Sunday Snapshots: Longer Days

Franconia, 2017

Late February means longer days, and longer days mean more time for walk. Much needed, as far as I’m concerned.

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Sunday Snapshots: Sunlit Snow

Reit im Winkl, Bavaria 2016

We’re planning on driving south next weekend to get our fix of mountains, snow, and snowshoes. Since we waited to go until March in 2017, we found less snow and more mud, but we tried to make at least a few hikes out of it. Though we still had a good time, I’m hoping this year’s trip looks less wet, and more like this…

Amateur Hour Baking: Dunkler Kirschkuchen

One of my goals for 2018 is to cook more new things. To be specific, at least 50 new recipes. At first glance, this may seem like a strange goal for someone who already cooks dinner at least four or five nights a week.* So why set this goal?

At some point last year I realized that though I cooked a lot, I hadn’t really tried many new recipes lately. I had pinned and bookmarked plenty of things, but a more demanding work schedule had me relying more and more on things I already knew and liked, rather than branching out. My work schedule hasn’t lightened much, but I don’t want that to be my excuse for filling up my virtual recipe box with things that will forever go untested.

Additionally, I really wanted to bake more. Besides the yearly cookie-baking weekend and the occasional other bake, I don’t do much of anything.

Taken the day of Black Forest Cake, hence the Schnapps.

I got this magnificent book for Christmas last year, and had only tried three recipes from it up until now. A quick flip through the pages and it’s easy to see why that’s such a shame. Thus, this new (hopeful) blog series.

While I won’t be doing a write-up of *every* new recipe I try (because 50 is a lot), I will be doing a quick recap of how I’m testing my skills as relating to the glory of German baked goodies.** I live in Germany, I love the hell out of all the baked goods and I want to be able to make them myself. My pre-Germany baking experience mostly consisted of Betty Crocker boxed mixes (which, let’s be fair, have their time and place), but can hardly match up to a freshly-made piece of cake in nearly any bakery here.

It is important here to note that I will NOT be sharing the recipes or the exact steps. If you’re looking for those, hello, go out and buy the book. It’s right here, it’s gorgeous, it’s thorough, and Luisa Weiss deserves all the credit in the world for writing it. If I try out any recipes that don’t come from this book, I’ll link to where those can be found as needed.

What I will be sharing is how it went, what I learned, and how many eggs I may or may not have broken in the process. I’m a decent cook, but I’m no pro. This is amateur hour baking. Welcome.

Today’s bake is Dunkler Kirschkuchen, or Spiced Chocolate-Cherry Cake.***

Technically this was the second bake of the year from Classic German Baking. The first was a Black Forest Cake, and that post is forthcoming. Both of these cakes involve chocolate and cherries, but luckily no one in this house thinks that you can have too much of a good thing.

My first very important piece of advice to is to clean your kitchen first. This is especially helpful when you haven’t done so since Wednesday and it’s a disaster area. It was nearly 5pm on Saturday by the time I actually got started, but at least that made it more acceptable to drink a Maisel’s IPA while I worked. Time to gather the supplies.

Since we don’t have a real food processor, I opted to use already-ground nuts in the recipe. I managed to just toast the nuts, which I count as a win. I made up for it later by breaking the hell out of an egg while trying to separate it, and also burning chocolate in the microwave. Whoops.

I managed to salvage the chocolate, as it only burnt a bit in the middle and that was easy enough to extract. I added more chocolate, opened the window,  threw the bowl back into the microwave, and watched it like a hawk. Soon I had a bowl of melted goodness and we were on our way.

The whole thing came together rather quickly, and apart from the cat trying to trip me constantly, without further incident.

A pile of sour cherries on top, and into the oven it went.

Pre-bake

As it baked, BV commented that the house smelled like Lebkuchen and he was spot-on. Really, I don’t think you could ask for a higher food-related compliment from a native Nürnberger! The whole place had the delightful aroma of chocolate and cinnamon, mixed with just a bit of wood smoke from the fire. It was intensely cozy, and I highly recommend trying it on a chilly February day.

Eager as we were to shove our faces directly into the cake when it came out, we opted to be adults about it and let it cool while we put together and ate our pizza dinner. It was game on after that though.

Sunday afternoon is for Kaffee und Kuchen

This cake is GODDAMNED DELICIOUS. A highly nuanced assessment, I know. But seriously. It is so dense, so moist, so rich… I’m not sure what could be better. It is a beautiful balance of of chocolate and those somewhat Christmassy spices. BV is a very big fan of fruit in cakes and thought he’d perhaps like a few more cherries on top, so next time we may completely cover it and see what happens. I worry that may bring in too much liquid, no matter how well-drained they are, but I guess we don’t know until we try.

Though it looks a bit dark on top (and more so in the pictures), it wasn’t burnt in the slightest. All in all, this was a fairly easy cake to make, and took just about two and half hours including baking time. It could probably be done faster but I’m not one to rush on a Saturday evening. What can I say… Licking the melted chocolate out of the bowl took a bit of time.

What do you think… does it sound good? Or have you already given this cake a try?

 

*Side effect of living in a village and having insanely limited take-out options? Little bit. Another goal is to do 300 days of yoga and yes, that is partially to offset all this cooking and eating delicious things business.

**I also did Instagram stories for the first two bakes… may continue doing that in the future. I find it amusing now but it may get old. We’ll see.

