Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Snickerdoodles!

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In addition to being the best-named cookies ever (nominations open in the comments, however), snickerdoodles are actually pretty delicious. I was a little skeptical at first because I'm a chocolate person and don't usually even ponder the existence of sweet foods that are missing chocolate. I think it's a family thing, as suggested by the following paraphrased Skype conversation with my sister:

me: I ate too many cookies.
sister: I bet you couldn't beat me, I can pack 'em in. What kind of cookies?
me: Snickerdoodles.
sister: Awwww, no chocolate!??

Making them required first dealing with The Cream of Tartar Issue, which is finding out what the heck cream of tartar is called here, and then where it can be found. As we parted ways in the street one day and I headed to the store, Damon told me it was called Weinsaeure. So I asked at the store about that. They had no idea what I was talking about and suggested that maybe I was looking for vinegar. I got home and looked it up on Leo and there it said the correct word was Weinstein. So, maybe I really embarrassed myself at the store, or maybe there are multiple words for it. Anyway, in the end the closest thing we found was something called Weinstein Backpulver, which I guess would translate directly as "cream of tartar baking powder". We can only assume what it really is, and we assumed it was some kind of mix of cream of tartar and baking powder rather than being just cream of tartar. It was found at the Reformhaus (for those who don't live here, it's kind of a health food store.) Anyway, on to the recipe:

Snickerdoodles
Makes 36 big ones.

Dough:
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt

Coating:
3 tbsp white sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon

* Preheat oven to 375'F / 190'C.
* Dough: Cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Yum, cookie dough!
* Coating: In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
* Assembly: Roll walnut-sized balls of dough in the sugar/cinnamon mixture and place them 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
* Baking: 8-10 minutes, until edges are slightly brown. They are soooooo good fresh!

Conversion notes: I didn't even look for shortening, so I don't know what the exact German equivalent is. (Anyone?) I subbed in butter. It was okay, probably not exactly the same though. For the cream of tartar, I subbed in the Weinstein Backpulver directly and still used the baking soda with it, but Damon theorizes that the soda could be cut out completely when using the Backpulver mix instead of cream of tartar. I would try that next time, but now that I have the real thing (see the Christmas post), forget it. ;) Any experimenters out there, or those who have already experimented with this, let me know!

Enjoy!
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Monday, December 29, 2008

Not only are they cute as all hell...

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...but they're also 50% off now at a Kaufhof near you. :)
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

We finally went to Regensburg!

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Last weekend we finally visited Regensburg, something we've been meaning to do for a long time. Some key reasons: Regensburg is the biggest town in the Oberpfalz, the area where my family originated, it was never destroyed in the wars like most other German towns of its size, it has a well-known cathedral and is a World Heritage site, and it seems to have a lot of similarities to Heidelberg - size, river with famous bridge, not destroyed in WWII (but Heidelberg was destroyed previously and rebuilt in Baroque style, so overall Regensburg is older). Plus, we couldn't pass up a chance to hang out with the Regensbloggers, Sarah and Cliff, who just happen to be about the best hosts ever.

Regensburg Dez 08

I think the photos tell the story of our trip pretty well. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us - it was just as rainy and cold as Heidelberg, so our photos are a little dreary. But, we hope they still show off how cute Regensburg is, at least a little bit. It's full of little winding streets and colorful old buildings, with the primary downside being that there are a surprising number of cars parked right in front of where you want to get a photo of a neat old house, or driving up your tail as you stroll through a pedestrian area.

On the first night, Cliff and Sarah took us to a Kurdish restuarant called Exil, which we would definitely recommend! I had a dish which included some kind of fried bread coated in a yogurt sauce, which is as delicious as it sounds, and then even more delicious than that. Another highlight was seeing swimmers carrying torches in the cold, cold Danube - see the photo album! We still are not sure what that was all about, but it was cool. (And, frankly, it looked a bit dangerous.) Being in Regensburg felt like being in another country - and in a sense, Bavaria is a land all its own. The accent was hard to understand and things were just different enough to feel a little foreign. We liked it.

I'm feeling lazy today, so here's hoping this post is free of odd typos. Coming soon: Snickerdoodles!!
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

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Any American expat could probably identify this Christmas haul as that of a fellow expat. :) American food highlights include seven bags of chocolate chips and one bag of butterscotch chips, six bottles of Cookies Bar-B-Q Sauce and other Cookies goodies (it's from my hometown!), three bags of brown sugar (dark and golden), a bag of mini Twin Bings (from Iowa!), cereal, brownie mix, cream of tartar (should have opened that earlier for the snickerdoodles yesterday....what a shame, I'll have to make more!), corn muffin mix, Annie's mac & cheese....I could go on. Public thank you soooo much to Dad, Jean, Ali, Cathy, Jason, Sara, Nathan, Michelle, and Ma and Pa H. for all the goodies! The Scotland book represents Damon and I's gift to each other: pounds sterling for a trip to Scotland in May!
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Can you substitute sunflower oil for vegetable oil?

