The Griessköpfli is akin to rice pudding (creamy, raisiny), but firmer, and therefore sliceable. It is dazzlingly toppable—pour over anything from boozy sauces to fruit compotes or caramels, or eat it plain and revel in its comforting simplicity.
Griess is the German word for semolina. According to the Food Timeline (a great resource for tracking the history of food) semolina isn't exactly a food product in itself, but rather refers to the starchy by-product from milling grains. Historically it could come from any number of different kinds of grain, but today it is primarily made from durum wheat and contemporary definitions reflect this, though sometimes you also see corn or rice semolina.
Semolina has many incarnations. Pasta, couscous, and grits all depend on semolina. In India it forms a base for the savoury Dosa (as an alternative to the traditional base of urad dal and rice) and the sweet Halwa. One of Sam's favourite desserts is the Greek galaktoboureko, which wraps custardy semolina in filo pastry.
It's also a common breakfast throughout Europe, with creamy porridges popular throughout the northern countries. In my university days, during the freezing cold Ottawa winters, my roommate—the very talented Rachel Crummey—would bundle up in wool and sit next to the stove, stirring a big pot of semolina-intensive Cream of Wheat, swearing it was the only breakfast that kept her warm.
This Griessköpfli won't keep you warm, but it makes an excellent dessert and a great breakfast too.
This recipe is inspired by the similar Maisköpfli recipe from Aus Mutters Kochtopf, Betty Bossi Verlag, 1984, pg 137.
1 litre milk
1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
150 g semolina
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp sugar
1 lemon, zest and juice
100 g raisins, tea or booze soaked (optional)
Soak the raisins in about 100 ml of freshly brewed tea or spirits.
Grease a 1 litre form and put in in the freezer until use.
Put the milk, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the semolina and stir well. Cook on low heat for about 8 minutes.
Stir in and maple syrup, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and raisins.
Pour into form and smooth out the top.
Cover with plastic wrap and let cool in fridge.
You could top this with pretty much any sauce—caramel, fruit, booze. It also pairs wonderfully with compotes, jam, or fresh berries.
This version isn't overly sweet, so it doubles as an excellent breakfast.
For a gluten-free alternative, simply substitute the wheat semolina with rice or corn semolina (more often sold as finely ground polenta)