It’s no secret that Germany is the home of edible Christmas anticipation. I grew up with baking tons of Christmas cookies, Lebkuchen and Stollen during advent season, just like everyone else in Germany. Back in kindergarden and school we had baking afternoons and cookie recipe swaps and for our family christmas gatherings everyone brought cookies that were all different. One of my aunts always makes the largest variety of cookies, more than 10 types at least and so that you can eat through all of them in one sitting she makes them tiny miniature versions. I especially like her Florentine buiscuits. My other aunt made the hardest cinnamon stars I have ever had in my life, they even top the ones than my mother made once and almost chipped my teeth. The general pattern in my family is that we all make a variety of classic christmas cookies like butter cookies or cinnamon stars and some experimental new ones each year like coconut oat crisps. Be it my mother, sister or aunts, we all have that in common. The other thing I noticed is that with all our experience and preferences the same exact cookie can taste totally different like for example coconut macaroons. Even though recipes are often passed on between all of us, the outcome is never the same.
A bright example of that is the Stollen, a German fruit bread that can be baked in advance and can be stored for weeks. Stollen has a long history in Germany, it goes back to the 15th century. Traditional Stollen is made with yeast, however my mother makes one with Quark/Curd that is more moist and doesn’t taste yeasty (which I don’t like too much). A few years back my mother passed me the copy of her Stollen recipe and I made it myself for the first time. But I couldn’t resist changing the recipe, like I do with almost any recipe I try out of books or the internet… Stollen contains dried fruit, such as raisins and currants, I even put cranberries once, and candied orange and lemon peel, which I find rather disgusting itself. So when I made my first Stollen I gladly let the peel out and added a core of marzipan to it. Over the years I have learned a lot, tried out a lot and brought my recipe to perfection*. I hope I can inspire you to try out yourself and enjoy a nice slice of Stollen underneath the christmas tree.
*Due to the current lack of oven I baked at my Sister’s and my Stollen was not baked through completely as you might see in the pictures. On top I forgot to add the baking powder, even though she asked me if we needed it… That’s what I get for not reading my own recipes carefully… Continue reading »
I managed to stay on track with my daily Bujo routine for exactly 66 days. It’s longer than I expected and shorter than I hoped for it to last. I know why this daily thing isn’t for me. I have adjusted my bujo to fit my schedule and I like the way I use it now much more. I really hoped the Bujo would help me with my writing motivation and to update my blog more often. Truth is I was looking for the answer literally in the wrong book. I suffered from a writer’s block, I have started on a few recipes, but for some reason I couldn’t publish them. Why? Because I didn’t get into the zone, I wasn’t happy with what I wrote and thought: „this isn’t me“! I started this blog to keep track of my baking endavours but also to share personal things with my readers, like why I like or made something, who I made it for or what it reminds me of. If readers just wanted a recipe they would rather check a database and not a blog. In my opinion blogs ARE personal. Not the journal kind of personal, but giving the reader a peak into the writer’s life. After reading a few blogs for a long time, I feel as if I know the writer and I can relate. This is what I want for my reader’s too. I don’t want this to be a soulless recipe database, I want this to be a living blog, reflecting my life and give you a peak into my life.
That is hard for me sometimes. In the past months I simply didn’t feel like sharing. Not that I had nothing to say, I simply did not want to. I tried to let it go, wait for it to come back to me, I forced myself and then even made a list post…! But nothing… And while I was looking for my voice to come back, it hit me: I should start with the people in my life. Because without the people around me, my life wouldn’t be as happy, rich, eventful and filled with laughter.
One of these people is Nadine. Along with some other bloggers we met at a fair last year and I liked her from the first second. She is a warm, welcoming, likable and energetic person. She is not only the girl with the complicated blogname (dipi..t..serenity), for some reason she and her style remind me of holidays. She is a go-getter, knows what she wants and is very creative. Nadine is someone to look up to, not just because she is tall 😉 I was honoured I had the chance to write a guest-post on her fantastic (German) Food- and Travelblog in June while she was on a roadtrip through Dixieland. The first 3 things that come to my mind when I think about Dixie are music, country and Mississippi mud pie. Perhaps because I am a chocoholic… And with all my fellow chocoholics out there I’d like to share this recipe.
