Enjoying Great German Desserts

German people love to eat, and they certainly know how to cook. My grandfather was born and raised in the communal society of the Amana Colonies in Iowa, and I’ve attended many family reunions and dinners in the Colonies over the years. Food was designed to stick to the ribs and keep hard-working men healthy and strong. Although my grandfather passed away while my mother was still a little girl, some of the recipes for foods he loved have come down through the family. Special German dessert recipes for cookies and rich pastries, such as Peppernuts (sugar cookies) and Apfelstrudel (apple strudel), were a beloved part of my childhood.

Peppernuts were among the German dessert recipes I remember. You start making Peppernuts with 1 cup of softened butter, one cup of lard, and 3 cups of sugar. Cream them together until fluffy. Add 4 eggs and beat until very creamy. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking ammonia, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 4 cups flour. Beat well. Form into small balls and bake at 350 degrees until the edges are brown, around 10-12 minutes.

All the cooking in the Amana Colonies was done in communal kitchens. After graduating from 8th grade, girls were put to work in the kitchens under the direction of a head cook. Their job was to turn out all the food, including preparing the German dessert recipes, which the colonies would eat each day. At mealtime children were sent to the kitchens with covered pails so that they could pick up the food allotted to their family and bring it home. Everyone worked hard, and no one worried about calories.

Apple strudel is another of the delightful German dessert recipes that smells heavenly while it’s baking. For this recipe you need to start with 10 1/2 oz. of flour, 1/6 oz. of salt, 1 1/2 oz. of melted lard, and 5 1/3 oz. of warm water. This will give you the basic dough for the dessert. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. Divide into 3 loaves, brush each with melted butter, and allow to raise in a warm place for an hour.

While you’re waiting for the bread dough to rise, you can mix your filling. Start by peeling, coring, and slicing 5 1/2 lbs. of Golden Delicious apples. Mix 5 1/3 oz. of sugar with 1 1/2 oz. of dark rum, 5 1/3 oz. of raisins, the zest and juice from two lemons, and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon. Toss this mixture with the apples. Mix 10 1/2 oz. of bread crumbs with 10 1/2 oz. of melted, unsalted butter. Take one loaf of dough and stretch it to fit a strudel sheet. Cover 2/3 of the sheet of dough with bread crumbs. Spread apple filling on the remaining third. Cut the edges even and roll the dough up. Place on a cookie sheet, brush the top with melted butter, and bake at 400 degrees for for 60-90 minutes.

Hot and Spicy Appetizers Add Fiery Heat to Liven Up Any Party Or Get Together

There is no better way to perk up a party-going crowd than to offer a spicy, interesting appetizer, or serve up a fiery first course to a great meal. Appetizers can provide an exiting range of flavors, and many recipes can be prepared with very little effort. Fortunately, even those spicy appetizers that require a little more of your time, such as the Greek Chile-Cheese Pastries recipe below, taste so good that you may find yourself making them many times.

You can always adjust the heat to suit all guests whenever making a spicy appetizer. For the chile lovers you can go crazy with the hot peppers and spices, while offering the tender-mouths less of the hot stuff. A sure way to please every palate is to serve fiery salsas on the side, so guests are able to heat up their own appetizer servings as they choose.

When hosting a party, offer several different appetizers of varying spiciness. Just let guests know as you serve them which carry the heat and which do not. That lets them make the final call.

Greek Chile-Cheese Pastries

These pastries were inspired by some of the great Greek appetizers. They are spiced up with zesty green chiles, and are guaranteed to be loved by those who love the heat. Make plenty, as these go fast.

Melted unsalted butter

2 eggs

2 cups cottage cheese

1 pound feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Pinch of salt

10 ounces thawed filo dough (strudel leaves)

1/4 cup canned diced green chiles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a baking sheet with some melted butter. Beat the eggs, cheeses, parsley, and salt together until blended. Stack 2 pastry sheets, then cut lengthwise into 3-inch-wide strips.

Brush each 2-layer strip with melted butter on both sides. Place 1 spoonful of cheese filling at 1 end of each strip, then top with a few pieces of the chile. Fold 1 corner of the strip over the filling to create a triangle, then fold the triangle over itself . Continue folding the triangle from side to side until you reach the end of the strip. You should have a triangle-shaped pastry when finished.

