me + Tee + Plätzchen in the time of COVID-19

[Warning that this is not especially cheery. It is what it is. Whatever you do, please don’t give me dementia advice.]

Last time’s “mach was” was Plätzchen (little Christmas cookies popular among those of German descent) and the plan was to actually bake some. When I was a kid, Christmas baking started during deer hunting (around Thanksgiving) and it was what we did while the men went out hunting. The baking went on for days and days, producing dozens and dozens of cookies (and candies), and my grandmothers packed them in ice cream pails and stored them in the coldest part of the house. They reappeared a week to ten days later beginning with Advent, were eaten at home and given away to friends, and hopefully they were all gone by New Year.

I have many happy memories of participating this process, and HL loved making decorated cut-out cookies. The thought of baking on such an industrial scale filled with me with dread. It’s putsy work and controlling the temperature of the oven to keep the cookies uniform is kind of a chore. But I had been thinking for a while that I could make at least a few Christmas cookies this year.

My mother’s favorites, for example, the peanut blossom, with which we note that German-American Plätzchen have expanded the definition of the form a bit (no one in Germany eats these as far as I know, even if they should!). You make a basic peanut butter cookie, roll it in sugar, and bake. About ten minutes into baking you interrupt the cookies to press a Hershey’s kiss into them and then return for a few more minutes.

My paternal grandmother also made rosettes, which I think are Scandinavian in origin.

My personal favorites are almond crescents, although tasting them now as opposed to forty years ago, I think my grandmothers must have used a different nut, probably one that grew in their yards, like hickory nuts or walnuts. They must be pan-German, because I know Viennese and Italians make them, too. I love that they are so crumbly that they barely stick together.

And there are so many more that I used to love — the ones made with rolled-out dough in different colors cut into patterns (Schwarz-Weiß-Gebäck), or cinnamon stars. Ex-SO’s mother added a few things to the list of stuff I associate with Christmas: “dicker brauner Weihnachtskuchen,” Teepunsch. (That was really what I wanted to do for this post but I couldn’t find anything that resembled the stuff she made.)

Anyway, what pushed me over the edge into deciding to bake again was this massive Black Friday sale: the basic level Kitchen-Aid professional mixer was marked down from $500 to $200 at Best Buy.

This is the color I got.

Admittedly, my grandmothers mixed mostly by hand, and a lot of cookie doughs for Plätzchen are sweetcrusts and need to be cut together and rolled out rather than mixed. (And, it just popped into my mind, Ex-SO’s mother’s Sandkuchen was a pre-war recipe and called for being mixed by hand for forty-five minutes.) Still, this is the mixer every serious baker in the U.S. wants, and I have looked at them out of the corner of my eye for years. Mom received a Mixmaster for her wedding, and it’s pretty ramshackle after being used for 50 years. I also don’t like the glass bowls (glass is an insulator, not a conductor).

So I bought one, and then Herba made her challenge, and I thought I could maybe get POP!Thorin involved.

About the time I bought it, the barrage of complaints from dad about food (there’s too much; it’ll spoil) and money (you’re pissing it away) intensified drastically, and we had the “you can’t leave the door open to bring in groceries” fight, so I didn’t bake. Indeed, the mixer didn’t made it out of the back of my car initially as I was too tired to risk more anger. I figured I could smuggle it into the house as a Christmas present for myself. I did that, but that didn’t legitimate it, either, even though I paid for it myself and showed dad the receipt (he didn’t believe me). This is really insane because the struggle to make sure he gets enough calories gets more challenging every day and baking at home more would be a more economical strategy than what we are doing now.

As the dementia caregiver coach (Calluna) says: “you never win an argument with dementia.” Check.

Anyway, it’s still in its box and I can’t wait to use it to make something. Whenever that moment comes.

What I ended up doing was buying some Plätzchen. I’ve never done that before. A pound was $18.00, and I admit that made me gasp a bit, although it was cheaper than making large amounts of different cookies. My grandmothers are probably rotating in their graves.

