There haven’t been as many baking posts here during the past three or so months. During the summer I had to back off how much baking posts I made because my kitchen was a flurry of activity. I doubt many people are interested in reading about making rye bread and a Momofuku birthday cake when it’s nearly 100 degrees outside. Since arriving in Italy, however, I haven’t blogged about baking because I haven’t been doing it.
That’s got to change. Especially as the Christmas baking season dawns, I find myself itching to turn on the oven and figure out how vanillina works. Baking in England is generally quite straight forward and easy to work with my American tendencies. True, you can’t find chocolate chips, corn syrup, peanut butter in the world’s hugest cans or cake mix on every single shelf, but there are still many things that you can find. Vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda (bicarbonate of soda): it’s all there.
Italy is completely different. Italians do not bake the same way as Americans do, not in the slightest. There is nothing called baking soda or baking powder. Vanilla extract is practically non-existant and then there is the whole rigamarole with the different types of flour and sugar. It’s a whole other ball game to deal with. One that I needed to research before I went into Esselunga.
That research happened in the bookstore in Pavia, a favorite hang out of mine simply because it’s one of the few places that is always open. The only time they close is for Sunday lunch. I looked through baking books and figured out what their must have ingredients were. I learnt all about the world in which vanillina was used instead of liquid vanilla and where baking soda and baking powder were replaced by lievito per dolci. I decided that the different sugars and different flours were a moot point.
And then, I waited until I found a good recipe. I made a batch of what should have been snickerdoodles, but ended up tasting like a soft version of a traditional Italian biscuit. I made some cornbread and cute faux-healthy cookies. I had baked, but I hadn’t BAKED.
Then the American cookie craving happened. I saw some recipes for molasses cookies and chocolate chip cookies and simply missed the big, soft, chewy desserts that I indulge in when at home. I couldn’t take it anymore. With the dawn of the advent season, I needed to bake.
And I finally did. I made these chocolate molasses cookies from Averie Cooks. They’re fantastic. I didn’t even half the recipe like I usually do. I accidently omitted the coco powder so they weren’t triple chocolate, but they’re still gosh darn good. I might even prefer it like this, after all, you can really taste the molasses here. While the left half of the tray turned out cookies that were just a bit burnt, they were over all fantastic.
True, it took a bit more effort to bake here than it usually does when I’m in America or England, but it was worth it. After taking those cookies out of the oven, I was floating on a cloud all day. American cookies are one of those cultural phenomenon that may seem strange and excessive to outsiders, but are a tremendous source of comfort for this foreign student.
Next up, I’m thinking these. What do you say?
Have you ever tried to cook an “ethnic” food while abroad? How did it turn out?