A Year in Beer

Wow, that year went quickly, on which more later. I’d wanted to try my hand at brewing for a while, but was put off it by the (accurate) fear than ninety percent of the work was washing bottles and cleaning pots. Then, last winter, as a newly-minted father of a baby with an age measured in weeks, life consisted mainly of sterilizing bottles and not sleeping. I made an offhand comment to the effect that if I was going to spend so much time boiling glass I might as well make beer. Ariane gave me a starter kit, and a year later I’m about seventy liters in and think I have a reasonable clue what I’m doing.

Weihnachtsstollen (nach Memphiser Art)

In the back of the pantry at the house I grew up in in Memphis, there was always a stack of little plastic tubs of dried candied “fruits” of various colors (I say “colors” because the flavor was invariably “sugar”). My mother was never much of a baker, except at Christmas, when the baking would take two forms: fruitcake and stollen, both of which were filled with candied fruit. I’d try Mom’s fruitcake, the main ingredient of which seemed to be brandy, about once every five years to see if I was finally old enough to enjoy it. I never quite made it. Stollen, on the other hand, was the main course of most breakfasts around Christmas. This was a bit odd in Memphis, doubly so because we didn’t have any particularly German ancestors; Mom just saw the recipe in a magazine sometime in the late 70s or early 80s and decided to make a tradition out of it. So I was thrilled when I moved to Switzerland and found out you could buy stollen in the grocery store at Christmastime. Almost as thrilled as I was disappointed when I found out that “real” Stollen is basically a marzipan delivery system.

Bagels, redux

The apparent secret to getting bagels that look like bagels: broil them slightly before boiling them, and add way more salt and a little sugar to the boiling water. Bonus: these actually taste like bagels, too…Bagels, Wallisellen, 4 December 2011


[][1]Bagels boiling, Wallisellen, 7 November 2011 The problem with taking a week in New York and coming back to Zürich is that you miss the bagels. Bagels, however, are made by humans, and we are humans, so how hard can it be? Turns out, quite. Basing our recipe on one we found on an American cookbook written in German (the author’s blurb assurs us that her husband is a real, actual American from Bedford, Pennsylvania, of all places), the results of our first attempt are shown here.

Portable Cookies

Nope, this isn’t about web privacy. My old blog had a tag called “Royale mit Käse”, on the little differences between Switzerland and America. One of the bigger little differences is the sweetness of dessert. My mom once sent me a care package full of Mrs. Fields cookies (“trans-fats are proof that there is a God, he loves us, and he wants us to be insanely fat”) with the approximate energy density of a neutron star; these would induce a temporary diabetic coma in the average Swiss person. On the other hand, for dessert one night this weekend, we had something more traditional, which as near as I can tell was basically grits with extra gluten and a pinch of sugar. Two scoops of ice cream on top of that and I could barely taste it, which made it just about tolerable. After a couple of years here, my palate’s definitely leaning somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Start-with-a-quarter-pound-of-butter recipes just don’t work any more. So without further ado I present my adjusted-for-Switzerland portable cookie recipe. This basically started as the average of a few American sugar-cookies-from-scratch recipes I found on the web, with the sugar and butter scaled way back.