Baking in Germany – Don’t do it America!

January 10, 2014:

The great thing about moving to a country where everything is foreign is that all of those things have the potential to be the highlight of your day.  Simple tasks, like getting from point A to point B, become adventures.  Mundane tasks, like buying postage stamps, become extraordinary.  Learning new things is an every day occurrence.  Most of the time it’s exciting, but sometimes it can be so damn exhausting.  I can now add one more thing to the “Damn, this is exhausting” list:  Baking in Germany.

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I will preface this blog by stating that I knew beforehand my first baking experience in Germany was going to be a painstaking process.  To bake, one must already be meticulous in measuring out ingredients.  This is something I do all day in the lab and I think it’s why I don’t enjoy baking as much as I do cooking.  And after last Thursday’s attempt to make pumpkin bread, I can conclusively state that baking fracking sucks.
Let’s just list the sucky suckiness:
1.  Converting everything from cups to grams
2.  Converting from Fahrenheit to Celcius
3.  Baking soda??  What the hell is that?  Baking powder, yes, the Germans have this.  Baking soda?  What the hell is that?
4.  The 3 hours of online research required to translate all ingredients from English to German… including baking soda.
FYI — Baking powder is “Backpulver”.  It comes in little packets about the size of 2 sugar packets.  Baking soda can be hard to find, but they do have it.  It’s called “Natron”.   It also comes in little packets and you must use 2-3 teaspoons per 500g of flour (See #1)
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5.  All purpose flour??  What the hell is that?  Germans use a number system for their flour.  The closest thing you’ll get to All Purpose Flour is called “550 Mehl”.  They have all kinds of numbers to choose from.  405, 550, 600, 1100, 1200… my head is still spinning from the American/German differences on this one.
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6.  Vanilla extract??  What the hell is that?  We have vanilla beans or vanilla aroma.  You will need one vial of vanilla aroma per 500g of flour (See #1 for repeating frustration)
7.  Greek yogurt is not the same in Germany as it is in the United States.  US Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar.  Germany’s Greek yogurt is like regular Danon.  The closest thing they have to greek yogurt consistency is something called Magerquark.  But, in my grocery store, it’s called Speisequark – Magerstufe.  It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I’ve never seen so many different kinds of yogurt.
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8. Wheat flour??  Ohhhhh, you mean Weizenvollkornmehl!  That would be 1600 (see #5).
9.  Using an oven that doesn’t heat properly
What was supposed to be a 1.5 hour baking period turned in to a long nightmare.  After 2 hours of baking the bread in the oven, the middle was still gooey.  So I picked off the edges and trashed the rest.  Then I poured my 2nd batch in to muffin cups and baked those in under 2 hours.  Even after all the baking research I did on Toytown (an expat website for people living in Germany), I think I still had the Natron amount wrong.  The batter didn’t rise as I would have expected it to in the U.S.  It was komisch (weird).
OK, so almost 4 hours of my Donnerstag (Thursday) was spent doing something I don’t really enjoy.  But I learned so much and I think that alone made it worth it.
Finished product = not so good looking.  Honestly, they are fugly.  But, my co-workers seemed to enjoy them.  Or they are just being nice.  (FYI: Germans can’t fake nice.)
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