which I would judge a café or a bakery. The balance among cream, kirsch, and chocolate needs to be just right. Shortcuts don’t work, and I would be very reluctant to change this flavor profile into something novel. Not every pâtissier adds a pie dough bottom, but I find that a little crunch makes an otherwise very soft texture far more interesting. Morello cherries are preferred, but black cherries in light syrup are okay, although not as flavorful.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients and steps—each single step is quite easy, and the outcome will be rewarding, I promise. Many of the components can be prepared the day before the cake is needed: pie dough crust, sponge cakes, cherry filling, and kirsch syrup. With those things in place, assembly is very quick.

Serves 12

For the cherry filling

1 lb (450 g) Morello cherries OR black cherries in syrup (drained), pitted

1/4 c (60 ml) kirsch

9 oz (250 ml) syrup from cherries

1/3 c (40 g) cornstarch

2 Tbsp water

Heaping 1/2 c (120 g) superfine sugar)

For the cherry filling, soak the drained cherries in the kirsch overnight. Drain the cherries and reserve the kirsch. Put the kirsch into a measuring cup and add enough of the reserved syrup to get 1¼ cups (300ml) of liquid.

Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add to the kirsch mixture in a saucepan. Add the sugar and carefully bring to a boil while stirring. Once the liquid has boiled and thickened, and no longer tastes of starch, take it off the heat and carefully stir in the cherries. Set aside and leave to cool completely.

For the kirsch syrup

1/4 c (60 ml) water

1/4 c (60 g) superfine sugar

1/4 c (60 ml) kirsch

For the kirsch syrup, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, take it off the heat and leave to cool completely. Add the kirsch.

For the pie dough

7/8 c (100 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

2 Tbsp superfine sugar

5 1/2 Tbsp (80 g) unsalted butter, cubed

1 Tbsp beaten egg

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

To make the pie dough, put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands until the dough is smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for about 30 minutes, until the dough is just firm enough to roll out.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 10-inch (25-centimeter) springform or sandwich pan.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a circle about 1/8-inch (3 millimeters) thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, cutting off any surplus as only the bottom of the pan needs to be covered. Prick the pie crust with a fork so that trapped air can escape during baking.

Bake for 8–10 minutes, until the edges start to brown.

For the chocolate sponge cake

6 medium eggs

7/8 c (160 g) superfine sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 c (90 g) all-purpose flour

1/2 c (55 g) cornstarch

1/3 c (30 g) cocoa powder)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

For the chocolate sponge cake, lightly grease a 10-inch (25-centimeter) springform cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F (220°C).

Sift the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa powder together into a bowl. Set aside.

Put some water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. This is for heating the bowl with the eggs.

Put the eggs, sugar, and salt in a bowl.

Place the bowl with the eggs over the simmering water and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until the eggs reach a temperature of about 110°F (43°C). The bowl should not touch the water in the saucepan beneath.

Take the bowl off the boiling water and continue beating on high speed until the eggs are cold and have reached the ribbon stage, i.e., when the beater is pulled out of the mix and moved across the surface it creates a ribbon of egg froth that slowly disappears.

Fold the sifted flour mixture into the eggs, then stir the melted butter into the mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave to cool before taking out of the pan.

Cut the top off the cooled sponge cake to even it out, if necessary. Cut the sponge cake into three equal layers, reserving the most even layer for the top.

For the cream filling

17 oz (500 ml) heavy cream

1 oz (30 ml) kirsch

1/3 c + 1 Tbsp (40 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the cream filling, combine the heavy cream, kirsch, and confectioners’ sugar and whip to stiff peaks.

To assemble

Apricot jam, to cover pie crust bottom

Place the pie crust on a cake board. Heat some apricot jam so that it is just liquid enough to be spread easily. Cover the pie crust with a thin layer of apricot jam.

Place the bottom sponge cake layer on top of the pie crust and brush with kirsch syrup.

Transfer some of the cream filling into a piping bag with a large round nozzle and pipe two concentric rings, starting at the edge, and a bullseye. Fill the gaps with cherry filling. It should be thick enough to hold its place. This should look like a target disk or dartboard with five zones, from the middle: cream—cherries—cream—cherries—cream.

Select your second sponge cake, turn it upside down and brush the underside with kirsch syrup. Place the sponge cake brushed-side down on top of the bottom sponge cake and filling.

Repeat the steps—brush the top of the sponge cakes—apply cream and cherry fillings—brush the bottom of third sponge cake and place it on top of the cake, syrup-side down. Gently press down the top sponge cake and even out any irregularities. If there is a bit of cream filling left, use it to apply a thin crumb layer.

To finish

1 1/4 c (300 ml) heavy cream

2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar, sifted

6 candied cherries, halved

Chocolate shavings, as needed

To finish off the cake, beat the cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Don’t overbeat or the mixture will set and break when piping. The starch in the confectioners’ sugar will stabilize the whipped cream and help it keep its shape for longer.

Reserve enough of the whipped cream in a piping bag with a medium star nozzle to pipe 12 pirouettes (the classic decoration) and any other decorations you like. Cover the cake evenly with the remaining cream and smooth the surface. Pipe 12 pirouettes, one for each slice of cake, around the edge. Top each pirouette with half a candied cherry. Cover the sides and the center of the cake with chocolate shavings.

This cake will be good for 3 days. It needs to be kept in the fridge.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau)For the cherry fillingFor the kirsch syrupFor the pie doughFor the chocolate sponge cakeFor the cream fillingTo assembleTo finish