Monday, February 19, 2018

An Old Classic Revisited: Brioches


A few months ago, a friend of mine remarked that "your brioche recipe is still a staple in our household". I gave her a puzzled look. My brioche recipe?! The it dawned on me. Right. THAT brioche recipe! I used to bake it so, so often in my teenage and student years. If I remember correctly, I copied it from one of the first sachets of dried yeast I (or my Mum, more likely) ever purchased when it became available in supermarkets in Austria in the late 1980s. It is super easy to make and was a firm favourite among my friends. So much so that some of them asked for the recipe. Somehow, I had completely forgotten about it and last baked these wonderful fluffy, lemony brioches a good 20 years (!) ago until recently when I found some dried yeast that I wanted to use up, and remembered this well-loved classic. If you want to try it yourself, here goes:

Brioches 
(makes 20-30, depending on how large you want them)

Ingredients

400g flour
a pinch of salt
180 ml milk
90g sugar (some of which is vanilla sugar)
100 g butter
2 egg yolks
zest of one organic lemon
1 sachet (21g) dried yeast
Pearl sugar (optional)

Method

Put flour, salt, sugar, lemon zest and dried yeast into a mixing bowl. Heat milk and butter to 37° approx and add this mix as well as one egg yolk to the rest, mixing and kneading it into a supple dough. Form into a ball and leave to rise (covered) at a warm place for about 30 minutes. Knead the dough again and roll out onto a floured surface, cutting out triangles, then rolling these into "croissants" Mix the remaining egg yolk with some milk and brush this mix onto your brioches, sprinkling pear sugar on top. Leave to rest for another 30 mins, then bake in a preheated oven (180°, fan setting) for approx 15 minutes, depending on the size of your brioches.
Since these are not overly sweet, they also taste very nice with jam (I prefer apricot or raspberry myself ) for breakfast.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Subway Zombies

Image from: https://apilgriminnarnia.com/
While my commute to work previously was only a bus ride followed by a short walk through the most picturesque part of the city centre, I now need to change twice to get to my office. First, I take that same old bus, then the U3 subway line, followed by the U1. I have a theory about Vienna's first and oldest subway line, U1, which I had the dubious privilege to use for most of my student years and, let's not lie, is definitely my least favourite line. Why? I swear that it attracts a special breed of people. No, seriously! While blocking the doorways is somewhat widespread in all means of public transport in Vienna, it is particularly bad on the U1, and also comes in different variations. My favourite (NOT) is the "subway zombie" behaviour. It is people who - in the morning or evening rush hour - slowly shuffle towards the train when they hear it screech to a halt and see other people on the platform move out of the corners of their eyes, all the while they are typing in their smartphone. If you happen to want to board the carriage right behind such a zombie who is completely oblivious of the fact that there is hardly any space on the train anyway and the "stand back, the train is about to depart" message has already been played, you just want to whisk their phone out of their hands and shove them in, all in the same smooth karate move. Those 3-4 stops (depending if I leave the train of horrors one stop earlier or not) are a daily exercise in self restraint and patience, both of which are not my strongest virtues. Some days, only the fact that I don't want to end up a frontpage headline on those free newspapers comes between me and losing my calm.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Outbound & Inbound Tourism

Whenever people ask me what I miss most about my previous job, "the travelling" is pretty much the first thing I reply. I have said it many times before, but I'll briefly say it again: unlike others who find travelling (be it for business or pleasure) tiresome, it energises me and I really live for it to put it in a clichéd phrase. Having nothing lined up, travel-wise at the beginning of the year, feels strange and you can bet that within the first month of 2018 I made sure that several weekend beraks are slotted in my calendar now, some of which you see above in the screenshot of my Google Trips app. In addition to that I got very excited when one of my best university friends, l'Italiana, whom I last saw in person 10 years ago (!) is planning to visit me with her eldest son this summer. I love entertaining visitors and house guests just as much as I enjoy jetting off somewhere and exploring new cities.
This travel bug and curiosity is definitely genetic, in my case inherited from my Mum's side of the family. While my paternal grandmother (a housewife) who could enjoy free travel on our state railways thanks to my grandfather having been employed there only visited Vienna, our capital city, once in her lifetime (and she died aged 96) for her son's wedding, my maternal granny, who was self-employed in a stressful job, for many of her working years hopped on the bus to the Italian seaside (my grandparents lived near the border to Italy) at least once a month on her own to destress on a daytrip that energised her. My paternal grandfather was the same: always curious, always eager to explore and meet new people. 
I am incredibly grateful not only to have the time, health and economic means to  travel, but also to live in a peaceful place that offers so much to see at home and a short car, train, bike, plane journey away. (Insertion of cheesy #blessed optional)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Pre | Post | Past | Future

