The devil's mountain


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My journey seemed like it would never end. A perfect autumn day with leaves shimmering gold and scarlet, yet still I was impatient on the train headed west and the bus offering glimpses of majestic villas shielded from prying eyes by high walls. I knew they would be there waiting for me though, ready to make our way through the Grunewald to the Teufelsberg where the Allies once listened to East German and Soviet radio signals until the Wall fell. Today the weather beaten ruins perch defiantly over the city and after seeing it so often when flying from Tegel, it had long been a dream of mine to get inside. An ever growing group of people gathered at the gates waiting for our guide, an American who had worked at the base. The clouds took over as we began to climb up, past buildings covered in graffiti and piles of rubbish left behind from wild parties which often take place there. The weatherproof covering has largely disintegrated because of the strong winds and vandalism but what remains is a haunting skeleton from which you look out over the woven colours of the trees below, across to the hill for kite flyers, the Olympic Stadium, the Wannsee and the river Havel with its sailing boats. The higher we went, the more beautiful the view and at the top of the tower the evening sun appeared, making everything even more radiant with a pinkish glow. I felt lucky to be there, knowing that in ten years' time it will probably be too dangerous to visit, the history under my feet and the wonderful city spread out below. Thanks to my dear friends for making this possible; it was the perfect late birthday present.

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Since my last post about my favourite things in winter, there has been nothing but a glorious late autumn I'm happy to say. Long walks outside with the camera are a must to catch every bit of light and the leaves before they disappear. Stepping out last night though, I felt a chill in the air as the sun faded from view and thought it was also the perfect time to make Julia's Kademummabullar or Swedish cardamom buns. Julia has one of the loveliest blogs, full of wonderful recipes and the most beautiful photography but I felt a little nervous at the idea of making these because of the decoration involed at the end. Luckily though, her instructions couldn't have been clearer and despite the excellent video she recommends no longer being available to German users, I managed to make the pastries look presentable. They were so popular that I needn't have worried. Merci Julia pour la recette! Those of you who can read French can also get her wonderful little book on baking and cooking with cardamom at Éditions de l'Épure here.

Kardemummabullar (Swedish cardamom buns). Original recipe in French from Ju* Carnets.

The recipe seems very complex and hard work because the preparation is spread out over two days but none of the stages took me more than 20 minutes, baking excluded. If a clumsy left-hander like me can manage it, I'm sure you all can too :-) The only things I changed were not adding the optional almond paste to the filling and I skipped making the syrup to pour over the buns when they come out of the oven because I normally find it a bit too sweet.

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Day 1 in the morning or the night before, create or feed your yeast starter by mixing 40g of fresh or dried yeast with 40 ml lukewarm water and 40g of all purpose flour, cover and leave for 8 hours or overnight.
Day 1 + 8 hours - prepare the dough without butter
Day 1 + 8.5 hours: add the butter to the dough
Day 1 + 18 hours: prepare the filling and make the buns
Day 2 + 8 hours - glaze the buns, sprinkle with pearl sugar and bake them

Makes 20 cardamom buns

For the dough

700g all purpose flour
80g yeast (see note above)
350ml milk
100g natural cane sugar
1 egg
10g sea salt
10g ground cardamom
100g soft butter, chilled

For the cardamom filling

150g soft butter, creamed
70g light muscovado or natural cane sugar
10g ground cardamom

For the glaze

1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp water
pearl sugar (I got mine at Galeria Kaufhof at Alex but most foodhalls of large department stores should stock it)

1. When your yeast is ready to use, pour the flour into a large mixing bowl and create a well in the middle. Pour the egg into the centre along with the salt, sugar, cardamom and yeast and mix the ingrediants together using your fingers (one hand is enough) and forming circular movements away from the centre. There will be plenty of flour around the middle but don't worry. Once you've mixed in the other ingredients, add the milk in several doses, still mixing with your fingers, working in the flour until it's all gone and you can form a ball with the dough. Lightly dust it with flour and place in a clean bowl, cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. When the 30 minutes are up, remove the butter from the fridge, dust it with a little flour and roll it out between two pieces of clingfilm or plastic wrap to soften it. You should have a thin layer of butter. With your thumb, begin working it into the ball of dough then knead it with both hands on a floured work surface. The dough will become sticky and at times, almost impossible to deal with but keep going. Use more flour as needed until you once again have a smooth dough which forms a ball. Put it back in the bowl and leave to rest under a cloth at room temperature for 8 hours.
3. Eight hours later, you can begin to make the filling in a bowl by combining the butter, sugar and cardamom with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out your dough to form a rectangle of approximately 40cm x 60cm. Spread the filling evenly over two thirds of the dough then fold it in three, beginning with the unfilled third over the middle third and the remaining filled one over this. I apologise for not having any photos here as none were in focus but you can find it shown very clearly on Julia's blog. Cut the rolled up dough widthways into strips about the thickness of your finger, twist them a little and tie them in a knot. Place your pastries on a baking sheet, cover with a slightly damp cloth and leave them overnight in a cool oven.

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4. In the morning of the second day, preheat the oven to 200°C. Brush the unbaked cardamom buns with the egg glaze and sprinkle some pearl sugar over them. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes and leave to cool on the tray for around half an hour before eating.

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