31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 29

To be honest, I’m not feeling much like writing today. Instead, I’d encourage everyone to eat something good, put a new city on your list of “places to go,” and read this instead of my silly thoughts.

Bon Appetit: How Anthony Bourdain Came to Be Anthony Bourdain


Amateur Hour Baking: Zwiebelkuchen

Subtitle: Day 10 of the May Writing Challenge* 😉

This was my first attempt at a savory cake from Classic German Baking, and perhaps a surprising choice for someone who isn’t always the most fond of onions. However, raw onions chopped up in a salad are a far cry from Zwiebelkuchen’s piles of onions sauteed in bacon and oil to tasty perfection. Good thing too, because you need a lot of them for this recipe. It is, after all, literally onion cake.

Before we get to the onions though, dry ingredients are mixed together, and since this recipe is for a yeasted dough, left to rise.

The crust is then pushed into the tin. My dough didn’t seem to rise much (more on that later), and I had a hell of a time trying to stretch out the dough well enough to fill the tin. I managed to cover the whole bottom in the end, despite all the sliding around of the baking paper.

Think this looks odd? Just wait.

Then it was on to prepping the onion mixture. I somehow managed to buy not exactly the right kind of Speck, but bacon is bacon is bacon, right? Plus with my eyes watering so much thanks to the onions, I can pretend the package says Speck.

Into the oven it went, and into the bathroom I went to give my eyes a good, thorough rinsing. It was all worth it though, when the house really began to smell like dinner.

The Zwiebelkuchen came out of the oven looking crisply browned, but when we removed it from the tin, we found that it was pretty darn flat. Really, it looked more like an onion pizza than anything else. Observe.


Nevertheless, we were hungry and sliced it up for dinner. The onion part of the cake was good, rich with onions, bacon, and egg, but the crust was crap.

It was dense, chewy, definitely not right. I’d used the normal dry Backhefe, or baking yeast, that we have in the house, and it was clearly not the correct choice. I’ve had problems with it before, mostly when we’ve tried doing our own pizza crust. It has worked fairly well when I’ve made focaccia breads, but that has been the only success. This was the last straw.

I did a bit of hunting and discovered that duh, the dry baking yeast found on the shelf here is not like the dry shelf yeast in the U.S. Why you gotta confuse me, Germany? In short, the next week’s trip to the supermarket had me combing the refrigerated section for Würfelhefe, or fresh yeast. A second attempt was at hand.

I’m still not 100% convinced that I’m using the yeast correctly, but there was definite improvement. It’s hard to judge rise in pictures, but here’s the post-rising time difference from the first cake to the second.

The dough on the second try was much easier to stretch out into the tin, and didn’t seem to have such odd coloration to it. I was encouraged. And when it came out of the oven? Well…

We have rise!

It’s not crazy-thick, but I’m not sure how much it should have risen. It looks fairly comparable to the photo in the book, I think, but I’ll see how this develops as I try more yeasty things.

And I should really pay more attention to replicating angles correctly, but here are some slices for comparison…

So we’re learning. And after all, isn’t that the point of this whole exercise?

Have you made Zwiebelkuchen? Can you help me with my yeast problem?** Leave a comment and do so!



*not trying to overwhelm anyone’s reader feed here. Let’s not get out of hand.

**It’s only gross if you think about it too much. Stop thinking about it, weirdo.

31-Day Writing Challenge 2018: Days 5/6

Prompt: Where you can be found on a Saturday morning

See now, I jinxed myself. I said I wouldn’t write about cats again and what happened? CATS.

BV and I had a tentative plan to go down south to a town in the hops growing region of Hallertau yesterday. Since he finally got himself a pair of Lederhosen and I have a shiny new Dirndl, we thought that a Saturday trip to watch them put up a Maibaum would be a great excuse to wear our new duds. But then, cats.

Milo pretty much spent all night making noise on Friday. He started when I wrote the post on Friday and didn’t let up until the wee hours of Saturday morning. Needless to say, we didn’t get a lot of sleep. When we finally peeled ourselves out of bed, we decided that there was no way we could handle getting the shopping done and then hopping on a train anywhere.

Instead, our Saturday was spent how Saturdays in Germany are usually spent. Since nothing is open on Sundays, I put together the projected meal plan for the week, and we went to the store. BV’s parents were coming over today, so we ensured that we’d have enough meat to keep the grill full. Then it was cleaning, and a bit of garden work. We had grand plans to scrape the sidewalk clean but it got late, and we got lazy. BV washed the windows, and I raked up a bunch of dead grass and pulled out more rogue hops vines and stinging nettle. That was quite enough work for me, so I rewarded myself with sun + beer + book time.

