Location: Western Europe
Population: 83.2 million
Geography: A forested, mountainous nation with sea borders in the north
Signature flavours: Pork, dairy, egg, bread, potato, asparagus, dill
In an unprecedented turn of events, Eric and I swapped assignments. I had drawn Luxembourg and he had gotten Germany, but he was insistent that I would make better pretzels than he would (I’ve made them a couple of times before and since we ate about ten pretzels a day when we were in Germany, they had to be included) and I should therefore take over his assignment. A swap had never been done on this blog, not in over 100 assignments, but we make the rules and it’s all for fun anyway, so I agreed.
It took me ages to pluck up the energy and focus I needed to get assignment 110 written, edited, filled with photographs, and posted, and meanwhile I was completely uninspired to start working on my German menu. This winter has been full (so full) of snow, career changes, frozen pipes, long snowshoe treks through icy forest, and other things that took time and energy from the blog. Once I finally got 110 finished, though, my interest and enthusiasm was renewed, and I jumped onto deutsche Foodblogs.
If I’d cooked everything I wanted, this assignment would have been 50 dishes strong. I wanted a menu that combined some über traditional German foods — the ones that leap to mind immediately — with some lesser known dishes.
Pretzels: Soft dough twisted into a knot, dunked in a lye or baking soda bath, then baked until golden brown for a salty, chewy snack. We dipped ours in mustard.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables: Chicken (I used soy drumsticks) crusted with cracked pepper and mustard seed, roasted with carrots, potatoes, red onion, and whole garlic cloves in an olive oil and white wine marinade.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Potatoes in Creamy Dill Sauce: Boiled potatoes in a sauce of sour cream, butter, dill, and lemon rind.
Prep and cooking time: 25 min
Hoppelpoppel: An eggnog-like beverage made from milk, egg yolk, vanilla, and sugar, traditionally spiked with rum and served with whipped cream and nutmeg.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
Black Forest Cake: Spongy layers of chocolate cake separated by stewed cherries and whipped cream (both flavoured with kirsch, a cherry liqueur) and iced with chocolate buttercream.
Prep and cooking time: 4 hours
The Shopping List
My ingredients were fairly easy to find for this assignment. I had soy chicken drumsticks in my freezer from our last trip into Toronto — we stocked up on our vegan meats at King’s Cafe in Kensington Market. Eric found real German mustard at Walmart of all places (and served in a little stein, no less). The kirsch came from a nearby liquor store. Everything else came from local supermarkets.
It’s been nearly four months since my last assignment (Cyprus, published before this post, was Eric’s undertaking) and I was out of practice. Our Wooden Spoon Wanderer efforts require a lot of time management, and I’d forgotten just how chaotic it can feel, racing from one thing to another in order to have things ready at the same.
It felt great to lay everything on the table at last, an hour and a half later than I’d hoped, and call Eric to dinner.
We tore into the pretzels first. They weren’t my best ever, but they were pretty great all the same, and the Walmart mustard didn’t disappoint.
The chicken and veggies were really nice, a great mix of textures and flavours. I wasn’t blown away by the potatoes in dill sauce, but it was a fine side.
I knew going in that Black Forest cake was going to be difficult. I could tell from the recipe, which divided the instructions into five smaller recipes (cake, cherry sauce, cherry filling, kirsch cream, and buttercream frosting). I almost didn’t include it on my menu, but it’s so iconic that I couldn’t resist. It was the first thing I started, about eight hours before we sat down to dinner. I won’t go into details, but I will say while I didn’t actually cry, I could have at several points in the baking process. The final result was far from perfect — slightly lopsided, the cake dense rather than airy, and the imperfect icing job disguised with piped whipped cream — but it tasted wonderful.
The hoppelpoppel was fun to say and delicious to drink. I found it less heavy than eggnog (which I don’t like very much), and the real vanilla bean flavouring was potent and aromatic.
All in all, a great return to the kitchen after a considerable hiatus. The meal was lecker, the company was ausgezecihnet, and now I’m sehr müde.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.