I am having some considerable difficulty achieving my quest for baking revenge because of my new obsession with a little thing called a shrub. No, I don’t mean the green bush that grows in front of your house or the large plant that sits innocuously in the park or on the side of the street. I mean a shrub that you drink, an interesting syrupy concoction made with fruit, sugar, and vinegar that is also known as a drinking vinegar. Or, to quote Wikipedia, “shrub is the name of two different, but related, acidulated beverages.”

Wait, what?? Yes! It’s true.

Lest you think I am making this up, read this:http://ultimatehistoryproject.com/shrubs-and-switchels-a-history.html

I even bought a book about my new drink friend titled Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Michael Dietsch so I could learn more.

Shrubs are great mixed with some seltzer water for a refreshing drink or, as referenced below, in a cocktail (even more refreshing!) Perfect for sitting outside in the summer, preferably near a shrub, sipping away, watching the birds fly, and the world turn.

I made my first shrub from frozen sour cherries using the hot method which is basically throwing the fruit and sugar into a pan and heating ’em up, stirring it around a few times, (reciting “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble” helps as long as you are home alone) and then adding the vinegar and voila! A shrub is born! It’s better if you let it sit for a day or two at least, a week or two is better, so the flavors mellow, if you can wait that long.

But, let me tell you that that acidulated beverage mixed with some Campari and club soda made a mighty fine cocktail. It’s well worth the wait.

So, yesterday, I expanded my shrub repertoire by bottling a blueberry/raspberry shrub using the cold process method. It’s simple as explained here: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/06/cold-processed-berry-shrub-recipe.html

My new shrub is now maturing in the fridge as I anxiously await its debut.

Not to worry, though. I am still on a German baking adventure. I put together a fine Gedeckter Apfelkuchen last week which will have to wait for my next post. Pairing it with a lovely shrub cocktail would have been marvelous, but alas, by now, both my cherry shrub and the cake are history. 

 

My newest shrub. With a plant. It’s trying to fit in.

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In early June, for the third time in the past few years, I submitted an entry for the local Germanfest Bake-off. I enter presumably for fun, but what I am really seeking is culinary glory (on a small scale).

One year, I made a batch of Lebkucken, a fine, chewy cookie that is a Christmas staple but which was not to the judges liking. I got nowhere near glory.

Another year, I made Mohnkuchen, a German poppy seed cake. Even though I had never made it, the recipe looked wonderful, and really, I had baked cakes before so what could go wrong? Actually, a lot. I didn’t grasp the need to really manhandle those poppy seeds and grind them to within an inch of their tiny lives, so I skipped grinding and the cake wasn’t good. Or to put it more tactfully, it was not to the judges liking. Or mine.

This year, I had previous commitments the day of the Bake-off and couldn’t attend so I put no thought into baking something. I didn’t plan or prepare until about a week before the contest when I was informed that the Bake-off date had been changed. I could be there! So, I dug through cookbooks, searched the internet, and delved into the depths of my mind. What to do?? What to make?? Ultimately, I chose a lovely chocolate/vanilla marble cake called a Marmorkuchen. I didn’t preview the recipe by making it a week or two ahead of time because there was no time. Not to be deterred though, I decided to go for it, untried recipe be damned! I thought that the changing of the Bake-off date was a sign! When I mixed the cake together, the batter tasted fabulous in all its chocolate & vanilla creaminess. It came out of the bundt pan perfectly and looked fine in all its Teutonic sweetness! I was pumped. This, I was sure, was my year!

When I showed up with the cake, the competition was slim with only a few other entries, so I felt my chances improving by the minute. One was a beautiful, magnificent torte, but beauty doesn’t equal taste, so optimism reigned! My husband and I passed the time until the judging by having some German food and beer, anticipating the announcement. I was ready and waiting, heart fluttering, stomach churning, and…

Alas, for the third time in the past few years, I didn’t win. My cake was not to the judges liking. I came in fourth.

Out of four entries.

So now, in the wake of such a humiliating defeat, I am left with two options:

  1. A) Concede that I am a horrible baker
    B) Get my game face on and start trial baking now for next year’s contest. In other words, I could begin plotting my revenge.

What did I choose?
Well, I just bought Luisa Weiss’s cookbook Classic German Baking…

cake

It seems I started this blog years and years and years ago and let it hang out there in cyberspace unfinshed, unpublished, unedited, and uninspired. In fact, I utterly forgot about it. Signs of my impending old age dotage? Maybe. But I somehow found it again (fate, perhaps) and it made me want to give it another go because, well, why not? You only live once, they say. And maybe I just gained a few years because this post has a date of 2103 and I can’t figure out how to change it…

So, welcome to 2013 by way of 2019. If I promise to keep writing, I hope you will promise to keep reading.

By the way, this photo is of my first ever attempt at a tarte tartin. As I recall, it was pretty good!
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