Amateur Hour Baking: A Tale of Two Strudels

It seems that many of us have taken to the kitchen more than usual in these strange, Covid quarantine days. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time cooking, trying out new things, and cleaning up the kitchen nearly non-stop.

The first weekend in, I spent in a South Tyrol-influenced bakeathon. Like many of social media accounts, the official ST Instagram account has switched over from “come visit us!” posts to, “stay home and experience South Tyrol through pictures and food until you can come visit us at some indeterminate point of time in the future!” posts. For the best, of course, but it did lead us into the dangerous territory of too much dessert.

When this recipe for Apfelstrudel popped up in my feed, I immediately grabbed a screenshot and decided it was time to give Strudel another shot. It’s been ages since I made the peach brie variety, and making a decent Strudel is undoubtedly a life goal I aim to accomplish. To the kitchen!

I began by whipping together my dough. About halfway through, it occurred to me to check and see what I had done last time, following the Classic German Baking method. This pastry dough was completely different to that one, but as my bowl was already chock full of butter and such, I pressed on.

I had started with butter that was already quite soft, so my dough was as well. It was less kneading, more mixing, but I hoped that some time in the fridge would firm it up well enough.

While that was in the fridge, I got to work on the filling. Naturally the recommended apples for this recipe would come from South Tyrol itself, but we settled for German apples of unknown origins, because the little signs at our local Tante-Emma-Laden are less than legible. I whipped together the apples, whatever quantity of pine nuts we still had, and threw in some cranberries as raisins were nowhere to be found in the drawer.

Filling prepared, I pulled the pastry dough out of the refrigerator and got to rolling. It was… slightly firmer but it quickly became apparent that I should have mixed the butter and sugar a bit better before throwing in the other ingredients. Besides a dollop or two of butter in my rolled-out pastry, it was still entirely too soft and I soon realized that there was no way to get it any thinner while also being able to fold it over the filling.

Finally I did get it rolled out to approximately the size recommended in the recipe, 25x35cm, and started to pour on the apple mixture. A problem quickly became apparent.

After reconsulting CGB, I think there may have been a slight conversion error. All the recipes in that book recommend closer to 25×35 inches, not centimeters. But even if I hadn’t already piled my apples on, there was no way that my sticky, sticky dough was going to get that big. Not a chance. So what to do? Call it a tart!

The filling was good, and the pastry itself was quite good. Of course it was too thick for the filling where I had folded it over, but I was in general pleased with the flavor.

But I still had nearly half the filling and what to do with that? I considered a few options, but in the end, I decided that I did not want to be defeated by this damn Strudel. I could have just gone on with the CGB pastry recipe, but I did really like the buttery sugary crust of this tart, so I headed back to the internet to source a likely-sounding replacement. Happily, South Tyrol came through for me again when I found this recipe for Apple Strudel with a Shortcrust Pastry.

The amounts of sugar, butter, and flour were much more reasonable sounding, but I did also switch out the vanilla sugar for bourbon vanilla and added lemon zest as in the first recipe. I also opted to do the smart thing and whip together the (colder this time) butter and sugar before adding the other ingredients… no butter pockets today!

At the end, I had a lovely pastry dough, not a hint of stickiness. I did give it some time in the fridge again, just in case, and then got to rolling. Lo and behold, I managed to get it to a much more impressive size, with nary a hint of sticky!

I retrieved the filling from the fridge and piled it on. Wait… could it be that now I don’t have enough? It was looking a little thin, so I pulled another two apples out of the pantry and quickly chopped those up to add in. A few minutes later, it was time to wrap and roll, with BV’s assistance.

It was a fairly secure package, but it was rather large and unwieldy, so his long arms were very helpful here. Between the two of us, we got it curled onto the baking sheet and bathed in egg yolk. Another 45 minutes, and we had a house of delicious smells and  this thicc boi.

I was sorely missing a bit of vanilla ice cream or some whipped cream, but this really worked out much better on day two. I do think more filling would’ve been good as well, so I think if I used this pastry recipe again with the full amount of filling the recipe yielded originally, it would’ve been nearly perfect. Possibly immovable, but the ratio would’ve been better anyway.

Note to self: brush up on food photo skills. As you can see,the filling was a bit thin, but so was that top crust… thin and gloriously crisp and flaky. If anyone wants to give their own Apfelstrudel a try, give the link above a shot. Just try not to get distracted by all the other delicious things on that website. Ahhhhhh…. Strudel and dumplings and Vinschgauer, oh my.

