Saturday, July 30, 2011

What is a Haagerschnitzel? And, How to make a baking pan

To the astute reader and the curious Germans,

You may never have heard of a Haagerschnitzel, but I'll define the term loosely for you.  It's a decadent roll, made by German housefraus and a traditional treat made by Navy wives.  It consists of a sweet dough, rolled with cinnamon, sugar, cardamom, and butter, and laid in a deep pan coated with a caramel slurry.  it is then baked for about twenty minutes, and dumped out of the pan to produce a smashed-looking flat roll, swirled with caramel-cinnamon goodness.

Haagerschnitzels are surprisingly tender, and the fact that they are rolled and
then flattened gives them a flaky effect. Gooey goodness! 

Julia Child once said, "Never apologize for anything that comes out of your kitchen."  This has become one of my three life-mottoes (the others are, for the record, the more the merrier and waste not, want not). 

That is where the haagerschnitzel came from.  As Mrs. S and I stood dumbstruck in front of four pans of shoulda-been cinnamon rolls, we realized that they looked nothing like what a cinnamon roll should.  The dough, having suffered several slammed doors, extreme cold, extreme heat, humidity, a car ride across town, and a thorough beating, rolling, and baking, had collapsed in utter exhaustion into the puddles of caramel, and sagged wearily across the pan like a pathetic child that does not want to finish his chores.

It takes a long time to make dough, when you have to work in a hotel room
where all of the ingredients and dishes are stacked in boxes in a closet,
underneath your suitcase of clothes, on top of which is the bag of laundry!!
It all started out quite normally ... well, as normal as can be when you are
cooking on a hotel writing desk!
I took the children out on a ride about town ... 

So much for sticky buns, we said grimly.  But, we were not conquered yet - these were most definitely not cinnamon rolls, Mrs. S determined, but they were in fact something.  We just had to come up with the name.

"Something French," I suggested.

"I never took French," she said Rue-fully, "but I did take some German."

"Aha!" I said, and stared into the pan at the sad, drooping buns.  "How about .. haager ... schnitzels?"  It sounded pretty German to me, and most likely was birthed from years of watching Hoganschmidt come up with fanciful German names on the fly to evade the Nazis.  Triumphantly, I followed up the new term with the description I just gave above, and Mrs S acknowledged that it was Good Enough and we agreed to complicity. 

That evening, in our respective homes, we served our haagerschnitzels to receptive audiences which accepted them without complaint and commented that they were very good.

Mrs S is an accomplished baker, and a food critic in her own right. She is a
reviewer for both the San Francisco and the Sacramento Reviews, and has
willingly shared with me delicious and wonderful new cookbooks and family
recipes!  Here, she rolls out some pie crust for a cherry pie ... 

As my mom used to say, "Fake it."

As Ma Ingalls used to say, "It's an ill wind that blows no good."

As I used to say, "Haagen-Dazs weinerschnitzel gesundheit sprechen sie Deutsch?"

In pursuit of new creations and ever-cleverer terminology,

Mrs H

Kitchen Understudy: How to make a baking pan in a hotel room

I ran out of pans for rolls, but I had a shallow baking pan.  I lined it with two layers of foil and then crushed them up and around to make a pan.  It worked quite well!  It was sturdy enough that when I flipped the pan over to dump out the haagerschnitzels and caramel, it did not fall apart.  If you were desperate enough, this would probably work okay without the bottom pan for support; it just wouldn't be easy to transport in and out of the oven!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Those Little Golden Moments

To the reader and the listener and  those in between,

I have no spare time.  No, I am not particularly busy, nor is my schedule particularly full.  But I do not, and never have had, and never intend to have, any spare time.

All of my moments serve a purpose.  There is not one to spare. 

Growing up, I had a book with a collection of Victorian-era moral stories; books where Johnny learns the hard way not to lie to Father, and a Girl has to give up vain pursuits in exchange for character-building ones. 

This was one of my favorite books.  I am not sure why; maybe because it had fascinating turn-of-the-century illustrations, or maybe because it was always intruiging to read about terrible children getting in trouble.  I do not remember many the stories now, but there was one story in there that I remember quite well, and it made a significant impact on me. 

It was a story about a young man who approaches a possible future employer, who peruses his résumé and comments on the extraordinary amount of accomplishments the young man possesses.  The lad, energetic and earnest as they are wont to be in these stories, explains how he has acquired these many accomplishments by making good use of what he calls those little, those precious, those "golden" moments.  As I recall, he finishes his story something like this: "You see, sir, I don't have any spare time, because any time I have is made use of in those little golden moments.  Foreign languages, studious reading, physical pursuits, were all accomplished in Those Little Golden Moments."

This story galvanized me, and hardly a day goes by when I don't consider the principle therein.  That is why I have no spare, wasted time any more.  If I don't know what to do with myself in any given moment, I can do pushups to get stronger, read my Italian books to get smarter, study the Scriptures to grow wiser, and not waste time dinking around foolish websites or watching endless, pointless movies.  There is a time and a place for fun, relaxing things, but only in prudent moderation - and when I participate in something fun, relaxing, and mind-numblingly uneducational, I enter into it with the understanding that this is a temporary, controlled activity with the purpose of resting, recharging, or building fellowship with those around me. 

