Loaf My Way

There seems to be some interest in my bread recipe, thank you for asking. It’s as simple as it gets: 3 types of grains, yeast, salt & sugar, water, the end.

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See the interesting shape that bread has? That happened because I don’t knead, so there’s a lot of air bubbles in the dough, and it rose to this weird mountain-top shape in the oven. I know we’re always taught the exact opposite when it comes to yeast dough, as in knead, knead, knead. After reading a recipe for no-knead artisan bread online, however, that called for min. 9 hours of rising and explicitly advised against kneading, I just kind of stopped doing it. And what do you know, it works really well, even with just 1 hour of rising and nothing crazy like overnight.

My bread baking career started out in the country. Contrary to what you might think, they mostly have supermarket chains and the affiliated bakeries there, and very little in the way of quaint village bakeries like you may know from France.  Anyway, I never loved the bread you can buy there to begin with, and when I quit eating wheat last year, and couldn’t get spelt flour bread, I had to get creative. Adding oats and millet seeds happened one day when I didn’t have enough flour. Now, I’m pretty much making the same type every time, because everybody enjoys it.

Crusty Spelt, Oats and Millet Bread

500 g spelt flour

100 g oats

50 g millet seeds

1 P dry yeast

2 TBSP salt

1 TBSP sugar

0,5 l warm water

Using a spatula, combine ingredients to make a smooth, moist dough. Dust with some extra flour and cover with a clean cloth. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 160 °C. Oil a bread pan, dust it with flour, scrape the risen dough (which should have doubled in size) into the bread pan and put it in the oven.

After 30 minutes, turn down the heat a bit and bake for another 20 or so. Any minute now :-)! The bread should be a pleasant, light brown color and it should sound a bit hollow when you rap on it with your knuckles.

Take out the bread and let cool until it comes out of the bread pan. Let cool completely before you slice it.

The last weeks I’ve been quiet, because I was working and micromanaging my kids – joking, I’m joking. I’m really not that bad. Or so I hope. It’s just hard for them, keeping track with all the stuff they need to remember, and since I’m the one with the iCal, I remind them. For it has been proven empirically, over and over again, that they’ll forget to see their orthodontist, or their standing weekly French tutoring session, or homework, or hockey practice. And the appointments keep piling up.)

Also, I have a confession to make… I may have met someone online. He’s very young, and he has the most gorgeous eyes you can imagine. I haven’t met him in RL yet, but I will, soon. He lives close to where our cottage is. I’m not yet fully committed, but he’s very, very intriguing. His name is Charlie, and … he’s a Dachshund :-)). Teehee, did you actually for a second there think I was going to post on my blog about a secret online affair? If so, that’s hilarious. Nah, I’m just thinking about getting a dog, for the first time in my life, and the thought makes me happier than I’ve been in a long time. There’s a lot to be said about realizing what we really wish for, isn’t there? I mean, even if Charlie won’t end up coming to live with us (another family have expressed interest, before us, so we’re only second choice), finding him and truly giving this serious thought made me realize it’s what I want. And that’s something, right?

This weekend, I’m hoping to make some more progress on the Stripy Sweater. Here’s how far I’ve gotten, and I’m looking forward to finishing it soon. Thanks to my math genius friend P., the raglan went easily enough, and hate it as I might, it was smart to actually count stitches and do the math with this delicate yarn. I may have gotten the sleeve right at the first go, so I have reason to be pleased ;-).

I’m also looking forward to more of this:

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Magic early spring evening light in Brandenburg at its best. Have a lovely spring weekend, everyone.

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Let Them Eat Waffles

I would have thought everyone has their own favorite waffle recipe. Some may use store-bought mixes, others have their handed down for generations way to do it. Some swear by buttermilk, others use yeast instead of baking soda, and I have heard of people who separate eggs and fold in the stiff egg-whites into the batter.

I grew up in a completely waffle-free household. Maybe my parents weren’t keen, maybe waffles have no tradition in Romania, I don’t even know. It is fair to say waffles are, for me, an acquired taste. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started noticing waffles were a thing, but I do remember they became somewhat of a tradition when I met my husband who first introduced me to the concept of homemade baked goods (also not something that happened on the regular at our house when I was a child).

