When in Germany, use German recipes. Or come prepared.
The Nuances of Baking Powder
Until moving to Germany, I never imagined a world where baking powder wasn't...baking powder. Armed with my American recipe book, I went to the market in Berlin to buy baking powder for a cake. There I found little individual Kool-Aid sized packages of Backpulver. But imagine my surprise when I found out (and was validated by many other confused expats on online message boards) that Backpulver is actually a more subtle, less strong version of the kind Americans use. Germans use single-acting baking powder, and Americans (and the British) use double-acting baking powder. It's a chemistry difference, one that will make a cake rise, or sink. One that will produce a beautiful, fully-formed cake, or one that will lead to a baking disaster.
This was the first of many differences that I encountered. Later, I found out about these other ingredient problems--and their hacks:
- 50 Shades of Brown Sugar (None of the German brown sugars, opens a new window are the right ones for an American cookie recipe. But, there's a way to make brown sugar with molasses, opens a new window!)
- Real, actual pumpkins are a German's only option for recipes--no Libby's canned pumpkin (incidentally, you can read about how Libby's pumpkin puree is made on Today.com, opens a new window)
- Vanilla extract just isn't a thing in Germany. But, there is a way to make your own vanilla extract, opens a new window!
- Self-raising flour isn't popular either. But again: making your own self-raising flour is possible., opens a new window
Of course, you could also just bring home all the goodies after a visit to the U.S.!
Kaffee und Kuchen
The tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen, opens a new window, or "coffee and cake," is an important one in Germany and I wholeheartedly embrace it! It's all about meeting in the late afternoon or early evening and having a chat over a nice cheesecake or apple strudel and an espresso drink. It can happen at home, or at one of Germany's many extraordinarily cozy cafes, opens a new window.
Want to recreate it, here in the States? There are several lovely German baking books available, and the recipes are tailored to include all the brown sugar, baking powder, and vanilla extract that are so conveniently located in your local grocery store.
Do you have a favorite German recipe? Please share the details in the comments!