April 2021 recap

Hello my lovelies! Can you believe I’m here for an April recap? What even is time and where is it going? I haven’t been around here much recently – sorry about that (why am I apologising? Nobody cares whether I blog!). You’ll soon see that I don’t really have much of a reason for that. As in I haven’t been too busy to post. Just not in the mood I guess. Anyway, on with the recap.

The month started with Easter. Actually Good Friday was 2nd April but I don’t have anything to say about the 1st. I was pleased to have a long weekend! Not that I did a lot. I went for 2 walks (Jan joined me for one) and I made hot cross buns. They took forever but turned out quite nice for a first attempt – maybe a bit dense.

ITV were showing all the Harry Potter films on Easter weekend and the following weekend and Jan decided her was going to watch then (if you know him in real life you’re probably rubbing your eyes in disbelief right now!). I watched with him and had fun spotting the scenes that were shot at Alnwick Castle and Durham Cathedral. I don’t normally watch that many films in such a short space of time unless it’s Christmas! We also watched a German film called Im Juli, which was weird, and I discovered Jan had never seen (or even heard of) The Lost Boys so we watched that. This discovery was make thanks to an answer on House of Games, which we’re still keeping up with, and I’ve also been enjoying Great British Menu. So much TV in April! This is very unusual for me!

I mentioned last month that my doctor had given me a referral for physiotherapy. I had my first session on the Wednesday after Easter. I chose a place that’s kind of opposite where I live which is so convenient! It literally takes me about 4 minutes from leaving my flat to being in the room. I’ve nearly finished my sessions now and my back is mostly better, although it still seems to play up at times.

It was not a good month for reading. I listened to an audiobook and it took dayssss. Me and audiobooks just don’t get on. Then on top that I only read 5 other books. I had hoped to finish another one but alas I only managed the first 130ish pages in April. I’m still working on it now almost a week into May!

Jan got his first dose of COVID vaccine. Yay! Our canton finally moved on from over-75s and “highest risk” to all chronic illnesses (Jan has type 1 diabetes. Since it’s well-controlled he isn’t considered high risk). He will get the second jab later this month. Vaccinations are still relatively slow here but starting to pick up now. And on the very last day of April the reported daily positive tests finally fell to below 2000 for the first time in weeks. Restaurants have been allowed to open their terraces since 19 April but I still haven’t been to one. And gyms also reopened on the same day but I haven’t set foot in one of those since I was about 16 😉 We did get take away a couple of times. One that lasted us for three nights in a row and one that we bought for lunch and had enough rice left over to reheat for tea. I made it without some frozen samosas (obviously I heated them) that I bought to try and turned out to be delicious so I will definitely get them again.

The last two months I have completely forgotten to mention that I’ve been trying to learn Ukrainian through Duolingo. I’m not great at it though – I can’t seem to get my head around the Cyrillic alphabet, especially since some of the letters that look similar to ours are pronounced (roughly) the same and some aren’t. So так is “yes” and it’s pronounced pretty much as you would expect (tak) but сестра (sister) is pronounced “sestra” because what my brain insists on viewing as a ‘p’ is pronounced similar to an ‘r’. And then the letter that does look like an r, albeit a backwards one, is pronounced ‘ya’, so моя сестра (my sister) is “moya sestra”. Aaargh!

I cannot think of anything else to tell you! I’ve still been going for my weekly walks, sometimes with Jan but most often alone. Here’s a photo of a squirrel we saw on one walk – it looks like it’s in a cage, but actually it’s some kind of structure that was apparently built to help it climb the tree. The tree was on the grounds of a school so we guessed the structure was probably part of some project there.

I hope you all had a good April. Check back on Tuesday if you want to know about the very few books I read last month.

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!

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: 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?

 

35 Before 35: Progress report 6

It seems my last 35 before 35 progress report was on 13th June 2016! So much for regular check ins 😉 Time for another one then. Here’s what I’ve managed to do in the last 7 months:

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

I had read 12 by last June and I’ve now reached 18. I’m not going to list all 6, but you can see them here. I need to get cracking with this one if I really want to complete by the time I turn 35! (Next year, by the way. Aarghh!).

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I had read 21, now I’ve read 22. Huh. I read Emmas Geheimnis by Liz Balfour, which would have been better if it wasn’t so predictable. I had only read one book in German between the last progress report and the one before that as well. Must try harder!

Number 18: Bake 10 different types of biscuits

I was on 6 before and now I’m on 7. The seventh was chocolate Christmas biscuits.

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

I’ve been trying very hard to incorporate BBC Big Read books into all my challenges and have managed to increase my number from 27 right up to 46! And one of those was the ridiculously long Shogun. You can see the full list here. I now have less than 100 to go… 86 to be precise.

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

Last time I was on 27. I’ve watched two more since then: Mirrormask and Paddington. Six more to go. Watching films should not be this difficult!

And that’s everything. It doesn’t seem like much for six months! Apparently I’ve mostly just been reading.

1 year, 6 months and 27 days to go. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to make it to Slovenia, Champagne and somewhere to see the Northern Lights by then! Not to mention learning to knit…

Chocolate Christmas biscuits

Since this first December weekend was a rare one in which we had no plans, I decided it was time for some Christmas baking. After all, it is the month of all the sweet treats! I used Nigella’s recipe for Chocolate Christmas Biscuits, but I added in some cinnamon and vanilla along with the cocoa powder because I don’t see how just sticking some sprinkles on top magically makes a biscuit Christmassy! You can’t really taste the cinnamon, but I know it’s there and that’s what counts 😉

Here are some of the biscuits fresh from the oven:

Instead of making cocoa powder/icing sugar/water icing, I decided to melt white chocolate for the decoration. My initial plan was to make some of the biscuits look like Christmas puddings and just put some white chocolate in the middle of the others and then decorate with sparkly things, but I quickly got bored of that and started drawing random patterns with white chocolate. When you bear in mind that I did all my drawing with a teaspoon I think they came out okay!