For the time being though, it’s vicarious travel through food and photos. Hopefully, we can get back to South Tyrol sooner rather than later. Happy, and healthy, with any luck. Stay inside if you can. Bake stuff if you want. It helps…  or at least for me it does.

 

11/52

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2019 in Review

Whew. 2020.

I’m a bit late with last year’s recap post, but I have a good excuse. After saying that we wanted to go to Tuscany for New Year’s since the last time we went in 2012, we actually finally made it there this year. It was full of beautiful, sunny days, lots of reading, lots of relaxing, and veritable mountains of pasta. It was much needed, but we didn’t get back until the 7th and it was pretty much right back into normal life from there.

Anyone who is still regularly checking in here may have noticed that I missed my Sunday photo post last week, and while that was down to me not getting it scheduled before we left, I’ve made a decision. While I’ve enjoyed having a regular excuse to comb through my photo archives, I think I’m going to take a hiatus from them this year. Some months are just… nada. Maybe I’ll come back to them in the future, but not in 2020.

Instead, inspired by the vow of Steven over at Sunshine. Whimsy. Tacos., I’m going to attempt to write here weekly. Or at least often enough that there will be 52 entries when I look at my stats on December 31st. Let’s see how this goes!

Now, onto the recap!

January

Munich in some much-needed sun.

Part of the reason for the general quiet here, which I may have mentioned in my one or two non-photo posts last year, was that I started a new job in December 2018. I was full-time as of January. I’m still doing English training, but it’s a whole new ball game. That meant all new groups starting at once, innumerable names to try to remember, new buildings to find my way around, new everything. It was… a lot. In retrospect, I think I did alright adjusting, but going from a freelance schedule to full time was a shock. I left early, I came home late, I slept like the dead. That was about it.

About the only non-work thing I can remember about January is that we celebrated my 10 years in Europe, and one Saturday we went down to Munich for the day to replace my dying iPhone 6 battery. If anything else of note happened, please tell me.

February

A snow hike around the Eibsee.

In February I ate a lot of Krapfen* (filled doughnuts that are basically thrown at you as you walk past bakeries in the lead-up to Carnival), and at the end of the month we took a fairly spontaneous trip down near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We didn’t think there would be quite enough snow for snowshoeing, so we just went with snow hiking. It was a good choice.

March

We stuck close to home in March. Just a few walks around town and over the slowly greening fields, and an afternoon with some friends at a craft beer festival in Nürnberg. I’m hoping it takes place again this year as it was pretty quiet, and much closer to home than the BrauKunst! in Munich, which we skipped last year.

April

Spring was upon us, and it was time for some BahnVentures. We opted to go car-free this year, and it was a lot of fun (though a bit more organizing that I usually like to do), to figure out just where we could and couldn’t get to via public transportation. One weekend we met BV’s parents in the Franconian Switzerland for his mom’s birthday lunch and a walk around Weißenohe, and on another weekend we took the train down to the Altmühltal and hiked over to Kipfenburg. I’d seen some cool pictures of the little castle hanging over the town, and it was a perfect day trip.

Kipfenburg

May

The Villager’s had very kindly invited us down to hang out for the weekend with them and celebrate Cinco de Mayo. VillageGuy’s mom comes there every year and makes tamales, and there’s no way I’m saying no to that. We all pitched in to make a tamale assembly line, and before long we had an absolute feast of Mexican goodness.

They had also gotten a huge delivery of their new bee-keeping equipment, and after everyone put some flowers in their hair, BV helped the girls out in assembling the frames.

As per usual, the day before Mother’s Day was the Open House over at the Gardener’s. We baked a few cakes to contribute to the extremely laden table, and inspected the goods for sale.

Also as per usual, we used BV’s May birthday as a good excuse for a getaway. He’s been wanting to go to the Auvergne region of France for years, despite remembering nearly nothing besides “hills and kind of volcanoes” from his childhood trips there. But hey, why not? We flew to Lyon, spent two (aka, not nearly enough) nights there, and then rented a car to tour around for the rest of the week. We will go back.

Lavaudieu, France

June

Hochlandhütte, Bayern

Itchy feet a few weeks after our vacation meant an impromptu hiking trip. We took the train down to Mittenwald, and hiked to the Hochlandhütte. It was a hair more challenging than we had anticipated for our first tour of the year, and definitely hadn’t thought we’d still find snow after the early summer weather, but we made it in the end. We even got to see some mountain goats! Again, we will be back.