We also decided that since it was Cinco de Mayo, we should probably eat something Mexican-ish, and I made the most absurdly large pan of nachos possible for two people. Plus margaritas, because those are always a good choice.

Feast mode

In case you’re curious, I more or less followed this recipe. We’ll be having these again, though I will definitely be cutting it in half unless we’re expecting a pro football team.

Nacho feast, drinks, and a couple of movies later, it was well past midnight and my writing hadn’t gotten done. Time is of course the usual problem with any challenge like this, and this weekend was a good reminder that I’ll have to set myself time to do everything I need to get done. If fairies could come deal with the dishes, that would be extremely helpful.

Amateur Hour Baking: Russischer Zupfkuchen

What’s that? You’re like me and you’re saying, “what the hell is that?” Or worse, trying to pronounce it like a good little German and instead sounding like you just chugged a bottle of Kirschwasser and are doing a drunken imitation of a German accent? If that’s the case, feel free to just call this one Chocolate Quark Cheesecake, because that’s what it is.

Quark was not something I’d ever heard of prior to living in Germany, but it’s incredibly common here. It’s a fresh, soft cheese, with a slightly sour taste. If you’ve happened to order a slice of cheesecake in Germany and been confused as to why it was a bit sour, that would (most likely) be why. A New York Cheesecake is hard to come by in these parts.

I didn’t choose to make this cake for any other reason besides sheer curiosity. I love chocolate, I love cheesecake, and I had no idea what this one was even supposed to look like. And as an added bonus, BV had purchased some Quark that had been floating around the fridge long enough for one of the packages to expire. All good reasons, am I right?

So, expired Quark in hand, we were off. It wasn’t terribly expired, but I was really hoping those few days over wouldn’t affect the taste too badly.

The chocolate base came together fairly easily, and didn’t involve excessive egg beating, which always makes things speedier.

A mix later, I had a tightly packed lump of chocolate goodness, which went to the fridge to hang out for an hour.

When it came out, it got divided up and half went back into the fridge while the other half was rolled out to form my crust. I have a fairly strong hatred for plastic wrap, and trying to roll it out between two layers of that crap was a lot of peel and stick and roll and peel and stick and rerolling.

The recipe directed me to lay my crust in a 9-inch cake pan, but since our only current cake pan* is 10 inches, I was really trying to roll it out enough to cover that extra distance. But even the best-laid plans (or extra crust area) can’t compensate for a clumsy toss. Which means that my crust initially looked like this.

I retrieved some of the reserved dough from the fridge and got rolling again. That, plus a whole lot of patchwork, resulted in a much more even crust.

Luckily a somewhat imperfect crust is not at all noticeable once filled, right? Speaking of which, it was time to mix up the Quark filling.

Once filled, it was time to sprinkle the remaining crust dough all over the top of the prepared cake. Turns out, I needn’t have worried about making the crust nice and thin, because I had A LOT of dough leftover here. This was after I had covered the top of the cake, and done a few rounds of “one piece of dough for the cake, one piece for Heather.”

Mmmmm, dough. Mmmm, raw eggs.

I tossed a few more bits on top, a few more bits in my mouth, and then went around the edge of the crust one ore time, just to give it some more height for fun. With that, it was into the oven.

The buzzer sounded and I eagerly pulled my extremely fluffy cake out. The recipe had said that it would be puffed up, which it certainly was. It was also a good inch or so higher than the crust was. I wasn’t sure what to think about that, but a few minutes later, it settled back down and looked much more like the proportional pictures I had referenced online. Next time, give it a minute, self!

Why did I cut it before I took a picture of it? I DON’T KNOW. I’M NEW TO THIS, I’M SORRY.


Luisa Weiss advises giving this a day before eating it, but BV and I decided restraint was an overrated trait and dove in after dinner.

This is also a super-heavy cake, and I chickened out trying to get it off the cake pan and onto the plate. I was pretty sure I’d push too hard and end up with a mess, hence the cake pan on plate strategy pictured here.

Over the next few days, we figured out why the recipe said to give it a day. While good on day one, the sour taste of the Quark was more obvious at the beginning, and seemed to mellow as the cake rested. Or perhaps I was just more prepared for it, and thus less surprised. Could go either way, really.

The chocolate crust here is dense and rich, like a really good, soft, chocolate cookie in the States. It provides a nice balance and change in texture to the creamy and rich (again, so rich) Quark filling. This is not a cake to eat when you’re already half-full. This is a cake to eat after a light dinner, because this is FILLING.

Considering I had no idea what this was supposed to look or taste like before I started, this was an excellent surprise. It’s not going on the table for a hot summer day at the BBQ, but this is going to be a house regular for sure.

Have you tried Russischer Zupfkuchen? Or can you teach me how to say it without sounding like an asshole?

