Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brötchen, Matschbrötchen, and The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy {book tour}


Author:  Sarah McCoy
Publisher: Crown
hard cover: 304 pages
"foodie" elements: yes

random excerpt:  Deedee had come over with two bottles of Château Morrisette.  They'd drunk barefoot on the fresh-cut lawn, green clippings stuck to their toes.  By the second cork pop, wine wasn't the only thing being poured into the night.  Tipsy on illusive dreams, they forgot all their girlhood tears, talking of quixotic futures until even the lightning bugs turned off their lights; and for once, they understood why their daddy drank bourbon like lemonade.  It was nice to pretend the world was wonderful--to gulp away the fears, hush the memories, let your guard down and simply be content, if only for a few hours.  p.28
summary/synopsis (from TLC website):  In 1945, Elsie Schmidt was a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she was for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.

Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines can often be blurred.

Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the
uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.

my thoughts/review:  This is my first "favorite" read of the year.  Great character development, picturesque historical descriptions, and skillful balancing of past and present are gracefully woven together like a cozy afghan that I wanted wrap myself in for extended periods of time.  The tale of the Schmidt family during the time of Hitler...Elsie growing up more fortunate than most in that her family's bakery survived (all be it barely) through the Nazi occupation was thrilling.  It made me yearn to know about my ancestors who, for all I know, may have experienced many of the same things.  I can't begin to describe my feelings.  It's "one of those".  I find myself (oddly) at a loss for words.  Other than to recommend it to fans of historical fiction and food.  It ends with a wonderful little collection of recipes that span from 1940's Germany to present day Texas.  I recommend baking up something tempting and spending some time along with your baked goods and this book.

I knew I had to make something even before I knew there were recipes at the back.  I didn't page ahead, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a recipe for the Brötchen, which is exactly what I planned on finding a recipe for anyway.  Each one of us (five) loved these simple orbs that were perfectly tender on the inside with a crusty outside.  Heads were perched atop necks that were bobbing back and forth searching for more once they disappeared.  They've made their way into our permanent rotation.  Thank you, Elsie...
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Brötchen (+ Matschbrötchen)

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 2½-3 hours
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: bake bread snack dessert chocolate flour German

Ingredients (12 rolls)
  • 2½-3 c. (350 g-420 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2¼ tsp. (7 g) active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. (4 g) superfine sugar
  • 1 c. warm water, divided
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
egg wash:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. water
To make 1 Matschbrötchen (Mud Bread Roll):
  • 1 Brötchen (still warm is best)
  • 1 schaumkuss (foam kiss), mallomar, or chocolate covered marshmallow
Instructions
Put 2½ cups flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour yeast, sugar, and 2 Tbs. of the warm water into the well and mix these together (don't mix in flour yet). Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place until the yeast is foamy (proofed), 5-15 minutes.

Add the rest of the warm water, oil, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, beat everything (including the flour this time) until well combined. Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead, adding as much of the remaining flour as needed to make a smooth, pliable dough.

Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, ~1 hour.
Punch down the dough and divide into 12 even pieces. Shape into rolls and place 3" apart on a greased and floured baking tray. Cover and let rise until doubled again, ~45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450° F during last 15 minutes of rise time.

Cut a slit or a cross on top of each bun. Whisk egg and water together, then brush over the rolls. Slide into preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden.

To make 1 Matschbrötchen (Mud Bread Roll):
Pull the warm bun in half. Place chocolate covered marshmallow in center and replace top. Squish together a bit and eat immediately.

I used a Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Heart on a still very warm bun...and it is PURE HEAVEN!

both slightly adapted from The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
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"Kind of wonderful to think something as simple as bread can mean so much to people." ~Reba p. 265

about the author:  Sarah McCoy is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.

further info: website | blog | facebook | twitter
*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

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