Have you heard of bullet journals being the new buzz? I must say even though I see myself as a digital native there are still a lot of things I do with pen and paper. When it comes down to scribble something, cross off things from to do lists or to writerecipe notes, NOTHING beats pen and paper. I doodle mindlessly, I am somewhat into handlettering, I have a thing for stationery and I hate pages full of meaningless words. So bullet journaling seemed to be the perfect buzz for me.
Let me sum up for those of you who haven’t heard about it yet: A bullet journal is a mix of a journal and a planner, to give all your doodles, to do lists, events, notes or simply your thoughts a home, whatever you want to put in there you are free to do so. The only things that are advised to be in there is the key (your legend to categorise the things you put in there, like to do’s, dates, events, …) and an index (I know this sounds annoying but it helps you to find where you put things). You can customise the rest to fit to your needs. There is a nice video on bulletjournal.com that explains how the system itself works. After using mine for a month, I have some learnings and I am very eager to share them with you.
1. Bulletjournaling doesn’t help you to get more shit done
I initially started because I felt a bit lost with all my to do’s. Besides a work and a private calendar I have several to do list’s and boards in various apps, on random pieces of paper for work, private stuff, blog, household etc. I kept forgetting things, from family birthdays to appointments or things to do. I thought when I consolidate at least the private part and put it all together in one bullet journal, I would finally be able to plan better and get more shit done. It may take you by surprise but:
2. Visualising to do’s doesn’t mean you actually complete them
I noticed in the first week already that something was off with my planning. I found it hard to complete my daily dose of tasks, it felt like 24 hours a day just weren’t enough. I simply had too much on my plate and not enough time/energy/motivation to get through with everything. I remember leaving the kitchen a complete mess after decorating a cake at 2 o’clock, just to get up at 6 to clean the mess and take pictures of the cake for the blog in daylight. I simply understimated the time I would need to complete the cake and after the first cake-attempt didn’t turn out okay, I had to redo unplanned. Things don’t always go according to plan and even though I now plan less into my freetime, I still find myself with a lot of open tasks at the end of the day. Which brings me to the next learning:
3. Prioritisation is hard, but it happens automatically
I find it hard to prioritise my private life. Sure it is important to have clean underwear, but if a friend is in need I won’t turn them down. There is no general rule for prioritisation and I find it especially hard to do those things I don’t like. In the end prioritisation happens automatically. So I either find myself making cake until 2 in the morning because I really want to do it or I postpone to some other day in the vague future to give my body the rest it needs.
4. A bullet journal makes it easier to rememeber things
There might be something about the saying that things go directly from hand to mind. I find it easier to remember things and dates without looking them up in the journal. I was tempted to use it as an external memory, to dump everything in there to get it off my mind. Actually the opposite happened which I am very grateful for: It does train my mind, my memory did get better. But still I battle with „out of sight, out of mind“ since it strikes on me all the time. Leftover to do’s hardly make it to my longterm list, which is also a form of prioritisation.
5. Habit trackers are actually helpful
As a part of your bullet journal, you can make a short list of things you want to keep track of for a certain period of time to make them become a habit. I for instance already set a goal for last year to bring a lunchbox to work at least 3 times a week. I also want to make sure I change my bedsheets every x weeks, exercise x times per week and wash my car regularly. You get the concept. For those things I have different habit trackers that look like a spreadsheet with a box for every day/month/period I want to track and a line for every habit/task. I fill out the day-/month-box every time I completed a task in the given time. It gives an easy overview on how often I instagramed, worked out, had a lunchbox, called my Mum, cleaned something, did laundry and so on.
6. But habit trackers require clear goals and objectives…
The habit trackers help to visualise your goals and habits you want to track. As much as filling out the box at the end of the day satisfies me, it doesn’t really help me to stay on track if I don’t punish or reward myself. That requires clear and measurable goals with rewards or punishment. It sure is nice to see how many times per month I have exercised, but I have to set myself a measurable goal to actually make things a habit. „I want to exercise as often as possible so I feel better“ is nice, but it is a poor goal as it is not measurable. „I want to exercise at least 3 times a week to be able to do 10 full pushups by the end of next month“ is good. A reward (a trip to the icecream parlour) or a punishment (50 extra pushups) added and here we go with goal setting.
