April 2020 recap

Well, I’ve made it through the first full month of semi-lockdown. Hurrah! Switzerland actually started lifting a very few restrictions towards the end of the month  – as of 27th April hairdressers, garden centres, DIY stores, medical massage practices, physiotherapists and dentists have been allowed to open again (I went to a dentist appointment yesterday that was originally supposed to be in March!). Of course, all of those things could only open with strict measures in place  – limited numbers of people allowed in, markings on the floor to show people where to stand while queuing, hairdressers and their customers must wear masks  – but we are slowly creeping towards a new kind of “normalcy”.

Anyway, I’m here to recap what I did in April so I shall get on with that. Linking up with Kristen, of course.

whats new with you

We went for a lot of walks, in every possible direction from our building. Once we walked along the stream until we were two towns over and saw maybe 8 other people, another day we went into the woods and it seemed like all of our town and half the city of Basel were there jogging, cycling and in some cases picnicking  (despite signs telling them not to). We won’t take that route again!

Apart from our weekly walk, the only other time I left the house was once a week to go to the supermarket. One socially-distanced walk a week plus one supermarket trip a week seems like a reasonable compromise between staying home and not getting completely sick of being indoors!

Jan has been sleeping late, starting work between 10 a.m. and noon, and obviously then working late. I’ve been starting work as normal (between 7:30 and 8 a.m.) but occasionally had to finish early because I had nothing to do. On days that I do have work I try to stay logged in for longer to make up for the shorter days, with the result that I ended April with only 4 hours of overtime fewer than I hard at the start. That means I still have plenty I can take if things don’t pick up.

Jan usually takes a break in the evening so we can eat together, then we watch Richard Osman’s House of Games. BBC 2 is currently showing repeats but I discovered the show late so I don’t mind that they’re old ones. It’s such a fun distraction from everything that’s going on! Apart from that I don’t watch a lot of TV but Jan always has it on when he isn’t working so he made me watch two Indiana Jones films. I had never seen them before and could have happily lived my life without ever seeing them. Terrible films! We also watched Wonder, which was actually good  – but not as good as the book, obviously.

Speaking of books, I read a mere eleven in April (I thought it was 10 but it turns out I missed one). Nowhere near as much as usual! I can’t say they were 11 particularly long books either. A couple were 400ish pages but some were really short. Mostly I got distracted by a colouring book my friend Naomi sent me and took way too long to remember that audiobooks are a thing. Plus Jan being here on weekends instead of at 12 million choir practices and events leaves me with less reading time (but more time with him so overall a win). I will tell you which books I read on Show Us Your Books day.

We wanted to support local businesses and we had been planning to look for frames for some art for months so Jan ordered some from a place in Basel then framed and hung the pictures. Seeing them on the walls makes me so happy! I ordered a book from the only independent book shop I’m aware of I’m Basel even though I could have got the same book for cheaper including delivery costs if I’d ordered it from the UK! So that’s my contribution to the local economy.

Sometime towards the end of the month I decided to swap my usual black tea for green tea. It’s really not the same but I’m sticking with it for now. Green tea is supposed to be a little healthier – although I’m not sure it can make up for all the chocolate I’ve been eating in lockdown! Speaking of which… I made cheesecake. It was supposed to be this but I couldn’t get the right caramel and ended up using the sauce you get for ice cream which obviously did not work! I think I know where I can get something better but it’s in town and I’ve been avoiding going into Basel while we’re in this isolation/lockdown situation. We have 5 supermarkets in our town (slightly weirdly given its size) so there’s no excuse to go further away!

cheesecake

I spoke to my dad a couple of times and we skyped with my mum and brother. Luckily all my family are healthy so far. My sister and brother are able to work from home and my little brother is doing his assigned school work. Shout out to my mum and her colleagues who are out there on the front line every day! (My mum’s ward is not a covid-19 ward but they still get patients who have it, and they are also a trauma ward now so are very busy and stressed while also dealing with staff shortages.)

