Ode to Dublin

Dublin Baile Atha Cliath  schabakery.comDublin makes it easy to fall in love with, my heart was lost the second I set foot out of the airport bus:  the cobbled streets, the lovely & colourful storefronts and the friendliest people in the world. Dublin is a young, hip, colourful and vibrant city with a fantastic energy. Better not miss it!

It was 2009, just a few days after St. Patrick’s Day and we were welcomed with bright sunshine and 25°. We stayed in a run down Hotel in Temple Bar, noisy with a dripping tap and only cold water in the shower, but that couldn’t keep us from having a great time. We took a stroll around town, shopped on Grafton Street, had a sandwich on a sunny bench in St Stephens Green, took a trip to the Guinness Storehouse to learn how to pour the perfect pint, we hit the Pubs, always ending up in Palace Bar on Fleet Street, and experienced the Irish hospitality and kindness. It is impossible to chat with complete strangers in a bar at home, not to think of buying them a round of drinks. But this is completely appropriate in Ireland, cause strangers are friends you haven‘t met yet. The Irish really live up to that saying. Though the economy was in a very poor state back then and a lot of people lost their jobs, they never lost their craic and fun. I envy them for their positivity, Germans tend to see the glass rather half empty. After a few days in the city we took a bus outside of town to check out the Wicklow mountains. Beautiful landscape, hundred shades of green that you only find in Ireland and the friendliest people in the world. And that‘s when we decided we need to make this an annual trip!

Lovin' Dublin Dec 2014 schabakery.comWe made it our tradition to fly in for Christmas shopping, something that I am looking forward to the whole year. Lately I read that Dublin at Christmas is like stepping into a Christmas card. That describes very well how I feel about the city, especially around Christmas. The festive spirit, the decorations, the shopping windows and the bright lights even in the smallest back street get me into the mood and it‘s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.


I love this town for what it was and even more for what it has become. 


You can see that the Irish economy is picking up again, a lot of new businesses, more shops and  shoppers on the high streets and even in the smaller side streets. Some of these side streets were a little scary back in 2009 and I‘d rather not go there alone in the dark. Now, only 5 years later, all those before shady streets are full of shops, cafes, restaurants and people. It makes my heart jump to see the situation improving even more each time I come round to visit.

With all those emerging culinary hotspots, I needed new sources of information about what‘s good and what‘s not, because we only have limited time in town. I started following a few Dublin based blogs such as Frenchfoodie in Dublin, The Dublin Diary, Kate‘s Kabin and Lovin‘Dublin to get  more insights. It kills me to read about Dublin most time of the year, but the closer our Christmas trip comes, the more I dig myself into these blogs. It is funny to wander a „foreign“ city and to recognize restaurants and tell what food they serve and who recommended it even though I have never seen or been to this place before. I made a Pinterestboard to keep track of all the places I want to visit, the Mister trusts me to pick the good ones and I don‘t like to disappoint him. Even though some of the places are not as good as they used to be or not as good as in my memory, I love checking out new stuff while also sticking to some familiar places.

Here‘s a short summary of our trip packed with pictures and memories, enjoy!

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Why we scream and shout every Christmas

It is funny how different people around the world celebrate Christmas. I wouldn’t say that the way how we celebrate in our family is a traditional German way, it is just our way. But I recently read a piece on exactly this subject and it was quite similar to what we do every single year. I have 3 siblings and even before my nephew was born, we celebrated the same way every single Christmas, no matter how old we were.

