Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

We're out of bread. Two choices here. Well, three really. No, four actually.

My mind is slow to boot up. I just woke up, and I haven't had my daily shot of Tab® because I am still looking for the bread that will keep it from eating through my stomach. I guess if I drew a decision tree, I could really tell how many choices I have, but my gut says it is four:

First, go without.

Second, go out in public looking like a beggar to buy some.

Third, shower shave and dress so that being an Auslander is not further held against you, as it would certainly be if you followed choice two.

Fourth, bake your own.

We’ve only bought two loaves of bread since I stopped working last September. The first was used to stuff the Thanksgiving turkey, as I did not want to waste a fresh-homemade loaf on that. The second was bought at the airport on our return from Mallorca a few weeks ago, since it would be too late to bake one on arrival at home.

The Partnerin does not ask a lot of me, and she tolerates a lot of my bad habits, like excessive internet surfing, blogging, and standing when I ... sorry, WTMI. A fresh loaf of bread buys a lot of indulgence for those daily vices, and if I want to pop across the ocean or venture out of town for a couple days, a loaf of bread goes a long way to securing her blessings.

Purists will tell you that kneading by hand is the way to do it … that it is more sensual. I don’t need to knead by hand to feel connected to my bread. I’m just not that needy. Besides, some of the best French bakers I have seen all use their Robots proudly, and if it’s good enough for the French, it’s good enough for me.

Robots? Oui, vive le Robot. Mine is the venerable KitchenAid® stand-mixer. I reluctantly put my American version into storage years ago, and I missed it for some time. I would look in German stores like Saturn or Mediamarkt and would only find other light-duty makes and models that, at best, would whip cream.

Then one day the Partnerin and I were browsing Galeries Lafayette in Strasbourg, and while she was perusing new handbags, I decided to check out their Home and Kitchen section. And to my delight, they had a real KitchenAid®. It was “on sale” for “only” 479 euros, marked down from 599 Euros. But this was the Artisan model, which can found in the US for around $200. I decided to check the appliance section at Cora on our way back to Frankfurt.

I discovered Cora when I first moved to Germany because I was generally too lazy to get out of bed before noon on a Saturday. In Germany, that life-style had serious consequences, because all of the stores in Frankfurt closed at 16:00. That meant that shopping took on the character of combat. And it also meant that by 14:30 or so the German stores were going stock-out on most things I wanted or needed. German stores still go stock-out on Saturday, but nowadays, with stores open until 20:00, it usually occurs around 18:00.

So the need to shop in calm meant I had to either had to change my lifestyle or find alternatives. Lifestyle was definitely not going to change. As for alternatives, they did exist … many expats resort to the grocery markets at the Train-station or the Airport.

I did a few vacations at Mont Blanc several years before moving to Germany, and on the way from Geneva to Chamonix I stopped off at a Migros pretty late one Saturday afternoon. I did not think of it at the time, coming from the land of 24-hour shopping, but years later in the land of Saturday-afternoon-Combat-shopping, France beckoned as a land of calm (talk about delicious irony). Stores there were often open to 19:00 on Saturdays.

Cora is a French Hypermarché (Hyper-market), probably best described to Americans … forgive me my French friends … as the French-equivalent of a Wal-Mart® Superstore. But don’t let that stop you from visiting one when in France. First of all, you can find a lot of useful things there that can only be had in Germany at much higher prices, if they can be had at all.

For example, the Partnerin loves a particular brand of lavender-scented fabric softener that for some reason cannot be found in Germany. I prefer gel-type deodorants that I have never seen in Germany, but, contrary to many American characterizations of the French, in Mon Magasin Cora I can actually find Gillette® gel deos. And the house brand of menthol shaving foam is so bracing it practically rips the whiskers out of my face by itself … great stuff. (I’ll have to go on in another post about why you can’t find certain toiletries in Germany, suffice it to say a lot of people here think they are being poisoned by their toothpaste!) And that’s just the mundane stuff.

The cheese, meat, and fish sections are a celebration of much that is good about France. The vegetables and fruits are usually excellent and far more varied than one finds in Germany, especially if you are early, although one of my French friends once told me he really admires the produce sections in American markets. How is that for irony? And some of the pre-fixed items you can find there are to die for (literally if you don’t bring a cooler!).

Cora did have a Kitchenaid®, but they wanted 389 Euros. I would have parted with the cash then and there, but they only had one unit, the display model. No thanks, not at that price. I regretted not grabbing that unit while it was in reach, but after two weeks I got over it. Then needing some new software, I stumbled across the fact that had gotten into the household wares business, bless their hearts. Say what you will about big, “evil” American corporations, at least they connect you with the goods.

And they only wanted 329 Euros. Everything électrique on this side of the Atlantic is more expensive, but the cost-benefit analysis supported it.

But I digress.

There are two ways to make bread. Buy a mix, or do it from scratch.

Mixes are the way to go if you want the satisfying smell of baking bread with a moderate commitment of time. Many of the mixes are good, and have the added benefit of only needing 5 minutes to blend, 30 minutes to “rest”, perhaps another 30 to 45 minutes for the rise, and anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes to bake dependent on factors such as composition and shape. A good Bauernbrot bakes in an hour, a white bread in 35 minutes, and smaller Brötchen perhaps 15 to 20 minutes. I will do the mixes for most of the dark breads.

For white breads, especially French-style, mixes are out of the question. They exist, but they are not to my liking

When you are doing your own from scratch, a Robot is a life-saver, because the kneading can take as long as 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t dare leave the kitchen while it is running, however, because it can and sometimes will walk off the counter.

Consult your favorite cookbook for a recipe. I have my own, but it is plain-jane and, like a good loaf of rising bread, would double the size of this post over the next 30 to 45 minutes. Fodder perhaps for some later post.

In the meantime, here is today’s Bauernbrot (yes, from a mix).

Don’t you love the heart-shaped form?
It was a Christmas gift from the Partnerin. Every loaf baked with love.

(I can hear you purists groaning that a proper Bauernbrot is not baked in a form. Get a life.)

KitchenAid is a registered trademark of the Whirpool Properties, Inc.

WalMart is a registered trademark of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Tab is a registered trademark of the Coca Cola Company. You can't find it in Europe without going to extreme measures.

Gillette is a registered trademark of The Gillette Company, a proud member of the Proctor & Gamble family of brands since 1 October 2005. is a trademark of, Inc. and is protected under EU laws. I quickly lost interest in how to properly portray it here, but trust me, it is protected.

Cora, Migros, Galeries Lafayette, Mediamarkt, and Saturn are probably registered trademarks in their respective countries, but I am too lazy to do the research.

Always read the Tiny Print!


Blogger Expat Traveler said...

Well I think that bread looks yummy. I stopped cooking my own because it just made me all too plump.

8:23 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Maribeth said...

I baked my own bread for years and years, then like traveler, stopped because it was making me plump! Store bread (especially American store bread), I can resist. But homemade bread, forget it. I'm sunk.
By the way, Hubby is so into Bauernbrot that he orders it from German baker in Montreal. He buys 4 - 4 pound loaves at a time and freezes it.

8:26 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger christina said...

Wow, that looks great. I don't bake that much bread but when I do go on a baking binge I use our bread machine (that we bought at the flea market for EUR 13!) to knead the dough and then bake it in the regular oven. Pizza dough comes out wonderfully and we rarely buy frozen pizza any more.

That Cora store sounds like my kind of thing. There's not much selection up here in mid-northern nowhere.

9:08 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Mike B said...

Thanks for the compliments ... it was delicious. Guess I will walk to school today!

3:27 PM, May 04, 2006  

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