Hans Röckenwagner has worn many hats during his nearly 30 years cooking in Southern California.
He came here from his native Germany driven by a passion to convince us of the beauty of modern German cooking -- unfortunately that was something that his sunny Westside clientele proved resistant to. And he’s run a casual neighborhood café of the highest order -- fortunately, something that may have succeeded beyond even his imagination.
He’s also run a bakery, sold at farmers markets and lord knows what else.
Every stage of that eclectic career is reflected in his new “Das Cookbook,” written with Jenn Garbee and Wolfgang Gussmack and published by local Prospect Park Books. There is, as they say, something for everyone, no matter which stage of Röckenwagner’s career you prefer.
As someone who has long been fascinated by German cooking -- modern and not -- I naturally gravitated toward the schnitzels, the spring spaetzle, monkfish sauerbraten and the roast goose with citrus-spiced red cabbage.
His most ardent fans, though, will probably want the book more for the green hummus, California club and quinoa burger they have come to love at the café.
Passionate bakers who have gone nuts for his middle-European breads and pastries will find lye-cured pretzels, leckerli and whole-grain sunflower rye.
As with Röckenwagner’s career in general, the recipe assortment may be all over the map, but each is going to be loved by someone.
Makes: 16 to 20 bars
Note: This recipe was not tested in the Times Test Kitchen.
2 cups finely ground hazelnuts, also known as hazelnut flour
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, packed
2 eggs, divided
3/4 cup good-quality raspberry jam
1 tablespoon Port, if needed
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack in middle of oven. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and lightly butter the top of the parchment.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together ground hazelnuts, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add half of hazelnut-flour mixture, and mix on low speed until batter just comes together. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Place 1 rounded cup of batter in a medium, sealable food storage bag. Press out the air and seal the bag.
5. Spread remaining batter into prepared baking pan and roughly smooth the top with your fingers. Freeze for 15 minutes. If jam is very thick, place it in a small bowl and whisk in the Port. Spread jam on top of the chilled batter.
6. Snip about 1/2 inch off one bottom corner of the food storage bag to create an opening about 3/4-inch wide (don’t worry about exact measurements). Starting at one corner, gently squeeze the bag to pipe a diagonal line of batter down the center of the torte to the opposite corner. Pipe another diagonal line on each side of the center line so you have three evenly spaced parallel lines. The crosshatch windows should be much wider than an American-style pie; the batter is so thick, it spreads while baking (that’s also why piping fewer lines on the bottom helps). To make a crosshatch pattern, pipe a diagonal line of batter down the center of the torte again, this time connecting the opposite two corners. Pipe two diagonal lines on each side of the center line. Use any remaining batter to connect any broken sections.
7. Place pan in oven and bake until edges are light golden brown and crosshatches in the center feel lightly springy to the touch, 34 to 38 minutes. The torte should be very moist; it will continue to set up as it cools.
Place the torte on a rack to cool for 15 minutes and run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the torte. Allow to cool completely and cut into 16 to 20 bars or squares.