Review: Berlin & Burgermeister

Over the weekend Boy and I spent a quick 24 hours in Berlin. There's so much more I feel we could've seen and would love to go back!

We both finished work late on Friday, leaving a measly 3 hour snooze before our friendly taxi whisked us along the M25 to Gatwick.

After a pit stop for breakfast we bundled onto the plane and took our seats. Flying over London just as daylight was breaking was a pretty impressive view. All those lights over the City looked like something straight from a movie.

We landed in Berlin just as snow started to fall and took a brisk walk to the train station half reading train timetables and half zipping up and tucking in every single layer of clothing possible.

First stop, the Fernsehturm in Alexanderplatz, Berlin's TV tower. Impressive 360 degree views from 368m up.

When we got back down to ground level we decided to start walking in the general direction of Kreuzberg for a lunch stop. Although we never seem to learn, the walk was much longer that it seemed on the map.

By this time we were ravenous and only one thing would do, Burgermeister. I'd heard great things about this little burger stand and after all the walking it was high time for some refuelling.

A small kiosk sheltered from the winter chill by its surrounding stickered fence, perched between a road and a U-bahn station. At first we did a couple of laps around to find the door, there was no way of seeing through all the stickers. Another couple must have taken pity on us and pointed to a small opening for us to push open.

Inside, a small kitchen and standing eating area and a few gas heaters dotted around. Full mostly of Berliner's, and very few tourists.

Boy and I ordered a cheeseburger, BBQ bacon burger and fries to share at the hatch, was presented with an order number and left to wiggle into a cosy (chilled) corner to wait for our food.

I'd say we waited around 10 minutes for our order, which isn't bad considering everything was cooked fresh from order.

Hand formed patties were perfectly cooked and seasoned. The brioche bun was perhaps my most favourite date. It may sound strange to say, but I've always found that brioche is always better outside of the UK. Grilled to perfection, a good balance between soft and grilled just enough to hold the integrity of the burger together.

Slightly warmed and content with burger lined stomachs, we took a short train ride back towards the centre of town to visit the next landmarks on our list.

Checkpoint Charlie was surreal and a bit strange that fragments of Berlin Wall were sold in a gift shop. Its strange to think of only how recently the wall between East and West had fallen and to have stepped over the cobbled border line.

Next, the Holocaust Memorial. 2711 columns form a maze-like memorial for the murdered Jews during the Holocaust. It was pretty moving to walk through the columns as they grew inside, think about those gas chambers.

Chilled and exhausted from our sightseeing, we stopped at a small restaurant local to our hotel for dinner. I ordered Bratwust with potatoes and Boy a Currywurst.

We stayed in Steigenberger am Kanzleramt, just round the corner from Berlin Hbf station. The hotel was gorgeous, ultra modern and possibly the best night sleep I've had in a hotel.

Unfortunately, it seemed a little remote and a long walk/train journey away from any other the restaurants I'd put on my list to try!

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Recipe: Snickerdoodles

There’s a knack to baking and some things take a little longer to perfect. Brownies being the first thing that took a little practice (there’s a very specific level of chocolate fudginess required you know). But this time its biscuits. I have a fair few cookie recipes on my blog but other than custard creams I always struggle to make a biscuit that’s not cake-like. Countless attempts and variations of butter, chilling, rolling and cutting have all failed me. Usually embarrassed enough to stick to what I know and never attempt them again.

But then there’s Snickerdoodles. First attempt at baking, no problems at all. So when life gives you snickerdoodles eat the whole lot and worry about the rest later!

(Recipe slightly adapted from Afternoon Tea with Bea, makes 24)

225g unsalted butter, softened
315g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
350g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt

sugar dipping:

2tbsp ground cinnamon
200g golden caster sugar

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and gently beat after each. Mix in the vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and beat on a slow speed until well incorporated. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 160 degrees and line two baking sheets with baking paper. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl ready for dipping the cookies.

Roll small pieces of dough into neat balls, about golf ball size, slightly flatten and dip each into the cinnamon sugar. Space evenly onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving some room for spreading between each.

Bake for 13-16 minutes until the edges are golden and the tops look dry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.

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Malted Milk Chocolate Cake

My earliest memory of birthday cakes was when I was very little and demanded a dog shaped cake. I also demanded that the whole entire head was mine and of course felt very, very sick after trying to eat all of that icing myself. I wasn't prepared to share...and not much has changed ever since!

Since then my brother and I tended to have those chocolate traybakes with sweets on top, cakes for sharing...

