CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
Sometimes one of the hardest things about living in a new place is the yearning for a taste of home. Everyone has their little favorites, and sometimes you can manage to find them. For my son’s 3rd birthday I got it into my head that I needed a standard, American cake. So I set out to find Betty Crocker mix. My search all over town led me to a large, expensive grocery store with imported items from all over the world, and I paid an exorbitant amount of money for a taste of home. It took me until the next birthday to figure out that I could bake much better cake using German ingredients and an English recipe I found online. No more cake out of a box for us! If you don’t have access to imported American baking ingredients, or you’re looking to mix it up a little in the kitchen using German ingredients, here are some ideas and equivalents.
Graham crackers – Leibniz whole wheat (Vollkorn) crackers make a pretty okay substitute for s’mores and pie crusts.
Canned Pumpkin – Try roasting your own pumpkin and making it yourself this year if you usually get the store-bought kind. I use Hokaido pumpkins (easily found at the farmer’s market in the fall and very affordable).
Baking soda – It’s called Kaiser Natron and can sometimes be found in the baking section, but you have to keep a keen eye out for it. The packages are usually small pouches and are green with white writing on them.
Cream of Tartar – Weinsteinpulver can be found in some grocery stores, but I’m told you can also get it at the Apotheke
Cornstarch – Maisstärke can also be found with the baking products
Baking powder – Backpulver issues abound when you try to cook an American recipe in Germany. Since the baking powder here is weaker than in the US, you usually need more of it than your US recipe calls for. Some people go as far as to double the baking powder, but it’s a delicate balance between making hockey pucks out of cupcakes and entirely exploding a cake by adding too much. Three-ish years of baking here have gotten me to a happy medium of about 1.5 x the amount called for in the recipe. Generally the baking powder comes in mini packets, bound together into packs of 5. You can also get it with added saffron for making yellow cakes.
Yeast – Hefe. Just like at home, you can get it dry in the baking section, and some stores have it fresh in the refrigerator (if you can find it!)
Glaze – You can buy this in blocks and melt it or in pouches that can be boiled or microwaved.
Chocolate chips – Called Schokotropfen and why, oh why is it so hard to find them? If you absolutely can’t track them down, consider getting an awesome chocolate bar and smashing it up instead.
Vanilla sugar – Vanilla extract isn’t as common as vanilla sugar, which comes in little packets like baking powder. I usually add one packet to any cookie or cake recipe that calls for vanilla.
Cocoa powder– Sometimes this isn’t with the baking supplies, but can be found with the drink mixes and coffee.
Whipped cream– Schlagsahne. Sure, you can get it in a can, but is there anything more fun than whipping up your own and then eating a reasonable or unreasonable amount of it? If you add Sahnesteif (found in small packets with the other baking supplies), it’ll hold its shape longer.
Where American butter has tablespoons marked on the package so you can easily cut off the amount you want, German butter has grams listed. If you run up against conversion problems or you don’t have kitchen scales, this is a great website that does the math for you: http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/butter_converter.html
Struggling with your oven? Check out this article about your German Oven (Including: What does a fan with a zig-zag mean?)