Two of my closest girlfriends are having babies this year. Both are German, like myself, and again, like myself, both have spent more than half their lives abroad. One is now living in London with her British boyfriend. The other one lives in Copenhagen with her American husband. While neither lives in a German-speaking country and both speak English with their partners (and with most of their friends), both are understandably keen to speak German to their children.
And yet, over the past few months we have noticed how much German has disappeared from our lives. We spend our days speaking English with colleagues and friends and largely speak English to each other as well. German is a beautiful language. Yet, its complex grammar and tendency for long words make it rather whatsapp unfriendly. So, again, English it is. And I am with my mother who always laments the lack of German contemporary writers that write about German society and life in Germany the way contemporary American and British writers write about their countries. So books are largely read in English. And the same is true for newspapers.
But over the last few months we have made more of an effort to speak German with each other, to read more in German etc. Because, after all, it is entirely possible to lose your mother tongue and none of us want that. Maybe this explains why I have also been craving more German cooking these past few months. While I was suddenly calling my mother for tips on how to make her Semmelknödel (dumplings made from stale white bread that are far more delicious than this description would suggest). Or why I suddenly found myself adding cream to my grocery cart so I could make Rahm-Schwammerl (mushrooms in cream sauce, excellent with girolles but also nice with other types of mushrooms). And why I bought myself one of those fancy mandolines to make German Krautsalad (German cabbage salad). And my baking was not safe from this sort of nostalgia either (hence this Mohnzopf)
So here we are with a recipe for German Streuseltaler – disks of yeasted dough topped generously with a buttery streusel and a drizzle of a thick icing to finish. A layer of jam, fresh fruit or a cheesecake like filling as is the case for the ones pictured here entirely optional but highly recommended.
Back when I was a teenager singing in a cathedral choir in Germany these Streuseltaler fuelled many a long choir rehearsal standing in a cold church. And while today I spend my days pouring over long legal documents rather than rehearsing yet another classical mass in an under-heated church, these Streuseltaler still provide delicious fuel for a day’s work.
German Streuseltaler with an Orange Blossom Cheesecake Filling and Buttery Crumble Topping
Notes: It will come as no surprise that the Orange Blossom in the Cheesecake Filling is not traditional but my own addition, and a tasty one at that. But if you don’t have any to hand or you are not a fan, you can simply leave it out. You could also use some orange zest and cinnamon to flavour these, or some lemon zest and vanilla.
Makes 8 pastries
For the dough
1.5 tsp yeast
A pinch of salt
30g melted butter
For the filling
250g fresh curd cheese like Quark or Fromage Blanc or Fromage Frais, alternatively Greek yoghurt or labneh
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
For the streusel topping
100g butter, cold and diced
Pinch of salt
125g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp water
Start by making the dough. In a bowl whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Form a well in the center and add the milk, melted butter and egg. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until you have a shaggy ball of dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (10-15 minutes of kneading by hand). Return the dough to the bowl, cover and set aside somewhere warm to proof for 1.5h.
While the dough is proofing, make the filling. In a bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the filling set aside. For the streusel topping rub the cold butter into the flour, sugar and salt until the mixture is sandy with a few larger crumbs.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Divide the dough in 8 pieces, shape each into a ball and roll out into a 12cm circle.
Cover and set aside to proof until well-risen and puffy (you will notice that the Streuseltaler are ready to bake if you poke the dough with a finger and your finger leaves a mark that only very slowly disappears). Distribute the cream cheese filing evenly between the 8 disks of dough and top each disk with a generous showering of the streusel topping.
Bake each tray for 18 minutes or until well risen and golden brown in colour.
While the Streuseltaler are baking, whisk together the icing sugar with the water, one tablespoon at a time, until you have a thick but pourable icing. Drizzle over the Streuseltaler and set aside to set.