She was a proud buxom lady who commanded a very special aura of respect whenever she entered the oversized kitchen. It was the kind of respect you knew never to mess with because behind her kind smiles and her liberal patience there was her haughty dignity of being one of the best in her field. Anyone who dared to disregard this fact by challenging her significance, would become the subject of being abundantly praised out of her kitchen and into one of her inferior colleagues’ less meaningful sculleries. Before they even realized the poor exchange they had made, it was far too late to make any amends and many a wretched trainee ended up biting in the sour apple.
My plan was to stay here for a month, maybe two and then rapidly switch to the Front Office department I was itching to be a part of. For my 21-year old self that was where the real action was. Here, in the kitchen of this expansive business hotel in Freiburg I was missing out on the happenings of the outside world. Germany was not on my plan but it offered the best and intelligible training plan compared to the other hotels I had applied to. I had sketched out a maximum stay of 6 months in Germany, learn the required and hurry back out to continue with my studies.
Strudel was also not a part of my plan.
But here I was, standing in the basement kitchen, sleeves rolled up, hands covered in flour listening to her talk about strudel. My ears were not yet accustomed to the heavy German accents I was encountered with everyday so it was often a tedious task to stay focused on the subject of the day. I fancied myself living simply and loftily, spending my days talking to guests in French, English and broken German, organizing their trips to the vineyards, theatre or musicals, in the evenings, I imagined myself writing essays in one of the charming German Marktplatz or drinking exquisite wines in the cobbled backstreets enjoying the warming sun beams on my face.
Today, I was in this windowless, dank training kitchen situated in the basement of the hotel with shafts of cold tungsten light illuminating the room. Today I would learn how to make strudel from scratch - the true Viennese strudel as she emphasized several times. While my fellow trainees seemed eternally enthusiastic about this fact and eagerly collected utensils and weighed the items, I believe I lacked the luster and failed to see the advantages learning how to make strudel would have on my future hotel career. I wanted to learn the basics of Food & Beverage not actually get in so deep to actually be a part of it.
She made her rounds, checking to see each students progress. Wordlessly she circled the workstations giving either a nod of approval or arch the eyebrow to show her disapproval. I was having trouble with my dough, it was far too sticky and I was not looking forward to the raised eyebrow of disapproval. So I did what I never do - I gave up. I literally threw in my towel and marched out of the kitchen. It was only when the fresh oxygen surged into my head, I actually realized the magnitude of what I had done.
As I walked back into the kitchen she was wiping down the metal surfaces. She always meticulously re-cleaned her kitchen after the students left seeing spots and stains where others failed to do so. My workstation gleamed under the fluorescent tube and I was plagued by my conscious. Without words she handed me a cleaning rag and I began rubbing the spotless surface. I felt like Daniel in Karate Kid under Mr. Miyagi’s watchful eyes. “Wax on, wax off” and waited for a higher meaning to enlighten me.
Finally she said “Strudel is a lot like us. The several layers make the soft center more desirable! The leidenschaft is in the dough because you knead, beat and roll it out to fit the center. If you cheat on the dough, you cheat on the layers which means you cheat on leidenschaft. This makes the center vulnerable and oberflächlich!”
“You do not need to learn how to make strudel dough here, you can buy it from any shop, but you have missed the chance on adding more leidenschaft to your layers! You have biß and when you are ready you will make strudel.” She smiled her knowing smile, nodded the head and with the dignity of a queen walked out of the basement kitchen.
Several years later I did make my own strudel from scratch learning from my mother-in-law. I was ready for the new layers in my life!
Now, after more years have passed I’d like to think of myself as wiser with my age ... I do not need to spend hours in the kitchen making strudel dough. I’d rather cheat and buy it at the store and spend that cheated time with my girlfriends, family or friends indulging in the flaky dessert.
The prolonged winter we are having this year is skimping on the produce offerings and the stores are not as abundantly stocked as they usually are at this time of year. I’ve been waiting for rhubarb to come into the stores for a long time. First for a photo session in February - yes I know that was illusionary - and then to get into the kitchen and experiment with new recipes.
Finally rhubarb did arrive and with a few of the first specimens in my bag I headed home to make strudel. I stopped at the bakers on the way home and bought a few sheets of strudel dough with all the leidenschaft needed to make a grand rhubarb strudel. The filling is a smooth tangy quark filling spiked with ginger and lemon and gently roasted rhubarb not too sweet but definitely with a lot of depth.
No I do not have a nagging voice at the back of my head. I do buy strudel dough from the stores or my bakery. Maybe because I have learnt my lesson in dough making and know that a lovely flaky dough made from scratch will always add layers of experience to your repertoire and I really encourage everyone to take the time to master the art of strudel dough making at home. It’s an experience of many advantages. But if you are looking for a fancy yet quick treat to enjoy with the family or friends grab the packet from the stores. Nowadays, there are super quality strudel dough available. In Germany you can even buy it at some bakeries - you baker is your best friend for such requests. The filling for this strudel is very custard-like using tangy quark as a basis. It complements the rhubarb flavors brilliantly.
My favorite pieces while traveling the www this week were mostly inspired by Spring, which is nowhere to be seen around these parts. These were my highlights:
- We are never too old for Kristen’s Lemongrass Strawberry Daiquiri
- One of my favorite stylists Dietlind Wolf teased me with her young vegetables
- Mardi treated me to a plethora of delightful macarons
- Loved Billy Law’s gorgeous light-filled image of flourless chocolate cake with strawberries
- Should summer ever get here I will be making this lovely wreath with cocktail umbrellas
- These cute Spring inspired printable tags for your jars of jams, spring flowers or gifts
- Want to be in Sonja Bannick’s Swedish Summer House
You might like Spring-inspired ideas from WFLH:
|Clafoutis - Raspberry and Nectarine||Crumble - Rhubarb Mango Pistachio and Amaretti||Macarons - Raspberry Tea with Tahini Dark Chocolate Cream|
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