That’s about all. Easter obviously happened in April but we didn’t do anything special. I wanted to try making hot cross buns but I couldn’t find yeast anywhere!

Oh, I forgot to mention in March that I made a card for my friend’s new baby. I posted it on 1st April – along with a gift, obviously – so I’m going to cheat and slot it in here because I want to show off ;-). It arrived after a mere two weeks (after something I sent to my friend’s sons in March took nearly a month) so it seems the postal service is somewhat getting back on its feet.

baby card

How was your April? I hope you are staying healthy and happy in these trying times! Check out the link up to see how everyone else has been spending their time at home.

GBBO bake along: chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake pots

This time on the Great British Bake Off bake along it was time for dessert week. My options were something called Marjolaine (which I’ve never heard of!), a roulade or mini mousse cakes. My first thought was to make some kind of chocolate mousse topped brownie thing, which seemed like a lot of effort for something that’s meant to be fun (and I’m definitely not in this to win it!), so I decided to go with something much easier.

If you make white chocolate cheesecake and top it with chocolate mousse, it totally counts as a mousse cake, right?

This is so easy a five year old could make it! Obviously I don’t recommend leaving said five year old to melt chocolate unsupervised, but with a little adult help a five year old could totally do it.

First of all, you make the base. For this you will need 55g biscuits (okay, cookies if you insist) and 20g butter. Digestive biscuits (I believe you can replace them with Graham Crackers in the US) or – my personal favourite – ginger nuts – work best, but I have never seen a ginger nut here and I wasn’t at the one supermarket that I know sells Digestives so I just bought any random biscuit. They worked well enough, but if any German or Swiss person happens to be reading, could you tell me what kind of biscuit you normally use for a biscuit base? Thanks!

biscuits
Random biscuity rings

Anyway, you need to crush the biscuits to form crumbs and melt the butter. Mix the two together well then put them on the bottom of your glass pots (or mini baking tins, whatever you’re using) and press down firmly to form a base. Now into the fridge with them to chill.

Next up is the cheesecake layer. For this I used 95g of cream cheese, 65 ml whipping cream and 60g white chocolate, which ended up being way too much so I ate the leftovers. What? Like you wouldn’t do the same!

Melt the chocolate in a Bain-Marie… or a bowl over a saucepan with some water in it. Let’s not pretend I’m posher than I am here! Beat the cream cheese until it’s soft then whip the cream. My cheesecake recipe tells me to whip it “until it’s about to form peaks”. How on Earth am I supposed to know when something is about to do something? What is this, baking for psychics? What I usually do it whip it until the beaters start to leave trails when I move them but no peaks form when I lift the beaters. It’s always worked so far. Now fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese then stir in the melted chocolate. You can use any chocolate. I chose white so this layer would contrast with the mousse. Thanks to the cream cheese, the cheesecake layer isn’t horribly sweet despite being white chocolate. Sprread the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base then place the pots back in the fridge to chill some more.

cheesecake
Cheesecake layer

Finally, the mousse. I took this from a recipe by Mary Berry herself – celebration chocolate mousse cake, and it is easy peasy. Literally whipped cream and chocolate. I used 75g of chocolate and 112 ml of cream. First melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool (confession… I just took mine off the heat and placed it to one side, forgetting the water in the saucepan was still steaming, so I’m unsure whether cooling even happened. Oh well, I melted the chocolate slowly so it wasn’t that hot to start with). While the chocolate cools, whip the cream. This time whip until it “forms soft peaks”. Thank goodness… actual peaks I can cope with! Stir the chocolate into the cream, making sure they’re evenly blended (no random darker streaks of chocolate!), layer the mousse on top of the cheesecake and place the whole lot back in the fridge to chill some more. The mousse needs to chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight) to firm up properly. Other mousse cakes I saw used gelatine, which would probably firm up quicker, but the little shop I was at most definitely did not sell gelatine!

