30 December 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie: Real Butterscotch Pudding

This Tuesday with Dorie recipe, from page 386 of her Baking: from my home to yours, was a failure for me.

The recipe was chosen by Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases . I made this on flying trip moving things from the my in-laws, 6 hours west of here, to our apartment by trailer. I did it in a rush, I admit, but I did follow the recipe. When we got home today and tried it, it hadn't jelled properly and it was so rich as to be inedible. I'll be interested to see if others had the same problem.

25 December 2008

What I am reading: 2008: August-December

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
The Quest for Christa T

What I've been reading in links: a real hodge-podge, Chanukah, Recipes, Economics, Reading

Some healthier latke recipes (NYT).

Smitten Kitchen's Best Latke recipe.

The Hanukah Market at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, with links to an exhibit on the conflation of Christmas and Chanukah.

A Jewish Parent's Guide to Christmas specials (in the US).

What happened to Michael Vicks' dogs...

Weight loss without gimmicks(NYT).

House parties about health care.

E-books gain traction.

November home sales worse than expected.

A Short History of the Great Depression, with links to many references and original documents.

You know that this is the most perfect movie ever, right?

23 December 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie: Linzer Sables

I'm catching up! I waited to make the Linzer Sables because I was not enamored of the recipe calling for 1 1/2 cups of "finely ground nuts". This recipe was chosen by Noskos of Living the Life.

I looked and looked for any ground nuts, or the almond flour that he mentions but was never able to find any. I wound up grinding walnuts in my (spice) coffee grinder and it was a fine line between ground nuts and walnut butter. After I had that ingredient in hand, the recipe itself was quite easy. It mixed up extremely soft, so I understand why it was necessary to chill the dough for some time.

This is  the first time that I have ever had a recipe call for rolling the dough (between wax or parchment paper) and then chilling it before cutting it (rather than chilling it then rolling and cutting it) and it worked very well. I split the recipe in half, rolled each between two sets of parchment paper and then placed the two pieces on a cookie sheet and placed the sheet outside on the balcony to chill: Berlin in December is quite chilly. It's also quite grey and rainy, so luckily I rescued the sheet just after it started drizzling and was able to shift things about in the refrigerator and fit it in there. Things got busy then and I didn't finish the cookies until two days later.

When I pulled the rolled out cookie dough out of the fridge (after pre-heating the oven to 180 celsius (once again less than the recipe), I found the dough cut and held shape extremely well. I will definitely use this technique for my sugar cookies in the future.

I cut out shapes and filled two trays with the stars. I made half of them cut out (by using the top of the tomato paste tube). While I worked on these, I rolled the scraps (already too soft to work woth) back out between parchment and refrigerated the sheet.

I found that 9 minutes was enough bake time and with the first tray I tried to skip the step of turning the cookies half through and discovered that my oven requires that step to evenly bake the cookies. For the filling I took my favorite seeded raspberry jam, boiled up a bit with a teaspoon of water in the microwave, let it cool and filled the cookies. I had rolled the dough thinner than the suggested 1/4 inch and I still found that the resulting cookie sandwich was too thick. I had 12 filled cookies and with the remaining dough I made 8 single cookies which I dusted heavily with powdered sugar.

The German liked these very much (as did his parents when I brought them over) but the children liked only the powdered sugar and I found the cookies far too heavy. I generally don't like recipes made with nuts and this recipe shows me that I don't like recipes made with ground nuts either. I won't make this recipe again, but I will make a ginger snap to see if the German just likes the cinnmon and the cloves (which I also like very much).

Tuesday's with Dorie: Buttery Jam Cookies

(I'm posting my TwD entries together, although I have had them done for a while. With the girls' illness and the school festivities, then running off to the in-laws, I am running a bit behind. I hope that I find my card reader and get the photos uploaded today, but at least I wanted to get my postings up.)

Buttery Jam Cookies was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. It's on page 80 of Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. After reading all the comments and questions on the cookies, I was worried that they would would spread too much, not spread at all, be tasteless or be too soft.

I changed up the recipe a bit by increasing the jam (I added a bit more than 1/3 cup of seeded raspberry jam- because that's what I have and it's what I like), increased the vanilla extract to 3/4 t. (I like vanilla), increased the ginger to 1 teaspoon (ditto).

I also find consistently that the temperatures and times that Dorie prescribes are off. It's a rotten stove, a translation to celsius and I haven't calibrated it, so it may be my fault, but I changed the temperature down to 180 celsius and kept the time at 10 minutes. In addition, the stve has ony 1 rack, so I placed it in the middle and I did turn the cookie sheet at 5 minutes.

The cookies puffed up (from my wonderfully active Clabber Girl baking powder) and spread a bit but they tasted very much like what I would call scones (or what my South African friend called rock cakes) rather than cookies (or what I think of as cookies). I liked them very much and think that they would be great eaten for breakfast or tea, perhaps with a smear of jam added and accompanied by a cup of tea. As smeone else mentioned. we did find them a bit sweeter the second day, but they did not survive until the third to check for progression.

This recipe is a keeper.

21 December 2008

What I haven't been blogging about.

