Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Tag: cookies

Bobo Baking

by lyzpfister

It’s a rainy Saturday in Berlin. Ben and I are lounged on the couch. We’ve both got our laptops open. I’m reading articles online, he’s playing a computer game. Sometimes we talk, but for both of us, it seems that what we say hovers for a while, then dissipates, unanswered.

I spent a luxurious morning in bed, listening to the downpour through the open window. At first I hadn’t even heard the rain. It was just a hush, a solid sound that belonged to the space.

I haven’t made it far from bed. I’ve migrated from that horizontal to the horizontal of the couch, though there was an interim with huevos rancheros and coffee. Much good that did for getting the day started.

I don’t usually spend my days draped over a sofa, wearing a mumu and a baggy sweater, last night’s mascara still smashed under my eyes. Even when I’m not working, I’m out of bed by 8:30. I French press some coffee, make toast with butter and cheese, and some arugula if I’m feeling fancy. I do some yoga, I do some writing.

I’m justifying this slothing to myself. I know.

Ben is playing music from Swan Lake. Then he plays 50 Cent. I want to bake.

There’s only a handful of butter and the oven is kind of broken, but this is what I want to do. So I do it.

Though I don’t really know how to bake, I know what cookie dough looks like. This is enough, I think. The last knob of butter, equal parts sugar (it’s the secret reserve sugar, probably left over from the DDR) and brown sugar (imported from America), the last bit of sour cream from the fridge, an egg, flour, some old chopped-up caramel chocolates. Dropped on a pan, stuck in the oven. They come out looking like little biscuits with moles.

But they’re good – not as sweet as I’d anticipated, and with an unexpected chewy shot of caramel. Perfect with a glass of milk. I’m like a ten year old in pajamas.

Cookies like today. Haphazard, but sweet – a bit unfocused, but so necessary.

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In die Weihnachtsbäckerei

by lyzpfister

I don’t know if this is a thing – whether a whole nation inflicts this on their children, or just my family – but I’m reminded of it every now and then. Like the refrain to Feliz Navidad or the Wrigley’s doublemint gum commercial, the words appear in my head on repeat, and I feel an overwhelming desire to reach for the nearest person, grab their arm with both hands, pump it vigorously so the limb (preferable a fleshy part) rumples back and forth, while chanting, “Butter stampfen, Butter stampfen!” – which roughly translates to “churning butter, churning butter!”

Growing up, you never knew when a Butter stampfen attack was about to happen. Bare arms were extremely vulnerable. Maybe it sounds awful – but I suppose it’s one of those inexplicable childhood joys that involves shrieking and faux escaping, and joy at finally being caught. Butter stampfen, like the German version of steamroller.

That long lead-in story is mostly irrelevant (as most randomly remembered childhood moments are). But I thought of Butter stampfen the other day, while Elisabeth and Sophie and I were making Christmas Plätzchen – like cookies but smaller and cuter. Maybe because baking cookies is such an ingrained childhood Christmas memory. Then again, it could just have been because there was butter involved.

My other hypothesis is that it was because we were playing the god-awful Christmas song, In die Weihnachtsbäckerei (In the Christmas Bakery) and one good Ohrwurm inevitably leads to another. (Another irrelevant, yet interesting side note: the Germans have a great word for songs that get stuck in your head – Ohrwurm – which literally translates to “ear worm.”)

Plätzchen backen during Advent is a true German tradition, much like baking cookies at Christmastime in America. It seems that the world over, people love to be fatties for the holidays. Everybody makes Plätzchen with everybody else and then brings boxes of Plätzchen to other people, taking boxes of Plätzchen home in return. And everywhere, everywhere is full of Plätzchen. I am eating Plätzchen right now.

Another side note: the German word for “to pop” is platzen. I don’t know, but it sounds suspiciously like Plätzchen to me.

There are many traditional Christmas Plätzchen, gingerbread-like Lebkuchen, Springerle dense with anise, vanilla-almond half moons with powdered sugar, sugar cookies with colorful glazes, airy, macaroon-like nubbins.

Though not traditionally German, my absolute favorite cookies are my mother’s gingersnaps. Dense, chewy, sweet with cinnamon and molasses, crusted with sugar. They must absolutely be dunked in milk, where the cookies, hardening as they cool, crumble into sugary bits, soft with the cold milk.

I couldn’t conceive of Christmas cookies without gingersnaps, so I emailed my mother to ask for the recipe. She almost didn’t want to give it to me, as though making the cookies myself symbolized my growing up, for no longer needing her in the same way. I, too, felt reluctant to take the recipe – I could never imbue the gingersnaps with as much love, making them for myself as she could, making them for me.

But I took the recipe, since, after all, I wasn’t making them only for myself, but for others. Just adding another link to the cookie-love-chain.

So we listened to awful Christmas music and drank Glühwein – hot, spiced wine flavored with oranges, cinnamon, and cloves. We were a veritable cookie-making factory: the gingersnaps, sugar cookies with Glühwein icing, butter-almond moons, and lemon-rum muffin-cake inventions lovingly dubbed, “disasters.”

We ate Plätzchen all night long, took home bags of them, and are still eating them. We’ll probably be eating them through to New Years – especially since the Plätzchen baking is really just getting into full-swing now. I’m going to another Plätzchen baking party right before I fly back to the states for Christmas. And when I get home, I’m going to make my mother bake a plate of gingersnaps for me.

Gingersnaps

2 c sifted flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda*
1 tsp cinnamon (but be generous)
½ tsp salt
¾ c butter
1 c sugar
1 egg
¼ c molasses

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream butter and sugar, then add egg and molasses. Stir in flour mixture. Shape dough into balls and roll in additional sugar. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

*If you substitute baking powder for baking soda, like I did since there appears to be no baking soda in Germany, your cookies will turn into puffy little ginger mounds – and will need an extra 15 min in the oven. I recommend finding the baking soda.

I Prove Myself Wrong and Bake Delicious Cookies

by lyzpfister

I keep telling people I can’t bake.  This, for the most part is true.  My numerous attempts at banana bread are too dry or too soggy or too awkward.  Regarding a dense and lumpy batch, a friend told me, “It tastes like vegan banana bread,” which I guess could be a compliment.  Or…

But today, while looking for recipes to use for my Thanksgiving dinner, I chanced upon this gem for brutti ma buoni.  The name translates to “ugly but good” and these nubby little cookies are just that.  They taste like something from my childhood, like afternoon walks in the fall and honeyed granola.  And they’re easy enough to make that not even I can screw them up.

Brutti Ma Buoni
Adapted from Food & Wine October 2010

1 ¼ cups almonds
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400.  Toast almonds until browned, about six minutes.  Pulse almonds, sugar, and salt in a food processor until finely chopped.  Pour into a mixing bowl and add egg and vanilla.  Grease baking sheet and spoon tablespoon-sized mounds onto the sheet.  Bake in center of oven for 12 minutes.