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: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/dr-oetker-nazi-connection

“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.

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