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**Edited to add: I noticed a lot of people are coming here from google wondering if this substitution can be made. The problem noted in this post turned out to have a different reason. The answer to the question is yes, you can substitute sunflower oil for vegetable oil! We do it all the time. Enjoy!


Well, I did it in brownies before without any noticeable problems, so I thought it was okay. But, it doesn't seem to work for cookies. I know I should have just gotten the soybean oil because that's what vegetable oil usually is, but since the sunflower did okay by me in the past, I got it instead because it has lots of vitamin E, which is hard to get. As a result, I've got some really flat, sticky, ugly cookies on my hands!! Of course it could be that something else was the problem, but reading over the recipe again, I'm not sure what. Half the dough is still in a bowl in the kitchen - I don't feel like salvaging it. I think this is my biggest baking disaster to date. Argh...

Coming soon: photos from Regensburg!!
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Case You Needed Another Reason to Love Germany

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Hello, freaking adorable little chocolate man!! They kill me!
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A Brief Guide to the Heidelberg Christmas Market

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Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars): The best Zimtsterne ever are available in the Marktplatz. Enter the Marktplatz from the southwest and pass the giant pyramid bar on your right. The Zimtsterne are a couple of booths down on the left. You can watch them bake them, try a free fresh sample, and even buy the non-star-shaped ends at a small discount. I can't eat them from anywhere else now. We tried to make them at home and that ended badly, too.

Kartoffelpuffer/Reibekuchen (Potato Pancakes): The two stands I know of that sell these are in the Marktplatz and the platz with the ice skating rink on the far east end of the Hauptstrasse. (Why can I never remember the name of this platz!?) The ones in the Marktplatz are better - more crisp, less gummy. They are in the northwest corner, just a ways beyond the delicious Zimtsterne.

Spicy Wurst: In order of spiciness, least to most: Feuerwurst in the Bismarckplatz, Feuerwurst in the Uni-Platz, Teufelswurst in the Marktplatz. In the Marktplatz you can also get some deliciously horrible Kaesespaetzle at the same stand. Yum!!

Nicest Christmas Junk: There's a little ornament and pyramid stand in the Kornmarkt (northwest corner) that has much cuter, sturdier stuff than most other stands selling this sort of thing. In the back section of the Uni-Platz there is another good one (at least there was last year, but I didn't look for it yet this year). The increase in quality is of course accompanied by an increase in price.

Delicious Dried Strawberries: A dried fruit stand in the back section of the Uni-Platz. Free sampling!!

Vegetarian Options: Kaesespaetzle in the Marktplatz at the little Wurst stand next to the giant pyramid. Kartoffelpuffer in the Marktplatz and the ice skating platz. French fries in the Uni-Platz just at the corner where the back and front sections of the platz meet. Crepes and waffles at the platz halfway between Bismarckplatz and Uni-Platz, in Uni-Platz, in Marktplatz, and in the ice-skating platz. Chocolate-covered fruit at the candy stands (everywhere).

Biggest Freaking Crowd: Around the fountain in the Uni-Platz. Madness! Do not arrange to meet your friends here unless you are very tall.

#1 Place to Get Budged in Front of While in Line: Crepe stands. Germans are the most shameless budgers ever. Good luck controlling your fist of death when you catch the smug look on their face when they've gotten away with it, because you're too frustrated to berate them in your second language.

More contributions from locals welcome!
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Hallochen?

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Damon and I were out the other day and heard a woman say "Hallochen!" to a fellow employee coming on shift. -Chen is a diminutive ending, so adding it to hallo (hello) just makes it cuter, I guess. But, we had never ever heard it before in the last two years! Then at work only a day or two later, one of Damon's coworkers walked in and said it. What's going on here? Is there some pop culture reference to this word that's spreading it? Could it really be that in over two years it just took us this long to ever notice it? Or maybe it's not very usual and it was just coincidence to hear it twice in such a short period of time?
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Meters

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We have radiator heat in our apartment. There's a huge radiator in the living room and a smaller one in the bedroom, as well as two flat little ones in the bathroom and even the kitchen. It's gotten really cold lately but we try to keep our use to a minimum because it's quite expensive!

They measure our usage of the radiator in a very strange, old-fashioned way. There are liquid-filled meters on each radiator. When the radiator gets hot, the liquid evaporates. So the less liquid is left at the end of the year when the meter-reader comes, the more you have to pay for heat.

We didn't even realize this was how it was done until a meter-reader came last year, checked them all, and refilled them with more liquid. We thought it was a little weird and vowed to leave one radiator never turned on to see if the liquid evaporated on its own. The picture on the right is our kitchen radiator meter. It does evaporate on its own! There's got to be a better way to meter our heat!

Speaking of meters, the water meter reader was due to stop by the apartments in our building between 3 and 5 pm yesterday. A sign outside noted this and mentioned there would be a 20 EUR fee to make a new appointment for anyone who wasn't home to let the meter reader in during this time. Yes, the water meters are ever-so-conveniently located right in our bathroom above the toilet (see left - the hot and cold water meters). I made sure to be home during that time yesterday, and no one came! The sign is gone. What happened? (And why aren't the meters somewhere else anyway? And is it normal everywhere to be metered separately for hot water?)
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