One secret ingredient I use for my waffles is grated orange zest, which adds a fruity zing, and the other is some sort of ground nuts, which gives them a bit of crunchiness. I’ve made and served these waffles, to great success, at countless kindergarten parties, birthdays, school bazaars – and just this past weekend, at the hockey club, too.

I had signed up for waffles, as I always feel better behind a counter doing something useful than just standing around and making small talk (I wrote about this recently). So I was on waffle duty, and of course I had brought my own batter. 2 hours later I was told I absolutely needed to make those waffles again, like, for all occasions to come. It would seem the way to hockey people’s hearts is, just like to other people’s, through their stomachs.

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Waffles for a Crowd

8 eggs

250g butter

0,5 – 0,75 l milk

250 g sugar

1 p vanilla sugar

Zest of 2 oranges, grated

3 tbsp cinnamon

pinch of cardamon

2 pinches of salt

2 p baking soda

Flour (I used spelt), min 500 g, 1 kg if you have it. I needed to improvise as I’d run out, and used

300 g potato flour instead, as well as

200 g ground almonds (hazelnuts work beautifully, too)

All ingredients should have room temperature for smooth mixing and results.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add grated orange peel, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon. Beat in eggs one by one. Add 0,5 l of the milk. More may be needed after you put in the flour. First, add the almonds. Then, add the flour and beat until you’re happy with the consistency (a little thicker than (US) pancake batter, smooth and creamy).

You may add more milk and flour as you go, as needed. The 8 eggs can certainly accommodate more, and you want this recipe to feed the masses.

Add the baking soda at the very end and vigorously beat for another minute before letting the batter sit for a bit.

Fire up the waffle iron and pour in as much of the batter as needed (depends on the size you have.) For mine, pretty much the regular German round-shaped waffle iron with heart-shaped sections, I pour in 1/2 ladle.

Top with powdered sugar to taste. (This is why the batter itself isn’t very sweet. Kids always want powdered sugar, and this way they don’t overdose right away.)

Go nuts with the toppings – not for a finger food occasion, but if you’re making them for a sitting down to eat setting, you can serve them with whipped cream, fresh berries, jams or warm cinnamon cherries, sprinkles, Nutella … anything sweet that makes you happy is allowed. And now, go spread some sweetness ;-).

As for crafts, it is as I feared with the stripy sweater. Good news is that I’m happy with the new design (left side). Bad news is I get to unravel the first attempt (right side), as neither the proportions nor the width of the stripes please me, so it needs to go. I already vented about frogging mohair yarn, but I can’t not do it because I need all the yellow yarn I have. Sigh.

But: I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together. I’m aiming for a sort of a Swinging Sixties vintage look. Bless those who are able to just put what they have in mind into practice at their first attempt. I am not one of them, that’s for sure!

Have a happy week, everyone!

Knit, Frog, Repeat

IMG_9193Have any of you ever unraveled mohair yarn? It’s a b…, let me tell you. It had to be done, though, because I was dead set to use up yarn from my yarn stash, and there was this random back piece I had knitted ages ago, that had the most hideous armholes you can imagine, also it was ribbed and frankly I don’t even remember what the heck I had in mind when I made it. It needed to go.

Slow progress doesn’t begin to describe the frustrating hours that followed, and had it not been for the fact I got to re-watch Moana with my little squirrel while I was frogging, I might have thrown out the whole thing. First world problem you say? How exactly is my recycling yarn not sustainable? It’s the very definition of being mindful with my stuff, and _not_ toss anything I’m tired of right away.

IMG_9334After I was done unraveling, getting started on my stripy sweater was my reward. So I did, and in the meantime, I have figured out, with the help of my lovely mathematician friend P., the raglan sleeve, and finished the front piece:

IMG_9333.JPGMy daughter named it the bee sweater – and she has a point, it’s exactly what it looks like. Unfortunately, the longer I look at it, the more I feel I got the proportions wrong, sigh. It needs to be less wide, and the rib at the bottom needs to be longer. If it weren’t for the rib, I could live with the sweater being a little baggy. But that rib needs a few more centimeters, and if I pick up the stitches at the bottom, you’d see it. I’ll either have to live with imperfection or buckle down and unravel once again – not sure what I’ll do yet.