Pictures of pictures of the view from Neuschwanstein.

One of my oldest friends came to visit us during the Pentecost holidays. Wanting to see as much as possible in a short time, and show her some of the Alps, we spent a few days in Franconia and then headed south. We stayed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen again, as there’s a ton to do do there, and drove over to Neuschwanstein as well. Then it was back to Munich for a day before she flew out. The American whirlwind tour, as it were.

July

The view from the Lenggrieser Hütte.

Out of public holidays, July was back to normal. Even after all these years, that feels wrong in mid-summer. Oh well. We did manage to escape one weekend, taking BV’s little brother on a promised hiking trip to the Lenggrieser Hütte.

August

What to do if you don’t have kids and thus aren’t forced to take vacation in August? Eat ice cream and drink beer.

Allgäu, Bayern

What to do if you have an August birthday and still want to escape? Learn that there’s a single train going directly from Nürnberg to the Allgäu region on Friday afternoons! I booked a last-minute decent hotel deal, and off we went. 36 was celebrated amongst the cows.

September

Südtirol, I love you so.

After last year’s entirely too short trip, we decided to join the Gardener’s and the Tuscan’s for an entire glorious week in South Tyrol. The trip was wonderful, but it was more than a little exhausting… we were going from morning til night and pretty much operating entirely in German. Though I do have to say, after a bit of a crash on Wednesday, I got on an upswing and was feeling a lot better about my Deutsch skillz by the end of the trip! And with some solo hikes with BV (aka, English time), and views like these, who am I to complain, really?

I speak very good Deutsch hier, ja?

October

Back to reality, sigh. Lots of walks around town, enjoying the last days of autumn. Also, did I mention we got bees? The Gardener gifted BV a colony for his birthday, and they’ve been residing in our garden since June or July. No honey this year, but hopefully next year. Anyway, in October we suited up in our sweet sweet bee suits, and winterized the hive. Fingers pressed that they’re still there in spring!

November

The Dorf Thanksgiving tradition continued again, with us hosting the party for ten. Another evening full of entirely too much food, a lot of laughs, and hopefully comfortable enough chairs for everyone. If not, Marry needs to step up her quality checks.

December

Pre-Christmas madness. Markets, cookies around every turn, the usual. Unfortunately we couldn’t sort out a decent day to do our usual cookie baking party with the Villagers. But they’ve relocated to Amberg where I was working on Thursdays, which meant we could meet on my last day out there and do a cookie exchange instead.

The family celebration this year was low-key as usual, just BV’s parents and brother, who all came over on the 24th for duck. BV and I had a relaxed day at home on the 25th, and on the 26th we left for ten sun-soaked days in Tuscany. Hopefully more on that to come.

Poppi, Tuscany

The view from Santa Lucia

Whew. And that’s it! I think… at least.

To summarize, here’s what IG gave me as my top nine for the year.

If you don’t follow me there, by all means, go for it! @heatherinde, and hopefully next year looks as colorful and varied as this one.

Thanks as always to those of you who read, and have continued to do so even through the quieter times here. Hope 2020 treats us all well!

 

 

 

*These are often called Berliner, but have many many many names, depending where in Germany you are. But here in Franken, they’re Krapfen.

Sunday Snapshots: A Long Way Up

South Tyrol, 2018

Two years in a row had BV and I walking a long way uphill to get to the Bonnerhütte on their first open day of the season. Since we’re taking a break from South Tyrol this May, we won’t be getting those sweet sweet dumplings this weekend, but hopefully they’ll still be available whenever we do get there next time.

2018 in Review

Oh, the top nine insta posts. So succinct, and at least in my case, so pointy.

The highlights this year are decidedly less Scandinavian than last year, but I suppose staying closer to home is okay when it looks like this. For those interested in a slighter closer look at all the things I didn’t get to blogging about (pretty sure I say that every year), click on!

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Two Months on Tour

Considering that we didn’t take an official summer vacation this year, the last two months have been a whole lot of all over the place. BV and I did spend five days in Oberbayern with his parents in July, but that was more like another extended weekend than an actual vacation. I’m hoping we make up for it next year but that all remains to be seen.

So what did I get up to in August and September (besides baking?), click on to find out…

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31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 3

~or~

The Day We Met Sheep Cat

Every relationship has their own unique, often completely bewildering inside jokes. This is about one of ours.

Long-time readers may recall that in this challenge last year, some of my posts took place in South Tyrol. We just booked ourselves a week there this month too, and that got me flipping through pictures in eager anticipation.

