Christmas Means Cookies

For almost a month already, we have been floating in the yearly jolly atmosphere that smells like cinnamon, shines with the twinkle lights and tempts us with delicious food.

Germany is famous for its wonderful bread and it’s a very well-deserved reputation, however, there’s a lot that can be said about German pastries, cakes and cookies. Normally, people’s thoughts fly all the way to France and its delicate macaroons or éclairs as the must-try when looking for something sweet in Europe they can later talk about. I find myself much more inclined for the astounding variety of Christmas cookies that Germany has to offer, hence, here a list of my favorite ones among the sorts I have  tried so far just in time for you to judge if I have walked the wrong path, chip in with a recommendation or bolt out in search of some newly discovered variety to munch on while waiting for the holy and silent night. If you are left feeling hungry for more cookie tales, check out Alie’s earlier A Small Festive Treat blog post. Continue reading

The Great German Bake Off

Before coming to Germany I thought I was a fairly good at baking. Lemon drizzle cake, raspberry muffins, carrot cake, treacle tart, no problem. I’m not claiming to be Mary Berry (British baking legend), but I could confidently walk in to the office knowing my baked goods would go down a treat. However, that confidence was soon rocked on my first attempt at baking in Germany.

Success! The sticky toffee cake as mentioned PHOTO: Sarah E

I find baking quite therapeutic so setting out to make some cupcakes for my partners colleagues was going to be the perfect activity to remedy the stress of moving countries. But I soon learnt that it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought. The first hurdle is to tackle the baking aisle at the supermarket and the hundred and one flours available. The choice is great but when you just want a self-raising flour, think again. After much internet searching I discovered self-raising flour doesn’t exist here, so it’s a case of getting plain flour and adding baking powder. I find that Type 405 flour is the best option then add the required amount of Backpulver, usually zwei Teelöffel (teaspoon) per 150g of flour. As baking is all about the chemistry, it’s better to get this as exact as possible otherwise your sponge will sink or taste like iron. Continue reading

Picking the Right Äpfel

FoodApples are one of those marvellous foods which fulfil all requirements – at once delicious, nutritious, versatile, and practical in form. Boiled eggs, though slightly more fragile, are similar. It is unsurprising then that apples form and have formed a staple part of my diet since before I can remember. The lunchbox from my school days almost always included at least one apple, at university apples were one of the foods I would buy in bulk and still get through, at work an apple is my afternoon pick-me-up, and my children can be near certain that they’ll find an apple in their lunch box too.

But, for all this good will, the transition between apple eating in England and apple eating in Germany has not been a smooth one. Indeed, over six years ago, in the first months after our move to Berlin, during the peak of apple season, my relationship with apples floundered. The range in the standard supermarkets was very limited. I couldn’t find the sorts I liked from the UK. The apples I could find always disappointed – they didn’t taste good or they lacked an essential crispness. Not content simply to move onto another fruit, I sought expert advice. Continue reading

Where the heck is the baking powder?

I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for expat moms who need to bake cupcake after cupcake, cookie after cookie, required by their children for school fundraisers, soccer practices, birthday parties etc. Baking in German-speaking Europe is hard!

When I first moved over here and started hanging out with other hockey wives, nearly all of whom were mothers, I would normally start hearing a dull buzz whenever they would start complaining about baking. I would catch random snippets about all the brown sugar they had to pack in their luggage, or all the Betty Crocker stuff they were having their cousin bring over at Christmas. I was 24, in a new relationship, no kids, living it up in Germany; my need for molasses and baking powder was pretty low on the priority list. Cut to five years later and a here I am in a supermarket in Switzerland, printed recipe in hand, staring at an aisle of cake mixes, none of which are the kind I need to make homemade Twinkies for my husband’s birthday. I see lemon cake, spiced cake, chocolate cake, some kind of brown speckled cake . . . what happened to just good old yellow cake? Continue reading

Flavors of Christmas

Spending the Thanksgiving holiday with friends who have recently moved to Germany, I found myself thinking – yet again – “I am becoming sooo German”. The topic of conversation was the abundance of deliciousness available at German bakeries; under contention was whether they are all as delicious as they look. In the end, we all agreed that German pastries are less sweet than American pastries, and the level of sweetness required to define “delectable” was left to the individual. What I realized is that after 10 years of German sweets, the American fare is far too sugary for me. For the newly arrived, German pastries are lacking in about a pound of sugar each.

And now we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, when kitchens everywhere are bustling with cookie-baking and good cheer (and at our house, Glühwein too!) Something I have grown to love about my host country is Christmas baking. Continue reading