The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking With My Mom

hanseata's picture

Baking With My Mom


Brussels Sprouts Soufflé

My mother is an amazing woman. A retired gynecologist at 93, she is still going strong, grocery shopping with her bike, climbing up the stairs to her third floor apartment, staying on top of the news, and struggling to keep up with the pile of medical magazines on her table (I inherited those qualms to throw out unread newspapers - you never know what you might miss!)

Three years ago she even learned to use a computer in order to join Facebook. She didn't want to be the only family member not able to see my daughter's photos from Bhutan, my sister's from her garden on Mallorca, or pictures of my Maine kitchen ventures.

When I visited my mother last fall in Hamburg I wanted to bake something with her, something light, healthy and, of course, delicious.  No bread, alas - much as she likes it, she suffers from heartburn if she eats fresh bread.

Kitchens resemble owners - Mutti's kitchen is a spacious, cheerful place, a cooking/dining/living room with a no nonsense, no frills, and waste-not-want-not attitude.

  My Mom's no-frills kitchen

The tall cabinet - painted in neon pink, yellow and blue by my 14-year old sister (50 years ago, when my mother was not looking!) - holds an abundance of supplies, kitchen gadgets, odds and ends.

Many of those were left behind whenever my sister and I were moving ("You never know when somebody might need them," Mutti insists,) but the strangest item is an enameled strainer - made from a recycled WWII helmet, with holes for the strap!

Baking there is a bit of a challenge, because the oven also serves as storage space for pots and pans, that have to find another place in a kitchen full of mother flower pots, their numerous offspring, newspaper clippings, and other things my mother likes to have around.

But I am a baker, and where there is a will, there is a way. So one morning we went shopping and purchased Brussels sprouts, limes, graham cookies and sweetened condensed milk (not an easy thing to find in German supermarkets).

Brussels sprouts are the base for a wonderful soufflé that will turn even Brussels sprouts haters into fans. But  it can be also made with broccoli or cauliflower.


(adapted from Johanna Handschmann: "Aufläufe aus der Vollwertküche")

300 g Brussels sprouts (or broccoli or cauliflower)
 40 g butter
 40 g whole wheat flour
250 ml heavy cream or milk
1/2 cube vegetable broth or tsp. granules
pepper, freshly grated, to taste
nutmeg, freshly grated, to taste
herbal salt, to taste
50 g Emmental cheese, coarsely grated
3 - 4 eggs, separated
butter, for gratin form

Cut large Brussels sprouts in halves, broccoli or cauliflower in florets. Cook in steamer for ca. 5 - 7 minutes until almost done. (Or cook in a pan with tightly fitting lid, with a cup of water and 1 tsp. of lemon juice.) Drain and set aside.

For the Béchamel sauce, cook butter in a large sauce pan until foaming. Add flour and cook over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly browned. Remove from heat, and whisk in cream or milk in a slow stream. Add herbal salt and spices, then bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400º F/200º C. Adjust rack to middle rung. Place high rimmed gratin form in oven for 5 minutes, to warm up.  

Using a food processor, immersion blender or chef's knife, finely chop Brussels sprouts (or broccoli or cauliflower).


Stir purée into butter/cream mixture. Add cheese and egg yolks and mix until well blended. Season with herbal salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Remove hot gratin form from oven, and melt a piece of butter, tilting pan to grease bottom.

Whisk egg whites with pinch of salt until stiff. Fold into vegetable mixture. Pour into gratin form, smooth top with rubber spatula, and immediately place into oven.

Bake gratin for 20 - 25 minutes (don't open the oven door during the first 10 minutes, or the soufflé will deflate), or until top is well browned. The middle can be soft, but shouldn't be totally runny. Let cool for 5 minutes in switched-off oven with door slightly ajar, then serve immediately.


My mother loves desserts - she often says with conviction: "The dessert is always the best part of a meal!" We both prefer tart fruits, and don't like it overly sweet. Therefore I chose a citrus-y dessert that is as delicious as it is simple:

KEY LIME BARS  (16 servings)  (adapted from "Cook's Illustrated")

142 g/5 oz animal crackers or other dry cookies
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 pinch salt
57 g/4 tbsp butter, melted

57 g/2 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp. lime zest (1 lime)
1 pinch salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk (399 g/14 oz)
1 egg yolk
½ cup lime juice ( 1-1/2 limes)
lime zest , for garnish

Preheat oven to 325ºF/160ºC. Line an 8 x 8" (20 x 20 cm) square pan crosswise with aluminum foil strips, allowing extra foil to hang over edges of pan. Mist with oil spray.

