The Wednesday Chef cooks her heart out, finds her way home, and shares her recipes with us
It takes courage to turn your life upside down, especially when everyone is telling you how lucky you are. But sometimes what seems right can feel deeply wrong. My Berlin Kitchen tells the story of how one thoroughly confused, kitchen-mad perfectionist broke off her engagement to a handsome New Yorker, quit her dream job, and found her way to a new life, a new man, and a new home in Berlin—one recipe at a time.
Luisa Weiss grew up with a divided heart, shuttling back and forth between her father in Boston and her Italian mother in Berlin. She was always yearning for home—until she found a new home in the kitchen. Luisa started clipping recipes in college and was a cookbook editor in New York when she decided to bake, roast, and stew her way through her by then unwieldy collection over the course of one tumultuous year. The blog she wrote to document her adventures in (and out) of the kitchen, The Wednesday Chef, soon became a sensation. But she never stopped hankering for Berlin.
Luisa will seduce you with her stories of foraging for plums in abandoned orchards, battling with white asparagus at the tail end of the season, orchestrating a three-family Thanksgiving in Berlin, and mending her broken heart with batches (and batches) of impossible German Christmas cookies. Fans of her award-winning blog will know the happy ending, but anyone who enjoyed Julie and Julia will laugh and cheer and cook alongside Luisa as she takes us into her heart and tells us how she gave up everything only to find love waiting where she least expected it.
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Featured Recipe from Luisa Weiss: Zuckerkuchen (Sugar Cake)
Makes one 10-inch cake
Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan. Set aside.
Pour the flour and yeast into a mixing bowl. Add the milk in a thin stream, mixing with a wooden spoon as you pour. Add 6 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolk to the bowl and mix - the dough will start to come together rather shaggily. Add the melted butter to the mixture and the pinch of salt. Mix until a rough ball starts to form. Dump this ball onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth. You may need to add a little flour to keep the dough from sticking, but don't add too much: you want the dough to still be soft and slightly floppy. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the buttered pan. Cover with a clean dish towel and put in a warm, draft-free place for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using your fingers, gently deflate the dough and push it out evenly to fit the pan. Do not push the edges up on the sides of the pan. Then dimple the dough all over with your fingers.
Drop the diced butter into the dimples of the dough. Then sprinkle the entire cake with the remaining sugar. Cover the pan with the dishtowel again and let sit for 20 minutes.
Put the pan in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Zuckerkuchen is best served warm, the day it is made.
A Conversation with Luisa Weiss
Q. Do you feel there is one key to successful home cooking? Some people seem innately more talented as cooks as others, but do you feel it is something anyone can do?
A. I do think some people are better cooks than others in the way that some people are better at math than others and some are better at languages than others. That having been said, it seems to me that the simple act of cooking often is the best way to become a good cook. If you make a point of cooking every night or most nights of the week, it's hard to imagine that you won't, one day, become a good cook. Only by doing can you figure out what you like, what you're good at, what makes your culinary heart soar, what makes it sink. So the key to successful home cooking, in my opinion, is to cook. A lot!
Q. When returning to visit family in the United States, Germany or Italy, what is one dish you look most forward to eating in each of these countries?
A. In the US: Chinese food. In Germany: Pflaumenkuchen (yeasted plum cake). In Italy: Pizza al taglio (pizza sold by weight)
Q. What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about German cuisine?
A. That it's a pretty seasonally driven cuisine. I'm not talking about restaurant fare, which seems to not have much variation, but what people cook at home. Plum cakes in plum season, asparagus only in the six weeks it's available in the markets, chanterelles only when you can buy them from people who picked them in their backyards that morning. It's true that the Germans do love themselves some sausages and potatoes, but that's not all there is to German cuisine.
Q. Why did you feel it was important to tell your story with My Berlin Kitchen?
A. I've always felt pretty alone in the world with my weird situation, my parents so far apart, my life so split between such faraway places. I used to think I was the only person in the world who felt such loneliness--in my peer group, there was no one who had grown up like I did. Processing my life was a pretty solitary act. But when I wrote about little bits of it online, my readers responded to it with such compassion, sympathy and understanding that I realized that there were a lot of universal truths in my experience. Then, when I found myself at such a big crossroads, career-wise and in my personal life, and I felt brave enough to make all the big jumps that I did, I wanted to share what I'd learned. That despite terror and insecurity, living your life honestly is the best way to find happiness. Also, if I manage to make only one international mutt like me feel a little more understood and a little less alone in the world, writing the book will have been worth it.
Download the extended Q&A [PDF]About the Author:
Luisa Weiss was born in West Berlin and spent her childhood between Berlin and Boston. She started The Wednesday Chef, an award-winning food blog, in 2005. She has worked as a cookbook editor in Paris and New York and now lives in Berlin with her husband, Max.
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