On a particularly hot day on last year’s trip, we decided to try to reach an Alm partway up a nearby mountain. Our host was unsure whether or not they’d be open yet, since the official summer season hadn’t begun, but we figured it would be worth the hike either way. We packed our backpacks with some extra snacks and set off.

It was rather a long walk to the other side of town just to find the trail head, and with the sun beating down on us, the steep ascent was a bit more than we had bargained for. Not unexpected, when you come back from a particularly lazy winter (and partially why I’ve been extra vigilant about getting steps and yoga in before this trip).

The forest trail to get up here was much steeper than the road. MUCH. But shorter!

By the time we reached a quiet barn perched high on the hill overlooking the local lake, BV had stripped off his shirt and converted his pants to shorts. I’d been shedding layers as well, though we ladies have some limitations on that front. Nearby the barn we found another directional sign that indicated we still had a good two hours to go to our intended destination, and our legs were already aching. Looking at the view in front of us, we figured it couldn’t get that much better, so why not just hike a bit further up to that grassy green hill, gaze out over the lake, and have our snack here?

Legs rested and snacks consumed, it was high time to put our feet into some of that glorious water we’d been gazing at. We were just packing it in when we heard distant sounds from the barn back below us. Though we hadn’t seen any vehicles or indication that there were people there besides ourselves, there must have been a shepherd napping somewhere nearby.

Looking down, we saw a few dozen sheep streaming out from the front of the barn into the pasture. And among them, a small black spot. It ran around, and our first thought was that it was a sheep dog. But it seemed too small to be any kind of sheep dog that I’ve ever seen. So naturally, we came to the conclusion that this barn had something very special indeed. Why that was a sheep cat! Amazing! Cats are basically useless creatures in the average home, but somehow the owner of this barn had trained a cat to use its feline sensibilities to herd sheep!

What can I say? We were far above the barn and it was a very small dot.

As we hiked back down the road and got closer, we searched the field for the magical sheep cat. And what did we see?

Yeah. We be dumb sometimes. It was hot… can I blame sunstroke? Of course it was a lamb.

But still, this was the day that SHEEP CAT! was born.

Watching the Great British Bake Off and see a shot of lambs frolicking in a field, with a black one in the mix? SHEEP CAT.

See a black cat anywhere near livestock (we live in a village, this happens a lot)? SHEEP CAT.

We go hiking on the same route in a week or so and see one black sheep up in this pasture? Damn right, SHEEP CAT. I for one, cannot wait.

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Sunday Snapshots: Waterfront

Lake Garda, 2015

Considering that we just got through the Pentecost holidays, I’m guessing I’ve heard about Lake Garda somewhere between one and 10,000 times in the last month. It’s an extremely popular destination for Bavarians since you can get there in less than five hours. While I would’ve loved to get there again this year, I’m consoling myself with the thought that we leave for our summer vacation in a few days…

31-Day Challenge: Day 21

We’re packing up to leave and while neither of us are happy about it, we did just come back from getting ice cream. Also, we stopped to pet a very sweet foal on the way. That helped ease the pain a bit.

The first time we stayed here, our host offered us to stay another night for free, which we happily took her up on. This time it’s not possible as we both have to work tomorrow, but she said we could stay as long as we were able. On the last day of any vacation, that’s about the greatest gift there is.

Since BV and I have gotten together, we’ve only occasionally stayed in hotels, instead going for holiday apartments (very German), or Airbnb (German holiday apartments for hipsters). Our experiences have been overwhelmingly good, so I see no need for hotels. Anyplace that doesn’t let you check in until 3pm and throws you out before noon is not for me. The fact that you don’t even get 24 hours most places is ridiculous.

To be fair, one of the “less good” Airbnb experiences we had was also in Italy. Online it said that the check out time was flexible, and the host’s friend didn’t say anything different when he met us. He didn’t say much, in fact, besides “here it is, bye.”

Then at nine o’clock the next morning, we had cleaning ladies knocking down the door.

At nine o’clock this morning I also heard movement on our terrace. Peeking outside, I saw that one of our chairs had been moved so that it was sitting in front of the kitchen door.

Curious.

I went into the kitchen to get a closer look and what did I see? A plate with two fresh, homemade donuts on the chair. The door was closed over to deter cats and birds from our treats.

Breakfast delivery plus a thoroughly relaxed morning, makes the thought of returning to the real world more palatable. But maybe I should go back and pet that little horse again, just to make sure.

*

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.