It's been a busy and chaotic few weeks.
It started with Thing2 coming home from school with what looked like a scrape on her arm. By bath time that night the "scrape" had resolved to teeth marks. What concerned us, above and beyond the actual bite, was that I had not been called and told about it.
When we discussed the situation by phone with her teachers and the school director, we felt that the situation was considered seriusly. Then we had two Hanukah parties, on separate days. Both of those required me going by U-bahn and bus to the kita and back, a total journey time of about 90 minutes. That was a bit exhausting, what with trying to shop around them, but it was fun.

Then Thing2 came home with another "scrape", this one on her back. She was bitten through her turtleneck and undershirt. Once again, I had not been called.

I was pretty unhappy.

The German called and spoke to the director and I wasn't happy with her response. Then I spoke with her and since her native language is not English (although not German) and my German is shreklich, we had an unsatisfactory communication with me using my worterbuch quite a bit.

Afterward, the German and I had unsatisfactory communications, then I called the external director of the school and wound up waiting quite a while to receive a call back, which resulted in another call back, and so on. The Chef and I agreed that the lack of communication was a big problem, that more needed to be done to protect Thing2, and we left it there.

Then I spoke to the mother of the child who had bitten Thing2, who stated that although her son had bitter her the first time, another child had bitten her the second. When I inquired as to how she could know that, as I had been informed differently. she told me that the School Director had so informed her. "What, without informing me?" I thought. Another communication problem. Other child's mom didn't seem very considered, so I explained to her that the savagery of the bite was quite terrible. She aid that she "was working on it" but since that particular child had bitten another of her children (also in the back, also through layers of clothing- strange that) the day before, it didn't seem to be successful. It seems the onus of protection will be on the teachers.

In between the bites we had an elternabend, where the bite was a major object of concern because the German and I were one of two sets of parents that showed up. The biter's parents were not amongst us. We also discovered that the biter had bitten another child as well and we discovered that the following Monday Thing2's primary teacher would shift to Thing1's class as a helper and another teacher would start. That was a bit short term and surprising (we will see the reason in a while, I would guess).

In addition, we were appointed "Class Parents", as no one else bothered. Weeks later I still have not been given everyone's name and contact information. Most parents have not paid into the class kasse and although there was a separate collection for Holiday gifts, we paid for 70% of the agreed upon expense (and a bit more, as we felt it was not enough) and expect to not be reimbursed. Ah well. Welcome to Germany.

As the topper to this crazy few weeks, both girls have been ill. First Thing1 was out of school with a high fever, then Thing2 joined her. The German was working late and long, I had no chance to do any type of shopping, let alone holiday shopping. On last weekend, the German went west to pick up the car we had looked up the week before and I also got no time to go shopping. A friend had a baby, I haven't even visited her yet, I feel terrible about it, but I was sick myself and didn't want to run the risk of carrying anyone's germs to her, and then we ran into prior commitments.

The German went on holiday after work Thursday, just in time for me to run out and pick up some chocolates to add to the cards (and cash) that we gave to all the teachers on Friday. We drove over (!!!) on Friday morning to let the girls (still on medication, but recovering) say "Happy Hanukah" to their frinds and teachers before the two week vacation. I also go the chance to speak to the new boy in Thing1's class who has been mean to her (I can't tell why- perhaps he likes her), which embarassed him but which the teacher was glad to hear about and will follow up on.

I'm so glad that we have a car. Although I have in many ways enjoyed being without one and the cost of busing is a bit less (and the ease of putting them on the bus in my pj's has been wonderful), having a car will allow me to interact with the school, the girls and the other parents in a way that I haven't been able to do since the summer, when I took the girls there by foot (but without the pain of the bone spurs).

We are also looking forward to being able to take local vacations in the spring, summer and fall through the kind offices of the in-laws and their trailer.

Whew. More tomorrow now the dry spell is broken and the fourth load of laundry is in, and the beds have been changed, the mess tidied and the clutter contained. I can't even imagine how women an home-school and keep their lives under control: 11 days with the kids home and the husband late and I have been totally frazzled.

I look forward to vacation, although we expect to be busy: moving our remaining "stuff" to Berlin, taking a quick trip to Amsterdam, spending time with the in-laws (which I do enjoy, although I find trying to speak German exhausting), visiting a very dear friend by Muenster (and spending New Year's with them), going shopping without the kids(yeah!) but with the German(double yeah!), perhaps even getting some museum hopping going here in Berlin.

09 December 2008

What I've been reading in links: Sexism, Racism, Misogyny, Misc.

Phthalates cause feminization of male foetus'.

The misogyny continues and is still considered acceptable (by men who think to be offended is to be "too sensitive"): Hillary Watch Sexism 1-114.

The funeral of murdered Jews.

Anti-semitism in Australia: All in Good Fun.

Beating People up creates Respect in Australia, with a side dish of antisemitism.

06 December 2008

The search for a better Sugar Cookie

So far, I have not achieved the cookie I am looking for. I have tried the Dorie Greenspan recipe twice, and it is not the one.