*Adds more stuff to “kitchenware to-buy” list


Not sure what’s up with this baking stuff? Read about my goal here!

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.


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.

Subtle Differences: Impulse Purchases

I daresay the Germany-based readers of this blog are probably tired of hearing/talking about the weather but….

sweet Mary Mother of God why the fuck has it been snowing every day this week?

Seriously. If I wanted to deal with nonsense like SNOW in April, I would have stayed in Wisconsin. Unacceptable.

To add insult to injury, Spring did tease us with a beautiful and warm(ish) few weeks before the weather took a turn towards Crazytown. And that’s when today’s post originated.

On a gorgeous, warm Wednesday about three weeks ago, BV and I decided to take a walk into town to get ourselves a pre-dinner ice cream (adulting!), and visit our kitchen-supply store to see about his mom’s birthday present. While we walked up the street, we both caught a very distinctive whiff of fish coming from near our Rathaus. Odd, as our village is fairly land-locked. Usually you catch a bit of pizza oven from a nearby restaurant, but fish?

We drew closer and could see that a small stand selling smoked fish had set up shop in the parking area. BV was basically already salivating, but I had ice cream on the brain so we didn’t investigate further. Instead we walked on, bought a new raclette grill for his mom, and enjoyed our first visit to the gelato shop for the year. The Marktplatz was already busy with other people pulling up chairs and benches to soak in the sun with their colorful cones, but BV had other things on his mind. Smokey, fishy things.

Walking home, we discussed our various options for dinner, but when we got closer to the Rathaus and the fish stand was still there all bets were off. BV saw the neat rows of Makrele lined up over the grill and dinner was sorted.


Can I get a filet? No? Never?

Now, where I come from, an impulse purchase is a package of gum, or trashy celeb magazines that are strategically placed at the check-out line for this exact reason. NOT A FISH. I found the whole thing very funny.

When we got home the amusement continued. Followers on other social media may have noted an extra furry presence in my posts lately. No, we didn’t get another cat, but we did cat-sit for a friend for two weeks which was pretty fun. Part of that fun was watching BV try to cut up this fishy friend while literally being circled by cats. I tried to capture the moment but the cats were much too excited to hold still for pictures…

Soundtrack: meow. meow. meow.

Soundtrack: meow. meow. meow.

Mia (our visiting cat) was much more interested in sniffing at people food than eating it. We spent a lot of time kicking her off of the table while we were eating, and off the kitchen counters too. On the other hand, Marry usually leaves our food alone but absolutely chowed down on a bit of mackerel when it was offered, and probably would’ve eaten more if BV had let her.

Moral of the story: my German may be immune to the sweet, sweet, call of check-out candy, but his impulse purchases are much smellier. Beware the roaming fish-wagon!


Note: to any fish-phobic readers, sorry about the last few posts. I promise to find something less scaly to write about soon!


Franconian Fish Are Sexy

Today’s post is a bit of a public service announcement for any fish enthusiasts who might be swinging through Franconia before the end of the month. Why? Well, back in November I wrote a bit about some “rules” regarding Lebkuchen, in which I also mentioned a commonly accepted rule here about the eating of carp.

Carp is an extremely popular local specialty here in Franconia, but it can only be eaten in months with an ‘r’ in the name. Reasons for that are plentiful, mostly involving the intricacies of refrigeration “in former times,”* as well as allowing the fish to grow to maturity in the summer months. Thus, if you are in Franconia and want to try some fish, hop on your bike and pedal directly to your local Gasthof, Wirtschaft, or whatever they call it in your neck of the woods because April is almost over and time is a’ticking.

I’m not a carp eater** but BV is an enthusiastic one. Thus last week when we headed across the fields for dinner, he was happy to order one and even photograph it for me, much to the amusement of the old couple sitting at the table next to us. If you order a traditional Franconian carp, you typically receive half of a fish, and it’s priced by weight (hence the flag in the picture). BV asked for a smallish one, and this is what that looks like…

franconian carp

Smallish indeed. And if any nutritionists out there are concerned about the sorry “side salad” on the plate, have no fear. There was an enormous bowl of salad that came along with the carp, so BV had some balance to all that fried goodness.

The a fore-mentioned fried goodness at our local restaurant comes in two varieties, basic or beer breading. Naturally BV went with the beer, and he said it was great. The carp’s tail is curled, which is a good indication of freshness. How curly the fish is can vary greatly though. He has ordered carp before that has come out of the kitchen in a U-shape, which I assume means that the fish was fried alive or something. He tried to get a picture of how curled the fish was, but it’s not really that dramatic here.

franconian carp2

I highly recommend encouraging foreign visitors to eat carp though. The look on the face of a Costa Rican friend’s face when an enormous, curly, fried fish was brought to him one night in Nürnberg was pretty priceless.