7. A Bullet journal gets messy & unorganised very quickly
I saw all those neat and organised bullet journals. Colourful, artistic, bestrewn with beatuiful handlettering and inspirational quotes, I wanted the same. Truth is, it get’s messy very quickly. Paper is patient but also limited. If you use a filofax or something, you might be able to rearrange, but in a regular journal, you can’t just shift and move pages as you want. You start on something on a page, then a new thing comes and in the end you notice you didn’t leave enough space to finish up on the things… Then you have a colleciton of ideas interrupted by last weeks grocery list and I find that rather annoying. But that is just the way it is…
8. Size matters…
I got this cute little lined journal for my birthday from a friend. I found it very cute, with the cupcake design and also very handy since it is not too big and not too heavy to carry it around all the time. As I know my endurance is usually not that high and I give up things that cost time after a first phase of euphoria I figured I shouldn’t spend money on a nice journal but rather start with what I have and see where it takes me. My Bujo (short for Bullet Journal) is cute and handy, but I feel I need more space. I like to have everything at a glance and the DIN A6 book is just too tiny and my handwriting too big to come together. I think that the lined design of my current book paired with my large handwriting makes everything look even messier, cause leaving a whole line free in between is just such a waste of space. I already was gifted the original bullet journal by a thoughtful friend, so I can’t wait to start with it after the current one is full. I definitely have to work on my pushups and my shoulders to gain enough strength to carry it around in my Mary Poppins-like very heavy handbag 😉
9. It needs time, dedication, iteration and trial & error
I have read a lot of blogs, watched a shitload of youtube tutorials, went through what feels like a million inspirational pictures on Pinterest to start with the bullet journaling. I put a lot of time and effort in the first pages and compared to the beautiful things I have seen there , I felt mine wasn’t pretty enough. The first thing I noticed is how much time it needs. I started a few days into the month, set up an index, a key and a future log, a monthly planner, a habit tracker and so on. The monthly planner was rather empty at first but got filled very quickly. I started to break it down into a weekly planner so I can have more details filled in, added a section for my lunchbox-dish of the day, a colour scheme for events and appointments, added expenses and so on. Not all of it worked for me, I had to adapt. It is important to work in iterations, follow inspect & adapt pattern and go easy on yourself. I looked for further inspiration and felt bad about mine again. But in the end:
10. There is not one form of bullet journal that works for everyone!!!
The best thing about the bullet journal is: it’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it, you are the creator. It sure is good to look how others use it and try it out, but in the end it has to fit YOUR needs, therefor nobody can tell you how to use it. It is not about how pretty the other’s journals are, how lame your notes or thoughts are, it is about YOU and what works for you. If you want picture-perfect bullet journal porn everyday, invest the time and do it, but it’s perfectly fine if you don’t. Even after 1 month I have tried out a few things with my bujo, some things work, some things don’t. It is on me to decide what to keep and what to ditch, how to jazz it up and to make it work for me. All you need is a journal and a pen, a ruler and pagemarkers come in handy from times and everything else is up to you. Whether you like it fancy, colourful or plain, have it any way you want it!
I have problems with the journaling part, I use it more as a brain dump for all those things on my mind and to avoid the random pieces of paper. But that’s okay. It might not be as pretty and fancy as those I saw on Pinterest or Instagram. But that’s okay. It helps me to feel more organised, makes me realise all the things I would have totally forgotten about and it makes me feel less guilty about taking time for myself. I usually do a bit more fancy planning whenever I have time, during the week I just take notes and tasks together, sometimes doodling around it or highlighting afterwards to jazz it up. It has taken up a place in my weekend routine to plan my lunchmeals, grocery shopping and my weekly to do’s. And how can planning the week be done better than with a nice cup of coffee and some cookies?!
