2015 – looking back

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…

1. Lunchboxes

lunchboxes2015 | schabakery.comI 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.

2. Revamping my portfolio

I revamped the Donauwave cake, introduced basic vanilla cupcakes and biscuit cake,  shared my families red wine cake and filled you in on my secret buttercream recipe. I am surely not done here yet! My highlight of the year was the piece in the local newspaper on me and cupcakes, what inspired me to do a small series on basic cupcakes and how to vary them.

3. Dark Chocolate

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!

5. Patisserie

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.

6. Experiment

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.

7. German

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

Schabakery 2015I 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!

2015 Forecast

Happy new year everyone! I know, I know, I should delight you with less talking and more baking. You get a new recipe next time, I promise. After a short break from the blog due to manflu and going back to work I feel posting a review of 2014 is inappropriate. Instead of looking back to a year with a lot of 1st times (moving into your own house evidently produces a lot of those…), I want to give an outlook to 2015 and fill you in on what to expect.

1. Lunchboxes

1st week of #lunchbox2015I am not a huge fan of nyresolutions, you see all fitness clubs crowded the first 2 or 3 months every year, as well as diet advice and sports equipment are ubiquitous. Yes, I could loose some weight and yes I could be more active, but as far as I am concerned I don’t need a new year to start. I made more of a going-back-to-work-resolution as the quality of our canteen has been going down while prices rise. I decided to bring my own lunch to the office more often, at least once a week instead of eating the same sandwich or overcooked potatoes & broccoli. Life is too short for bad food, that is what Julias Blog German Abendbrot states and she also made a resolution to bring leftovers for lunch more often. We all know what statistics say about those resolutions, they never last too long unless you have others on your side to join you. So we spontaneously decided to be partners in crime and make it a competition. You can follow our attempt to beat the statistics on Instagram  with the hashtag #lunchbox2015 . You’re invited to join, simply post picture of your lunchbox and use the hashtag #lunchbox2015.

 

2. Revamping my portfolio

I went through some of my old recipes lately and decided that they needed refurbishment. I have been doing some recipes over and over again, improved and optimized, it is time to share my insights with you. I will focus on my families classics and will also post more basic recipes that allow to swap ingredients easily and mix & match.

3. Dark Chocolate

I always was and always will be a fan of dark chocolate. There are 5 kilos of finest dark Belgian chocolate waiting in my basement to be turned into indulgence. I want to offer you more ideas than turning them just into a chocolate cake. As dark chocolate seems to be trending in 2015 I am curious to see what others m(/b)ake out of it. Which brings me to…

4. Books & Blogs

I own a shitload (excuse my French) of baking books and magazines, my shelf is floating over. I tried to quit buying new ones for some time, but it turns out I am not much of a quitter. I’d love to share some thoughts on my favourite baking books with you and show you, what’s on my shelf. Probably recipes from most of the books will make it to my to-bake-list but also giving you insights on the books itself should be a new challenge for me.

5. Patisserie

As you might know I got Christophe Felders Patisserie book for my birthday mid last year and there are still a lot of lessons to learn for me. I will continue to be an apprentice to the art of French Patisserie and it’s versatile magic.

6. Experiment

I am eager to experiment more in 2015, this does not only include to try out new recipes but also to mix new flavours and pair things that I might not have thought of before. I will post more about experiments on the social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) so keep checking there for more regular updates.

7. German

Last but not least my biggest adventure yet to come: Making this blog multilingual. I have struggled with the technical implementation before and gave up as it annoyed me nothing was going my way. This year it is finally going to happen one way or another.

Putting all this down, I finally realize how much I have loaded on my plate. But for me it is time to spend less time lazy and more time to be creative. May this year ahead of us 2015 be awesome and splendid!

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!

 Continue reading »

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!

Kitkat Cake with hidden message

IMG_20141004_121919I know, I promised German posts and I am very eager to start but there are some technical hurdles that I need to tackle first. I am on it, just you wait and see. But let’s talk cake!  It was a friends 30th birthday and I offered to bring cake for her party. As I know she does not like Fondant at all and loves chocolate, I was looking for a pretty but not to posh design with chocolate, that fits a garden party with kids. I’ve seen this Kitkat cake many times before on blogs and Pinterest and thought it would make a brilliant fit. But just plain cake with decoration was not enough as a real birthday present. So I decided to lift it up a little with hiding a message in the cake. Also a thing that I have seen before, liked the idea a lot but never tried myself. I am always suspicious with trying new stuff for special occasions as I had bad luck with that in the past, so I decided to do a test cake. The test cake results were not as good as I hoped them to be but helped me figure what to do different on the real cake. I bought another set of cutters that was larger and therefore better visible in the cake slice (and to prevent floating numbers as happened in the test cake) and added more baking time for the large cake (as the test cake was slightly underdone in the center).