The Germans start celebrating on Christmas Eve, that‘s also when we get our presents. And my presents were never brought by Santa Claus, i get mine from the „Christkind“ aka baby Jesus.
I know it sounds weird to others but our Christmas tree is brought up only the night before Christmas Eve. Once my younger Siblings went to bed that night, my Mum & brother put up the tree and Mum & I decorated it. We also put up bed sheets to cover the Window and the glass door of our living room. After all was set, the door was locked until the Christkind came. This also means no TV on Christmas Eve, because the door is locked…
Still we all come together in the afternoon of the 24th, that includes my Mum, my 3 siblings, my sister-in-law and my nephew, plus an variable amount of close friends or partners. We prepare dinner together,  fried sole (fish) with my grandaunts (she owned a fish restaurant) tartar sauce, potatoes and a side salad. It is a rather unusual Christmas dinner, but unlike in other countries there is not one single dish that every German family eats on Christmas. I know a lot of people have Wiener sausages with potato salad (which is kind of a German Christmas classic) or goose with red cabbage & dumplings, my in-laws  have Raclette on Christmas Eve, others do fondue. You can see, there is a large variety of dishes and 3 days of Christmas make room to eat a lot of them…
Once dinner is ready and we all over-ate, we clear the table and do the dishes together, the „kids“ go off to play some games upstairs. I know we are all grown up, but even before my nephew was born we played the same silly old game every Christmas. The first time the Mister spend Christmas with us, he was really terrified by us playing „Schnipp Schnapp“. It is a card game that comes with a lot of noise and yelling when we play on Christmas Eve, because you need to be quick and when that doesn’t help you need to be louder than the others. Sometimes it is even so noisy that we can‘t hear the bell that rings once Elvis (the Christkind) has left the building.

All of a sudden, the door to the living room is not locked any more – surprise- and all candles on the tree are burning (yeah, real candles!). You can catch a first glance of your presents, but there are still some more obstacles to tackle before you can start to unpack. My mother makes us sing (and so did my Grandpa) Christmas Carols before the main attraction. Once she finds it to be ok, the first can start to unwrap presents following some simple rules: Only 1 person unwraps 1 gift at a time (usually without destroying the paper, but the Mister taught my Mum that ironing gift wrap is unsexy and unnecessary), starting from the youngest to the oldest. That is the part when my older brother starts complaining about the wait and explains how much better his life was, when he was a single-child. Once my Mum finished unpacking, the official part is over, we have dessert and Christmas cookies.

I know it sounds weird because we are all grown up, even before my nephew was born, we ran the same routine every single Christmas. Even none of us believed in the Christmas any more, the room was locked, presents were secretly placed underneath the tree. This is how Christmas in my family always was and always will be.
This Christmas is the first Christmas in our new home. Though our open-plan kitchen/dining/living room doesn‘t allow us to lock the door, but the tree is put up on 23rd as every year. My family comes round in the afternoon and we prepare dinner together, before we play a round of Schnipp Schnapp until the Christkind-Bell rings and we can sing Christmas Carols and unwrap our presents. And I wouldn‘t want to have it any other way!

Gingerbread Macarons with Lemon Curd filling

Gingerbread macarons with lemon curd filling at schabakery,comCan you believe it, Christmas is only 1 week away. Nothing says „I care about you“ better that a homemade gift. It shows that you rather invest some of your precious time to delight your beloved ones than just ordering a gift online. There is nothing wrong with buying gifts, don’t get me wrong, but I love to give a little personal touch with something crafted or homemade and you should consider that too. So get into the kitchen or at your craft table and whip, glue or paint something for the ones that you love!

I know I promised my German readers to start blogging in German. I know some of you hav been waiting for this for a long time, but still I am trying to tackle some technical obstacles. But today is your lucky day as this Christmas Macaron recipe is part of the Advent calendar over at Kuchenbäcker blog. I am really excited about this and I hope you enjoy the read and of course the making of these wonderful Christmas treats. I put them in selfmade matchbox-like boxes or painted egg boxes, nicely decorated and with colourful ribbons. If you want to gift them for Christmas, here is a useful bit of information: They keep fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days or you can freeze them in ziplock bags. If you have never done Macarons before, you might want to look into my basic macaron recipe for some general tipps.

For the Lemon Curd:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g sugar
  • Zest of 2 organic lemons
  • 250 g freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 150 g butter (at room temperature)
  • Necessary equipment: sauce pan, heatproof bowl that fits above your sauce pan, silicon spatula, thermometer, siev, immersion blender

Mix sugar and lemon zest and let the zest infuse the sugar for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile you can weigh the other ingredients and do your preperations for the Macaron shells.