Knitting aside, I had a busy beginning of the year. I translated a cookbook, which was fun and lovely. I helped a bit with my son’s school workload.

And, with somewhat mixed feelings, I just submitted the translation of a mediocre romance novel that the author tried, imho, to stuff way too many things into (love story, middle agers, teenagers, murder mystery, genre picture and gender). She’s also introducing too many characters, she has a knack for using weird metaphors, and the love scenes seem a bit generic, carefully scripted to tick off the usual tropes. Kiss, check. Hand job, check. Oral, check. Full-on penetrative, check. True love happening somewhere along the line.

I know that the art of romance writing is to make every story that meanders from meet-cute across some sort of conflict towards the happily ever after captivating, and I’m sure it can’t be easy for writers to stay away from the clichés. That said, I can name a good many examples (not to bore you, but I really could ;-)) for stories that pull this off, excelling at it even. Let’s just say that this wasn’t one of them. As a translator, you can only do so much – if the story sucks in the first place, it will suck after translation, and try as you might, you can’t really help that. I won’t be getting a lot of favorable mentions for this one, that’s for sure.

Moving on, I next get to translate a few chapters of a book on micro-brewery. Not that I even like beer, but what I’ve read of the book so far sounds fun. Also I’m dipping a careful toe into copywriting again; an old client whom I have a lot of respect and affection for asked me, so how could I say no? It’ll be a change of pace, and that is a good thing, always.

It’s almost mid March now, and we’ve had a few spring days already. Of course, in our neck of the woods, this means nothing. Temperatures dropped again, we’ve had a doozy of a storm over the weekend, and it even snowed a little last Sunday. But the days are getting longer, and being on the third floor, we do get our share of sunlight. IMG_9189.jpgThis was the other morning when we were getting ready for school. A good way to start the day – I find myself being highly susceptible to lux as I get older.

To top off this post, I’d like to mention a recipe I’ve been honing for a few years – it’s a classic cheesecake, which may sound a bit boring, but I assure you, it’s anything but. If things go well, this is what happens when I make it:

IMG_9098.JPGIt’s a creamy, fluffy heap of gorgeousness with a hint of vanilla and distinct lemon flavor – think of a soufflé rather than of your regular American cheesecake (no disrespect to the spectacular New York cheesecakes I’ve had, but this is just more my bag).

In my baking book, the caption literally says: This is a cake you get proposed for. I only discovered this way after I’d gotten married, so I can’t confirm or deny. What I can tell you is that my son has been asked for his mom’s cheesecake recipe :-), so high praise from the teenage front.

Cheesecake for Champions

For the crust

50 g sugar

100 g butter

150 g flour

1 yolk

pinch of salt

Make a shortcrust, wrap in foil and put in the freezer for 30 minutes to rest (if you’re not in a rush, you can put it in the fridge for 1 hour or longer). Take out and carefully roll out the dough to 3-4 mm thickness. Place in a spring-form pan lined with baking parchment and bake for a few minutes. Whether you want the crust to come up to the sides is up to you. If you want to be anal about this (I’m not), place a second piece of parchment on top of the dough, add a handful of dried beans or peas and bake in the oven at 160 °C for 15 minutes. Let cool for a bit and start on the filling in the meantime.

For the filling

500 g full fat Quark (could be substituted with cream cheese, but you should add 1 egg white if you do, as it’s heavier than our German variety)

150 g sugar

1 p vanilla sugar

2 lemons, peel grated

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp cornstarch

7 eggs, separated in yolks and egg whites

50 g sugar

pinch of salt

Place Quark, 150 g sugar, lemon peel, vanilla, flour and cornstarch, egg yolks and salt in a large bowl, and I mean large. With an electric mixer, beat to a smooth paste. Carefully clean the whisks before moving on to beating the egg whites with a pinch of salt and 50 g sugar very, very stiff. Then place on top of the Quark mixture and gingerly fold in with a spatula. You don’t want any more air bubbles to escape than is absolutely inevitable, so please be gentle.

Spoon the mixture onto the cooled crust and immediately place the cake in the oven for about 40 minutes. Do not open the oven as your soufflé-like cake may collapse if you do.

Serve warm. If you want to be really fancy, serve with fruit puree – strawberry, raspberry, or mango.

It should make an impression.