The Baking Experiment

I love baking. But we are only a 2-person household and during Covid 19 we’re not about to launch parties or get-togethers. I also love cooking, but it’s easier to have leftovers guilt-free for days, whereas cakes and pastries etc. are not fooling anyone’s health.

The idea of baking through the Dr. Oetker baking book has tapped on my brain before, but this time I opened the door and it actually settled down in a comfy chair. To make the baking healthier, I decided to offer what we couldn’t or didn’t want to eat on Facebook.

There was only partial success. And every time there were leftovers for us. That’s when I decided not to bake until all was gone and even give us a day of rest here and there.

Though the intention was to go from page 1, actually page 1 is only the title of the book and several pages follow with no recipe in sight, only the promise of things to come.

The first recipes showed various waffles, also not what interested me. So I skipped right to page 20 and what are called “Amerikaner” in Germany. With research I was hoping to discover the name’s history, but no luck, there is no definitive answer.

They turned out ok, though had a very different flavor from the ones I remember from my childhood and our neighborhood bakery. Thanks to Covid 19 I can’t hop over to Germany and do a taste comparison.

Never one excelling in the art of decorating, let me present you with a photo of my “Amerikaner.”

The next recipe was one I didn’t feel like making so I decided to include another book into the baking experiment. A chocolate book: Cocolat, by Alice Medrich.

Cocolat was a chain store in San Francisco in the 1980s that featured her chocolaty delights. Stephen’s apartment was right across from her little shop on Steiner street, and the bathroom window above the tub let me glimpse at it during after-midnight showers when I got back from an evening/night shift at Harrington’s in the financial district.

Alice Medrich is also the person who inspired my chocolate truffles. I think it was she who introduced the bigger-size truffles to an American audience. Her story is a sad one, as she eventually got embezzled by an employee for $500,000 and a fire destroyed her Berkeley headquarters. I have no details but am happy she continues with cookbooks after she had to give up her chocolate chain, or actually sell it, with all the financial troubles she was in.

So I switched it up and went straight to the first recipe in the book on page 34: Chocolate Hazelnut Torte. Being a sucker for hazelnuts, I actually had enough to make this cake. And a success it was. I eventually added tons more hazelnuts to the decoration but didn’t take another photo.

The experiment paused for one day as we tried to stuff our faces with chocolate. Two people who were interested in their portions reneged. One never answered and the other decided on a last-minute trip. I have to say: their loss. This was a good one.

Then back to the Dr. Oetker book. Let me tell you something about Dr. Oetker. His books and products are omnipresent in Germany. He dominates the baking industry and now the frozen pizza industry.

But there is history. Dr. Oetker collaborated with the Nazis. He was a national socialist and part of the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazi party. It took his son to finally face the past and admit Dr. Oetker’s part in it. The company funded a book by a German historian that uncovered the ugly past. I have not read it and don’t know the details.

Below is a little more information about this infamous company from this web site:

“Dr Oetker is a family-owned frozen pizza and processed foods firm that was run during World War II by Rudolf-August Oetker, a member of the Waffen SS. Oetker supported the war effort by providing pudding and other food mixes, and manufacturing howitzer shells and machine gun parts for the Nazis.

“After hiring historians to document this relationship, the company subsequently began to investigate the provenance of its art collection. A silver goblet, for example was discovered to have been the original property of Emma Budge, a wealthy Jewish socialite, philanthropist and art-lover from Hamburg.

“The company’s board, which includes members of the Oetker family, commissioned the audit by historians in 2015. As of August 2017, four artworks were restored to their rightful owners, including the goblet.

“Dr Oetker’s researchers say it may take decades to determine how many more items in its collection are due for restitution.”

It’s way too late for me to boycott Dr. Oetker, I own several books and throughout my life have bought their products. Recently I have switched to cheaper identical products from another company. But since that company was founded in 1920, before WWII, who knows what’s hiding in their mixes. Though I have found no information. Best to make my own puddings and whatever else they offer.

But back to the Dr. Oetker baking book. Next recipe was “Buttertörtchen.” They didn’t look all that exciting to me and I came up with a new method to choose recipes. Random number generator with input of the recipe pages, or perhaps a random opening of the book, or just pick a recipe where the photo speaks to me. I decided to keep on going for now, and those little “cupcakes” with almond topping were a delight. Definitely something I’ll bake again.

Due to not enough takers, we are on day 2 of eating these little precious marvels. And now I need a break from sweets and am craving something with a totally different flavor. Perhaps Chinese?

Thanks for letting me share this here. I wish I could just beam these to you. One day perhaps.

There’s an Arnold in the House

Let’s try this again.

Covid 19 may have made this the worst year in my history but it also brought some good. I’m talking Arnold here, our foster dog that we finally adopted.

There were so many reservations why we should not do it, but with Covid 19 they evaporated. What did anything matter when we could not travel or socialize.

So yes, he is dog aggressive. But it’s not like we are going to dog parks or are letting him off his leash. We are not traveling to to visit our daughter Liana in Denver where his type of dog is a strict no-no. And traveling on a plane is a strict no-no for me now.

Going to Europe for a few months? Not happening either. So no dog sitter needed. And we had already kind of given up our dog-sitting business.

Instead we have a lovely dog who has ground down his teeth on a cage or a chain as the doctor tells us. No vampire look for him. He had to go as a regular dog for Halloween.

He insists he fits into Daisy’s bed and I quit arguing. He’s some sort of Amstaff pitbull mix and he loves stuffed toys that squeak. He does take them apart and is thrilled when he gets to the hard plastic that encases the sounds.

He’s what gets me out of the house every day. Or most days. He gets Stephen out twice a day. Did I ever mention I’m not a morning person?

When I fell during the summer and ended up with, among many other aches and pains, a broken kneecap, I did not walk anywhere. I installed myself in bed with reading and streaming materials. My broken finger prevented me from knitting or any other useful activity.

But here I am, all better. Well, the knee is better, but the broken finger combined with my osteoarthritis is still causing issues. No fists, at times a trigger finger, tasks that involve hands are a bit more laborious, but overall, I was lucky.

Here is a photo from our neighborhood walk. I love the leaves in the trees, let me share with you.

When not outside and not reading or streaming, I have started work again on the quilt for Toby, our son. I’m trying to motivate myself to get going today. But already I have been baking instead and restarted this blog. That should give you an idea how much I’m in need of motivation.

My eyes have been bothering me a lot lately, especially after reading 3 books in 3 days. Now my sight is a bit blurry and they’re watering when I try to focus, which I’m doing right now while writing this.

Let me give you the three book titles in case you need inspiration:

  1. Isabel Allende – A Long Petal of the Sea
  2. Leah Remini – Troublemaker
  3. Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing

It’s been fun being back and reconnecting.