Monday, 28 November 2011

A Veritable Kitchen Marathon

Hello, hello,

as announced earlier, I am still in the kitchen. I leave it for an instant because I wish to upload tons of photos I have been taken and say hello to Anna - thank you for becoming a follower!

I counted the photos: back in the analogue days, this posting would have equaled one 35mm film, the big one, with 36 pictures. That's a lot.

The baking marathon started a few days ago with something I can only call a failure. Cream Cheese Brownies were what I aimed for but what left the oven in the pan lost every bit of Cream Cheese.
What should have become beige, turned mocca.

Austrians can get confused with 375, 350 and 400 Fahrenheit. Because my oven speaks Celsius only. And when the recipe asks for a 9" pan, a 12 x 16 is probably not the best idea. The dough hardly coverd the pan and was too thin.

A double-printed version of the recipe, where comments overlay the recipe does not help either.

I figured out what caused the failure: oversized pan & burning hot oven. Having figured that out, I stepped in for a second attempt. And see, it worked out!
Sometimes you have to (l)earn it the hard way

By now Mr Paula is reassured, he lives together with a maniac. I convinced him that I just love my hobby (=baking) and that is totally normal to re-bake a recipe the same evening, because a hobby-baker just wants the recipes to work out. Otherwise the baker would have to leave the kitchen in a depressed state which is unbearable.

Inbetween the baking sessions I also left the house ...
... noticed how the Christmas season arrived in the street.

The fog was insane, well, at least unhealthy. While Italian politicians force their communes to leave the car at home, Austrian politicians are to afraid to act. The fog lasted for over 10 days and the fog became smog. The photo above was taken around 9.30am. It was dark like late afternoon.

I ran into one of the probably strongest brands I remember from my childhood:
No re-brand, but plain 1980's design. I am loving it!

Apropos loving it: To the Paris-Lovers out there: please, see for yourself: Vienna can easily hold up with Paris, no? So change your flight schedule and come over here. We have it all: the lamps, the wrought iron, the old advertising pillars. And we could go out, drink Coffee together, or de-caff if you prefer.

Back home, the fog had inspired me to create some homemade fog by blanching 300gr of almonds:
Basic work is always part of baking the most delicate, delicious cookies
My nut-cracking has nothing in common with any lovely ballet music.
Mission accomplished. Almonds ready to be transformed into Vanille Kipferl.

So many recipes ask for vegetable shortening and you simply would not find it in Austrian supermarkets. But there is a subsitute available which is at least as unhealthy as vegetable shortening:

Ask Paula:
Q: How Can I Substitute Vegetable Shortening?
A: Take solid coconut oil!
At room temperature it looks like this:
I tried it both: butter and coconut oil as a substitute and what can I say - the coconut oil works perfectly! Best prove: a traditional American Apple Pie:
The crust was the best I've ever made. And I have been baking the pie for ages!
The Apple Pie somehow happened to take place. I could not resist a new BILLA bucket. Which comes with apples. Or oranges. Because I had them before. This time I felt more like peeling and slicing instead of squeezing.

I am running out of time! By now it is Saturday, 5pm and the Advent-wreath to be sits patiently in a corner:
The wire that fixes the candle gets through any candle, no matter how solid it is, when hot.
This time I like it really hot.
Lets be precise: the wire should not go in too far, because it can cause the candle to melt when the wire gets close to the flame.
And we want to light the candles for the next 4 weeks.

Mr Paula was a bit out of focus, but you should still get the idea.
Not much later, and the candles are fixed.

Find the 12 differences in the picture below:
Add half an hour and another mission is accomplished.
This incredible handy machine was not my only helper while baking ...:
Niece Paula is developing serious skills. Can you not love the concentration of children?
Or their artwork?
As the ideal assistant, she made notes.
Cup-measurement-analysis (1/2, 1/3, 1/4) lead straight to a swimming pool, incl. pool ladders.

As you can imagine, there is no time for full cycles:
The dish-washer gets to know the quick-programme quite well these days.
Meanwhile the army of ingredients sits in a corner and waits for what is to come:
Pecans and cranberries for another box of Cranberry Noels
3 baking trays are the minimum in my kitchen.
And there is still a lot that gets washed by hand.
You can see why a Kitchen Aid machine would not work for me: I need 5 bowls at least!

The last evenings in the kitchen have worked for me as a kind of kitchen therapy. Mr Paula and I have experienced a lot of emotional stress, we lost a friend our age to an accident. Accidents are always sudden. It does not make any sense. Over the past days, every conversation Mr Paula and I had lead, ended with me, mentioning the friend, the accident ... I feared to get lost, to demand too much of Mr Paula. That's when the baking marathon started. And somehow it really helped me, especially the company of Niece Paula. By now I am soooo tired, I am sound asleep the moment I go to bed. Sad and confused, yes. But not daunted, not restless.

Take care

PS: In case you like to know a recipe, please leave a comment or contact me via email, I will be pleasesd to edit the posting and add the recipe.

PPS: I just realised, this posting is like a typical conversation I've had with Mr Paula over the past days: starts in a happy mood and in the end I can not help but return to what has been on my mind all the time.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    At times like these we all resort to coping mechanisms. If you find comfort in baking, I think that's actually tremendously beneficial, because this is an active as oppose to passive method. Me? I'm likely to stay in bed when things like these happen and it only makes everything worse.

  2. Hello coffeeaddict! It is nice to know you online right now, late in the evening. Thank you for your words. I am not sure, if you are in bed right now? If so, sweet dreams!

  3. It looks like your marathon has been very therapeutic.
    Death by accident, out the blue seems so difficult to reconcile...

    Take care,

  4. Having a hard time to find the right words to comfort my very lovely blog colleague, who I only know "virtually". But of course I'm sending you lovely, positive thoughts - hoping that the sadness will not be too overwhelming. One should mourn, of course, but I doubt that your friend would want you to be sad "for ever". Having experienced a couple of sudden losses in my life as well, I can only say that I can relate and hope you feel better soon. Trying to find distractions is one option, plus talking (esp. with someone, who also knew the friend) certainly soothes, but one can never comprehend sudden losses, as they just seem so unfair. Same goes for diseases of course, but at least there you have time to adjust and prepare yourself. Have to go now, but sending you a huge virtual hug - yours, Macs

  5. I love the mini muffin version of the brownies. I don't understand why mr. Paula was complaining, didn't he just get 2 sets of brownies to eat ?

    Also baking is a great therapy, find a great recipe that involves smashing nuts with a rolling pins or pulverizing butter, and just let the emotion flow. You'll be a hot mess, but you will feel fantastic afterwards.

  6. hostess, I feel better every day. Sleep is essential!

    Macs, Danke! Even though we just "met" recently, you seem very near, or should I say familiar? You were my first Viennese blogger I visited online, I am happy it was you. :) Your comment really comforted me. Thank you for this!

    Jen, I guess Mr Paula is afraid he will have to wash all the trays and dishes. I admit, it happens, that I leave the kitchen after hours of heavy baking, pretending that I am going to faint, no way I could do the dishes. *gg*
    Baking is such a direct way of transforming a state into another state - look at butter, sugar and eggs before and after baking - could be this immediate transformation helps me to transform emotions, too.

  7. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I can see why baking is therapeutic for you, plus you get to eat the delicious results.

    I am impressed with your nieces ability to concentrate :).