Thorin poses with some store-bought Plätzchen. He kept his sticker on because it seems like the 2020 US Presidential election may never end. He’s very ready to defend my vote, but he shared the cookies very politely.

However: they were really good. All that butter. And even if they weren’t home made, the taste of my childhood came roaring back. In fact, the first pound was so good that I went back to try to get more, but by that time, the confectioner’s store looked like it had been hit by locusts. The family patriarch died of COVID-19 right before Christmas and they were out of just about everything. I didn’t have the heart to look elsewhere.

So this month’s theme was “Tee” and again I thought I’d do a post. I prefer iced tea (and not “sweet tea,” I’m a Northerner!) to iced coffee, but I’m primarily a coffee drinker when it comes to hot drinks.

Even so, it’s on maybe a 70% basis; I drink hot tea fairly regularly. There are a number of scenarios that will make me opt for tea: if it’s Advent and there are Plätzchen on offer; if I have a scratchy throat; if the tea is a variety I love (ex-SO really got me into Darjeeling FTGFOP, but he would only drink it from the TeeKampagne. It’s available in the U.S. via Boston Tea Campaign, but I don’t buy it because unlike him, I don’t drink a whole pot of it twice a day). On a trip to London, I went to Fortnum and Mason and fell in love with their Green Darjeeling, but it’s been unavailable for a while now (not sure if this is COVID related or not, but there are so many production problems owing to the pandemic that it seems likely to me). I also like hibiscus teas quite a bit, and before Starbucks discontinued their Defense tea, I drank a lot of that (not the citrus defender, though).

So, I thought I’d just make a cup of Blueberry Hibiscus Rooibos tea (made with regional strawberries) in my Cup of Joe cup and make a joke about that. (I’m suppressing a painful moment from the summer when dad destroyed a pair of my favorite teacups that I had left in the cupboard; since then all of my favorite dishes and everything of mom’s that has sentimental value have moved into boxes for their own protection.)

Rosenthal Romanze in Blau

This turned out to be harder than I had anticipated. It turns out we don’t have a tea-kettle anymore, either — we did in May, but it’s not in the kitchen anymore — possible dad discarded or reappropriated it for some other purpose. So I boiled the water in a sauce pan. Then I looked for the coffee cup. It’s disappeared, possibly because dad is not a fan of Biden, or possibly because he used it to hold a paintbrush, or something like that. I’d like to replace the teakettle, which admittedly was probably forty years old, with one of those electric water cookers, but I don’t  know how I’ll ever sneak it into the house. So I just put it in a Fleet Farm coffeecup. And then I forgot to take a picture of it!

Blueberry Hibuscus Rooibos, at my fave local café, pre-COVID.

So anyway. Better times are coming, I hope.

~ by Servetus on January 3, 2021.

47 Responses to “me + Tee + Plätzchen in the time of COVID-19”

  1. I’m a huge tea drinker, too. Check out Plum Deluxe. They have some amazing looking teas online.

    Like

    • Thanks for the tip! Speaking of plums, there used to be a bottled iced tea that I really loved that had plum juice in it (I think).

      Like

  2. A long time ago I had a boyfriend who had a German mother. It didn’t last long but I remember her and her cookies fondly. This post brought it back. There is nothing else I can say but that I hope better times are coming for you. They must. You deserve it.

    Like

    • Germans have really got that kind of baking down. Unfortunately you can’t hang onto a guy for his mother.

      Thanks for the good wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love peanut blossom cookies. I’ve eaten so many this holiday season that you’d think I’d be sick of them, but unfortunately I’m not 😛

    Like

    • it is impossible to be sick of them. I think because the peanut butter part is not so sweet. Well, I suppose if you had a peanut allergy you could die of eating them. But you know what I mean. They’re not sweet so you can eat a lot of them.

