- Free creche service (kinderbetreuung, doesn’t that word just roll off your tongue?)
- It’s cheap! €45 a month for weekday morning membership
- It’s pretty, all purple lights. Even the sauna has alternating colours, something that is supposed to relax me but has the opposite effect, like being trapped in a confined hot space with a schizophrenic “I’m blue! No red! No pink! No Blue!” Pick a colour and stick with it for crissakes!
- There are no partitions in the shower, not that I have body shame or envy, but do I really need to see you lather up your unmentionables? Ah, no, don’t think so.
- The shower is on a timer. Like 45 seconds or something. So when I crucially need the water because I’ve got soap in my eyes, there is no water. I’ve got to grope the wall until I find it, and there is NO PARTITION. MY EYES ARE CLOSED. AND I’M NAKED! Tell me, is there a water shortage in Berlin or something? Because from where I’m standing, it’s literally coming down in buckets. Who decided the timer on that thing? 45 seconds? A man probably (sorry boys). They are the only ones that think a shower and getting wet are the same concepts.
- They follow the rules to the L E T T E R. So if I want to book my 2 year old into the creche four days before I always get the “Sorry, we only accept bookings 3 days before.” Even though my kid is usually the only one in there. And it means they will receive a garbled phone call from me trying to pronounce Kinderbetreuung. Or take Monday, I arrived with my hair straightener, clothes, shampoo, Polar fitness monitor but forgot my towel.
“Can I rent a towel?” I ask.
“Leider nicht.” (By the way, Leider nicht translates as regrettably / sadly / unfortunately no. But what I hear when people say that is: you lose suckaaa! It’s just so passive aggressive!)
“Okay, can I buy a towel?”
“So you have no towels in the gym.”
“Leider nicht. If you want, you can go to Butler’s down the road and see if they are selling some?”
Because that’s the solution I was looking for, going out in the rain, walking for 15 minutes and getting one of those acrylic towels that are designed to repel water. I figure, I can try to dry myself with paper towels and see how far that gets me when my eyes fall upon a special massage deal on offer that day: ’20 minutes for €15′. I go back up to the ‘no’ girl. “So I could book a massage here right?”
“And if I book a massage, well then, they give me a towel so I don’t go in there all smelly and sweaty right?”
“Yessssss.” she answered, suspicious as to where I was going with all this.
“Ok, great, so I will have a massage in 2 hours and take the towel now if you that’s alright with you.”
She stalled a bit with that one, not sure if she was agreeing to some illicit concept. “Umm, yes, well, ok.”
“Great!” I patted her heartily on the back. “Good thing I forgot my towel then!”
I got a big kick out of that. From not letting an inconvenience ruin my day and set me in the whole “Aw man, it’s one of those days, I’m giving up on this day, I will try to do better tomorrow.” Then slump back home and play 10 games of Tiny Wings on my iphone (how embarrassing, I’m deleting that app! No, I’m not.)So I went home and continued the day on a high, deciding to tackle a pastry as difficult as the ‘no’ girl at the gym. Puff pastry.Confession, I don’t actually make puff pastry, I make rough puff. Say it with me: Rough puff, rough puff, rough puff. It’s fun, right?
You can do anything to this pastry, anything. At some point, it had totally stuck to my work top in the humid mess that was monday in Berlin, I peeled it off, let it cool down in the fridge a little and continued. Then, because I was in such a hurry to leave, I put in steaming hot cherry filling into them. They started to melt a little, were hard to get on the tray and I thought I was never going to see a rise out of them but lo and behold, they did. I mean, they were tasty and I committed every pastry crime in the book, I am surprised a Leiths undercover agent didn’t show up at my door and confiscate my diploma. With, hopefully, still two summer months ahead of us. These cherry pockets are a treat to take with you on a picnic,to the zoo, generally any ‘2 go’ type situation. Yes, you could buy puff pastry. Although when you get your hands on some all butter puff pastry as opposed to the stuff that uses hydrogenated fats, you let me know. That is, once you catch your breath from how expensive the stuff is! Seriously, learn to make this.
1 Quantity Rough Puff Pastry (Leiths Recipe)
a good pinch salt
140g butter (pliable but not melting or soft) cut into 1 cm cubes
6-9 tablespoons / 85-140 ml ice-cold water (seriously, ice cold)
1. Sift the flour with the salt into a large bowl. Using a table knife, toss the butter cubes with the flour.
2. Srpinkle 6 tablespoons of water over the flour and stir quickly with a table knife so that the paste clumps together.
3. Gather the lumps together with your fingertips, leaving any dry mixture in the bottom of the bowl. (Leave it.)
4. Bring all the paste together and knead it lightly once or twice to bring it together. It will look lumpy, shaggy and hopeless but it will be alright in the end.
5. Form a rectangle 2 cm thick and wrap it in cling film. Chill for about 20-40 minutes to allow any gluten formed to rest. Don’t let it harden to much otherwise it will be hard to roll.
6. First, ridge the dough dramatically. Then begin rolling out.
7. Roll the paste out so it is 3 times as long as it is wide. (See picture above) Use a palette knife to make the edges as straight as you can.
8. Fold it over itself like you would do with a business letter. Turn it over so it looks like a closed book you are about to open.
9. Press the edges of the pastry gently with the rolling-pin to seal the air inside the layers.
10. Do this 3 more times so you have a total of 4 rolls and folds.
11. I like to freeze it until I need it because it helps create better layers but you can just as easily let it rest in the fridge for about 30-40 minutes because it will be soft and warm by this point.
Cherry & Cranberry Puff Pastry Pies (Slightly modified Bon Appetit recipe)
1 quantity rough puff or store-bought puff pastry (400g)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour (which is called Feine Speisestärke in German, I buy a brand called Mondamin)
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted.
2/3 cups cranberries or dried cherries
1/2 a cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lime or half a lemon
some lime or lemon juice (to taste)
1 egg white
2 tablespoons raw sugar or sugar with large crystals
1. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Stir cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl to blend.
2. Combine fresh cherries and next 5 ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes.
3. Add cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Fold in the lime or lemon zest and squirt a few teaspoons of juice to cut through the sweetness. Fish out the cloves.
4. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to an 45 x40 cm (or thereabouts) rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into nine 15 x 12 cm rectangles. Whisk egg white and 1 tablespoon water in another small bowl for egg wash.
5. Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Scoop 3 tablespoons cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meet, forming a 5×3″ packet. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.
6. Chill for 30 minutes. Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with raw sugar. Preheat oven to 190°C. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.