I've already mentioned it so many times so I guess everyone knows I'm headed for Italy on Saturday. In a way it still seems unreal, yet I feel an almost uncontrollable sense of excitement at the idea that Vicenza, Verona, Trieste and Venice will soon no longer be just names to me. Here in Berlin, there's a damp chill in the air and I've dug out my winter coat and gloves. Somehow, I miss the beautiful autumn light we had in Marienbad and hope to see the ravishing colours glow at least a little longer. In the train to Munich at the end of September, I remember seeing wonderful lines of pumpkins in fields close to the last remaining sunflowers and had the impression they were defiantly resisting the changing temperatures.
Yet now it's truly the season of hot tea, soups, cinnamon, chestnuts and serious comfort food. While many complain about the long, dark evenings, somehow I also enjoy being wrapped up warm and strolling around Berlin which, for me, is always loveliest at night. Looking up to the lights of the beautful buildings round where I live, they always seem to represent so much life and warmth and make me want to be part of that. Bergman films, Jane Austen novels and knitting are the things I most like to devote myself to when it's cold outside. And yet, the thought of crystal azure skies and golden sunshine on a clear dry day in Italy makes me feel exhilerated; Venice, the city of Proust, the setting for so many books and films I love and Trieste on the Adriatic sea where Svevo and his English teacher James Joyce once lived. As ridiculous as it sounds, just checking the weather forecast next week made me tremble with emotion at the thought of all the things I'm dying to experience and the lazy hours with J. when we can just chat or wander the streets as evening falls.
I hope to return with many photos and recipes to share with you but first there's still so much to organise. As always, the choice of books has top priority! It's only a short trip but somehow the idea of being without something to read or being bored terrfies me. The Thomas Bernhard autobiography is a must, as is Proust, Svevo's Confessions of Zeno and the book of Ingeborg Bachmann poetry. Taking all these is a little crazy because I certainly won't get through them but maybe the bibliophiles among you will understand. So the blog will be on holiday for a week but just before I go, I'd like to leave you with a recipe for Russian Zupfkuchen, one of my favourite cakes and a mix of cheese- and chocolate cake. It wasn't as good as the one at Datscha or Anna Blume as my difficult gas oven burned the top but as Chrissi kindly reminded me not to be too much of a perfectionist, I was satisfied with my first attempt! Actually, the sun came out for the only moment that day when I was taking the pictures so I took that as a good sign. The trees in the yard behind my room were glistening with raindrops and I stopped for a moment to savour the light.
Pour Ju qui aime le Zupfkuchen autant que moi et en souvenir de tous nos repas ensemble!
For the base
150g soft butter
1 pack of baking powder
For the filling
500g quark/ fromage blanc
100g soft butter
3 eggs, separated
a pinch of salt
a few drops of good quality vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 180°
1. To make the base, cream the soft butter together with the sugar then mix in the egg until smooth and frothy. Sift in the flour, baking powder and finally the cocoa. You should have a kind of dough that's not too dry or too liquid. Take 2/3 of it and press it into a well greased Springform tin so that you have a layer on the bottom and sides.
2. To make the filling, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the pinch of salt and continue whisking until the whites form stiff peaks.
3. Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and butter together until smooth then pour in the quark and vanilla extract. Finally, gently fold in the egg whites a little at a time until completely blended.
4. Sprinkle over (zupfen) little pices the remaining base mixture like Streusel or crumble.
5. Bake in the oven for about an hour. In order to stop the top burning, I suggest placing a layer of tin foil over it after 20 minutes. When the middle seems set, remove from the oven. Leave to cool completely before opening the Springform tin.
I wish you all a great weekend and a wonderful week. Take care!