Friday, August 7, 2009

Torten und Kuchen, II

Last night was the last session of the baking classes I have been taking... We didn't actually bake so much last night because we had already made the cake and now needed to assemble the tortes...Below is an example of Frankfurter Kranz, Frankfurt Wreath, a traditional German torte. (note: this picture is our portion of the cake we took home! AHHH!)
Below: Michael stirring chocolate...they told us that at Lindt they stir their chocolate 24 hours! :)

First up: we made omlettes: with a sponge cake recipe we baked thin rounds, then filled them with cream and fruit.Below: an omlette

The finished Zwetschkenkuchen (which will be named differently depending on your region, but Zwetschken is the southern German word for this kind of plum, a bit more narrow than a round plum).
Below is the Bäckermeister, our instructor. For the really tricky things he showed us how it's done...which maybe isn't the best way to learn how to do something, but I think it helps to see once the good technique and he explains a million different tricks and tips while he goes.
As we all stood around him, mesmerized by the patterns created by the cream as his expert hand pushed it out of the bag and onto the torte, I couldn't help but think of this recent article I read by Michael Pollan, about how we love to watch people cook. It really was like watching a show, it's such an art to be able to make pastries and cakes this beautiful.
Below: Frankfurter Kranz
Below: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, Black Forest Cake
Below: Ananas-Sahne Torte, pineapple cream torte
Below: the fridge in the community ed kitchen when we had finished all the cakes! Clean-up time!
Then we divided up the finished product and came home with waaaay too much torte! Everyone said they had invited friends over for the next day, knowing they would have leftovers!
And I can't believe it, but I don't have a picture of the Mozart-Torte! With layers of chocolate cake, cream, nut-nougat, pistachios on the sides, topped with a layer of Marzipan and then Chocolate...mmm!

politisches Kabarett

We went to a political cabaret on Karl-Marx-Allee, the former Stalin-Allee of the DDR. It was a really fun experience, three really talented actresses did the whole thing, with a mix of songs and skits thematizing various contemporary political issues: the German school system, immigration and politics, military spending, elitist tax evasion, US relations, East- and West-German relations... The title was "Deutschland peinlich Vaterland" (peinlich = embarassing) Really funny and at times really scathing satire.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kuchen und Torten, I

Last night was the first night of the second session of the baking class...we moved on from "breads" to "Kuchen und Torten"...cakes and pastries and tortes.
In our overly-ambitious program for last night we made about five or six different items... We made a yeast dough which was used for the "Streuselschnecken" (small round pastries), and for Gugelhupf, and then we made Biskuitteig (sponge cake) which is used for the cake rolls and for layered cakes. We had to already start making some cake for next week, when we make layers.

Gugelhupf (the lower picture above) is a very traditional kind of German cake. We call a similar cake pan in the US "Bundt" which is a stepchild of the German cake. Traditionally Gugelhupf has a soft yeast dough, raisins which have been soaked in rum, and almonds.

In the top picture you can see the Streuselschnecken, which is a round yeast dough, sprinkled with "Streusel"...we made three kinds: once with chocolate streusel, once regular, and once with a brittle topping of almonds cooked with honey, butter and sugar. They are filled with Creme, which is a butter cream we made ourselves...intense process but sooo lecker!

Friday, July 31, 2009


Sue and Audrey and I took the train from Berlin to Nürnberg, a 4.5 hr ride at speeds up to 200 km/hour. Nice German high-speed trains...From the north into the gradually hillier countryside down south to Bavaria.

Nürnberg is called the "Germanist of German cities," which is also why the Nazis loved it so much (this was the location of the big party rallies). It still has its historical old city wall and the old part of the city (Altstadt) within the wall is full of winding litle streets and medieval-style old buildlings. They are mostly reconstructions, as 90% of the city was destroyed during the war. Only Dresden suffered worse damage.
Inside what would have been the moat of the old city wall:

Below: the Burg, the fortress up on top of the hill overlooking the city.

Below: Hauptmarkt, with its shiny fountain

--Food in Nürnberg--
Nürnberg is famous for its little sausages, they say in der Kürze liegt die Würze (the taste is in the small size), which are served three in a bun. Also famous for its gingerbread. Below is a bakery which also specializes in gingerbread: Bäckerei & Lebküchnerei (Bakery and Gingerbreadery).
Pfifferlinge (chantarelle mushrooms) are in season right now and on every restaurant's menu. Here are some mushrooms in a cream sauce served over Semmelklöße, a Bavarian kind of dumpling.
Picnic along the river running through the city:
Nürnberg sausages: Nürnberger
Audrey enjoying a local beer in a Biergarten


Nürnberg also has some great museums...Below is the German National Museum lit up at night. HUGE collection, really cool.
Sue and Audrey and I also visited the site of the former Nazi Party Grounds. They started having big rallies here in 1934, and Hitler had his favorite architect, Albert Speer, design more buildings, some which were never completed. Today they have a Documentation Center about the Nazi Party and Nürnberg (not a Holocaust or even a World War II museum, but an exhibit dedicated to how the party gained power).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Family visit, part two!

First stop of the morning: Breakfast in the neighborhood with the highest café density in Berlin... Käthe-Kollwitz-Platz... We ate at Café Anna BlumeBeautiful blooming breakfast: German bread and rolls with a stack of different meats, cheeses, fruit, spreads....mmmm...
Next stop: Bernauer Straße. When the wall went up, this street was divided in two. Neighbors across the street suddenly were unreachable, dividing the neighborhood into East and West. Today there is a documentation center with a lookout platform, and they reconstructed one part of what the "death strip" used to look like along the border to the East, the series of barricades they had to keep out people trying to flee (land mines, dogs, barbed wire, silent alarm signals, automatically-firing weapons).
If you look down you can see where the death strip was: still no houses there today.

Then we walked to Ku'damm, visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and then walked along the Zoo, through the Tiergarten to the Siegessäule.
Memorial to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating the city of Berlin.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Checkpoint Charlie
Audrey gets a hankering for some afternoon sweets... :)
Rotes Rathaus, "Sei Berlin!"

Walk along the East Side Gallery...
Oberbaumbrücke, a bridge which was closed to normal traffic during the Cold War because it connected East and West, Americans and Soviets exchanged spies here.
Sunset on the Spree

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Family visit!

Sue and Audrey arrive this afternoon in Berlin and the crazy capital city tour begins!
Sue having a Schnitzel for dinner...
Sue and Audrey partying it up in Berlin!
Hackische Höfe at night...pretty inner courtyards
Free coconut? Some guy gave us a free coconut. Strange, and delicious.
Amazing winner triathlete Audrey: "Biking makes happy"
Berliner Dom at night
Berliner Dom and the Spree
This one is for Derek: it's HUMBOLDT!!!