The Shock (and Joy) of Winter

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It’s cold outside. I mean cold. Leaving early autumn behind in Europe and heading for the Australasian spring meant that I indulged in two summers last year; the latter was ultraviolet-bright, full of sand and sunburn and heady with vegetation. A thirty-hour flight time is an ordeal but it is not enough time to transition from a southern hemisphere midsummer to a German winter. The shock of the cold was expected but no less fierce for all the anticipation. Somewhere along the line I lost at least 30°c, shivering outside Munich airport in -8°c.

I was mentally ready for this, if not physically. I had missed Christmas with my family. As much as I like adventure I’m sentimental and yearn for the sights, sounds and smells of home. For a while I’d been craving the sound of tyres of on wet road, the peaty damp of England and condensation on coffee shop windows. Leaving the airport and being driven through the dark at 8am I could look out at the dim, snow-glowing landscape and anticipate the delayed joys of winter.

These joys began in the form of porridge, many bowls of creamy, cinnamon-flecked, vanilla-dusted porridge. My palette has eschewed the vibrant salads and berries of the Kiwi December and demanded large-scale carbohydrate consumption, consistently and insatiably. The cold, as we know, burns calories for sport; I was (and still am) in need of sustenance.  The joys of winter include my partner bounding in from the kitchen at 6am and whispering, with barely concealed excitement, “I’m making Kaiserschmarrn, would you like some?”. The answer was yes, I will currently devour anything if it is a relative of the pancake. I tasted, for the first time this week, a German style baked cheesecake, a revelation to me, a cheesecake hater with an aversion to those biscuit-crumble-base cream cheese concoctions. This beauty was vast, wobbly, golden topped, sour and sweet, divine in its mouth feel and lingering with subtle taste.

I’ve been drinking spiced hot chocolate and earl grey tea. This weekend we decimated an entire French Boule, the crusty remnants were adorned, this morning, with marmalade. Eating buttered popcorn, potato dauphinois and warm Vetterbullar (cinnamon and cardamom rolls) won’t make me a reputable voice for health food but these are the things I looked forward to as I boated around the azure shores of the Abel Tasman. Some significant bouts of shivering plus a jet lag induced cold virus have told my body that I am in need of a winter layer or two. I am voracious, cosy and thinking ahead, always, to the next butter sodden venture. Winter can be dark if you let it, it is a time that must be celebrated for what it is; an opportunity to wiggle your toes in your socks, to light candles and fires, to bake and distribute joy, to feel your face tingling as you come inside from the cold. Read a book you’ve read a thousand times, knit something lumpy and hideous, bake a cheesecake. Winter is only kind if you embrace it.

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Der Beste Käsekuchen der Welt

(The Best Cheesecake in the World)

This recipe came from my partner’s printout stash of recipes and looks as though it was originally found on chefkoch.de. Translating it for this blog can only help my whimsical German learning. Since it’s a German recipe the quantities refer to the packets of Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Pudding that are commonly found here. There are plenty of brands that, I’m sure, will make similar products but here, and in the UK, Dr Oetker products are a safe bet.

Ingredients

For the crust:

200g Plain Flour

75g Sugar

75g Butter

1 Egg

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

For the Filling:

125g Butter

225g Sugar

1 packet of Vanilla Sugar

1 packet of Vanilla Pudding

3 Eggs

1 cup Quark

1 Cup Sour Cream

1 Cup Whipping Cream

Method

 

1)     Thoroughly mix ingredients for crust together and set aside.

2)     Blend butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, eggs, vanilla pudding, quark and sour cream

3)     Whip the cream and then fold into filling mixture.

4)     Preheat oven to 180°c.

5)     Line a large, round, greased spring form pan and press crust mixture evenly along

the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Should be 2-3cm thick on the bottom.

6)     Pour in filling mixture

7)     Bake for 1 hour

8)     Allow to cool before removing spring form edge.

9)     Its cold outside so this would be appropriately served with some sort of mulled fruit.

Or you could go heathen, like me, and tumble some unseasonal, Spanish-grown

strawberries over it.

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