Place the heatproof bowl over simmering water, the bowl shouldn’t touch the water. In order to make the curd creamy you should not work in too much air, that’s why using a rubber spatula instead of a whisk is advised. Mix egg yolks, eggs, lemon juice and lemon infused sugar with the spatula in your bowl. Place the butter in another bowl that the siev fits onto. Keep the mixture in your heatproof bowl in motion so it doesn’t burn on the sides. The mixture must reach a temperature of 85°C. Once the temperature is reached, pour the mixture into the siev over the butter-bowl. This helps to get rid of the egg crumbles and results in a smooth and silky curd. Use the immersion blender to work in the butter, hold it upright to prevent too much air and keep blending until the mixture turns whiter. Cover and refrigerate while making the Macaron shells.
For the Macarons:

  • 185 g confectioners sugar
  • 185 g ground almonds
  • 4-5 tsp Gingerbread spice (or a little more if you like a stronger taste) + as much strongly deoiled cocoa powder to make 30 g in total
  • 50 g water
  • 200 g fine sugar
  • 2 x 75 g egg white (equals ca 5 egg whites, but exact weighing is essential)
  • red gel food colouring
  • Necessary equipment: Food processor, 4 sheets of parchment paper,2 € coin, pencil, siev, candy thermometer, heavy saucepan, spatula, piping bag with round tip

Cut 4 sheets of parchment paper to fit your tray. With pencil and 2€ coin draw circles on your parchment and leave some space in between. You need an even number as each Macaon is a sandwich of 2 shells. The lines should be thick enough that you can see them through the parchment when you turn it upside down on your tray. Preheat the oven to 170° C with fan.

Place ground almonds, confectioners sugar, gingerbread spice and cocoa in the food preocessor and process in pulse mode. The resulting mixture is called Tant-pour-Tant. Sift the mixture into a bowl to prevent crumbs and set aside.

If you do not own a stand mixer, you will need a helping hand for the next steps. Put 75 g egg white in a heatproof bowl that fits in your stand mixer. Place water and sugar in the sauce pan and cook to syrup over medium heat. Use the candy thermometer to check the temperature, it must reach 118°C. As soon as 114° are reached, you can start the stand mixer or your helper to beat the egg whites until stiff at medium speed. As tempting as it may seem don’t put on highspeed as it will result in a heavy foam but we want silky smooth foam. Once the sugar syrup has reached the temperature you can remove it from the heat and let it sit until the bubbles disappear. Slowly pour the syrup into the stiff egg whites while constantly beating at medium speed, once all syrup is in there, you can put the mixer to high speed and beat until the meringue is lukewarm. While the meringue is beaten, you may mix the second 75 g of egg white with the Tant-pour-Tant with a rubber spatula until completly blend. Once the meringue is cooled, you should add a little red food colouring to intensify the brown colour of your Macarons. The meringue should be light rosé before you add a bit of it to your Tant-pour-Tant to blend. Then fold in the rest of the Meringue -et voilá your Macaron mass is ready to go. Transfer to a piping bag with round tip and fill the circles on your parchment paper as exact as possible without causing noses and bumps on the surface of your Macaron. Use your flat hand to slighty beat the bottom of your tray in order to get air bubbles out of the Macarons. Place the tray in the oven and set a timer for 6 minutes. If you look into the oven you can see your Macarons rise and get those typical little feet while the surface gets a lifting. When your timer buzzes it is time to turn the tray by 180° and give them another 6 minutes in the oven. Once they are done directly pull the parchment from the tray and let the shells cool. Please don’t let them remain on the hot tray as they will become too dry. Repeat the procedure until your piping bag is empty and all shells have been baked.

Now it is time to sort your shells and be a matchmaker. Find a sizeable match for each shell and carefully push your thumb on the inside without breaking it. Fill a piping bag with the lemon curd and bring a dot on one half of your Macaron-couple. Sandwich them together and push  slighty to spread the curd evenly between the two shells. Store them in a cookie tin in the fridge and separte each layer with parchment paper. Give them a night to develop their full flavour and enjoy with a spicy hot chocolate or a glass of mulled wine. The Macarons can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or can be frozen. If you have leftover curd, you can transfer it into a sterilized jar and keep it in the fridge for 1 week. Enjoy as spread or as a sour ice cream topping. If you need the Macarons to last longer, you can also fill them with a dark chocolate ganache instead of curd.

Gingerbread Ma(n)carons with lemon curd at schabakery.com And aren’t these little gingerbread ma(n)carons adorable?