I made two cake pots, but have only photographed the one that looks slightly nicer 😉 Later, I took my desserts back out of the fridge and decorated them with some gold balls… because who doesn’t like a bit of sparkle?

chocolate-mousse-cheesecake
Chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake pot

And that’s it. Not much of a show stopper (I mean, just look at the beautiful desserts everyone else has produced), but it’s easy and tasty, which is really what I want from something that Jan and I actually have to eat!

35 Before 35: Progress report 4

Wow, my blogging has been really sporadic recently, hasn’t it? It’s not that I don’t want to blog, I just don’t seem to have anything to talk about. Also if you’re on blogspot (and use the blogspot comments form) I apologise if I haven’t commented on your blog for a while – I am reading but when I try to comment from my work laptop it just disappears into thin air when I press post. I assume it has to do with the (ridiculously high) security settings for the Internet browser…

Anyway, today seemed like a good day to post another progress report for my 35 before 35, seeing as I now have precisely 3 years to complete the challenge (why yes, that was a not-very-well veiled reference to the fact that today is my birthday). I haven’t actually done much towards it recently, what with moving countries and everything, but I can at least cross a few things off. My last progress all the way back in October 2014! You can read it here, if you’re interested. And here’s what I’ve done since then:

Number 9: Make cheesecake

I made a Toblerone cheesecake for my leaving party. It was delicious!

Toblerone cheesecake

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

I had read 17 books in German last time I updated, and now I’m up to a whole 20! I read Die Nacht des Zorns (original French title: L’armée furieuse) by Fred Vargas (thank you to the winter reading challenge for that one!), Liebesfluch by  Beatrix Gurian (also read for the winter reading challenge), MUH! by David Safir (a Christmas present) and Apfelrosenzeit by Anneke Mohn.

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

I was up to 9 last time I updated (plus a few I’d started but hadn’t finished). Now I’m on 13, so that’s 4 read for this category, too. I haven’t finished any of the ones I was working on before though. The one’s I’ve read since October are The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (for the summer reading challenge), Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafón (highly recommend by the way – I LOVED this one!)

Number 24. Go to 5 different Christmas markets (other than Karlsruhe and Durlach)

I hadn’t been to any Christmas markets the last time I updated, so this is a new category! In December 2014, I went to the Christmas market at Burg Hohenzollern and the one in Speyer (those are links. Click them.).

Burg Hohenzollern

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

I was up to 16 last time, and now I’m on 18. Since October, I’ve watched Birdman (weird!) and Rush (really good).

Number 35: The KVV beer tour (drink a beer in all the breweries local to Karlsruhe that can be reached by tram/S-Bahn)

I did this right before I left Karlsruhe, in April. I’m glad I had it on my list because it was an amazing day out! Read about it here.

Wow, that’s actually quite a lot! It seems I did more than I thought I had – which I suppose is the advantage of leaving 10 months between updates 😉

Bring on the next three years!

35 Before 35: Make cheesecake

A few weeks ago, somebody posted a recipe for Toblerone Cheesecake on Facebook. I love Toberlone and I love cheesecake, so I immediately made a note of it. Then, when I was looking for simple, quick recipes for our leaving party, my mind went back to that Facebook post. With only five ingredients (chocolate Digestives, butter, cream cheese, cream and, obviosuly, Toberlone) and no need for baking it was definitely both quick and easy! I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website. The Philadelphia website also has one that’s basically the same, but of course they insist you use Philadelphia rather than any old cream cheese (as it happens, I did buy Philadelphia, but only because it was on offer!). Here’s my finished article:

Toblerone cheesecakeEveryone who tried a bit said it was delicious and I liked it so much I actually ended up having some for breakfast on Monday because I couldn’t possibly wait til I got home from work to taste it again 😉

And that’s another item crossed off the 35 Before 35 list.