35 Before 35: Baking – Viennese Whirls and Coffee Kisses

A few weeks ago we were invited to a birthday celebration (barbecue) and I decided I should bake something to take with me. Jan suggested biscuits since the biscuit baking item on my 35 before 35 wasn’t complete yet. After a quick search of the Internet, I settled on Viennese Whirls from the BBC Good Food website. It took me a while to get used to piping out the whirls and mine don’t look as neat as the ones on the recipe, but I think I did okay.

Viennese whirls

The vanilla butter cream was incredibly sweet and I was worried it would be too much but once combined with the biscuits and jam it all fit together amazingly. One girl at the barbecue liked the biscuits so much she even asked me for the recipe!

I still had loads of vanilla butter cream left – I have no idea how that was all supposed to go inside the biscuits! So a couple of days later I decided it was time to use it up. Googling “biscuits with butter cream filling recipes” eventually brought up this recipe for Coffee Kisses, which apparently is from the Great British Bake-Off cookbook. I wasn’t as keen on this recipe – I thought the bitterness of the coffee in the biscuits would counteract the sweetness of the filling but I found the filling quite overwhelming in these ones. Although they did taste better the next day so maybe the coffee flavour needed time to develop? Regardless, I think if I made this again I wouldn’t bother with the filling but instead make just the biscuits and dip them in melted dark chocolate.

I only needed to bake two more types of biscuit, so with this another item was finally crossed off my 35 before 35 list. Hooray!

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35 before 35: Progress report #8

I would have liked to do this yesterday, when it was exactly 6 months until my birthday and thus the end of the challenge. But I was in the office yesterday so by the time I was back in Switzerland and had eaten there was no way I was switching the computer back on! So today it is. My last progress report was seven months ago. Let’s see what I’ve achieved since then…

Number 6: Travel round Britain again

Technically we only spent time in England and Scotland and it wasn’t a round trip (we flew into Gatwick and left from Edinburgh), but we spent two weeks travelling within Great Britain so I’m counting it as completed in August 2017.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

Last time I was up to 19… now I am on 20 (and the time before it was 18). This does not bode well! I read The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright. There’s a short review here.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 24, now I’m on 27. So three read. The three were Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold (fairly meh), Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz (really enjoyed it), and Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann (good, but not as good as the other book I’ve read by her). And now I have another three to go – should be doable.

Number 18: Bake ten different kinds of biscuits

It’s been a while since I’ve baked biscuits. Last time I didn’t even mention this category! The time before I had been on 7, and now it’s 8. I recently baked coffee shortbread. (I actually baked chocolate brownie biscuits at Christmas, but I’ve done them before so they don’t count).

coffee shortbread2

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

Last time I was up to 56 and now I’ve made it to 63! That leaves another 69 to read in 6 months. Hmm. I’m not going to mention you all the ones I’ve read since last July in this post, but you can find the entire list here. I will say I read the last one, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, yesterday while waiting for my train home and it’s possibly the weirdest book I’ve ever read!

And that’s everything this time. Only one challenge actually completed, but a bit of progress made on some others.

19 items remain incomplete. Some I can finish fairly easily, others will not be happening. I may try to check in one more time before August, but I’m not promising anything. This may well end up being my final progress report. And now to try and complete as many things as I can before August… Wish me luck!

35 Before 35: Baking – Coffee Shortbread

coffee shortbreadWith my 35th birthday coming up this year, it’s obvious that I’m not going to complete my list – somehow I can’t see me going to Belfast and Slovenia and seeing the Northern Lights within the next 6 months-ish! But I can at least make an effort to complete the ones that don’t require me to even leave the house. So this weekend, I decided to kill two birds with one stone: bake biscuits for my 35 before 35 challenge and use some of the instant coffee I was sent ages ago and that we’re highly unlikely to ever actually drink given we have a pad coffee machine! I made Coffee Shortbread using a recipe I found here.

I was supposed to dust them with demerara sugar before baking but I don’t have any so I had planned to use vanilla sugar. I am still convinced I have vanilla sugar, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so instead I used caster sugar and sugar crystals (which is called Hagelzucker in German – hailstone sugar. Try telling me German isn’t a poetic language!). I couldn’t decide which would be best!

shortbread

Here’s the final article, slightly cracked and only sort of round but very tasty!

coffee shortbread2

And how can you tell I’m not a food blogger? I totally forgot to take a pretty photo of them after I’d taken them off the baking tray!

So, 8 types of biscuits down… only 2 more to go! Any suggestions for what I should bake next?

 

35 Before 35: Progress report 7

A blog post two days in a row? What is this madness? I hear you cry! Well, it’s exactly a month until my 34th birthday (HELP!) so I thought I’d better check what progress I’ve made on my 35 before 35 list since my last check in – which was in January, apparently.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was up to 18 last time, and now I’m on a grand total of…. *drum roll* … 19. Yeah. I read A Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. I reviewed it yesterday.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 22, and now I’m on 24. So a whole 2 for this category.  Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wenken (okay) and Märchenwald by Martin Krist (really good!).

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’d read 46 last time and now I’m on 56! Finally some real progress. I’m not going to list them all, so you can see all the Big Read books I’ve read here. I have 67 left to read… theoretically it’s possible, as long as I stop reading everything else!