When this post goes live, I will be a year older. Yay! 46 years old to be precise. If you think this sounds horribly old, I will agree and also take a guess that you are still in your twenties or (early) thirties.  When I was a teenager, 46 sounded semi-dead to me. Seriously. My mother was that age when I was 21 myself and while she has always looked admirably young for her age (and still does, at 70) and been very active, there was no doubt that this was the type of age where you would have achieved *everything* (aka had children, bought a house and got a job you knew you would work in until your retirement). Now that I have reached this number and have not actually ticked off any of these things I had taken for granted when I was younger, I of course think very differently and yet am very VERY happy and content with my life and the fact that I am slowly, but steadily heading for my 50th birthday. Which sounds really old no matter how many funny cards want to assure you that 50 is the new 20 and you will age like good wine. I might think very differently in 4 years time, but right now, I am determined to throw a big party (like I did no my 30th and 40th) and celebrate life together with my friends. In fact, on Saturday night as I was enjoying cocktails with my favourite party people we were talking about our half century birthdays and I checked online what day of the week January 29, 2022 will fall on. Well, it happens to be a Saturday. Bam! All I'm saying is: save the date, people!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Geography of Nostalgia

When I started working at the Firm in 2007, I noticed I really missed my old hood, the Schottentor area of Vienna's first district. I'm sure there's a post on this sentiment somewhere in the archives here.  I missed the places where I would occasionally meet friends for lunch (more often I just had my regular home-made rucola and cheese sandwich) and what contributed to this nostalgia was that this was also the part of the first district that was associated with my happy student days. It did not help that the Firm's office was located in a rather ugly, non-descript part of Vienna's otherwise beautiful city centre and I never really liked it there at all. In the summer of 2008, the office relocated to its current grand location, right at the intersection of Graben and Kohlmarkt, which you could call the very heart of the first district. For the past 3 or 4 years, I even had a "window seat", i.e. a desk with a priceless Graben-view that was particularly beautiful in winter when the Christmas "chandeliers" were up. Not to mention the office's convenient location for quick toilet breaks when you were shopping on Saturday or needed a pitstop before going home after dinner or a cinema visit in town.
This past Saturday, my friend (known here as PP's Sis) redeemed the birthday voucher I had gifted her: sushi at Meinl am Graben, followed by coffee in town. The two of us had enjoyed many weekday sushi dates (so much so that the waiter didn't need to ask us for our orders any longer as we always ordered the exact same) until her office relocated to the not-quite-as-sexy Hauptbahnhof area, and then, about a year later, I left the Firm and the city entre myself. At first, I had consoled her as she moped about missing her previous Mon-Fri quarters and even though I "got" her loss in theory, I must have forgotten this feeling I had experienced myself 10 years ago until it hit me myself. With a vengeance. It's not only the area itself, it's also about feeling no longer in the loop of such important things as being the first to see SALE signs being put up and new stores opening, which we had both always taken for granted. On Saturday, I noticed 2 new stores on Herrengasse that would not have escaped my attention if I still worked there. The horror!
Even though my new office is a mere 4 subway stops from my old one, it really feels a world away and with the exception of one cool restaurant, I really don't ever feel like spending a minute longer in the area after leaving the office, ever. On the bright side - not only did I survive (come on, let's be a little dramatic here!) a similar "displacement" before, but my new hood also has one big advantage: close proximity to the Old Danube, which I really appreciated last summer when I went swimming after work pretty much every sunny afternoon. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

So Many Places, so Little Time

The new year is barely 2 weeks old and I am already busy planning my various mini-breaks. It's unlikely that I will manage to renew my Star Alliance Frequent Traveller Status this year (and believe you me, I am prepared to go to extremes in trying to do so), but I still have quite a few things planned and want to use my 25 days of annual leave wisely. In Austria, you usually earn an extra 5 or so days after 20 years in the same company or industry, but having chaged jobs and fields of work in 10-year-intervals in the past it's unlikely I will ever climb to that "next level" either, so I'll just have to work with what I have. I have also never been on a flextime contract where overtime can be converted into time off, so those 25 days, they are precious as gold to me. I will definitely take another sabbatical again if the opportunity presents itself as to me, time is always more valuable than money. Enough disposable income to enjoy your time off to the max is a precondition, though and therefore I am o.k. with having to work until I win a ficticious lottery (I don't play), meet a billionaire who proposes to me and/or makes me the sole heiress of his estate (somewhat unlikely) or become filthy rich in my own right (hm, will look into that). Until plans A, B, or C work out, I will grace the office with my decorative presence.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Reincarnation Nine to Five

I assume we all know people who look eerily similar to some film star or TV personality, or our mean PE teacher from school, but have you ever encountered people who might look completely different but in their behaviour seem like the long lost twin or reincarnation of somebody else? Recently, I repeatedly catch myself mentally labelling people in my new office with names of previous colleagues, because they really remind me of them with regards to attributes like ambition, humour, a tendency to create drama...you name it. Very likely it's simply a sign of becoming old that you naturally accumulate a rolodex-like inventory of people to cross-reference, but funnily enough in my case I only seem to meet "twins" of people I (used to) know in a work context. Has this ever happened to you?
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