A Fabulous Party – Bread-Making and Schnapps-Tasting

A couple of months ago, my friends Janne and Steen invited several people to their house for a dinner party. The food, of course, was amazing. This was matched only by the company and the view from their balcony. But the thing that caught my (and everyone else’s) attention was the bread. How often do you have really amazing bread?

I couldn’t help myself. I kept going back for more. When we asked Janne where they had gotten the bread, she replied, “oh, we make it.” Wait, what? She makes this fantastic little bit of heaven? And the most surprising part? She insisted, absolutely insisted, that it was very easy to do.

Now wait just a second. The only bread I’ve seen most people make comes out of a machine. Real bread takes real effort. It takes time and practice. But Janne and Steen were so relaxed, I was intrigued. Could I learn how to make it, too? So I asked if I could bribe them into sharing their secrets. Yes, of course, they were happy to teach me how to make bread, and anyone else who might be interested.

Some time later that evening, we happened to run out of wine (oh no! But really – are you surprised? I was there, after all). So Janne brought out the schnapps. It turns out that not only do they make their own bread; this lovely couple from Denmark make their own schnapps. This party just kept getting better.

She also mentioned that they would have a bottle of schnapps ready for tasting soon. We could combine bread-making with schnapps-tasting. Thus, a beautiful idea was born. And this past week, it became reality. It also happened to be another friend’s (Jose) birthday (see pics below), so it turned into a birthday party!

Janne and Steen had everything ready for us when we arrived – work stations, bowls, ingredients and recipes(!) (see copies below – extra credit for it being in Spanish). There were two different types of bread to make – Norwegian and Danish. We started with Norwegian (the easier of the two). They had the batter all prepared, and let each of us in our turn practice scooping some dough out of the bowl and onto the bread pan. Then they were off to the oven, and would be ready for us by the time we were done making our Danish rolls. So smart!

Then it was on to the real task. For the Danish rolls, we began with some liquid (water, milk, yogurt, egg – anything would do), yeast and salt. Then, we were instructed that we could add any number of ingredients we liked – oatmeal flour, quinoa, wheatberries, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, etc. Our imagination was the only real limiting factor. And this is what made it such a great experience for me. Janne and Steen insisted that we relax and have fun, that we could not “get it wrong”. Everyone’s rolls would be different, but that was part of the adventure. We would all get to try each other’s creations!

The only really important aspect seemed to be getting the consistency correct. After we added the above ingredients, we added the flour. We kept adding flour until our instructors were satisfied with the appropriate level of stickiness. Only then could we put our dough on the counter for kneading and roll-forming. Janne taught us how to form a basic roll, and then set us free to create different shapes (braids, a small loaf, oblong rolls). Gen made hers sans salt, but added pesto to the center. Marta added honey and raspberry to hers. I hung back until the end, trying to get the basic mechanics. (I have every intention of trying this again at home!)

Once our Danish rolls were in the oven, we gathered around the table to enjoy the Norwegian rolls and the schnapps-tasting (and some of Sylvia’s homemade plum jam!). We each received a shot glass and list of the 16 different types of schnapps we would be tasting. Our list included a rating chart, so we could later remember which were our favorites.

The remainder of the afternoon was so lovely and relaxing. Each new schapps initiated a discussion of which herbs they had used (all local to Chile), and why,  and how long schnapps must sit before tasting (often years). They also elicited stories of combinations that worked, and those that didn’t (garlic is evidently not a good idea).

Most people voted the cherry stone schnapps (the most recent addition) as their favorite. I was torn between the fig and vanilla and the citronmelisa. (full chart included below, in Danish and Spanish). They were so different; I simply could not choose.

At the end of the afternoon, we took our bread home. Janne advised that if we wished to freeze any of the bread, we put it in plastic baggies while it was still warm (reason for the picture below), but if we wanted to keep it in the refrigerator, we should wait until it cooled. They also recommended letting the dough sit for several hours, to allow it to rise. We would have fluffier rolls this way. All these tips! I was still a bit nervous to try on my own, but I had seen that it really wasn’t that hard. I think the first few times I attempt it might be a bit of a disaster, but that’s also part of the fun. Any new recipe always needs a few tries before it becomes a staple.

What a fantastic afternoon! I’d learned how to make homemade bread, and had some of the best schnapps I’d ever tasted. Janne and Steen shared their knowledge so freely and happily. I was so pleased that I’d asked if they would be willing to teach me! I couldn’t imagine missing out on this opportunity. Till next time, abrazos y besos!

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