Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My First Crust

Isn't it beautiful?

The beauty does not lie in its exterior but in the optimism, pride, energy and research that went into it. Plus, it tastes good and has a moist and delicate texture. From the missing corner, you can see that I tasted it. I am telling the truth.

I began my journey into baking with a drive for pecan pie. Those damn things only show up in the fall. I need them year round. I hit Food Network's website and found a suitable recipe. I do not come from a baking from scratch background, so I automatically went for the frozen pie crust. They come in an aluminum pan that you throw away when the sad time comes, when there is no pie. What could be better? Nothing.

I have lived with McDonad's pies for too long. (They are still fried in Germany. That is the one food that tastes better here than in the U.S.) Germany does not have a tradition of American-style baking. Cakes are thin layers of cake with an inch of light cream between the layers. There is no pie. That meant: there is no frozen pie crusts.

I was scared but I knew I could handle it.

I hit up my old friend, FoodNetwork.com and looked for a suitable crust. I chose the sweet pie crust (If you are going to go, go hard.). Then the research started.

What is the correct flour?

What is the German word for vegetable shortening?

A long time ago, Asmus said everything is complicated in Germany. I have learned that he is correct. There is no all-purposed flour or pastry flour. Flour have no words. It has numbers. Did I need a 405, a 550 or 1050? I hit up my favorite German-English-speakers website and searched the forum. Either I needed a 405 or a 550. I widened my search and settled on a 550.

I begged Asmus to ask his mother what the German word for that is (There is no big old tub of Crisco here.). He hates asking anyone questions but he also hates my nagging, so I nagged hard. Margot kept recommending butter. So I hit the market in the hope that all would become clear. It didn't. Plus, I forgot whether I needed lard or vegetable fat. So Asmus translated some tub of fat in the refrigerator aisle and I both fat from plants and fat from pigs.

I smuggled one American measuring cup to Germany. I needed it to measure the fat and the flour and the water. I decided to measure out 16 tablespoons for the shortening to save the cup for the water. That was a mistake. I forgot twice how to many spoonfuls were in the mix. Before I added the water, the mixture was supposed to look like coarse crumbs. I had a sticky mess. It looked wrong but I continued. I never made a crust, maybe it is supposed be disgusting before it all comes together.

I was right -- I made it wrong.

I measured out the shortening and set aside in another dish and started all over again after a beer.


Tomorrow, I going to make my first ALL homemade sweet potato pie.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Not so fast

That is me cowering before a representative of
Germany's Federal Bureau for Migrants and Refugees

It seems that I was to hasty and announcing myself done with the Integration Course. I made that announcement after completing my last class and last test.
I got my results two days ago.
I must achieve a B1 level on the test in order to have successfully completed it (Tip: the lower the number and lower the letter, the worse you did. C2 is the highest and A1 is the lowest.). I earned an A2 on speaking; B1 on the hearing and reading section; B1 on the writing section; and 20 out of 25 correct on the cultural portion (I needed to get 13 correct to pass.). With those results, I thought I passed. Nope, I earned A2 on the entire test. The government is kind enough to give you your specific results on the test. I got 68 points on the speaking; 75 is needed to get B1.
One can get A2 in either listening/reading or writing and B1 in the other sections and earn B1 for the entire test. If you get A2 in speaking, you do not pass, regardless of the grades in other sections.
I have not complained about much with this damn course. However, this is ridiculous. They should give the speaking portion and its results before give the rest of the test. This way, one does not waste your time and energy studying for a test that you have already failed.
I spent a day dealing with rude government officials. I understand bogged-down workers but these people were mean and deflating. I was speaking in English because it is efficient and I was chastised. I wanted to simply take the examination and skip the option of taking the last 300 hours of the course again (That is three months of sitting through the same material that I just sat through! For seven points!) and then take the test. I was pointedly told this was a dumb idea because I "obviously" needed help.

I am done listening to them. I have been practicing speaking since I got the results of my test. I will pass this damn test.