      My mom would have loved you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Despite the warning that post was not especially cheery, there are some really nice things in there, too.

    It’s fun to look back on childhood baking with family. I remember one year I decided to make a variety of chocolates and candies for everyone at Christmas. They turned out well, but it was so time-consuming and fiddly that I never did it again!

    And I have to say that that is one gorgeous red mixer! Even if you can’t use it yet, you can anticipate enjoying it in the future.

    And one day, you will be back enjoying that hibiscus tea in your favourite café, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your confidence I will get back to that café. (Hope I can get vaccinated soon.) I got some advice today to “be cheerful” and “look on the bright side,” so I may be reacting to that. I just want to see things as they are (and I start teaching philosophy again tomorrow, so the search for truth is definitely going to be on my mind for a while).

      childhood baking: one year when I was a teen, I made candy for everyone — chocolate covered this and that, raisins and pretzels and peanuts and cashews and pecans. brittle and fudge and peppermint bark … and I came to the same conclusion as you! Tempering chocolate is no joke. I wasn’t even tempted this year. I bought an assortment of that stuff from the confectioner, too, plus a small package of chocolate covered cranberries just for me and one of chocolate covered cherries for dad.

      The color was the thing that finally got me to push “submit” on the order. It just seems like no matter what went wrong in the kitchen there’d be that bright mixer to cheer me up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I watched a show the other day and there was a bright red mixer on the counter and I thought of you! It really added a spark of colour and sophistication. I do hope that we can start to get back to normal soon.
        Yesterday I went to IKEA with my son to buy him a better desk. Even though school is done, he hopes to do some online mixing projects for people and needs the set-up for that (and gaming as well). The store was an absolute madhouse and I was really sorry I went. SO many people! Everyone was wearing masks but people were so totally unaware of how close they were getting to others. It was scary! We did the best we could… hopefully all fine. (And actually, there is a severe product shortage in any case. We ended up getting a wood kitchen counter to set up on two drawer units. Works just as well, but no desk legs to be found at all.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t been in a big box store in so long: dad keeps pressuring me to go to Menards and I keep telling him “just a little longer.” I’m not in public all that often but when I am I’ve become mildly paranoid about people getting too close (well, okay, I’m mildly paranoid about that under normal circumstances anyway, lol).

          Maybe counter on drawer units ends up being more recyclable in the long run? I hope your son’s in-between time is productive and profitable!

          Liked by 2 people

          • I’ve been in Home Depot, which I would assume is like Menards. It’s not bad and the aisles are wide. At IKEA, though, people are browsing and meandering — really crazy. They should limit the number of people.

            I found out while I was there, though, that IKEA has some kind of a sell-back program for their used furniture. We’re going to try it with the old smaller desk.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Good that they do that.

              I have mixed feelings about Menards. On one hand they were the first chain around here to mandate mask wearing inside, well before the state did. On the other hand, I can’t escape my conclusion that the business exists primarily to gouge its customers as much as it can. We have other options and I try to use them when I can. We could also do lumberyard pickup, or have the stuff delivered, but dad is not amenable to that.

              Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post and a belated Happy New Year.
    I love baking, especially decorated cakes. Cookies are a must, though. And I hang on to the tradition of baking quite late before Christmas, storing them in a cool place and presenting them just on Christmas Eve, not one day earlier. We always have Vanillekipferl (almond crescents, but with a mixture of hazelnuts and almonds), double cookies with jam filling and cutted cookies. The others vary.
    This year we had a delicious treat given by a friend. Greek almond cookies of a very delicate consistency withe whole almonds in it. They remind me fondly of turkish cookies which we ate en gros during a fantastic road trip through Turkey many years ago. They were sold separately in bakeries and tasted wonderful.

    Have you tried Masala Tea with milk? Goes perfectly well with cookies of all sorts.
    I wish you all he best!

    Like

    • Belated happy happy to you, too!

