As I began to read our current Cook the Books Club selection, The Baker's Daughter, by Sarah McCoy, I became more and more drawn into the story, both for its own sake, and then especially after remembering that my own mother was a German baker's daughter. Her father's father came from Germany in the latter part of the 19th century, migrating to Minnesota, and from there his son, her father, Charles Ulmen, moved his young family to California around 1910, where he opened a bakery, which morphed into a cookie factory.
I know they made a variety of cookies, at least one of them chocolate, based on an old family story of my uncle's raid on the bakery supplies. The little guy ate enough chocolate to make himself sick, and never wanted any more for the remainder of his life.
Previously my genealogical research had been confined to my father's side, so this was an encouragement to dig into my mother's history. Why did her grandfather leave his home in Europe, and exactly when. Lots more remains to be discovered.
This book was a fascinating tale of life in Germany during the World War II years, from one young girl's perspective, and all through it we are tempted by the descriptions of delicious breads and pastries in their family bakery. I was inspired to attempt them all. Which might just happen, eventually.
There was only one sticking point, for me, with the plotting of the story. It didn't seem right that Tobias and Elsie would not have found one another, for a reunion some time in all those years after the war, at least before her death. But a minor, if unhappy nuance. I would love to hear from our author if the book was based at all or in part on a true life tale. Either way, the story is gripping and well-written, with life and death escapades, romance and tragedy, taking place within both the border dramas of present day Texas, and those of Nazi Germany.
I found this picture of one of my grandpa Ulmen's cookie tins online. Turns out my sister bought it, or one similar, so now I'm going to watch for them on ebay.
At any rate, in honor of my grandfather's fruit cookies, I made the delicious Tomasplitzchen Buns, though not being familiar to most people, we are taking liberties with the name. Perhaps Fruit Spirals? And I used fruits grown in California, dates and cherries.
Fruit Spirals or Thomasplitzchen Buns
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 teas. salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 teas. melted butter
1 cup currants, raisins, cranberries, or whatever dried fruit you have on hand (I used dates and cherries, chopped small)
1/4 cup sugar
(I cut this in half and there was quite enough)
3 tablespoons melted butter
few drops vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk (not in the original, but didn't work without it)
Mix the filling ingredients together well and set aside.
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until a very fine crumb, add the milk, mix until it all holds together, and form into a rectangle. Roll out to 1/8th inch thick on a floured board.
Spread the filling over to within an inch of the edges (it will squish out some). Roll it up like a fat sausage, and then make one inch slices. Put them pinwheel side up on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven 350F until barely suntanned on top. About 15 to 20 minutes.
For the icing, mix together while the buns are baking, and when they're out of the oven, give them a good smothering and let cool. Actually they were also good without the icing, sweet from the fruit.
I would definitely make these again, a delicious sort of coffee cake or breakfast bun, with a light biscuity texture, easier and quicker to put together than cinnamon rolls.
Check out all the inspired creations from the other entries to this edition of Cook the Books Club.