My Tiny Kitchen, Part I: (Re)Learning to Bake

Kitchen size, does it matter?

The appliances in the kitchen fit with the size of the actual space.

Negotiating the small space that is the kitchen in Germany can be a challenge:

When I first moved to Germany, I thought to myself, how the heck do people bake delicious desserts and make such wonderful dishes for groups of people like rinderroulade and kartoffelklöße?! I mean, there must be a way.

I looked at the four electric burners that make up the stove top, and how they seemed smaller to me than what I was accustomed to in Canada. I opened the oven and questioned how would I ever cook a roast beef or a whole bird or do my favourite types of baking. The size of the stove reminded me of a mini-stove in Canada I once had while living in an apartment during my student years. I had to buy smaller baking sheets, but even so, it was still bigger than this. The oven has one grate and the heating element is at the top, I thought, this will be an interesting endeavour of kitchen cooking. I sure have my work cut out for me. I also thought, my what a good idea that I did not move all my baking dishes with me, because they wouldn’t even fit in the oven!

At first, I really tried to work with the Metric system for baking measurements. I tried my hand at brownies, I have been using this recipe for brownies since childhood, and it came from one of my parents’ old church recipe books. This recipe has 4 eggs in it plus oil, so the brownies are fluffy while also having a nice amount of moistness to them for eating.  I followed the directions of the brownie recipe and did my best to convert from the Imperial measurements to Metric (seeing as in Canada, most of our recipes come in Imperial, perhaps that’s because of the close proximity to the US). I felt I was successful in my measurement translations, I popped the brownie pan in the oven and 30 minutes later the results were not what I had expected. The brownies came out about half the height they would normally be, plus it was a smaller pan, so they should have been even taller. I was perplexed.

After several months in Germany, I returned to Canada for a visit. During this trip, I collected my old measuring cups and brought them back to Germany with me.  This, I thought, will really help me maintain my baking skills from old recipes. I, again, tried to make the brownies from Canada for a party. I used my measuring cups, so I knew, guaranteed, that I was using the right portions of all the ingredients. What happened? Again! The brownies came out like they had been shrunk. I didn’t know what to think.

My assumption now is that the granulation of flour is different here. Since I never questioned it in Canada, I don’t know what the granulation is there, but the average one here is Type 405 (whatever that means). I’ve also made my Great Aunt’s recipe of Butterkuchen (my recipe is without the sliced almonds). I love this type of cake, it’s filled with butter and sugar, what’s not to love? For this same party that I made the second batch of brownies, I decided I’ll make my first Butterkuchen here in Germany. Since the recipe came from a German, the instructions and measurements are not only in German, but the Metric measurement system.  I’ve made this recipe a number of times in Canada, and this batch, was the best it has ever been!

MTK1

I think my observation of difference in flour granulation must be it!

Since this experiment, I’ve baked a few times, all new recipes.  My new favourite cookie recipe, Lemon Mascarpone Cookies, are in Imperial measurements, yet the two times I’ve made them, the taste is wonderful! Perhaps though, the cookies would turn out different in Canada.  These cookies state the ounce amount of Mascarpone cheese to use, I instead use the whole container because I assume it is close enough to what is asked for. Since the kitchen is tiny (for Canadian standards), the thought of rolling out dough is enough to create a nightmare. My counter space is roughly one square foot, or 30cm.

Another recipe I recently tried is for Scones. This recipe came from a family friend with British background, and I tasted when she made them in Canada once – a great recipe.  The recipe says to roll out the dough before cutting it into circles to be baked. I used my fingers and attempted an equal height among the dough as I used an empty jam jar to work as the equivalent for a circle cookie cutter. It had been a long time since I used different kinds of substitutions for times in the kitchen, but moving abroad has taught me that I need to just use what I have access to. In the end, the baked goods came out with a great taste and consistency.

Thinking about the products for baking here had me curious. For one, I have only been successful at finding baking powder at the supermarket, so if a recipe calls for baking soda, I just use more baking powder.  Instead of finding a box or container for one of these powdered ingredients, they come in individual sized packets. For example, the yeast packet is the right amount for the recipes I’ve looked at. Vanilla extract is another staple baking ingredient I had on hand in Canada, yet in Germany, it is hard to find and, even then, it is a small bottle. I noticed there are little vials that have vanilla butter in them or vanilla sugar – I used one once, it didn’t work well. Learning the German baking recipes will be fruitful if I want to continue enjoying baking.

MTK

As Christmas approaches, I will be on the hunt for other recipes, mostly cookies that don’t require too much work with rolling the dough, but perhaps just rolling little balls of dough, chilling, then baking. I am also on the hunt for more German baked goods – since now I’m convinced that the flour here is what changes the end result of the baking.

Vanillekipferl, I’m looking for you next! Any baking escapades to share or secret recipes that are just divine?

 

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