I must say, the hardest part was the wait. You can’t come to a party with an already cut cake, especially when it is the present. So I had to wait until the birthday girl cut the cake to find out if my plan worked out and the numbers remained in place. You can imagine how happy I was when the first 2 slices she pulled out were absolutely PERFECT with a clear number in the center. Well I jumped through the garden like a small kid on Christmas day on a sugar rush… All the guests were amazed by the filling and only 1 person guessed what kind of magic is needed to create the effect. The magic unveiled… Continue reading »

Walnuts, cooking fails and novelties

I haven’t been writing in the past few weeks but I have been very busy and baked A LOT. It truly feels like baking is my Yoga but sometimes I can even go with cooking… I have been blogging for quite some time, not caring too much about readers, more writing all this for myself, flipping out about the first Facebook-Likes of people I did not invite myself and celebrating the every thumbs-up for one of my postings or pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I am still celebrating all this, still hoping for more comments and interaction, because after all this is my hobby and I feel honoured when others appreciate what I am doing.

FrankfurtMaybe now you can imagine how flattered I was, when the invitation to a Flavour Pairing Workshop with Heiko Antoniewicz by the California Walnut Commission in Frankfurt was in my inbox. Me being in one room with a bunch of bloggers and Heiko Antoniewicz, learning how to pair food…? Hell yeah! Too bad I already made a promise to help with our annual Handball club cake sale exact that day, so I declined the invitation. 2 hours later I was told my bake sale appearance was postponed 1 day. Destiny. I gave it a shot, tried to back out of backing out and ta-daaaah: Alongside with the bloggers Dorothée, Isabel, Jens, Natalie, Silvia and Tobias I was warmly welcomed by Zorra (who was co-host of the workshop and part of the Jury) and the lovely bunch of girls representing the California Walnut Commission. While I was still trying to memorize the names, all of a sudden Heiko Antoniewicz appeared behind me, tapping me on the shoulder and introducing himself. I was overwhelmed by his presence and his down-to-earth attitude, you know it is this first impression that determines your opinion. And he is a very funny, cool guy, that has excellent cooking and counseling skills. With this perfect first impression, this night could only be legen- wait for it -dary 🙂 Continue reading »

My baking year 2013 – a review

I have to admit I have not been writing very often in the past few months. I cannot tell exactly why and I am not going to find excuses now. But as the year is closing and I am sitting at my new kitchen counter, I thought it might be a good idea to look back.

The To Bake List

My New Years resolution was to bake a new recipe every month. I almost hit the target, but in November I totally missed it. However I am kinda proud I sticked to it and tried out at least 16 new recipes and here goes my hitlist:

  1. Frankfurter Kranz / Frankfurt Crown Cake: I mastered this recipe over the year, starting with a convenience blend on my first attempt I refined the recipe more and more, tried different things and now am pretty certain that I do it very well. My gramps would love this one *sigh*
  2. Carrot Cake: It is just a perfekt cake, moist and full of flavours with a little twist. Seeing it on display at Avoca in Suffolk Street Dublin kinda made me chuckle 🙂
  3. Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Nutella Cookies: Better late then never I tried this recipe from Topwithcinnamon, I wanna drown in those cookies, pleeeeeeease.
  4. Lemon Meringue Pie: Though it stressed me a lot when I did this cake for the last time, the taste again made all up for it. I just need to figure out a way to get this pie out of the pan in a clean way.
  5. Cranberry Shortbread Stars: Came across the recipe in a magazine and had to try it. I love shortbread in all its forms, combined with the sweet and sour cranberries a winner!
  6. Plum Frangipane: Plums are underrated in baking, well kind of. In Germany they are mostly used for Zwetschgendatschi (a yeast cake topped with plums) but there are always more ways of making cakes out of those fruits I can‘t wait for September to grab all those wonderful plums from the tree in our new yard and work them into delicious cakes!
  7. Pear Walnut Brownies: I have always struggled with Brownies, they didn‘t ever come out good, whatever recipe I used. Then there was the day when I had „one last attempt“ with this recipe that gave me back the trust in my own skills. It is never you, it is always the recipe 🙂
  8. Chocolate Truffle Torte: This was very very rich but extremely good in small doses. Made the perect base for a mini cake and a lovely surprise for my bridesmaid and truly best friedn.
  9. Filled Scone Rolls: I remember flour, everywhere flour… But they tasted like more…
  10. Peanut Butter Fudge: Just toooo much… But maybe next christmas in tree shapes put in giftboxes…
  11. Apple Szarlotka: This recipe was rather surprising as it was dairy-free. But in fall with the right apples it makes a real great cake.
  12. Nougat-Marzipan-Cookies: Usually I‘d say that when 3 good things come together it can only get better but this does not apply here. The cookies where too tiny and burned in the oven instantly. In the end the cookie base was too dry and only after storing them for 3 weeks they became somehow tasty. My sister loved them but I don‘t…
  13. Red Velvet Cupcakes: Not one of my brightest moments in 2013. I had a specific picture in mind and what I produced came nothing close to that. I admit, my first cake wreck and I don‘t believe that adding food colouring does make it all better.
  14. Chocolate-Almond-Macarons: I don’t know why, but it seems that macarons and me are not becoming good friends EVER… They don’t rise and look crappy… I need to take a class!
  15. Scones with buttermilk & Lemongrass: Read it and liked the idea of Lemongrass in Scones, but after the first bite I was certain that I’ll never do those again.
  16. Coco Choco Cookies: These have been the WORST cookies ever, they were mashy without crust *buerk*