Apart from the Christmas puddings, I think the Christmas trees are my favourite!

Have you done any Christmas baking yet this year? What’s your favourite Christmas biscuit (I still have 3 more types of biscuits to bake for my 35 before 35… give me ideas!)

GBBO bake along: chocolate chip hedgehogs

After missing biscuit week thanks to work and a visitor, I decided to jump back into the linkup for bread week. I wanted to go Swiss for this bake and make hedgehog rolls like the one here, except add chocolate chips to mine to comply with the rules (and also because chocolate!). I couldn’t actually find a recipe for Igeli though, so I settled for this one for Schokobrötchen. I felt like I was cheating a bit since this recipe doesn’t involve any yeast… is it still bread without yeast? It literally has bread roll in the name though (the German means “chocolate bread roll).

My original plan for this post was to translate the recipe for you then show you how I made hedgehogs instead of bread rolls. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quiiite as planned and I’m at least partly blaming the recipe for not telling me what consistency the dough was supposed to have… mine ended up really sticky so I had to add extra flour just to be able to form it into anything. Even the balls that the original recipe called for wouldn’t have been possible. And also what kind of oven has a 175°C setting? Mine certainly doesn’t and neither have any of the other ones I’ve used in my life!

dscn9923

I decided to use two different methods for the spines so that I would hopefully end up with at least some rolls that looked something like hedgehogs.,For some of the rolls, I cut the dough using scissors to try and make spines like the ones in the picture linked above. My dough was obviously far too soft though because my spines had already melted back into the rest before the rolls even made it into the oven. For the rest I used almonds… sliced almonds would have worked best, but I only had whole peeled almonds so I tried to cut them to size. It only kind of worked.

Apparently I had made me rolls too flat, so my hedgehogs ended up looking like they’d been squished in a nasty traffic accident… possibly involving a truck? And, as expected, the non-almond spines didn’t work at all, leaving me with demented mouse rolls instead of hedgehogs.

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I swear the one at the top right is giving me the evils…

At least the almond ones looked vaguely like they were supposed to…

I am so far far from being a star baker! But despite looking a bit dodgy, my hedgehogs tasted delicious! Next time, I I think I will try and find a better Schokobrötchen recipe, though.

I am adding this to the link up even though every single other entry looks totally professional and absolutely delicious! After all, somebody has to be the failure of the week! (If this was the real show, I’d be the one being voted off…)

This would be a fun bake to do with kids (provided you find a better recipe than the one I used). If you go with the almond spines method, the kids could place them and turn the plain buns into cute little hedgehogs.

And now I have seven more chocolate chip hedgehogs to eat and nobody to help me! (Jan is away at yet another choir weekend)

GBBO bake along: drizzle cake

I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen a single episode of the Great British Bake Off! Now we actually have English channels I saw that it was on the other day and thought about watching it, but after the news a film came on and Jan said he wanted to watch it so I went to bed with my book and left him to it. (We do have an external hard drive but you can’t record one channel and watch another). But that doesn’t stop me from being able to bake the cakes, right? I was just going to do a lemon poppyseed cake that I’ve made before because it always turns out well, but just for fun I entered drizzle cake in BBC Good Food and this recipe for lime and ginger drizzle cake came up. Ginger trumps basically everything in this house, so my decision was pretty much made for me.

cake1
The unbaked cake

I have one complaint about the recipe. It told me to use a 900g loaf tin. Who gives the size of a receptacle for baked goods as a weight? How am I supposed to know how many grams of cake my tin will hold? (At least I assume that’s what the measurement refers to). My tin came with dimensions… you know, length, height, that kind of thing. Admittedly I threw the packaging away and no longer know them, but I have a tape measure. I can work it out. How do you expect me to work out how many grams my loaf tin is?! Okay, end of rant!

cake2
Out of the oven

As you can see, my cake browned to quickly and also split down the middle. Mary Berry would be horrified, I’m sure! It was my first time baking an actual cake in a fan-assisted oven and apparently I haven’t really worked it out yet.

For the drizzle, I had no idea where one would get stem ginger syrup in Switzerland (or even what it is, really) so I used ginger jam instead. The pieces of ginger meant I didn’t need to decorate with crystallized ginger as suggested 😉 Oh, and as for the stem ginger in the actual cake… ginger may come in balls in BBC Good Food land, but it doesn’t here so I just chopped off a chunk and hoped for the best. Also, I may have added more powdered ginger than the recipe called for. Oh, alright, I definitely added a lot more ginger than the recipe called for. It stilled could have done with more ginger though! (I told you… we like ginger around here!)

 

There is drizzle on it, I swear! But most of it soaked in, plus it was the colour of ginger which doesn’t show up well against cake. In my defence you can’t see any drizzle in the picture on the original recipe either! I also added coconut to the top so it would look more intentionally decorated than “someone spilled something sticky on this cake!”. Also, massive apologies for my utterly terrible photography! I clearly have no idea how to photograph cake! It was too long for my camera! First world problems…

cake5

For looks, my cake gets a great big zero, but it tastes amazing and in my world that’s all that matters!

Check out week one of the Bake Off Bake Along for more yummy cakes. Someone even attempted a mirror glaze, which is waaaay beyond my baking skills!