Book Friday: Advent by Anja Dunk (Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas)

I have a massive apology to make here. In Monday’s post, I listed Advent by Anja Dunk as one of my Advent books, the small volumes I wrap and give myself on the Sundays of Advent. That was written at my desk in the office, where I do most of my writing and without all of the books actually being present in front of me.

I got home that evening and was pootling around, tidying and setting aside, when I found my advent book pile and pulled them out, meaning to put aside and wrap in the next couple of days. Except, when I picked this one up it fell open… and I fell in.

Why would I save it until Advent? Why give myself a brief 24 days to read, relish and reconnoitre the ingredients. Why would I not enjoy it now, during November and alongside Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, as virtual immersion in a month-long Continental Christmas Market before actually baking the goodies in the book and enjoying them as part of a relaxing December?

There is no good reason. So, with apologies for changing my mind already, here it is as a review for any of you out there who are in need of a good book for yourself or a baking friend in need of a culinary warm hug.

Advent is written by Anja Dunk, a half-welsh, half-German mother of many who has lived in a wide variety of countries and places. I really enjoyed reading this interview with Anja from Snapdragon Life. I love how, however far she’s travelled, Anja feels her roots in Wales and Germany. I think being a well-travelled person doesn’t preclude having a homeland where one’s heart is. We all need to feel gemutlich at some time in our lives. For me, homemaking, hygge, cosiness is about creating that feeling of home wherever I am. And Advent/Christmas is an invaluable way of creating the feeling of home, tied up as it is with food, memories and family.

I said this was a good book for yourself or another baker, and indeed at 7 by 11 inches, 271 pages and a beautiful tactile fabric cover the book would make a lovely gift. Anja is a very talented woman, who has done the writing, the photographs and the linocut illustrations herself, and I am in awe. The photographs, of food or flatlay, are gorgeous, very nostalgic or rather very Country Living in style, if you know what I mean. I’m a sucker for piles of tins, or shelves filled with interesting looking packets, parcels or plates.

The linocuts are an absolute dream: Christmas in Germany in black and white. There’s one for each of the 24 Advent Chapters, each one of which themselves is about a different German treat or baked item and each of which has 5 or more recipes for that item. Five different stollen recipes? That’ll do nicely! The chapters have a short introduction, often a personal story or anecdote, and the linocuts range from forest views, birds, a log stove and kitchen tables. The whole effect is to give a real feel for a cosy German Christmas with every chapter.

And the organisation of the chapters is really good. Anja starts off with the baked goods that last longest, lebekuchen or heavy spiced biscuits, and works up towards the cookies that would stale as soon as you look at them, like the meringues or butter cookies. Her advice on keeping times is clear and sensible.

The recipes are generally only a page long, with a small introduction, ingredient list and a method that is told in paragraphs but does include advice on how long to beat mixtures, how to tell it’s done, and what each recipe should look like. There are very few that don’t have a photograph alongside, so it’s easy to tell what each one should look like when finished. Anja also tells you whether the recipe is a traditional one, or one she has adapted, as well as whether you can make adaptations yourself. It’s definitely a baking book, not a cookbook, so don’t look here for a recipe for pork roast like Oma used to make. I think that is possibly in Strudel, Noodle and Dumplings, Anja’s 2018 book on German cooking and which now sits on my Christmas wishlist as a possible source of new recipes to try out in Hibernation next year.

I can see this earning its place alongside my well-thumbed Delia Smith Christmas and the Hairy Biker’s 12 Days of Christmas as a Christmas recipe book that has useful and practical recipes rather than too-complicated-to-make aspirational fare. Like I said, the whole package makes for a great gift for yourself or a friend, and I am glad I didn’t keep it until December. I have already ordered dried pears for klentzenbrot and rye flour for some of the other breads. And I’m looking forward to making tins of pfeffernusse instead of buying them. I mean, why wouldn’t I?

I leave you, as usual, with a flipthrough of the book.

The header is a copy of the book, taken in the office with a hint of my favourite Christmas Church decoration. It’s remarkable to think that there’s only a few weeks now until I can get my desk decorated again. Who knew that 2021 would fly by as fast as it has? Sunday is Hallowe’en, so I wish anyone who celebrates it a happy and enjoyable time. My weekend is going to be spent in a bit of decluttering, a bit of visiting Elderly Relatives and a night out with friends. A weekend lived very well, I think.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. August is like a pause before real life begins again in September, so it’s a second chance to set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

On the principle that it’s never too early to start thinking ahead, really, and that Christmas is always on us before we know, how about Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas? Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.

Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.

And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.

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