There is one more thing I’d like to address in this post, and this was new information to me as of this weekend. When BV sent me the pictures that he took, he opened them up to show them to me again, and asked if I knew what the fried bits in the front of the fish’s head were. Usually I try to avoid eye contact with his dinner while he’s eating, so I had no idea what he was talking about until he pointed them out to me. So what are they?

Ingreisch, he said.

Okay… so no idea what that is, right? Although it does have ‘in’ in it, so perhaps something like innards? Well, yes. Innards in German are Innereien (easy enough) but when it comes to carp, the Franconians are referring to a very special section of the innards.*** This is another example of delightful local cuisine and dialect intersecting, as if you put ‘ingreisch’ into a translator, you get no help. So let me clarify.

Yes kids, those are the fish’s sexy bits. And natürlich they are very special, and not something that you get at every carp restaurant. BV speculated that this fish was a manly man fish but if he can actually see/smell/taste *shudders* a difference or was just dicking (pun intended) with me, I cannot say.

While I wholeheartedly encourage trying out the local specialties when you are in a new place, carp is something I just don’t dig. But if anyone else wants to give it a go, you enjoy! Just be warned, you may have a sexier dish than you anticipated…


* every German ever.

**See: the post about Lebkuchen for my true feelings on this fish.

***Or offal, as Wikipedia informs me.

A Meatless Miracle

Like many people, I always find January to be a little bit rough. The holidays are over, the nights are long, and the excesses of the holidays seem to be harder to shake off. This year though, BV and I wanted to think of a few possibilities to keep ourselves more proactive through these dull gray days.

When I first suggested going meatless and dry in January, I thought he’d laugh at me. And he did. But then we talked about it, and decided to give it a try. Now that the month is nearly over, I can say that the meat-free aspect of it was really no problem whatsoever. I don’t cook a ton of meat at home generally, and I had no problems making adjustments when I was out and about. BV struggled a bit more though, particularly when it came to lunchtime in his company canteen.

We decided it was best to be realistic, so when we discovered a package of smoked salmon with a just-reached sell-by date in the fridge that we had bought back in December, we ate it. Similarly, when we were headed down to the Villager’s house for a party, we figured if it was the standard ‘throw steaks on the grill night,’ that they usually do, we’d just go with it. (They actually served fish, which worked out well for us!) And when BV couldn’t face any of the vegetarian options in the canteen one day, I let one plate of Schinkennudeln slide. He did make sure to put one piece of the ham to the side, just to show his colleagues how seriously he was taking the veggie month, which I found amusing.

But the biggest test? That came last Sunday.

Every few weeks, we are usually invited over to BV’s dad for Sunday lunch. BV’s dad can make a mean Sauerbraten or Schäufele, which is to say that every meal at his house is a hearty, meaty, Franconian feast. So when BV got the call and set the date, my first question had to be, “soooo… did you tell him that we weren’t eating meat this month?”

Of course, he had, and I’ll award many points to his dad for not laughing (that much, at least). But the next question was harder to answer.

“And does your dad know how to cook anything that isn’t meat?”

That was the million dollar question. Of course vegetarians/vegans exist in Germany but when I just googled “German food pyramid,” I found this…

You are welcome. Oh, wait… I’m sorry… can you not read that clearly? I’ve got you covered…

Is this a total stereotype? Yes, yes it is. Are many stereotypes rooted in some sort of reality? Yes, yes they are.

What it boils down to though, is that the only veggies we usually see at BV’s dad’s house are in a cucumber salad, or occasionally arrive atop a pizza. It’s slim pickin’s for veggie lovers.

But whatever worries I had were quickly soothed when we opened the door to the smell of roasting onions on Sunday afternoon. BV’s mom had come to the rescue, and reminded his dad that BV is a big fan of Greek-style baked Feta and veggies. We sat down to a veritable feast of Feta baked with olive oil, onions, tomatoes and spices, (one whole piece per person, uff da!), a Greek salad (with Tuna, which we’ll slide through), and crostinis with garlic butter and tomato. It was delicious, and we were both very pleasantly surprised. Wine was already poured when we arrived, as BV hadn’t mentioned that we were also trying not to drink, which was probably for the best. If we had been vegetarian AND dry, his dad’s head might have exploded.

Do many Germans love the hell out of their meat? Yes. Is BV damn near ready to dive face-first into a pool of Schäufele sauce? Yeah, he might be getting there. It may seem like a small thing to a lot of people, to not eat meat, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that even here among the sometimes-unyielding Franconians, even the traditional Sunday lunch can surprise. And that’s encouraging, isn’t it?