Pierce the top of the pastry with a wooden toothpick and place on the buttered cookie sheet. Continue making the pastries until using up all of the filo sheets, cheese filling, and chiles.

Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, or until the pastries are golden and flaky. This recipe makes about 4 dozen chile-cheese pastries.

Note: If you think some of your party crowd might enjoy spicier appetizers, substitute some of the green chiles with charred, seeded, chopped fresh jalapeno or Serrano peppers.

My Yugoslav or Serbian Heritage Food Memories, KIFLI

I grew up with the knowledge that my Dad’s parents came to the U.S. from Yugoslavia in the very early 1900s. I understand now that Yugoslavia was a union of countries at the time, but the area where my grandparents came from was Kucur, Backa, in the province of Vojvodina, in what is Serbia, today. My Yugoslav, or Serbian, grandparents lived on a farm in rural Ohio. They had chickens, so eggs were plentiful. They grew crops. They lived far differently than my Mom’s town folk during the Depression and World Wars. My Mom recalled that early in her engagement with my Dad, she went over to his parents’ house after church one Sunday, for breakfast. She was appalled that Grandma had more than 13 eggs in a bowl, to make scrambled eggs. She felt it was nearly obscene to have that many eggs for a family of five. That brought home to me the huge differences between town and country in those times.

I really never knew my grandpa as he passed on before I was 2 years old, but I recall my Yugoslav Grandma most for her desserts. There was no one better. It was her one hobby, for lack of better word. She made strudel from fine flaky dough similar to phyllo and filled with poppy seed, nuts or cheese. She made Kifli, flaky little pastries that were rolled out into squares and filled with things like Prune Lekvar, ground poppy seed filling and apricot filling. Here is the Kifli recipe I use.


1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast, about half a packet

3 cups flour

1/4 pound lard

1/4 pound unsalted butter

1 egg, whisked

1/4 cup whipping cream, or heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup poppyseed filling, prune Lekvar or apricot filling

confectioner’s sugar, for rolling and sprinkling

Crumble cake yeast or instant dried yeast into flour. Work in the lard and butter as for pie dough. Add egg and cream and work with hands until the dough pulls from sides of the bowl. Do not over mix.

Sprinkle your work area with powdered sugar and roll out a portion of the dough. Using confectioners’ sugar to roll the dough is important as adding more flour would toughen the dough. Cut rolled dough into 3-inch squares.

Fill these small squares by placing a scant teaspoon of filling of your choice in the center. Bring up opposing corners, dampen the edges with milk or cream and pinch together, then fold the pinched piece over. Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets for 15 to 18 minutes at 375 degrees. Bottoms will be golden and tops will just start to become golden color. Remove from oven, place on a rack to cool and sprinkle with more confectioners’ sugar.

Makes about 100

Grandma made so many pastry varieties, and unfortunately the Kifli is one of the few to survive as a recipe in our family. I never learned to make the strudel dough, though I recall as a child, watching Grandma quickly manipulate a small ball of dough into a paper thin piece that covered the entire tablecloth covered kitchen table and hung down over the edges for at least another 8 – 10 inches. This was an amazing feat I can recall to this day. She would sprinkle on the poppy seed mixture or apple mixture and then coax the dough up and into a very long, loose roll. Placed on a cookie sheet in a large coil, she baked this confection, and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. Grandma cooked and baked back when cooking with lard was an everyday occurrence. And now, once again, lard has come into vogue.

Grandma also made many different foods for Easter or Christmas. Beets with Horseradish for Easter, and a cheese like ball made with eggs and milk, she called Siretz. She made Bobalky at Christmas, and thankfully that recipe was passed down to us. She made the most fantastically flavorful soup, sometimes with beef, sometimes chicken and sometimes with both together. She made her own noodles to use in the soup. She made a tomato sauce she called Machanka to eat over the meats from the soup. What made the soup so very memorable to me was the saffron. The smell, the color, the way the smell of the saffron in the soup permeated the house when we walked in. The love of saffron is a legacy from my Grandma, to this day. I am so grateful to her for the wonderful flavors and memories of foods passed down from her Yugoslav, Serbian heritage.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey. You will find many more recipes and helpful tips on my web site. I am on Facebook at A Harmony of Flavors and share a recipe or tip each day to the fans that have liked my site. I hope to see you there soon.