vendredi 4 février 2011

The edge of the water

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I can remember very clearly the first and only time I went to Babelsberg before last weekend. It was L's birthday on a Sunday, the day when the clocks went forward and we woke up an hour later than planned. I had only just moved into a shared flat in Charlottenburg but already the bookshelves were full and my flatmate was spending a week in Italy with her family. I had been hoping to get the place to myself for that time but then her younger brother came to stay - a strange individual who walked barefoot along the streets of Berlin and made loud whooping noises behind the closed door of his sister's bedroom (she would later throw him out upon her return after discovering he'd drunk all her alcohol). L. was one of the first people I met in Berlin and pure California sunshine. She had the kind of charming giddiness that could make you forgive her anything, particularly when you were on your way to visit her at the agreed time and got a last minute call telling you not to come for another couple of hours because she was still at her old flat, skyping a friend back home. Because of her I went for long walks along the Spree and retreated to Dussmann's to kill the time. She was even more hopeless than me at finding her way in Berlin which meant picking her up from the underground station in case she got lost. On the night before her birthday, I made a roast vegetable lasagne and a large chocolate cake which we ate while watching The Devil Wears Prada before the sleepover. Sunday was truly springlike as we met a colleague of L's who was to be our guide in Potsdam. I remember seeing the castle through for the first time and A. telling us that the students didn't like living there in the past because they believed it was haunted. We paused outside the Kleines Schloss restaurant for coffee and cake by the river Havel before catching the bus to Sanssouci palace and finishing the evening at a little Indian restaurant in Charlottenburg. L. left Berlin a few years ago after a student in her class broke her heart. We said our farewells outside her apartment in Neuköln and she promised to come back. I wonder if she ever thinks of Babelsberg.

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My trip last weekend couldn't have been more different; winter instead of spring, the ground covered in a thin layer of snow. I could have gone on Saturday and enjoyed the clear sunshine but chose my fitness classes instead. Looking back, perhaps I prefer the melancholy winter's day when the branches were tangled by the frozen fog and the deserted park looked like something out of a fairytale. I took no map and wandered along the paths without any clear aim, figuring that all paths lead to Rome, or in this case castles. There was something wonderful about turning a corner and seeing one rise up through the branches in front of you. Occasionally, I would hear voices of couples or families nearby but they had faded by the time I moved in their direction. Schinkel's Schloss Babelsberg is still being repaired like it was a couple of years ago and in the gardens, a stone dog is keeping watch. As you wander down and down, you catch glimpses of the river Havel with the Glienecke bridge reflected in the water's edge like a vintage mirror. Joggers and walkers wrapped up tightly make their way along the riverside path and just around the corner is the yellow form of the Kleines Schloss (or little castle) which may not be the very best place to eat but is certainly one of the most charming and a welcome spot to warm up over latte macchiato and Russian Zupfkuchen.

Walking through the park with frosty branches made me feel like I was lost in a forest as I tried to find the path back, thinking that it might have been better to leave a trail of white pebbles to mark my way like Hansel and Gretel. In Pankow later that afternoon, I couldn't resist watching Neil Jordan's Company of Wolves, a twist on werewolf tales based on Angela Carter stories, while eating a slice of my very first brioche with poppyseed. Even if nothing can compare with a fairytale, the day still seemed truly magical.

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Coffee and Zupfkuchen at the Kleines Schloss on the river Havel

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Last Saturday, the light was so exquisite that I couldn't resist the urge to get up early and take photos in the small park outide my building.

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My building in the middle, next to the green one. I live on the top floor.

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The old school in Pankow

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Poppyseed brioche (brioche au pavot) from Pascale Weeks - you can find the original recipe in French here

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Ingredients for 2 brioches

25cl full fat milk, gently warmed but not hot
50g sugar
1 sachet dried yeast
550g plain flour
1 level tsp of fine salt
2 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
100g soft butter
A little milk for glazing


A packet of poppyseed cream (in Germany, you can find Mohnback in all main supermarkets or you can use the recipe below to make your own)


In a small bowl mix half of the warm milk with the sugar and the yeast and leave to rest at warm temperature for 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Make a well in the middle then pour in the yeast mixture.

Little by little, bring the flour back towards the centre then add the rest of the warm milk and the lightly beaten eggs. Knead the dough in the bowl or on your worktop for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and not at all sticky. Add more flour or water as needed.

Add the butter and knead for another 5 minutes.

Cover the bowl with a teatowel and leave to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place (for example near the radiator) until the dough has doubled in size.