      I love those jam cookies, too, although my grandmothers did not make them. Sometimes there were little Mürbeteig cookies with candied fruits in them, though. I think it was a way of using leftovers from stollen making. It’s been decades since I participated in that, too.

      I used to love those Turkish bakeries in Berlin. Tea drinking is so central to Turkish culture; they must consume a lot of them.

      Like

  6. Day 1 of my healthy eating pact and you put a photo of delicious looking cookies up. Are you trying to throw temptation in my path? 😉

    I have a Kitchen Aid. Don’t tell OH or the kids but it might the first thing I would grab in a house fire 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s probably why Herba posted the cookie challenge in December — to avoid this kind of situation. Tea is much less fattening. Oops.

      It’s good to know about the mixer — I have heard similar love from others who have one. Definitely increases the incentive to use it.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I hope so for you too!

    Meanwhile, I’ve gotten hungry for cookies (especially love the look of those peanut blossoms) and thirsty for tea. Sneaking a water cooker in would be a challenge for you but I’ve gotta say that I love having one – making a quick cup is very easy with one.

    Like

  8. I’m so happy to see that you baked. I tried doing that this year. Unfortunately, I don’t have the skills to bake so well anymore. I really wanted to pass it on to my children. My grandmother still bakes from scratch and only uses a spoon and bowl.
    They do look delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • well, I didn’t bake – but at least I purposed to bake.

      It is definitely a thing that needs to be practiced. I also feel like a wimp in comparison to my grandmothers. By the time I was a child they had regular stoves and ranges but when my parents were small they both cooked on wood stoves — and still made cookies, etc. (That’s probably why they produced so many in the 70s — so much easier to do this stuff in a gas or electric oven). My mom didn’t like to bake much but she could roll out a pie crust in nothing flat. I am a novice in comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love to eat Plätzchen at Christmas time. In my area we call them Bredele. My hubs has the talent and the patience to produce different kind of them. Hildaplätzchen are faster eaten as baked so he has to hide them until he has a certain amount. I will give him the recipe of the peanut blossoms

    Like

    • Oooh, who doesn’t love those? (The German name I knew for them was Spitzbuben, and I think they’re called Linzer cookes in English.)

      Like

  10. I remember you saying that you didn’t make yeast bread/rolls. With the kitchen aid I would give it try. The mixer takes the hard work out of the kneading, with that said I do like getting my hands in the dough. I got my classic Kitchen Aid back in 1995. I loved it even if it was a 4 quart. About 12 or so years ago I had loss the stir part of the switch and it would toss flour around in the air till it got mixed in. It was a few days before Christmas and my husband out of the blue got my the one like you have in black, it think its called onyx. After he order he decided to take the old one apart to see if he could fix it and well he did. So until we redid the kitchen in 2016 I had one mix at one end and the other one at the other end of my kitchen making everyone jealous that I had two. In March I took the classic to son2 house to make his birthday cake and hauled it home. In December when we had his brother’s birthday at son2 house I left the mixer there. I have not given it to him but I use the bigger one all the time and neither sit on the counter, they got new homes with the new kitchen.

    When the boys where younger I would make 12 different types of cookies plus candy. Not now I don’t want to eat all that stuff with the 2 oldest gone. Maybe if I get grandchildren and daughter-in-laws. I love to bake just not eat it. I also should not eat dairy anymore, I have like a hay fever reaction to it. I did eat a bit and payed for it big time. With that I still made a bar type of Gingerbread, Shortbread, Scandinavian (Swedish) Gingerbread cookie, Chocolate Italian Macaroon, and Polish Kolache. I didn’t undairy some of the cookies because I was not sure how they would turn out. I have maded since 1991 English Toffee but not this year. I always since somewhere in the early 2000’s make an English style Fruitcake ( I make that early and feed it leading up to Christmas. Both my mom and MIL loved it and now son2 loves it. Evey year I make a different one. Sometimes with Royal icing and other times with fruit and nuts with apricot jam glaze on top.) Rosettes are Scandinavian, my grandma would make them when I was a kid. She was not Scandinavian but German.