And so, this long period of living in a hotel with no real demands (no work, school, family appointments, church activities) on my schedule has been, instead of a wallowing period, a very precious period of personal physical, spiritual, and mental growth, with lots of time spent engaging in study, meditation, exercise, and developing relationships with valued new friends!

If it weren't for the Principle of the Golden Moments, I would be the laziest sloth you ever did meet, for it would be all to easy to lie a-bed all day and snack on bon-bons. 

Pondering if eating cinnamon rolls is an educational activity,

Mrs H

"A falsely free man is free to do as he pleases.  A truly free man is free to do as he must." (random quote I once heard from Dave Ramsey)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Which Lightning Occurs

Dear companions around the world and on other planets as applicable,

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like a hotel room near where my husband is stationed.

We have regular storms here, electrical storms with magnificent displays of crackling lightning and chest-thrumming thunder.  One evening I sat in the main hotel lobby (my hotel is in an annex building, a 15-minute walk away from the main building).  I was eating sugar babies and melting them off my teeth with hot coffee, a satisfactory combination I am sure my dentist would definitely approve of.  I kicked back and watched the show over Lake Michigan - it surely rivaled the recent fireworks display we had here on the 4th of July!  Huge bolts ripped from the clouds and streaked their way down to the churning steel-gray waters.  My eyes darted from side to side trying to catch all the beauty at once; the TV on the other side of the room was drowned out by thunder, with would begin with a smattering like drums and then explode into a rolling boom. 

My husband sent me a text message and suggested I head back to my hotel room for the evening, as tornado warnings had been issued for the area.  On my way home, I paused near a large field and looked back at the clouds, the lighting illuminating them explosively every few seconds.  Shortly after I returned to my room, a tornado touched down in that field.

About two weeks later, we had been experiencing a solid fortnight of glorious weather - temperatures soared into the hundreds, humidity was in the nineties, and everybody lay about in a general state of malaise.  I awoke early in the morning with the intention of going to Dunkin' Donuts to read and study for several hours, and then head over to the antique mall to examine old cooking equipment.

Little did I know, my plans were not to unfold in this manner.

I arrived at good ol' Dunkin' around 0700.  The weather was balmy - it had cooled down a little - and there was not a cloud in the sky.  The sun shone benevolently.  I parked a good distance away from the donut shop so I could enjoy the walk to and from; how foolish this was of me, in retrospect!

I headed into the shop and settled my books on a table and availed myself of a donut and iced coffee.  I studied, flipped pages, pondered, and nibbled away my donut for almost an hour.  I was sitting in the warm glow of the sun - toasting like a cat on the carpet, an African violet steaming in a greenhouse.  "But how lovely," you cry!  As we used to say when we were youngsters, "little did I know..."  As I bent over my page, I frowned.  It seemed to me that it had just grown darker.  Of a sudden, my page was engulfed in shadow and I was in chill.  I looked up - the walls of Dunkin' Donuts were entirely glass, except for behind the counter.  I had a full view of the parking lot outside, the fields beyond, and the sky.  Rolling overhead like a smothering cloak of doom was a thick, roiling black mass of clouds.  They swept over the donut shop and out over the sky until the blue was entirely eaten up.  It was as dark as dusk. 

I looked across the room - there were three baristas, two girls and a boy.  Another customer sat at a table, sipping his coffee and looking outside.  The door opened and a man walked in.  He hurriedly ordered a coffee and stuffed his change back in his pocket.  Taking the cup and marching briskly out, he tossed over his shoulder: "There's a real storm comin'."

The bell jangled as the door closed, and the donut shop fell quiet.  Then the pressure dropped and in an instant, the air was sucked out of the room and my ears were ringing with a deafening silence.  Here it comes, I thought.  And instantly, all at once, the storm struck!  Rain slashed savagely at the windows, the trees tore and shook in spasms as the wind stripped them of branches and leaves.  Lighting burst into action, snaking down and striking the parking lot around us repeatedly, continuously.  Billows of water rolled across the pavement in overflowing washes, and the glass doors began to swing and crash.  The male barista and the customer ran to hold the door closed, their combined weight leaning  back as they held the push-bar. 

The power flickered, hesitated, and then finally went out altogether.  The male barista screamed, and the girls laughed at him.  Alarms started ringing and beeping from various implements behind the counter; the windows shuddered and the building groaned as the wind swept around and around  the building.  Outside, we would later learn, power lines and trees were coming down with alarming rapidity, and when I would finally leave over two hours later, I would have to search out several roads before finding one that I could safely drive home.  A few people raced across the parking lot from their cars in to the safety of buildings. 

The apex of the storm did not last long - less than half an hour - and then it died down to a steady downpour, punctuated by brilliant flashes of lightning.  When I eventually arrived back home, I found the power out and trees, branches, and miscellaneous construction signs scattered about.  For some thousands in the area, it was over a week before the power came back on. 

All this being said, it's pretty quiet out here and we go to the beach quite often.

Until next time,

Mrs H



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