For the crust, process crackers in food processor until finely ground (or place cookies in ZipLock bag and crush them with roller pin), add brown sugar and salt, and pulse to combine.

Drizzle with melted butter, and pulse until all crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs evenly into bottom of pan.

Bake crust until deep golden brown, 18 - 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack (don't turn off the oven!)

For the filling, combine cream cheese, lime zest and salt in mixing bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk, and mix until well blended. Whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice, and mix gently until incorporated.

Pour filling in cooled crust, and smooth top with spatula. Bake until set, and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides (15 - 20 minutes.)

Transfer pan to wire rack, and let cake cool to room temperature. Decorate with lime zest. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Remove cake from pan by lifting foil extensions. Cut into 16 squares.

  Key Lime Bars

I could never find fresh Key limes, when I baked these, but you can as well use regular (Persian) limes. But don't substitute with bottled lime juice - the bars will not taste the same!

Since the sweetened condensed milk supplies plenty of sugar, I cut down on the sugar when making the crust (from 3 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon.)

"Cook's Illustrated" suggests toasted shredded coconut as garnish for those who don't like it too tart. Mutti and I, of course, love citrus flavor and used lime zest curls as decoration.

The Key Lime Bars keep fresh for several days if stored in the refrigerator - if they last that long!

My mother Gisela, my older sister Ingrid and me - in the Fifties.


eva_stockholm's picture

I enjoyed reading this "mini-story" immensely! Thank you for sharing. :)


hanseata's picture

I enjoyed writing it - with all the old memories coming back to mind.


Janetcook's picture

Hi Karin,

Thanks so much for the peek into your life.  Amazing about your mom!  What a lot she has lived through with all the changes our world has been through.  Remarkable that she continues to live on her own!  My mother did 3 flights of stairs too.  Seems like older people are afraid of stairs these days but I think that is what kept my mother in shape - forced exercise :-)  (My house has no stairs other than those to the basement....but those do get used because the washer/dryer are down there and the TV if anyone cares to watch.)

Your meal looks delicious.  I love brussel sprouts but, alas, they do not love me so I can merely look and remember their delicious flavor.  Nobody here likes them so I have to do my looking in the store only :-)  They were my favorite veggie come fall.  The store where I do my shopping would get them still on their stalks.  Quite a treat.  Sigh....

Anyway,  I do love my zucchini and it does agree with me :-)

Take Care and thanks for the lovely post Karin!




hanseata's picture

You are certainly right about the daily exercise with the stairs - my mother says the same. I don't like the idea that she has to carry up her shopping bags, but she likes her apartment and adamantly refuses to consider moving into one that's more accomodating for older people.

What a pity that you can't enjoy Brussels sprouts anymore.


dabrownman's picture

just made my day!  Your Mom is a treasure in so many ways and you are blessed for her being there for you all those great and wonderful years.  3 flights of stairs is one thing but I think it is the hemp seeds you are probably sneaking into her souffles that keeps her 25 years younger than her age :-)  I'm sure she has many great recipes to send your way and this one is exceptionally nice if you like Brussels.

Bake on - with your Mom Karin.

hanseata's picture

whether my mother would approve of hemp seeds, or not - so better not tell her!

I am very happy that my Mom is doing so well, stilling having a sharp mind (and sometimes critical: "Did you put on some weight?"). She's getting frailer, though, and I'm glad that my son and my niece are regularly looking after her.

Good to hear that you enjoyed my story,



Yerffej's picture

Really nice story Karin, thanks for posting it.


hanseata's picture

I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!


varda's picture

how wonderful.   You are so lucky to have had the opportunity.   Love the pictures and your creations.   I have just started making souffles and yours looks wonderful.  I love brussel sprouts but my enthusiasm is not shared around here.   Wonder if I could slip that one by.  -Varda

hanseata's picture

but I could slip it by him! The Brussels sprouts taste is softened by the cream sauce (I use heavy cream) and the cheese, so it has a very pleasant taste.
But, if necessary, you can also make it with brokkoli and cauliflower.