    I love to hear how your family did all that baking. I think most families did when we where younger. Lots of great memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a luxury — 2! You could open your own home bakery.

      I think a lot of people did bake like that even forty years ago (and maybe some still are, but not on that scale). My father’s mother had 14 siblings survive to adulthood and on some level, she couldn’t NOT make a lot of anything she made. She also always made stollen (as opposed to fruitcake), and that I re-encountered while living in Germany and maybe I will try to make one or two next year. But I remember these huge plates of cookies and goodies and candy being everywhere we went when I was little. I guess now people do cookie exchanges to try to reproduce the effect?

      Liked by 1 person

      • My aunt was telling me that she would make 12 different types of cookies, fudge and other types of cookies. She one year put the cookies in the truck of her car and drove around with them to keep her 3 sons from getting them all before Christmas. My grandma always had cookies but never a lot and my mom sugar cookies where about it or Kolache. I always wanted to have a nice Christmas. I have made stollen but I don’t think it worked out that well. Was dry tasting.

        Like

        • The German variation of stollen is supposed to be a little dry, and then you smear it with butter, lol. Although the bakeries here sell something they call “Danish stollen” too that is a bit more like a soft sweet bread.

          I liked your suggestion I could make a yeast bread now — I’ve watched that so often on cooking shows and there is definitely a dough hook in the package!

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Very jealous of you brand new stand mixer. Wish I had the space for it under my cabinets in my small kitchen. I settled for a Cuisinart one instead. I hope you get to use it soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I figure that will be the next thing that goes on sale in the Thanksgiving sales and I’ll get a Cuisinart food processor, finally. That would not stay in the box long, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. If there was a fire in my house I’d want to save my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and grand piano. (The people can fend for themselves! ) I guess the piano would be problematic…..Anyways mine is silver, and your red one is MUCH nicer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’d have to have help to move the piano! At least the mixer you can carry out on your own. I think I had a choice of four colors and silver was an option, but the red just spoke to my need for cheer. It will probably “show the dirt” more, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I have no idea why I am reading this post only now……but I love that shiny red mixer of yours.
    Made me think again about getting my sister one for her birthday in a few days beause she (and her daughter) broke her handmixer while doing all the christmas cookie baking in december, mmmmmh.

    The tea from your favourite cafe also looks nice, must be lovely drinking it there. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for all our favourite food places to survive the pandemic sigh

    Last but not least Thorin with his sticker is ‘der Knaller’ 😉 You have to love the little fella for his ferocity and I am glad he is with you in this ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wrote it after you did your post. It was a long weekend …

      So, I read an article recently on how you really don’t need a stand mixer and I thought it was nuts:

      https://www.eater.com/22204599/in-defense-of-hand-mixers-over-kitchen-aid-stand-mixers

      Even the rickety stand mixer my mom used was better than a hand mixer except for really quick jobs. I can’t wait to try this one out.

      Thorin is a real comfort and he is pretty much always on my side. He wanted to drive to DC to decapitate the protestors this week but I reminded him that violence is not the answer.

      Like

      • Yeah, sounds a bit wishywashy.
        I still use a handmixer because of my small kitchen and not much room but I totally can see the pros for it.

        You are right, but I can understnad his impulse. These times it seems more and more comforting to crack some skulls open 😉 (that’s a joke, would never do something like it)

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s true that the machines take over. I’ve got a pressure cooker on the counter now; if I add this stand mixer things get even more crowded. And I have this suspicion that next year’s machine might be a food processor. No counter space left!

          Du Bekar!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  14. […] Servetus hat auch noch einen Post geschrieben, den ihr hier […]

    Liked by 1 person

  15. […] Servetus hat auch noch einen Post geschrieben, den ihr hier […]

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