When that has happened, place the dough on a floured worktop and get rid of the air inside by pressing down with your hand. Divide equally into 3 (you can weigh it to be sure) and roll them out into three rectangles of roughly 15cm by 50cm. On each rectangle, spread a third of the poppyseed cream and then roll it up so it into a sausage shape. Cut each sausage in two.

Place 3 rolls onto a lined baking sheet and plait them together. Do the same thing with the other three rolls on a different sheet. Cover with a teatowel and leave for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180° and put a ramekin filled with water inside. Brush the brioches with milk to glaze them. Bake the first brioche for 30 minutes, then the second. As they rise so much in the oven, you shouldn't bake them on the same sheet.

You can tell if a brioche is ready by tapping it with the edge of a knife. It should sound hollow.

Leave to cool on a metal rack.

Poppyseed cream by Flo Bretzel

125g ground poppyseeds
185ml milk
40g sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 tablespoons of fine semolina
4 tablespoons ground almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Boil the milk then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. You can grind your poppyseeds in the mixer then just pour in all the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

31 commentaires:

  1. these photos are really lovely.

  2. That is such a peaceful and poetic place! I love the atmosphere it confers. Gorgeous shots!

    Your brioche looks scrumptious and I would love a slice of that Zupfkuchen!



  3. Winter looks beautiful through your lens.

  4. There is something precious about late winter's silver-gray light. These photos are wonderful. I was last at the Kleines Schloss as the willows were breaking into fluorescent-green leaf; you make me want to catch it in this weather.

  5. The grey cool atmosphere in your photos are stunning. The images convey the subtle drama of winter days.

  6. You have such a way with small details, I wish I could magically transform winter into a fairytale the way you do...I can only see the grey skies and frosty fingers.

  7. There is something about those grays and browns and blacks that feel so peaceful to me. I love winter light, don't you? I know, some people say it's depressing and sepulchral but it's a season... and seasons have their in time and their value. I always find I can be more at peace in the winter on long walks with my winter-loving dog (a St. Bernard) who is 100% happier in snow than heat. I have yet to be in Germany.... you do make it so inviting... great bread too!!!

  8. @Mina - Thanks a lot! That's nice to hear.
    @Rosa - I'm sure you'd enjoy taking photos in Babelsberg.
    @Lecia - I was jealous of your sunshine and blue skies but winter can look poetic too and I really enjoyed being out in the open last weekend. Take care.
    @Sylee - When you get clearer days, I totally agree that the light and colours are truly exquisite. I'm hoping to get another chance to take advantage of that in between strong winds and rain. I remember reading about your time at the kleines Schloss and that also inspired me to return. I think it's lovely in all seasons, although maybe too crowded in summer.
    @P.K - I'm so pleased you like the photos and can't wait to go over to your blog and find out what you've been doing recently. Hope all's well.
    @Sasa - I guess small details are the things I'm most interested in so thanks for the compliment. A lot depends on the light; so many days have been simply dull or wet and when I look at my photos, I feel really fed up but with ones like last weekend, I don't mind winter at all and somehow find the contrasts more interesting than in summer. Hope you're feeling better and that winter isn't getting you down.
    @Deana - You're so right about every season having its own poetry and beauty and to me, it's a necessary time even if it's sometimes hard to get through. To me there's nothing like a long winter walk on a frosty morning with some sun - pure magic. I'm sure you go on wonderful walks with your dog and I just love St. Bernards. Berlin is my kinda city, although I'd like to discover the U.S with you someday.

  9. gosh, this post was a true delight for me: just about everything I love - snow, yummy food, fairy tales. The Company of Wolves is one of my favourite films and short story, I'm so glad you like it too.

    Thanks for this little snapshot of your day, the photos are amazing. Snow seems so foreign to me here in Australia, I always wonder what it's like to live with it.

  10. Wow, what a gorgeous blog. Happy to discover it.

  11. I could feel the cold and frost all the way to Florida! Your photos are ever enchanting, Vanessa.

    And then I love it when you stop for coffee and pastry someplace to warm up. Seeing everything through your camera's eye is always a delight.

  12. @Hila - I love finding out we have so much in common. I had no idea you also love fairy tales and also Angela Carter. Such a great film as you say. Until recently, I didn't see snow very often but it's getting to be a habit every year now. Hope the weather settles down in Australia.
    @Theresa - Thanks so much for your visit and comment!
    @Barbara - Why thanks! I can't imagine living somewhere with only sunshine and slightly less sunshine. Warming up on such days is important and also fun for me so I'm pleased you like it too.

  13. Last winter pictures? They're really amazing... I don't know how you manage to get a light like this in this season.
    Otherwise, I love poppyseeds. I made poppyseed bread last week, and it was rolled the same way your brioche is. I didn't find the way to keep the seeds in the bread at all times though... if you know a trick...

