German baking in America
Ever since my paska project, I've been really curious about German food influences. After all, the Russian Mennonite bubble I live in has an annoying strong food culture. So why don't I know more about my historical food culture too?
My Yoder side has been in the U.S. since the early 1700s and were basically Amish that whole time. Thanks to my Grandma Yoder, I know a fairly good amount about Amish food culture. But for my Zehr side, the German side (verse the Swiss German/PA Dutch side. I know, I'm splitting German hairs here), I know very little about. If I remember my high school genealogy project well enough, I believe the Zehrs came over sometime in the 1800s. Food culture wise, I know nothing about this side. There is no weird paska-like thing leftover from the old country. (Mom and Grandma, correct me if I am wrong here). I do believe it's quite possible the mid-west American cuisine (aka meat and potatoes) is partly Germanic. But baking? No ideas.
Enter in Amazon, where I search for cookbooks (and then request them though interlibrary loan at the public library to decide if I will eventually want to own them). While looking for books about German baking, I stumbled upon this beautiful cookbook. It's stunning. I didn't get to spend as much time with it as I wanted with this book, but I did learn 5 new things.
1. In German, it's very cultural to take a break in the afternoon for cake and coffee. This resonated so deeply, as if my love for cake is part of my DNA.
2. It's really hard to get the right ingredients (if you live in rural Kansas that is). The author of this cookbook claims that using European butter, which has a higher fat content, in these recipes takes them to the a whole new, more authentic level. Guess what. Buying European butter in Kansas is really expensive. No wonder food culture gets muddled, or lost, or significantly adjusted.
äse dinnede (aka Swabin potato-cheese flat bread) which is a regional flatbread to Alsace, Germany, where my ancestors are from. It felt really magical to stumble upon a recipe so specific to where my ancestors were from. I tried making it at home, and of course, it's probably nothing like the real deal. (Also my American palate wanted this to be pizza). But it was fun to try anyway.
4. The German word for "butter" is "butter."
5. Pfeffernüsse are tiny spice cookies that are popular in Germany around the holiday season. I think these cookies are the mother, or at least distant relative of peppernuts, which the German Mennonites who ended up in Russian (thus Russian Mennonites) still religiously make. The German Mennonites, like myself, left these terrible cookies in the mother country. (Okay I am being über bias here because I think peppernuts are terrible. I think you have to be born into that food tradition. If I ever happen to be in German though, I would for sure try the original version).
Classic German Baking has made it's way back to the library again, but I hope to eventually request it again, save up for some fancy European butter and almonds so I can make Butterkuchen and enjoy it with coffee at 3pm.