Posts Tagged ‘baking’

A Story about Not Making Lemonade: Lemon & Sesame Seed Cupcakes

Lemon-Sesame Cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Winter is officially here – at least that’s what the size of my jacket says. I can’t say that I’m terribly upset. Fall was luxuriously long – an anomaly in Berlin – and I made good use of the weather to go on walks and eat more ice cream. But it’s been a strange fall as well. I feel a little bit like I’m swimming underwater, like life is drifting by just somewhere over my left ear.

I haven’t been a particularly good friend; I’ve been flaky and unreliable. Work-wise, it’s been hard to focus; as evidenced by the two months that have gone by without a new post. My temper has been short, decisions seem more complex than they really are, and I feel self-conscious in social situations, cringing at every flat joke I make. I feel like I’m behind on everything, and putting out one fire only means the forest behind me is ablaze.

My therapist says: Why are you so afraid of disappointing people? And I think that includes myself.

Lemons on a countertop (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lemon zest for cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cutting the rinds off lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lemons in a row (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Last night, talking to my dad on the phone, it struck me that though my overall feeling was one of being overwhelmed, of having too much to do and too little to show for it, the stories I most wanted to tell were of wonderful experiences or bits of good news. Like how I won’t need nose surgery after all, or of how the weekend’s project was to paint the walls in truly gorgeous geometric blues and grays. How mom and I had not long ago been to San Sebastian for a food vacation capped by a swooningly good meal at the three-Michelin-starred Martín Berasategui, or how Daniel and I had just jetted to Belgrade for a long weekend. Even little things – like how this new apartment stays so cozy and warm, how investing in real pots makes the plants look so much happier, how I finally bought myself a new phone to replace the one that’s been cracked to pieces. » Continue reading this post…

Currant Status: Ripe Red Currant Cake with Almond Meringue

Red Currant Cake with Almond Meringue (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I had approached the situation with misguided optimism. Upon waking this morning and like a sleep-stupored zombie wandering to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and some toast, I snipped open the brand new bag of grounds just as I saw the word “decaf.” Hoping for a placebo-like effect on my brain, I made a cup anyway, tossing grounds into the French press and dousing them with hot water. Mixing the strained coffee with a little fresh milk and sugar.

A sunshine of egg yolks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Oh, oh, oh what a horror. My eyes and my limbs lisping back into sleep. Heaviness settling into my bones. My fingers thudding on the keyboard as if there were little bricks attached to each one.

Oh, no, this would never do. Real coffee needed to be procured immediately. I grumbled my weary body onto my bike and slugged to the nearest grocery store to right the wrong.

Fresh red currants (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Home again, I said good riddance to the failed morning and lay back down in bed. I’d restart the day. And when I woke up, I’d make a cake.

Status: 15 minutes later

Coffee and baking (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Powdered sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Coffee and currants (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

At least, we know that caffeine is real. I’m standing at the wooden bar in the kitchen, sipping a nice, strong (maybe overcompensatingly strong) cup of coffee and whipping up butter, powdered sugar, and an egg yolk into dough.

Butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Powdered sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Modern art (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Yesterday, as Germany faced Portugal in far-off Brazil and the canons began to sound not long after, I was in a garden in Schöneberg picking currants. The bushes were full of ripe little fruits, clustered like grapes, with thin translucent skin bursting red. I filled my bag with one bunch after the other and still found branch upon branch hiding jeweled bunches of berries.

The vuvuzelas blared out into the balmy Berlin evening.

Johannisbeeren (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Meringue (Eat Me. Drink Me.

I grew up calling red currants Johannisbeeren, which is what they’re called in German, and Germany being the only place I’d ever seen them. » Continue reading this post…

Bad Weather Breeds a Sweet Tooth: Carrot Cupcakes with Cointreau

Topped with cream cheese icing and walnuts (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What better time to talk about desserts than when it’s raining? The sky is gray, the red tiled roofs of the buildings in the courtyard slicked with wet. Slushy snow flakes dot the drizzle in what the weatherman calls a “wintry mix.” And I’m thinking about cupcakes.

A long time ago, before I moved to Schöneberg, when I still called Neukölln home, I was in a baking mood. I don’t think the weather was quite so dire nor was I feeling quite as lazy as I am today – or else I’d be baking these cupcakes right now instead of dreaming about them and staring out my window.

Carrot cake batter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Fresh out of the oven (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Carrot cake cupcakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My friend Ellie, who is an excellent baker in her own right, was over, and we measured ingredients and splattered batter around the kitchen while gossiping, of course, as all good bakers do. I’d soaked golden raisins overnight in some blood orange juice and Cointreau, and since there was still an almost full bottle of juice just lying around, I’m sure there were mimosas involved in this event. I’m dreaming of that day. Of those cupcakes. » Continue reading this post…

My Mother and I Bake Christmas Cookies and Eat Them All: Springerle

Springerle (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“Does the recipe say to knead that? Don’t need knead that,” says my mom as I stand at the kitchen counter, kneading. We are baking Christmas cookies.

“Oh, and spread flour on the bottom of that baking sheet or else the Springerle will stick. The recipe doesn’t mention that.” I wonder what we’re using the recipe for.

My mother is one of the best cooks I know, and every year at Christmas, she makes mounds of delicious cookies we nibble on for days. Each time we make a new batch, she opens up a butter and molasses spackled cook book, gritty with years of sugar, and though we look at the recipe, it seems to be more of a token, or a spirit guide, than rules we need to follow.

Springerle blocks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Basket of flowers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My favorite cookies are the chewy gingersnaps dunked in glasses full of cold milk, but there are also dark, spicy Lebkuchen, crumbly vanilla half-moons and anise-flavored Springerle.

Without a milk bath, Springerle are very hard cookies. When I was younger, I used to pretend it was hard tack and that I was a sailor or an early settler, trekking through snow to find winter berries and herbs for my sparse country kitchen. I didn’t actually like the taste of Springerle – less sugary than the other Christmas cookies and with a funny licorice taste. Springerle have a very grownup flavor profile, and as an adult, I’ve come to love the soft anise aroma and slight sweetness. » Continue reading this post…

Leftovers Regifted (a post by Josh): Biscuits

A Christmas scene (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It all started with leftovers. Not those things that sit in Tupperware containers in the back of your refrigerator for too long, growing mold because you didn’t want to eat the same thing on Monday as you did on Saturday. Maybe that’s just me. But it did all start with leftovers. The type that isn’t prepared. That one ingredient that you buy for one recipe but the recipe only calls for about a quarter of the container, so now you’re stuck with a lot of buttermilk. That’s what happened to me, at least. And during the holidays, of all times. What joy!

If you caught it in my last post, the one about half moon cookies, the recipe called for buttermilk. I don’t really know much about the stuff, and neither does my family, it seems. “I think it’s the healthiest milk there is,” “It’s all naturally fat free,” “I don’t know if anyone just drinks it,” “Doesn’t it make all yogurt?” I don’t know if any of that is true, but I do know that I had too much buttermilk to try out a big, tall, brimming glass of the stuff. So I decided to reduce (my quantity of buttermilk), reuse (it in another recipe), and recycle (again, reuse it).

The cookie culprit (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It was Christmas morning and the scene was set. The tree was outfitted with lights, blinking, and presents stuffed underneath. Coffee was brewing. My brother was headed in from Charleston. My sister, her husband, and my nephew were on their way out to our house. My moms were reading on the couch. I was in charge of food.

I walked down the stairs, opened the fridge to find some inspiration and what did I find? Buttermilk. I moved it out of the way, in search of the eggs, but then, with all clichés in mind, it hit me. » Continue reading this post…

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