Interview with the future master confectioner Luisa Rosemann
The saccharine scent of powdered sugar and chocolate tickles our noses. Women wearing red baker boy caps carry large bowls through the bakery. The door to the cold store opens and closes every minute. Welcome to Tortenatelier Schwanbeck! The twelve employees of the Iserlohn bakery have been busy at work since seven o’clock. Luisa Rosemann, chief confectioner in training, is one of them. Today, she is baking a gingerbread house for us. Read on for an interview conducted among marshmallows and sugar pearls.
Ingredients for around two houses:
- 240 g honey
- 160 g sugar
- 40 g water
- 10 g ammonium bicarbonate
- 20 g cold water
- 560 g wheat flour, type 405
- 60 g milk
- 30 g egg
- 4 g salt
- 2 g cardamom
- 6 g aniseed
- 2 g cloves
- 3 g cinnamon
- (or 13 g gingerbread spice)
What is staghorn salt?
Staghorn salt is a typical ingredient in Christmas baking. It is a leavening agent that raises and loosens the dough during baking. The dough can be kept unbaked in the refrigerator for at least four weeks.
Gently heat the honey and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Stir the ammonium bicarbonate into the cold water. Sieve the flour. Weigh the milk and egg in a cup. Combine everything into a bowl and knead it with the dough hook until you have a smooth dough. Cover the bowl with foil or pour the dough into a lidded container and leave it to rest in the fridge overnight. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 3 mm and cut out the shapes you need. Bake all parts for 12-16 minutes at 170 degrees Celsius (fan).
Decorate gingerbread house
- 60 g egg white
- 350 g sieved powdered sugar
Gently beat the egg white and a little powdered sugar, either by hand or with a food processor. Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar until you have a creamy mixture that does not run. Pour the mixture into an icing bag and glue the parts together. Glue sugar pearls, marshmallows and other decorations to the house as desired.
Luisa, anyone who watches you at work can tell that baking is your life. For how long have you been doing this work?
I’ve been baking at Tortenatelier Schwanbeck for seven years. After graduating from high school in 2015, I started my apprenticeship as a confectioner here. If all goes well, I will complete my master diploma in March, 2023.
Why did you become a confectioner?
I’ve always loved baking birthday cakes. Birthdays make me want to create something very special, to put a smile on someone’s face. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to turn my hobby into a full-time job after graduating from high school, rather than going to university. What can I say? I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
An apprenticeship after graduating – how did your friends and family react?
At first, people were quite skeptical. After all, going to university is expected. So my friends and family weren’t too keen on my plans. But I think they soon realized that I’m meant for this. I entered various competitions during my training years, and they clearly showed me that you don’t have to study to have a great job, develop yourself and have experiences. That’s when I started getting more positive feedback. Especially because everyone enjoyed the free treats.
So you haven’t regretted your decision?
Never. And there’s never been anything I didn’t enjoy doing. Of course, getting up early isn’t for everyone, but the work is so varied, and I get to create something new every day. Just look at this gingerbread house. When it’s done, I can look at my creation and enjoy the smiles on everyone’s faces when I hand it over.
How many gingerbread houses do you make during the run-up to Christmas?
Around 400 in recent years. This included a big order from a company – we came up with highly individual designs for many of their houses. A brilliant Christmas present, I think. Who’s ever got a personalized gingerbread house for Christmas? In our online classes, we made another 30 together with the participants, and they all turned out quite different.
Online gingerbrad house classes – was that a lockdown thing?
Exactly. We wanted to offer people something they could do at home, in their own kitchen, but that would still bring them together. And we all ended up enjoying it so much that we kept it up. Now, we offer a whole range of online classes, including for making mulled wine and cupcakes.
Tortenatelier Schwanbeck has been around for twelve years. You’ve already moved once since its opening, as the bakery got too small. What makes this place special to you?
It’s a very varied workplace with countless opportunities. I am delighted to grow with our Tortenatelier. Especially in the field of event catering, which allows me to work with people and share my passion with them.
What’s your main business?
In summer, it’s definitely wedding cakes – we make up to 15 in a single weekend. Our cold store tends to be full to the brim during those months. In winter, it’s the exact opposite. From gingerbread houses to stollen, we pull out all the stops for Christmas. Rather than spending a long time on an individual item, we have to ramp up our production during that period.
What do you enjoy most?
Er, I can’t really pick a single thing, but since I manage decorations here, I’d say I really like sculpting figurines. They can be cute animals or cool couples for a wedding cake – it never gets boring.
On top of all the baking, you’re also completing your master diploma. What do you have to do for that?
I’ve always known that I wanted to do the master diploma. But I didn’t start right after my apprenticeship. I worked as an assistant instead. The diploma course consists of four parts. It’s possible to do it full time in one year, but I’ve adapted the modules to suit our business. Although the theoretical and practical parts obviously have to be done in full time – you can’t start a cake on Monday and then leave it until Saturday. It’s incredibly stressful but the right choice for me.