Baking

This is a fun one I’ve been working on for awhile. I’ll probably add to it whenever I learn something else. Baking is a hobby I started exploring when I was 8 and won 2nd prize for banana bread in the Idaho state fair for the junior’s division. I then later returned to the fair and dominated again with an outstanding, 2nd place. And then after that I realized I’d peaked and put the pans away until 15 years later, I was living on my own in Virginia and needing to feed myself or starve. After a bunch of Pinteresting, I also started to bake again and try to get a little creative.

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The Great Christmas Cookie Panic of 2015

Now that I’m here, I’ve had some failures with recipes that I’ve definitely pulled off in the past. Firstly, no I did not mistake the temperature settings on my oven, I knew they were in Celsius. Secondly, I’m not an expert but following recipes is hard for me because for some reason I think I know better than what is written down so I’ve never actually made something exactly as called for. Therefore while I’ve been taught all the correct ways, I often fail to reproduce them as they should be done so my results and trials should not in any way indicate the Best Way To Do Something since I eyeball measurements. A lot. More than I should. What I have done though is bought a scale and used this to convert Tbsp. to g and that is working wonderfully.

Backpulver/Baking Powder – single vs double acting

Did you know in America we use double acting baking powder? Neither did I! If you did, congratulations, you can’t find it here and you’ll be miffed. For the rest of us, we’ll add in the normal amount called for in a recipe and then eat a completely flat and dense failure. Sort of like using corn bread mix that’s three years old (I’ve totally not not done that). Here are the differences:

German baking powder is usually single-acting, which means it has a mixture of a heat-activated (slow acting) acid and baking soda. It is not strictly interchangeable with American, double-acting baking powder. The double acting baking powder has a fast-acting acid (reacts at room temperature to moisture) and a slow-acting acid (reacts when heated). The dual acids give the cook an initial rise plus more time to move the batter to the oven, before the rising-action is spent.” – http://germanfood.about.com/od/baking/a/backpulver.htm

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Lots of words from About.com that mean: your results will be different if you try to use single-action powder in a recipe that needs double (most American recipes). I’ve read in many places that mixing in Weinstein (Cream of Tartar) probably works as a substitute but I have not tried that. What I have done though is doubled the amount normally called for (plus I eyeball half a tsp more and think “well done, good enough” and throw that in) and this has worked well for me. I’m not baking 4-tier wedding cakes over here so if you need to be precise, you’re going to have to import the American version.

Natron/Baking Soda

When one starts researching cooking forums for “baking soda Arm&Hammer orange box someone help me please” often times what comes up are the British ex-pats responses. They are often looking for “Bicarbonate of soda” and it’s the same thing so one would assume they could just use the standard name “baking soda” but they’re also mispronouncing aluminum a lot so it is what it is. Baking soda, or Natron, is found easily here and there’s no difference as far as I can tell between the nationalities of this product. Arm&Hammer is also available, but generally in smaller boxes and is about 2 euro a box. I’ve heard the Apothekes have bigger boxes available but I haven’t looked myself.

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Sometimes it’s comforting to know ex-pats from the other direction also have simple but confusing cooking issues. (from chefkoch.de)

Cake pans/quiche pans/baking pans

Not only do Germans measure out their Zutaten in weights using mysterious letters like “g” and “mg” (these stand for “good” and “mega-good”) but they also insist on “cm” instead of “in” for their bakeware sizes. When converted, a 9-inch cake pan or pie pan is 22,86 cm and as precise and efficient as they are, the Germans do not have this measurement in stock. And, if you do find a pie pan here, let me know so I can come clean out the entire stock as these are not found in stores. Sadly, they do not know what a pie is and I’m doing my best to educate with miming in class and making “yum” sounds.

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I like to Google images of pies when I’m homesick

When you need a springform or a quiche pan though you are in luck as they are everywhere. They generally come in three main sizes: 22cm, 26cm and 28cm. I’ve got a 26cm quiche/tart pan and I haven’t had to make any adjustments for recipes in it. What has gotten me in trouble though are my 26cm springform pans as these are 10 1/4″ so the cakes I bake are not exactly right. When I figure out how to make more batter to fill them up better I’ll write it here but every time I text my parents to ask if I can just add a bit more of each ingredient to my mix I get back a “Why would you do that you’ll ruin everything you can’t bake like that and nothing will ever be the same!” and they’re probably right so I don’t mess with ratios.

Flour/Mehl

All-purpose flour is Type 550. I’m sure that, officially, it’s not, but for my needs it works well. This has a much higher protein content than Type 405, which is the finest ground you’ll find, and is most often found in breads and cakes. After learning this, I must agree with Das Cupcake that this is probably why German desserts are so dense.

I pretty much always buy Type 405 as I prefer the higher starch, death-by-carbs approach to my cooking and baking and it’s been fine. It works in slurries and cakes and breads so I’ll stick with it. Should I get back to baking bread more regularly I would switch to Type 550 and I’m pretty sure I have a bag somewhere but I can’t be bothered for most recipes.

There is no cake flour here; again I’ve read you can mix in cornstarch with all-purpose flour in a grinder and get similar results but I also read one can mix cornstarch and granulated sugar to get powdered sugar and that was just awful. Do not recommend.

Doppelrahmkäse

Before I tell you what this is, guess. If you take it apart, it’s “double cream cheese.”

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It’s cream cheese! No, it’s not exactly the same but it’s close. Cheesecakes are not actually made out of cream cheese here or if they are, I’ve never had one. Usually they’re made of Quark and I really don’t think it’s the same. The picture above represents the only cream cheese I’ve found and it is indeed Philadelphia.

As you can see, it’s the Klassicher Genuss and this is important, because Germany is doing strange things to cream cheese including putting ham flavoring in it. I don’t know why.

 

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“Diary of Sugar and Spice”

Zucker/Sugar

Not much to say about sugar other than yes, there are many types but we have many types in the States too. Powdered sugar is Puderzucker and if you translate it it’ll come across as “icing sugar” which again is the British influence at work. Granulated sugar is Feiner Zucker and castor sugar is Feinster Zucker.

Brown sugar is not made with molasses; I have only found some trouble with finishes in things like frosting. It’s a much more granular and less moist sugar. I have not found molasses here (purchased it as an import) but I know it can be mixed with plain white sugar for the same result.

Vanilla Extract

I don’t have a translation for you because this doesn’t really exist. One can find Vanille-Aroma or Vanillenzucker but these are most definitely not the same thing.

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Dr. Oetker is the German patron saint of baking materials.

I bought vanilla beans (easy to find in almost any grocery store) in a nice bottle with some bourbon about 7 months ago and that is working well. I also got a Costco sized bottle as a gift at Christmas from my parents so I’m sort of cheating there as it’s an import. But if you’re looking online or in specialty shops for vanilla, you may be shocked when a 1.5oz bottle costs 10 euro (which with today’s currency exchange is about $98, or so. It feels like it anyway.). So my suggestion: import or buy 4 vanilla beans, split them, and put them in an 8oz bottle of vodka or bourbon.

Cornstarch/Speisestärke

Nothing special to report here; it just took me a long time to figure out what cornstarch is in Germany so I’m posting it here should anyone else be Googling.

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