Category Archives: Austria

Hide your Kids. Krampus is coming to town!

Ok so I’ve lived in Austria now for almost two years and yet there is one tradition that I feel is still rather disturbing to me or perhaps more to my kids.  You see I grew up in a country where Santa always knew if you were behaving… “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake”…  My parents would remind of Santa’s watching every once in a while if my behaviour ever got out of line and that’s all I needed to stand up straight and say my “please” & “thank you’s”.

Here however, I guess the kids are hard core.  Santa or Saint Nicholas as they refer to him is way too soft, too forgiving and just well, a push over for any child really.  Nah here in Austria they need some scary ass monster to get their kids to straighten up their shit and behave properly.

Krampus is this frightful beast who visits those children who have not behaved during the year.  He marks his presence using the sounds of chains rattling outside your front door on the eve of December 5th. Children who hear these chains know that Krampus is close and normally this is their que to run & hide in complete terror. Now I am a mother who is always first in line to watch any child’s reaction to surprises but not at this event!  My husband experienced this as a child and remembers how frightened he was. Although he never saw Krampus, the rattled chains noise (which was done as a favour from a neighbour) was enough to scare him into good behaviour.  And all that was needed as a reminder was the name “Krampus” spoken out load. Trying to imagine this scary night through the eyes of a child…

I’ll leave you with some lasting impressions that most Austrian children tend to remember come each Christmas season.

“Dieter!  Sit up straight I said or shall I call my friend Krampus again?” <child shits himself>

Parenting in Austria is definitely more entertaining 🙂

Krampus blog

Photo Credit: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
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The Quest to Bake a Chocolate Chip Cookie in Austria

As soon as the winter chill sets in my thoughts go straight to baking chocolate chip cookies.  Combine that with drinking a tall glass of cold milk in the aroma filled kitchen as soon as they come out of the oven and I’m in cookie land heaven!  To me, this is always a quick fix to overcome any homesickness that might be lingering too.

Achieving North American bliss in Austria however, is a different story.  What I considered “baking 101” has turned into a science of “WTF is going on?” – it’s ONLY chocolate chip cookies!  Why I ask… why?

So lets start with the ingredients.  Typical ingredients that you would find in a North American pantry like vanilla extract, brown sugar (the molasses kind) and chocolate chips do not exist in Austria. You won’t even find fondant or corn syrup either, unless you visit a specially store that imports & charges triple for everything.  Instead, you will have to settle for brown sugar cane, vanilla sugar and cut up chocolate chunks & hope for the best.  Trust me it doesn’t work.  I now allocate 5kg of luggage weight just to bring back these precious ingredients from my annual trips home to Canada.  I even bring back baking soda as the “Backpulver” here seems to loose its potency a couple of days after opening.   Now that I am fully stocked you’d think that it’s just a matter of whipping, mixing and baking right?  Nope.

Photos from “Freesytle Farm’s” blog was enough to entice me to give it one more go.

Freestylefarm.ca swears that their recipe will produce a perfect balance of crispy & chewy, which is exactly what I have been looking for. However, after seeing and tasting my results I think the more appropriate name for the recipe would be  “The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies unless you live outside North America”.

The difference must be the dairy & flour.  The happy chickens here produce a much richer coloured yellow yolk.  Could that affect the recipe?  I use “Universal” flour, which is considered an all-purpose flour here in Austria.  Are the gluten levels different?  Could the lower protein component influence the outcome?  And the butter, well the butter is my biggest suspect for deflating my cookies (ego too).  Butter whipped at room temperature separates when mixed with egg (at room temperature).  It even separates when whipped with sugar (I gave up on butter icing LONG ago).  It’s gotta be the butter.   Damn you Austrian cows!

….. 1 week later…. & after some research on European flour

Ta-Dah!

So without completely boring you with the details it turns out that the selection of European flour is HUGE. I had been using the wrong flour all along.  Here is a great blog that explains it all “A Vegetarian in Germany

Now I always like to add a twist to anything that I bake and I’ve tweaked the William Sonoma recipe to make it my own.  Since chocolate chips are almost non-existant here I used Milka as a substitute, and not just any plain ‘ol chocolate.  This is a chocolate with Daim pieces & conflakes treat!  Cut this into smaller chunks and add it in addition to your chocolate chunks and your cookie will turn out wicked good!

If you want to try something different I invite you to give my recipe a go.  I suggest to all my European readers to keep the measurements in grams, forget the “cups”.  Ingredients weigh different here than to North America.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Type 700 Glatt for Austria. Type 550 Glatt for Germany. 220g)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (125g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (125g)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (105g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of chopped hazelnuts (125g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped up milk or dark chocolate (70g)
  • 1 bag of chopped up Milka Diam Snax (145g)

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180C).
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the butter and the granulated and brown sugars until the mixture is light in texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until smooth and stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. With a spoon, stir in the chopped chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, distributing them evenly throughout the dough. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Position racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the chilled dough onto the baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies on the middle rack until the cookies are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool slightly before serving. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

photo credit:  First two photos are from http://www.freestylefarms.ca

Bauernhof… the Austrian way

I must admit I do love a luxurious travel experience (who wouldn’t?) however, there is something about getting back to nature that is a part of who I am.  Always a Canadian at heart I enjoy open spaces, fresh air and polite people and I can pretty much guarantee that you will find that in the Austrian countryside.  Here at Ferienhof Gressenbauer not only can you experience country living but you can actually participate in it too! “Ferienhof” means “vacation place” and “bauer” in English is “farmer” so by putting two and two together and I’m sure you have figured out this country retreat belongs to the Gressenbauer Family.

We discovered this Bauernhof in 2010 ago when my husband and I escaped Vienna for a quick mountain weekend get-a-way.  Karen & Florian run this “B&B”, as us North American’s call it, along with his parents (we refer to them as “Omi & Opa”) and their three children. This farm has 60 beef cattle, 2 ponies, 2 bunnies, many cats, a goat and a pig.  When they are not taking care of their guests they are hard at work in the barn feeding, cleaning and so much more.  Guests are welcome to join in with the daily chores too if they wish – hey, it’s always nice to have a helping hand right?  My husband likes to feed the cows in the afternoons and Florian appreciates the help.

Accommodations are simple & clean and your overnight stays includes breakfast, which is what you expect in a typical Ferienhof.  Fresh milk & eggs come from the farm down the road, homemade jams and marmelades change according to the season and freshly baked bread is delivered every morning.  “Omi” normally bakes a “pick of the day” treat for all to enjoy every afternoon and there is nothing like coming home from a 5-hour mountain hike to the smell of fresh apricot cake or apple strudel.

Also included in the rate is a “Pyhrn-Priel Aktivcard”, which is a “free pass” to use for chair lifts up the mountains, admission to the local public swimming pool and discounts on other entry fees to local nature parks and activity centers.  This card in itself will save you a bundle, especially when you are traveling as a family of 4 like us.  My kids favorite is the “Sommerrodelbahn“, which is like a toboggan run ride on a giant slide that’s 1532 meters long down the mountain.  You can also zoom down on the Alpine coaster ride (on a track) too.

Typically, Austrians choose their Ferienhof carefully and once they have found “the one” they become loyal customers.  Thankfully we found “our favourite” right away and we are grateful for the wonderful hospitality the Gressenbauer family provides.  We look forward to our bi-annual holidays and to our children who will grow up with fond memories of their farm experience.

Ferienhof Gressenbauer

Ferienhof Gressenbauer – Karin & Florian Gressenbauer
Edlbach 15
A-4580 Windischgarsten

Tel./Fax +43 (0)7562/5172
ferienhof@gressenbauer.net


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