  14. I was extremely lucky because last weekend we had a break in the clouds and wonderful light but for most of the time Berlin is grey, grey, grey with rain now. If you just use loose poppyseeds I can't see a way to keep them in with gravity and all that but the brioche uses poppyseed cream so they stick together and fall out in clumps. I'll have a think about it though.

  15. The Mohnkrantz pastries in Berlin were my favourite thing that I ate the whole time I was in Europe. I love poppyseed things. I bought a can of poppyseed filling from an international food store in Sydney about a year ago, and I used some to make Kugelhopf, but haven't used it in anything since. The open can is in the freezer. It must have almond essence in it, though, which I don't like very much.

    I'd love to try this recipe... when my FebFast month is over and I allow myself the occasional treat again.:)

    Beautiful photos as always, Vanessa. I feel as though I've been on a little journey with you each time.

  16. tes photos sont à tomber !!!

    j'adore les brioches au pavot, enfant, c'était dans les placeks, ou encore les makotchs !!

    mes enfants n'aiment pas, mon mari moyen moyen alors je n'en mange plus mais que j'aime ca !!!

    bon lundi gourmand


  17. There is something wonderful about experiencing all four seasons. Sometimes winter feels brutal but the truth is that it's beautiful, and you really captured this in your photos.

  18. Quel endroit splendide ... Allez, je refais la balade en sens inverse en dégustant, malheureusement virtuellement, une part de cette brioche au pavot ! ;o)

  19. Quelle incroyable balade ! J'aime l'atmosphère qui se dégage de tes photos avec cette fine couche de neige qui saupoudre le paysage comme le sucre glace sur les gâteaux... J'aime aussi les graines de pavot :-)

  20. @Amber - Mmm, I'm with you on the Mohnkrantz thing - totally delicious. So if you don't like almond essence, maybe you could try making the cream. This has ground almonds in which I don't know if you like better. Wow, fasting! I've never had the discipline or courage to do that but truly admire those who do, though I'm trying to eat a little less cake.
    @Virginie - Merci beaucoup! C'est bien dommage que ta famille n'apprécie pas le pavot mais peut-être tu peux organiser des après-midis avec des copines pour prendre le thé et les pâtisseries ;-)
    @Des - That's great to hear. As much as winter gets me down sometimes, I'm glad of it as well as the other three seasons and try to make the most of the things that each one brings.
    @Hélène - J'aurais adoré partager ma brioche avec toi, tu sais. Merci énormément de ton commentaire Hélène et grosses bises.
    @Julia - Wow, je me ses flattée d'un tel compliment venant d'une photographe si douée. Ce week-end-là était si beau et la neige me semblait bien magique. Ma première recette avec le pavot, c'était la tienne avec du citron aussi - un de mes gâteaux préférés que j'ai envie de refaire très bientôt.

  21. Beautiful photos, I'm glad you couldn't resist the urge to get up early to take them. We haven't had much snow here in Portland, but have had some beautiful sunny days. Enjoy these last few weeks of winter.

  22. @Nicolette - Funnily, there are certain things about winter I'm going to miss, like the need to stay snug inside with thick books, hot chocolate and films. There's something about good winter light that I find unbeatable.

  23. Sensation d'être dans un conte de Grimm avec tes photos, l'on sent bien l'a présence du froid !

  24. I adore these photos near your home and further! What a perfect time of day to capture. Thank you for sharing the recipe too!

  25. What beautiful photos. This is a lovely little place you have here, I'll definitely be coming by more often.

  26. I love the way you describe your memories and these photographs are absolutely beautiful. You captured the frost so well.

  27. @Alice - Pour moi qui adore les contes de Grimm, c'est un grand compliment - merci! Je ne les ai pas encore lus en langue originale mais j'ai très envie de le faire bientôt.
    @Alexandria - I think you know as well as anyone that inspiration lies near and far and it's definitely worth getting up early at the weekend for that kind of light. Hope you like the recipe.
    @Elizabeth - Welcome and thanks for your comment. It's so nice to hear that.
    @Denise - It's lovely to read your words again and wake up to find your comments. Your latest post was one of my favourites.

  28. On dirait un chateau de conte de fees, dreamlike. Tes photos rendent vraiment la magie de l'endroit. On a presque l'impression d'entendre tes pas crisser dans le silence.

  29. @Gracienne - C'est tout à fait ça. De tels moment m'arrive rarement mais à chaque fois c'est magique.
    @Manon - J'y avais pensé pendant cette promenade. Parfois l'envie me prendre d'aller en France pour suivre les traces d'Alain Fournier.

  30. beautiful pictures. its like the world lost all its colours for one day.