Thanks for your nice comments, Varda



BjornErik's picture

of the egg yolks in the souffle.  When I raised my own chickens their yolks were that beautiful orange color and not that extremely pale yellow of mass-produced supermarket eggs.  This time of year without the farmer's market makes it difficult to find good eggs.

A yellow cake made with those eggs comes out yellow and not "off white" like it does with supermarket eggs.


hanseata's picture

Those eggs were indeed from the farmers' market! And they are much better.

Hamburg has the longest street fresh market, and it is year round open. I never fail to go there, when I visit. I love the atmosphere.


Franko's picture

Such an enjoyable post to read Karin, and to view your family photos as well. Along with your Mom's Brussel Sprout Souffle recipe, it became an instant favourite for me since it combines food and family. I'm one of those people who happen to love brussel sprouts, but usually do them steamed, then sautee with butter, bacon, onion, and breadcrumbs. The idea of making a souffle from them never occurred to me, but your mothers's version looks and sounds delicious.


hanseata's picture

Thanks, Franko, to combine food and family is easy, because they all love food, though some like cooking and others only eating. I told our kids that I wouldn't accept a son or daughter-in-law that doesn't appreciate good food - fat chance of future mother-in-law's consent.

When we don't have this soufflé as light lunch, I also like to serve it for an elegant dinner with filet mignon.



dmsnyder's picture

Some of my fondest memories are of cooking with my mother, often along with my 4 siblings and assorted spouses for holidays. Our kitchen was larger than some apartments I lived in as a student and could accommodate 6 or more productive helpers.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

My mother passed away 6 years ago. How I wish I had had the opportunity to document some time with her in the kitchen, or elsewhere. Things like that didn't seem all that important at the time, but they surely do now.

Thanks so much for sharing this. I think it's one reason this community is so special.


hanseata's picture

I felt that strongly when I visited my mother last year. She is getting frailer, and though she is in pretty good health, I don't know how many opportunities for such mother-daughter quality time will be in the future.


hanseata's picture

A kitchen large enough to house such events is very important to me!

I also dislike being alone in a tiny kitchen, when everybody else exchanges juicy titbits about other (absent) relatives, or enjoys bashing politicians, therefore we made a large opening between kitchen and the dining room in order to cook together, yell at each other and partake in all the fun.


LindyD's picture

I like her eyes: alert and intelligent.

Lovely post and your lime bars look awesome; tart is very good!  

That's an interesting stove she has, with what looks like a built-in electrical outlet.  Handy.

hanseata's picture

You are right, Lindy - my mother's range has a built-in outlet. Very practical if you want to use a handheld mixer or immersion blender.

My mother, wo also was a psychotherapist, practicing both, gynecology and psychotherapy in her office, is a very intelligent woman. She always was a role model for me, showing me that you could have a satisfying profession to support your kids as a single mom.


EvaB's picture

the post is wonderful, and your mother looks so very young really!

I wonder how large the souffle dish was, I have a number of the same shaped moulds, but they are quite small, and wouldn't be useful for cooking a shared size, could cook 4 small single serving size though. I shall have to try the recipe, but was wondering about how large the finished size was.

hanseata's picture

My mothers Pyrex dish is not very large, I would say a bit less in diameter than a pie dish. I'm sure you could very well make several smaller soufflés from the recipe, that would be a nice presentation for guests, too.


EvaB's picture

I shall just have to try it out with what I have, I have some stainless steel bowls, that my mother had bought she called them pudding basins, they are flat bottomed and have a rim edge, I took it that you could tie the cloth on the top with so steam the pudding. That might work. We don't have a lot of stuff here in town to get things like souffle dishes etc, the little ones I got a lot of years ago, when we had a lot more stores. I think I got them at Xmas time when a lot of interesting kitchen equipment would show up in stores that didn't have anything at other times. Have to get those dollars at Xmas you know!

hanseata's picture

Eva, leave the dish uncovered. Only in case it browns too quickly, you can cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil at the end of the bake.

I would just do it with your smaller dishes. Keep in mind to butter the bottom only and don't fill the dishes completely, they puff up (about halfways up.)

Good luck


M2's picture

Thank you for sharing your family story, Karin.  Your mom looks amazing.  When I saw her hands in action, it reminds me of the Russian Pianist Vladimir Horowitz.  I remember watching some of his video recordings from his older days.  Though his hands look fragile, when he put his hands on the keyboard, the fingers just flied.


hanseata's picture

My mother will be happy when I tell her of all those compliments!