When receiving a few recipe books for Christmas, having a flick through and finding this I knew that it had to be the next birthday cake I made for someone else. Not only is it a great recipe, it's also not too difficult to transport on the train if needed!

My new recipe book, What to Bake & How to Bake It, is sure to be one of those books I'll always go back to for reference. The difference between many books and this is that each recipe is spread over a number of pages with a step-by-step photo guide. Very handy for things like doughnuts and cinnamon rolls.

Malted Milk Chocolate Birthday Cake
(Recipe slightly adapted from What to Bake & How to Bake It)

N.b. this chocolate cake isn't like the usual recipe I use, its egg free, super moist and not too rich...that way the whole family will love it.

140g unsalted butter, softened
350g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
2tbsp malted milk powder, such as Ovaltine/Horlicks
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt
300g light soft brown sugar
300ml milk
150ml vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate, about 50% cocoa solids
120ml milk
25g cocoa powder
2tbsp malted milk powder
140g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
handful of sweets/chocolates to decorate

Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 23 x 33cm traybake tin.

First, make the cake batter. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan and leave to cool slightly.

Into a large bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Use a whisk to stir through (this will do the same as sifting it into the bowl). Add the sugar and continue to whisk to break up any lumps. Whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla extract and melted butter before whisking into the dry ingredients. Start slowly at first until everything is incorporated and then give it a good beat with the whisk.

Pour into the prepared tin, smooth over and bake for 30 minutes. The cake should have risen and slightly shrunken at the sides. A skewer should come out clean when poked into the middle. Remove from the oven and leave for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack and leaving to cool fully.

Once the cake has cooled, begin to make the frosting. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring a few times until smooth. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until steaming and gently bubbling, not boiling.

Into a large bowl, sift the cocoa powder and malted milk powder, gently stir in the hot milk to form a smooth paste. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Add the butter to the paste, sift in the icing sugar and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Fold in the melted cooled chocolate.

Pour half onto the cooled cake, smooth over with a palette knife before adding the rest and swirling around on top. The frosting will set after 30 mins or so.

This cake can be made up to 2 days in advance well wrapped and stored in a cool place.
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Recipe: Sausage and Bean Lunchbox

As mentioned previously, I've taken some time out of my routine over the Christmas period. When returning to bake this weekend both recipes I made were pretty awful.

Never again will I cheat and melt chocolate in the microwave. I missed a tiny bit of foil and nearly blew up the kitchen with molten chocolate. Not an entirely bad thing you may be thinking, but I'm still wafting that burnt smell out of my flat.

Secondly, a recipe from a book I've had for some time promising healthier, natural treats. Not only did the biscuits require a whole expensive bottle of honey, they were tasteless and soft (and ugly!). Which reminds me, all recipes I've attempted from said book have been naff. I'm now going to recycle the book in the hope that it comes back in its next life as something more useful!

I had been tempted to throw the blogging towel in and join the circus. Except I'm not sure what I would do in the circus.

One recipe that I was pretty impressed with was Saturday night's dinner in which I threw everything in my fridge into one pot. Living on my own and working unsocial hours I spend some time each week making large meals that I can portion the leftovers off into the freezer for my lunchbox.

Admittedly this is quite a substantial lunch for a regular 9-5er, but you could add more vegetables than sausages. For me, this will be perfect to take to work this evening. I even got some nice new glass containers...just to make me feel more of a grownup.

Sausage and bean one-pot lunch
(Serves 4-6 depending on portion sizes)

6 sausages of your choice (I like the chunky Sainsbury's outdoor bred ones)
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
2 celery sticks
a generous spoon of sumac/paprika or seasoning of your choice
2 peppers
2 tins chopped tomatoes
250ml vegetable stock
1 tin aduki beans/kidney beans or any other of your choice

serve with your choice of vegetables

To start, warm a large stock pot or pan with a knob of butter or drizzle of oil. Fry the sausages for a few minutes, turning to brown all the edges. Take out of the pan and set aside on a plate.

Cook the onions, garlic and spice in the same pan until the onions start to become soft and transparent. Whilst the onions are cooking, thinly slice the celery and peppers and add to the pan.

Add the chopped tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Turn down low to simmer and add the sausages. Drain your beans and add. Throw in a generous serving of salt and pepper and give everything a good stir to make sure all the sausages are covered.

Cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 30 - 45 minutes.

To save on washing up, I used a fold out steamer to cook my vegetables in the last 10 minutes in the same pan.

Leftovers will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days, or a few months in the freezer.

Still not quite a grown up with my lunch bag.

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