I just made Bellini Valli's Mother's Sugar Cookies, from her recipe at More than Burnt Toast . This was definitely better. (She also has a wonderful seasonal list of recipes up if you want to take a look.)

The addition of the milk added to the flavor and the cookie was moist and tasty. It's still not the solid sort of sugar cookie that I am looking for, one which is to a regular sugar cookie as a gingerbread man is to a ginger snap.

Anyone who has a cookie that they would recommend. please send the recipe my way. The goal is to have a moist and tasty cookie that is firm enough to be decorated with royal icing and even hung as a decoration if so desired.

05 December 2008

I'm in Love.

It's my Philips 700watt variable speed with turbo immersion stick blender. My ghod. How have I lived without this?

I sent the German out (he wanted to look at car radios) and he came back wit this. After the fiasco of the electric mixer with two speeds (hit me in the face with batter versus hit the ceiling with batter) he clearly decided to redeem himself. This thing is amazing!

I made potato-leek soup (with my own stock, and I also made vegetable stock today) and this pureed it, in a full pot, without a single blurp and magnificently. Wow. I can't wait to use it on other recipes.
With this:

03 December 2008

Help Save Red Riding Hood!

Once again, what a wonderful advertisement.

seen on Alien Onion

02 December 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

The strangest thing has happened: when I try to connect to Tuesdays with Dorie, I am not able to access any of the regular pages. Therefore, I'll have to link in to the person who chose the sugar cookie recipe after the links work for me. Here are the December recipes: the Sugar Cookie pick is from Ulrike of Kuechenlatein.

This is a different sort of baking month. Because December is so busy, we have been given all 4 of the recipes and we can post them any time before the end of the month and in any order. I have chosen to make the sugar cookies first and next week I will attempt the Linzer Sables chosen by Noskos at Living the Life.

I made these cookies with high expectations: my older daughter was sorely disappointed in the last pie and she has been asking me for cookies. So we made the dough together and while it was chilling she got to lick the beaters and scrape the bowl.

Then we rolled them out and made some stars: I put colored sugar on them. When I cooked them, at 170C, I set the timer for 5 minutes, rotated them and baked for another 5 minutes. I immediately took them off the cookie sheet because they were already browned and the recipe said that they shouldn't show color.

I found them dry and relatively unappealing. I tried another batch that I smeared jam on and a few set with Cape gooseberries, which tasted slightly better due to the added moisture, but still, these were a disappointment. I need to have my mother send me the Betty Crocker recipe because it is far superior to this one. I wonder if I should have added an extra egg, as the recipe called for large eggs and I think that all European eggs are actually small? Could the recipe have been negatively impacted because I doubled it (I was really expecting a great sugar cookie)?

Anyone have better results?

(edit: I made another batch today with my girls-- I still have two more balls of dough in the refrigerator-- I rolled the dough a bit thicker, I lowered the heat to 165C, and changed the time to 5minutes, turn, 4 minutes. The cookies were very pale but tasted better. Still dry though, and not a sugar cookie recipe I will return to.)

01 December 2008

My daughter is an English mother-tongue speaker!

It's strange to think that while I was posting every day last month I didn't have time to write about all the things that were happening. Time just seems to fly. Back on the 25th we had our English test at the "other International School".

What a difference. Thing1 was so fussy and unhappy in the morning that we almost canceled, but I just couldn't take another week of keeping her out of school and forcing her to speak in English with me, watch only English DVDs and TV (hard to do with power cable after power cable blowing out on me).

She settled down when we (the German stayed home for the appointment) walked to the U-Bahn and then she skipped through the snow--- she really loves spending time with us and without Thing2. We were early for the test and ran up and down the halls a bit: the office staff was extremely friendly. We were the first test of the day and the two testers, also British, brought all three of us into the room. One spoke to us about our background while the other spoke to Thing1, showing her a class pet and a photobook about its adventures and just making her feel secure and comfortable. This is opposed to the other school, where the woman took my daughter away without even speaking to us (except to snap that I was not allowed to follow). I asked the teacher not to start speaking to her in German, explaining that once Thing1 thinks German is the language to speak to someone that she won't revert to English and the teacher laughed and said that the test was for English: they wouldn't be speaking any German.

When we left the room, Thing1 was already engaged in an animated conversation with the young women. She apparently had so much fun that they needed to call us in to inveigle her out while they discussed her results. After they called us back in, the lead teacher told us that Thing1 had PASSED! Yeah!

She carefully explained that this does not ensure an admittance and talked a bit about the process and then we said good-bye: it was a bit difficult getting Thing1 to relinquish the stuffed rabbit (probably reminds her of her of her own stuffed rabbit lovey) but then we wandered a bit around the school, showing Thing1 the play area and then out. Across the street was a charming and traditional shop which sells penny (and plus) candy, fresh baked goods, etc, so we stopped in. The German and Thing1 had hot cocoa and I had a milchkaffee. (It turned out to be an early school closing day- teacher enrichment- and there was a constant and adorable stream of children and parents coming in and getting pastry and candy and leaving.)

We were all very happy.(see photo above)

Then the German went off to a meeting at the office and Thing1 and I went home and we watched Dornroeschen (in English). It was a great day.