***Shoutout to A Sausage Has Two for the recommendation. She knows her stuff.

Blown Cover

Ah, Germany. Most of my day-to-day interactions at this point go fairly smoothly. I can get in and out of most normal situations without incident, and only occasionally end up with two extra slices of bread (Brot) instead of two more beers (in that case, Rotbier) in a crowded and loud restaurant.

Tuesday was not one of those days.

A stand in the Fürth Market

When I came up into the Farmers’ Market in front of the Fürth train station, I was already a little bit out of sorts. I’m currently dragging myself out of bed at 6:30am on Tuesdays for one class. Though I do like the group quite a lot, it hardly seems worth it on those cooooold winter mornings. This Tuesday was especially frigid, and so on my way home I decided to go the long way around, taking a bus to an U-Bahn to another U-Bahn to my train back home. My thought process was that this way I would at least be in a vehicle the entire route, rather than taking a bus directly to my train. That would have meant at least 15 minutes of pacing the train platform in order to keep my feet from freezing while waiting for that train.

Got all that? No? Clearly, my overtired self didn’t either, as I completed neglected to realize that would delay my arrival home by 30 minutes. *headdesk*

Anyway. That finally occurred to me as I was ascending the escalator in Fürth and noted the time. Like I said… very tired. This is all a very long way of saying that my head was not functioning at this point in time, and I was already fairly confused (not to mention feeling like a dummy).

I figured the best course of action was to at least do something useful while I had a few minutes at the station, and I headed over to the market. I knew I needed broccoli and cauliflower for dinner that night, and circled around the market until I found my favorite stand. Naturally, they weren’t open.

The next stand appeared to be open, or at least stocked. However, there was still quite a bit of the blue tarp covering up one end, so I tentatively wandered around, wondering if they were still setting up for the day, or if that was just to block out the wind.

I was still in my slight daze when I was surprised to find the woman at the stand talking to me. Sometimes you can just walk in and help yourself, but if they aren’t busy, they do help you collect your goods. She asked me what I wanted and I completely blanked.

What do I want?

Cauliflower.

What’s the word?

Oh God. Rosenkohl? No, that’s brussels sprouts… shit. What is it?

Not cauliflower.

I stammered and sputtered as I walked closer to the veggies, not even seeing the stupid cauliflower. I spotted the broccoli and though, yes, that too! Broccoli! I know that word!

Of course, what came out of my mouth was a very-American sounding version of broccoli and not Brokkoli, which sounds very much how the Count on Sesame Street would pronounce the word (minus the ha-ha-ha afterwards).

The woman was just finishing grabbing my head of broccoli and turned expectantly to see if I needed anything else.

My head was still rattling through different versions of Rosenkohl when I finally saw the cauliflower. I wasn’t able to read the sign but something clicked into place and Blumenkohl finally flew out of my mouth mid-stammer. But the damage was done.

“Where are you from?” she asked in German.

America, I replied.*

“Ahhh, the best land,” she replied, in English. Knock me over with a feather.

“How long?” she asked, in German again.

Huh? Did she just ask how long? Or did I mishear her and did she ask if I want anything else? Oh God, she’s staring at me and I am such a spaz today what is happening?

“Sechs Jahre,” I venture.

“Sechs?” she looks confused. What?

Apparently I need to speak up… I repeat years.

She then asked if I was in language school, or just learned by speaking. By speaking, I answer. I would hope that actually having had lessons would have avoided this complete brain malfunction. But, who knows?

She wished me a good day, and I did the same, hustling towards my train.

Though she was perfectly friendly, I still spent the whole rest of the day kicking myself for being so tongue-tied over a perfectly normal human interaction. Everyone forgets words, right? In your own language as well as a foreign one… these things happen.

I spend a good majority of my time here trying to blend in. As much as I enjoy visitors, I hate speaking English on the train because I feel like everyone is listening. When BV and I are out and about, we tend to speak a lot more German than we do at home, specifically for this reason. Anytime I feel like my cover is blown, I feel a bit like a fraud. I’m all about pretending like I belong here, and it’s all fun and games until I open my mouth.

Blumenkohl. I had better not blank on that one again.

Whomp, there it is.

Have you had a super-simple brain fart? Tell me about it in the comments, it’ll make me feel better. Danke! 🙂

 

*Also not the best answer, I know. But it’s reflexive and comes out much easier than USA or Vereinigte Staaten, both of which I completely mangle the German pronunciations of.

 

 

Sunday Snapshots: Swans Up

Bad Windsheim, Mittelfranken 2016

I used to take a veeeery long train ride out to the small town of Bad Windsheim to teach. The classes were nice, but the train ride was brutal. The silver lining was always being able to take the long stroll back to the train station on the sunny days, admiring all of the Fachwerk houses, and other unique details that make this town just a little bit special.

The 2017 Wrap-Up Post

Looking back through pictures to put this post together, I find myself conflicted. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who found 2017 to be a good year, as far as the world goes. Politics, prejudice, and the tiny, trigger-happy, tweeting fingers of the person currently running my home country made for a news cycle that was unrelentingly horrible.

But.

There was a lot of good here in 2017. Work was super busy for me, which is excellent, and in between riding trains all over town, we fit in a lot of activities. We visited friends, friends visited us. Time was spent on creative projects around the house, long walks through the countryside, and of course, a decent bit of traveling. So while the world seemed in chaos, it’s hard for me to say that 2017 was a bad year in our little corner of Franconia.

Where to begin? I guess in January…

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