125 g butter at room temperature
100 g crunchy peanutbutter
100 g light brown sugar
75 g Muscovado sugar
1 egg at room temperature
200 g flour
1/2 spoon baking powder & a pinch of salt
100 g dark chocolate chips
100 g Reese’s Peanutbutter chips (or 100g chopped roasted peanuts)
Preheat the oven to 175° without fan and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Mix Butter and Peanutbutter until smoothly combined, then add the sugars and let come together. Add the egg and combine before sifting in flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Fold in gently, then add the chocolate and peanutbutter chips. If you want some more crunch you can replace the peanutbutter chips with the same amount of coarsley chopped roasted peanuts. You can as well take salted peanuts, if you like it salty-sweet.
Form walnut-sized balls of cookie dough and place them on the lined baking sheet with about 4 fingers wide space in between. I use an icecream scoop to measure and put out the dough to the sheet. Bake each sheet for 10-12 minutes until the cookies get golden on the edges. Remove from the oven, carefully pull the parchment sheets onto a wire rack and let cool completely. While the cookies are still warm, they should not be touched or moved around too much because they are still very soft in that stage. But they should be off the hot baking sheet to prevent overbaking.
Yes, I’m trying to be punny here. But this is as good as it gets right now. I have been troubled with baking and writing reluctance for a while. I tried a lot of things, all those pieces of advice you get from fellow bloggers, friends, family and professional writers. It seems that nothing could help me, neither letting it be, taking a break nor just forcing myself. I have had a lot of those phases before, where I couldn’t bring up the time or the energy to write. It simply wasn’t my priority then. But this time it’s different. I know I want to go on with this blog, but don’t really know what to say any more. Writing mostly came easy to me as soon as I sat down to do it, with every recipe there was already a story on my mind. A memory, a person, something I wanted to share with the world, to explain why I did what I did, to make my readers see and feel what I felt. Baking was some sort of therapy for me, a way to cope with stress and demotivation. When in the kitchen and whipping up some bake, I could live out my creativity, not just follow a recipe, rather give them my own twist and create something. It seems that this vibe is gone on most of the days, things don’t come easy and even when I put much effort it doesn’t feel right. But on rare occasions like today, my mind is open to be touched by the muse… Continue reading »
What is a friend? I have been reading through various definitions and they are all true, but in the end it’s up to you how you define friendship for yourself. A common belief about Germans is, that they don’t make friends very easily and if they do it lasts for a lifetime. I know a lot of people still being besties with their kindergarden or grad school friends, I for my part must say I haven’t seen those friends in years and that’s perfectly fine. I have never been one of the cool kids, I’ve hung out with different groups of friends and never belonged there for too long. Luckily the pace has slowed down, making new friends becomes harder when you grow up, and sometimes I envy those who have friends they grew up with and still nurture a friendship that roots deep.
I happen to have exactly 1 “old” friend, we met when we were both 16 and she was dating my older brother. Although it didn’t work out with them, it worked out with us. We’ve been friends for half our lives, even though we lost contact when she moved across the river to study in Mainz and finally found each other after some years on facebook… In the meantime she had travelled the world and was on to decide what to do with her life while I had my first job after I graduated. She studied abroad, made friends around the globe, actually is still friends with her grad school bestie and I envy her for all that.
Friends with friends from around the globe make every birthday party and BBQ a very international thing and that’s how I met one of her college friends from Sac State. Apart from the love for Sushi we three shared good conversations and even better laughs. In January 3 years ago we met in the secret capital of the world, Kleiningersheim, to have a blast of a weekend. One day after the anniversary of our fabulous hat-selfie we reunited at Chicago airport to invade the province of Iowa and show them how to have the time of their lives.
When we flew over, the only thing the American amiga asked for were pretzels and Spundekäs, a cheese-based dip. She lived in Germany for some time and her heart has the shape of a pretzel. Since the dip wouldn’t survive the long plane-trip and the pretzels wouldn’t last forever I figured it would be better to learn how to make pretzels myself and teach her. It is easy to bring something to satisfy a craving, but the more sustainable approach is to teach others how to make their own with what they have at hand. So this goes out to all the Americans that miss a good German pretzel and Spundekäs. Continue reading »
March 20th marks not only the beginning of Spring, it is also Macaron Day and I am honoured that today’s recipe is featured on my favourite blog and one & only fandom: Der Kuchenbäcker. The frequent readers may know that I already sang a hymn or two on him, all others are duly invited to check him out.