Number 30: Learn to crochet or knit (or both)

I haven’t written a post on it yet, but I did loom knit a bunch of tiny hats (too small for even a newborn, but recognisable as hats) and one and a half socks for myself. Loom knitting isn’t exactly knitting, but the items are made of wool and look knitted so I’ve decided it can count.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before

I had made it to 29 last time… and now I’m finished! I’ve actually managed to watch all six of the films I still needed this year. I completed this item by watching Kajaki. You can see what else I’ve watched here.

Number 34: Drink champagne in Champagne.

Woohoo! I actually did this. Thank you Germany and your ridiculous amount of public holidays in the spring! I wrote about it here.

So, I have made some progress on the reading front, discovered a new hobby in loom knitting (because I totally need even more sedentary hobbies with the way the scales are looking!), crossed off one more travel item and actually managed to watch films for a change. With one year and one month to go, I obviously won’t manage everything (especially not all the travel-related items) but hopefully I will at least get all the reading crossed off. Wish me luck!

35 before 35: Champagne in Champagne

Champagne

WordPress congratulated me on my anniversary this morning… apparently this blog has existed for a whole nine years today! So even though I didn’t intend to blog, I didn’t feel like I could let such a momentous occasion pass without a post. And what better way to celebrate than with champagne (albeit champagne that has already been drunk).

Whit Monday is a public holiday in Germany and Switzerland (or at least the parts that are relevant to us), which meant a long weekend. We didn’t want to let it go to waste, so with the Champagne region a mere four and a half hours’ drive from here, I decided it was time to check something else off my 35 before 35 list.

We were staying in Reims, but after arriving there on Saturday evening we decided to spend some time exploring other place and save Reims itself for the next day. First of all, we drove to a village called Avizes, where there’s a champagne company that one of Jan’s colleagues recommended (the one in the photo at the top of this post). Unfortunately they had already closed for the weekend so we couldn’t book a tour. We stopped in a little park just outside the village where even the landscaping featured champagne!

The next stop was Epernay… home of the (apparently) world-famous “Champagne street”. All the big names have headquarters there.

As you can see, it had started to rain by this point, so we were glad to head off and find some food (and actual champagne to drink!). We each chose the evening three course meal. Jan was driving, so he drank some delicious apricot juice, but I chose the version of the meal that came with three types of champagne. Sadly I don’t remember what they were, except that the first one did come from where it says on the glass. How’s that for a wine list though!

After breakfast the next day, we headed into Reims for a look around. I’m going to tell you about that in a separate post though, since there was no champagne drinking involved and this post is for the 35 before 35 item 😉 Instead let’s skip ahead to that afternoon, when we had a G. H. Mumm cellar tour booked.

We saw some of the barrels they originally used, each with the name of the village the grapes came from, learned about the villages where Mumm grow their grapes, saw all the different sizes of champagne bottle that exist (Mumm only has about 4 of them available!) and visited the museum.

Obviously the tour ended with a glass of champagne!

And that’s item 34 crossed off my list: Drink Champagne in Champagne.

 

35 Before 35: Mini Egg Easter Cookies

After nearly two years in Switzerland I still hadn’t baked anything for Jan’s colleagues, so this weekend I decided that needed to change! With Easter coming up, something relating to that seemed appropriate, so I found this recipe, bought Cadbury’s Mini Eggs and got to work.

The dough looked pretty with all the colourful bits of shell:

cookie dough

I didn’t have brown sugar so I used ordinary granulated sugar. It seemed to work okay. Here are some cookies waiting to go in the oven:

cookies

And here they all are, cooling on a rack:

Easter cookies

There weren’t enough for me to try one and for most of Jan’s colleagues to get 2 each, so I couldn’t tell you how they taste. They looked good though and my entire flat still smells yummy even as I type this (after the cookies have already left the building). At least there were a few Mini Eggs left over for me to munch on 😉

And that makes biscuit number 8 for my 35 before 35 challenge!

35 Before 35: Bourbon Creams

I came up with the idea of attempting to bake Bourbon Creams ages ago (it’s not like I can just buy them here after all), but in typical Bev fashion took forever to get round to actually doing it. Finally, over the weekend, I  remembered to google the recipe. All the ones that came up seemed to be the same so I just used the first link I had clicked on, which was this one. Apparently the original came from Jamie Oliver… I should have known right then that things were too good to be true.

The recipe said that, before kneading, the mixture would be “slightly crumbly” but “show the promise of coming together”. After adding extra milk, I managed to achieve “slightly crumbly”, then had to knead separate balls for each biscuit. That was the only way I even had a chance of getting the dough to not fall apart as soon as I started trying to roll it.

The recipe said the ingredients would make “about 14”. I’m not sure whether that meant 14 Bourbon Creams or 14 biscuit halves, so 7 Bourbon Creams. After much kneading and attempting to roll, then re-kneading because the bloody thing had fallen apart again and then re-rolling, I eventually ended up with this:

biscuits

Yeah… it also turns out I don’t have a rectangular cutter. Admittedly these biscuit layers are way too thick and if I could have rolled them thinner without breaking them I could have got more out of the mixture, but there’s no way 14 would have happened!

I baked the biscuits, left them to cool, made the filling and was finally left with this:

They were very tasty, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be making them again, at least not using that particular recipe. I think I’ll stick with Nigella for sweet treats from now on 😉 But even if I only actually ended up with four biscuits, I still baked and that’s good enough for the 35 before 35 list!

Eight types of biscuits down, two to go. Any suggestions?