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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cooking without Self-Raising Flour

You would not imagine that cooking in different modern industrialised countries should cause any headaches. But having lived in 5 different European countries I feel that can say the safest way to go is to cook and eat like the locals. You then get the freshest produce at reasonable prices. Although some of the local Hungarian stuff was really not to my fancy….there is only so many pickled things one can eat at any sitting!

Of course we all need some home comforts - in which a trip to the "speciality, over-priced" shop is necessary. Just take the credit card with you and go ONLY after eating a rather large lunch! 

One of the biggest challenges was becoming accustomed to not having plain AND self-raiaing flour as options. Most cake/biscuit recipies from Australia and England call for this. In fact its not that difficult to make but I do find some slight inconsistancies with the strength of baking powder. I am now using a very "strong" baking powder, so can go easy on the measurements. But there have been times when the baking powder has not done its job. And "Cream of Tartar" can only be purchased in chemists here in Germany - so have avoided any recipe using it.

The flour issue continues. Does one buy the 450 or the 550 or the more expensive 1150 type? What is bread making flour for the 00 flour equivilant? After much research, I just use 450 and found it works fine for bread, cakes etc. I buy a more expensive brand of flour which I feel had a better taste in the cooking - especially for bread.

Sugar is also a tricky one. The majority of sugar found in Europe (not the UK) is made from sugar beet not sugar cane. So the sugar beet version is slightly denser and less fine. The icing sugar from sugar beet certainly gives a slightly gritty taste to butter cream icings. And brown sugar in Germany is not as we know it. Its more like raw sugar. The brown sugar I know and love is white sugar whipped up with some molasses. I "import" my brown sugar, having not found an truely adequate substitute here in Germany.

The milk in France and Switzerland I found to be over-pasturised and predominantly the long life version which has a taste I am not fond of. We just use organic milk at home and this is usually quite good and has an OK taste and has been successful in cooking. Although I find my white sauce takes longer to thicken up - maybe its more my method than the milk!

Butter is also slightly different. Butter in Australia has a little salt in it as a default. I guess this is a longitivity issue. Here it is all unsalted with shorter shelf life. But I have frozen it successfully and then used it.

Much of the supermarket cheese here is pre-sliced. A true convience but once opened the packet needs to be used quickly or starts to dry out - even sealed up. But there is a fantastic selection of delicious cheeses in many places to make a French man swoon.

I am sure everyone has their own cooking challenges and adapting to what one can buy. Although in Australian and UK you can just about purchase all fruit and veg 365 days of the year. Something which has made me appreciate the strong seasonal element in Europe. We are almost at the end of asparagus season, strawberries are just everywhere, cherries are starting and many berries. And last week in France there were apricots, peaches and cherries - such a feast. So its really the best time of year to go to the supermarket here.

But apart from recipe disasters there have been many successes. I just need to get better at food photography :-|

Yours in Food

Steaming Alaskan Bread - a winter favourite in our house.

We have managed to make this for 2 Birthdays - my patented "Hello Kitty" cake

Oven baked donuts - what does not taste good with cinamon and sugar??

1 comment:

  1. I know exactly what you mean with the small but significant differences! You can actually sometimes get self-raising flour in the "specialty" aisle at the supermarket here, but then Americans go and do weird things like put tons of oil into cakes here... Odd! Funny on the milk etc too - it's so noticeable how it goes off much much faster in some countries than others. In Greece, my stuff went off almost instantly - it was crazy! Here in the good U S of A though they've clearly treated everything to within an inch of its life.

    Amazing hello kitty cake BTW! Can you adopt me?