Macaron Day or Jour du Macaron was initiated 2005 by Pierre Hermé, the godfather of Macarons and Patissiers around the world sell Macarons on this day to fundraise for local charities. I like the concept but unfortunately there is no Patisserie around that takes part. Instead I want to bake some easter cookies again to donate them for a local group here in my town that meets every Sunday to help homeless and other people in need. It’s not just about supplying the people with food and warm beverages, it is also a communication plattform and a meeting point for people in need. None of the people organising it gets paid, everything they give out is donated and they organise via a facebook group. I have been there a few times, mostly to bring some clothes or cake, and stayed there for a while to watch and listen to the people. Most of them have been through a lot and it always reminds me of how small my own problems are. I am very thankful that those people have somewhere to go, normal people to talk to that don’t judge and give them back at least a bit of their dignity. It reminds me of how important it is to give back and to change the perspective on your own live from time to time.
Burger Macarons on Foodbloggercamp in Reutlingen 2016
But let’s get back to Macarons, because that’s what you came here for, right? I intended to host a Macaron session at Foodbloggercamp in Reutlingen because I think sharing ones knowledge is also a way of giving back. Even though I am not a master myself, a barcamp is a good plattfrom to share what I know and exchange with others. When preparing my session a bit I stumbled over a Macaron inspiration book I bought and wanted to bring to show how diversely decoration of Macarons can be. I don’t like the recipes in there but the decoration ideas are truly great. Thinking about last years cam in Reultingen to be very meaty and since I found my sister-in-meat in last years burger session, I felt I had to burger again. So I spontaneously decided to pack some sesame seeds and a packet of fresh mint I still had at home to pimp my Macarons to be Macaron burgers. Talking about my session at Foodbloggercamp, I still don’t feel good about the chaotic session I held. I really want to apologise to all attendees and thank you for your patience. I can do better than this, I hope you guys at least learned something and if you have any questions just drop me a line! Some special thanks go to Diana, for spontaneously co-hosting the session and sharing her experience, Jana & Isabel for jumping in to help me finish the Macarons, Natalie, for being super flexible and letting me block ‚her‘ kitchen throughout most of her Session and Gyöngyi for putting me back together after I was really upset about my chaotic session.
What I have learned about hosting a session on the barcamp:
It’s a barcamp, so expect the unexpected!
Plan more time! After Berlin I thought doing one recipe in 45 minutes with proper preparation would be a walk in the park. Well… it wasn’t!
Team up and ask for help! Taking care of hot sugar syrup while talking is a bit of a gamble. Even though I had a spontaneous co-host, I suck at delegating, the sugar syrup got too hot and lumped which resulted in a very hard meringue mass that comes out flaky and makes ugly Macarons.
Bring a handout! It’s not the recipe, it’s all the little tips and tricks you have to share from your experience that attendees want. 45 minutes pass so fast and it’s just one of 6-8 sessions a day, so a handout helps to remember what you have shared. It also is a good preparation for the host, cause it makes you think about what you want to share in your session.
Go easy on yourself! It isn’t just you in your kitchen at home all on your own, so don’t expect perfection. This is a tough one for me because I always strive for perfection, especially with Macarons. In my session I talked about how to make perfect Macarons every time and then I deliver lumpy and bumpy Macarons?! Though ugly the Macarons tasted superb, the flavour combination was amazing and the attendees learned a bit too (at least I hope).
The days after christmas always seem to be the shortest, as the year is coming to an end, time moves a little bit faster. It is time to take stock of the achievements of this past year and to dare a first outlook on 2016. Luckily I started the year with a 2015 forecast, let’s see how many of my good intentions I could keep up…
I guess 10 out of 12 months I managed to bring food to work at least twice a week. I had a lot of fun trying out new recipes, playing with ingredients, varying dishes and making my colleagues super jealous. Some of you joined in and showed their lunchbox with #lunchbox2015 on Instagram and inspired me, thanks! My newcomer of the year is definitely oven roasted swede, it makes a great base for veggie soups, bakes and is the star in winter salads. I found it very useful to keep a tiny bottle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice in my desk drawer as well as a spice mill with mixed spices. That way even an avocado and a roll from the shop around the corner can be turned into a great desktop lunch. However I will try to keep my practise of bringing a lunchbox to work and hope to see many more inspiring pictures on Instagram tagged with #lunchbox2016.