Christmas Cookies and Procrastination

Cinnamon Stars schabakery.comI don’t know how many times I told myself to sit down and get writing. But with a lot of stuff going on and so many things to do and a complete lack of structure it never happens. When I set up my Laptop on the Dining Table, opening the blinds to let the sunshine in, the first thing I notice is, that the windows need a clean-up. There are only a few tasks in the house that I hate more than window cleaning and I don’t care about clean windows at any other time of the year but now I feel the urge to clean them RIGHT NOW. I must force myself to ignore the stainy window and sit down to write. If you look up Procrastination in Wikipedia, you may find my photo on there as a bright example of that common species: The Procrastinator. I have been one all my live, even before this fancy word made it into a dictionary.

I am easy to distract, even years of training could only milden my short attention-span. -Oh wait, my coffee mug is empty, I need a refill.- I’ve always needed hard deadlines and pressure to function, for finishing school projects, for picking my study subject or even for the major part of my Master thesis that I wrote in the 2 weeks before hand-in. Germans even have a word for what holds me back: innerer Schweinehund (find the explanation and more hilarious word-by-word-translations of German idioms here).

Blogging regularly is an ongoing struggle with myself and I envy those bloggers that have all posts planned, blog more often than once in a week and are so disciplined. In the past few months I have met a few and I wish I was more like them. I have to remind myself from time to time in order to get things done. I have to train to have patience with things and with myself and cinnamon stars are the perfect excercise for this. Cinnamon stars are delicious and not that hard to make but the dough is sticky, needs to cool overnight, the icing needs to be piped on every single star if you want them to look good and to top all this, they need to dry overnight before baking. And that’s why you need patience (and space…).

For the cookies:

  • 400 g ground almonds (with skin) + 100 g as backup
  • 375 g confectioners sugar
  • 15 g ceylon cinnamon
  • 4 egg whites (125 g total)

For the icing:

  • 500 g confectioners sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Mix all ingredients for the cookies together, if it is too sticky you can add some more almonds but don’t overdo. If you add too much almond they will turn out hard as stones, my Mum and Sister have been down this road… Split the dough in 4 parts and roll each part between thick cling film or freezer bags that you cut open on 2 sides with 0.5 cm thickness. As the dough is rather sticky, it is better to process it in small batches.

Let the dough cool in the fridge for some hours, better overnight. After rest-time take the first batch off the fridge, loosen the cling film/freezer bag on both sides of the dough and remove on one side completely. Then cut out stars with a starshaped cookie cutter. A wooden toothpick, a teaspoon and a small bowl of water are helpful tools to get the stars out of the cutter from time to time too. Dip your cutter into the water from time to time and remove sticky stars with the back of the teaspoon or the toothpick. Transfer your stars onto baking trays lined with parchment paper. You can roll up the rest of the dough in 0.5 cm thickness and put it back in the fridge while you proceed with the next batch and so on until you used up the dough.

If you haven’t lost patince until now, you are on a good path and have quallified for the next level: Icing. Beat egg whites and sifted confectioners sugar until the icing is smooth and thick. You can now either brush the icing onto your stars or use a piping bag with a small round nozzle. I used to brush mine but it always ended in one great big mess and the stars didn’t look as good as they look piped. Now look at the sheer masses of cookies lying in front of you, tell yourself that they are worth the work and believe me, they are going to taste even better, when you only keep going now. Brush/Pipe the icing on the stars, try to be as accurate as you can with each and every cookie. This is were the patience needs to kick in, if not, remember to listen to the guys of Take That: „Have a little patieeeence“.

Once you iced them all, you can be proud of yourself and pat yourself on the shoulder -yeah another German idiom- because YOU MADE IT. Now you leave these suckers to dry until the icing is completely firm for at least 2 hours, better over night. It is time to pour yourself a drink of whatever you like and be proud of yourself because you tackled the next level. The rest is going to be a walk in the park, trust me.

Preheat the oven to 130°C with fan and bake for 12-15 minutes. Better check on them after 10 minutes and turn the tray if necessary as the icing should remain white. Once they are baked, let them cool on a whire rack. Keep them in a cookie tin for up to 4 weeks.

You can pimp these cookies by adding the zest of 1 organic orange or other spices to the dough for an extra christmassy flavour.