Well, the list has grown a lot lately, after buying new books in Dublin. We’ll see what the next year will bring… I hope I can stick to trying out one thing from the list each month and to be acutally writing one recipe per month. That might be the biggest challenge, as I am a good baker and eater but always forget to take pictures and lack the drive to write stuff.

Personal

My year has been pretty troubled, there were major changes going on and some are still not yet through. Healthwise 2013 totally sucked but I found a new passion, some sort of ventile, in baking (when workouts are not possible). I am still at the opinion that a hard workout is the best way to wipe your brain and forget about all stress and worries. But baking, being creative with flavours and dough, really comes close, when you love what you do. And I love baking!

Being a married woman now and moving into our own house is a big thing for me. All this planning and all those decisions finally coming to live. From red brick walls to rooms with large windows, slate floors and a new kitchen was a very long way, but we are almost there. I am very thankful that my partner is taking care of all this so I can do what I can do best: Make people happy with cakes and cookies.

May you also have a wonderfull 2014, full of adventures, joy and yummy baked goods!

World Baking Day

I don’t know if you knew that today is the World Baking Day. I only found out some days ago and decided to go for Level 99, because I love chocolate and strawberries. The recipe sounded tricky but doable so I decided I’d give it a try. It took me all day but finally the result was totally worth it. It looks as yum as it tastes! I wonder if I find a place where I can order this cake for the wedding.

World Baking Day 2013 Bake Brave Level 99 | schabakery.com

 World Baking Day 2013 Bake Brave Level 99 Cut | schabakery.com

Brownie Tryouts

We traveled to India last Christmas for our friends‘ wedding and stayed there some more days as you might know already. We hired a driver to show us around in Goa for one day. He showed us temples, cities and beaches, but the most amazing thing on that day was the best desert ever! We stopped for lunch at Hotel Fidalgo in Panjim and randomly picked one of the many restaurants there. It had Indian and International food on the menu and looked nice. And after burger and chicken we wanted some desert. I wanted to order cheesecake but there was none left, so the waiter recommended to definitely take the sizzling hot brownie. Looking back, I can’t tell how thankful I am for this…

Two waiters came up to our table, one carrying a very hot, sizzling pan and the other one with a small mug. Then they placed the pan in the middle of the table and poured the content of the mug over the Brownie that was topped with a scoop of ice cream. But see yourself what this looks like. When hot chocolate sauce combines with a fudgy brownie and vanilla ice cream – that is a dream come true.

When we returned from our vacation and went for dinner at our favourite Mexican place the waitress served Fajitas in one of those hot pans at the table next to us. And then this idea came to my mind… When the owner came up to our table and asked us about our holiday, I had to tell him about the brownie experience. And so I suggested he could adopt the recipe with a Mexican twist: Chocolate-Chili-Brownies and Tequila-Chocolate Sauce. He got hooked with the idea instantly. We agreed to give it a try after the Easter holidays. I had troubles with making brownies before, they were never fudgy enough, they were either too moist or too dry, something was always wrong with them… And that is why I couldn’t wait and I tried to invent a chocolate-chili brownie.

How do you get flavour into brownies? There are two possibilities: Add the flavour directly to the dough or cook the flavour out. I decided to do the latter, as  I learned in the Patisserie course. So I was looking for a recipe that includes milk or cream. I found one and tried to adjust it to my needs. I was told that in order to bring flavour into a mass, use the best ingredients and cook the flavour in. So I bought very nice habanero chilies, dark chocolate and the best cocoa powder. The first attempt to flavour the cream was with a quarter of a red habanero chili, but that was not enough. I retried with a full habanero and passed the mixture through a sieve to squeeze out all the flavour and no parts in my brownies. I tasted the batter before I baked the brownie and it had a subtle hot chili taste *cough*. Well the batter was pretty hot but after it was baked, the chili got subtle. I am still not sure if I can taste the chili because I know it is there or not, but I will find out tomorrow after my colleagues did some blind-tasting. I am dropping off a piece of cake at the Mexican place tomorrow, let’s see what that might bring.