My second 2.5 kg bag of that dark Callebaut chocolate is gone and I have used said chocolate on many occasions, such as my favourite late summer treat, the Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Tarte or in this fantastic Chocolate buttercream. I have also used them for various Macaron fillings that I haven’t shared with you yet, so better stay tuned.
4. Books & Blogs
I have bought more books and got to know so many cool blogs this year that I will probably never run out of stock with my to-bake-list. Unfortunately I have not introduced a single book or blog. I think it is about time I start a blogroll and a list of my favourite baking books!
That is the one thing I’d mark as accomplished for this year. I made good progress with my Patisserie skills, I have perfectioned my Macaron making skills and mastered my first French Pastries. Though Christophe Felder still holds a lot of lessons for me and so is Pierre Hermé, I have finally found my confidence.
I have made one Experiment that I am proud of, because it was rather ingenious. I know it is not all about developing your own recipe, sometimes it’s more about taking something amazing and going all crazy with it, like I did with Jeanny’s Kanelbullar (cinnamon roll) recipe and turning them into a carnival fry Kanelkreppel. I haven’t made much progress with my to-bake-list this year and I haven’t experimented half as much as I wanted but I am overall hapy with the outcome.
Thinking about it, this is my biggest fail this year. And I won’t apologize because I learned a lot about me and my blog this past year and decided lately to stick to English despite all the haters. Haters gonna hate as Taylor Swift put it and I’m gonna shake it off. Who am I fooling? I hardly managed to post once a month, not speaking of my planned bi-weekly schedule. However I plan to post in German every now and then, because I want to get into the groove, see if blogging in German feels good.
8. Thanks for sticking with me
I want to thank the loyal readers, the constant likers on my social media and everyone who leaves a comment. I started this blog for me, but I am keeping it up for you. Every comment makes my heart jump, seriously, so please let me know what you’re thinking, fill me in on what you miss or tell me I’m doing things completely wrong. I am thankful for everyone interested in my blog and also my life, I want to keep it interesting for you to read and I rely on your feedback, so keep it coming!
My phone gave me a little blast from the past this morning: On this day last year I was in my favourite town, living the good life with a christmassy food tour with French Foodie in Dublin. I have explained my love to Dublin with a lot of words last year, so I spare you a rerun. I rather share some thoughts on the wonderful Instagram photo challenge Ketty initiated with you. I must say I don’t feel ready for christmas yet, but the #FFIDXMAS15 get’s me there. So many beautiful pictures and so many creative people and it’s only day 7. So thanks Ketty for being an inspiration and hosting this challenge. I am dying to see more pictures to inspire until Christmas.
As you might have seen already, todays Motto is „White“ and as December is particularly warm this year (Sunny 13°C today), I let it snow myself with some oats and coconut. I picked up the recipe from my little sister some years back and I love how these cookies are crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Continue reading »
Last weekend was foodblogger camp time again. After I had such a fantastic time in Reutlingen beginning of the year, I couldn’t wait for the ticket sale for Foodblogger Camp Berlin (#fbcb15) to start. In Reutlingen I had a box of Blueberry and White Chocolate Macarons with me and when someone said the magic word I posted on social media, I opened my box for them. It was hella fun. Saturday night in Reutlingen over a bottle of whatever-beverage-it-was and some Macarons, Johanna of „My tasty little beauties“ and I discussed about how we both don’t dare to host a Macaron Session on a barcamp, because we both have experienced Macarons bitch on us when it counts. But it seems that over the year Johanna has grown some balls and decided to offer a Macaron session at #fbcb15 and I couldn’t be happier to tag along together with my Blogsister Wienerbroed. Continue reading »