Bombing Baking

So baking is who I am, or who I was.

When S and I went to our labor preparation class before L was born, the instructor told us to go to a place in the house where we relax or imagine a scene that brought us peace.

Internally, I started to freak out. I don’t really relax. I couldn’t think of a single place in that moment that was my escape. Without missing a beat, S leaned over and simply stated, “Okay, I guess that means you will have to bake when you go into labor.”

And bake I did (after working for as long as I could sit). It is all a blur really, but I do remember S telling me to go make cookies and me getting the dough rolled into balls and onto the cookie sheets before I had to hand it over to my mom.

Baking used to be my escape.

I know that ingredients vary from country to country, but after baking in Egypt with a broken stove and improvised utensils I felt like I was pretty much ready for everything, especially since this time I shipped my entire kitchen abroad and splurged on a convection oven.

WRONG.

My baking here has been a disaster. My cookies are running all over and then they taste soggy. Nothing is chewy.  I have tried cooling the butter, chilling the dough, adjusting the flour, and nothing is working.

Now is the point where S will interject and say that he remembers a time in Egypt, shortly after we met, when I tried to woo him with my baking skills. I attempted to make caramel topped cinnamon rolls in a heart pan that one of my roommates left in our apartment. Without corn syrup or a candy thermometer it all started to go downhill and S was less than impressed. The caramel hardened into concrete and S asked if it was a wall decoration.

That aside, tomorrow is my birthday and as inspired as I was trying to be to make a cake, I can’t find it in me to face another baking disaster, or find the perfect recipe, and then try to find all the ingredients. Things have gotten so bad I actually bought a cookie at a coffee shop last week hoping that it would taste terrible and reassure me that my recent kitchen failures are not my own, but Brazil’s.  Well, now I can tell you that they are indeed mine.

So what is it that is so different here? It hasn’t been that hot. I am buying “manteiga extra“, which is supposed to be the top quality butter even if I do think it has an odd taste. The brown sugar seems twice as sweet than what I am used to but I have stopped packing it in and that seems to help on the taste. I imported vanilla from Mexico.  All my experimenting is depleting my supply of imported chocolate chips.

As embarrassed as I am to post my chocolate chip cookie photo, I am in need of advice on this one. S’s family is coming next week and I really do want to make some kind of sweet.  I have to. 

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If I don’t, they will be worried something has gone completely wrong with me.

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4 thoughts on “Bombing Baking

  1. Hi there! We had (and I know other expat) a hard time finding the right ingredients when we moved here. It took us forever to find baking soda (bicarbonato de sódio) and baking powder (pó royal or pó de fermento) because they are in odd places in the grocery store. My husband is a cookie perfectionist, and it’s been a challenge for him to make his cookies to his standard. He found that some of the butters have water listed in the ingredients, which also affects that quality. And how’s your oven temperature? Our ovens have never had thermostats, so we brought an oven thermometer from the US, and that helped. But unfortunately some of the ovens don’t seal very well, and you have to deal with temperature inconsistencies. But hang in there! It is possible!

    • Water! Of course. My mom wondered about that and that sent me googling Manteiga Extra but now I am going to check ingredients. I have a brand new oven so that rules that out but now I know there is hope for the perfect cookies. If you have any recipes that work particularly well, please share!

  2. Have you tried making your own butter? If you can get a good quality whipping cream it’s crazy easy in a mixer or food processor. Here’s a good tutorial: http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2010/03/22/homemade-butter/

    Can you find bread flour or cake flour? You could try a mixture of both or try swapping out some of the regular flour for bread flour and let the cookie dough sit for 48 hours (in the fridge). I’ve only made these cookies once. I’ve made the dough a couple other times but there wasn’t enough left after 48 hours to bother baking the actual cookies.
    http://www.publicradio.org/columns/splendid-table/recipes/dessert_chocchip.html

    How about No-Bake Cookies? Although I still haven’t been able to stomach them since we made them in college. 🙂

    • Cream here comes in a can so I am not sure I would consider it “high quality”. I am going to start systematically testing the different brands of butter but definitely not going to try the R$20 ($10 USD) package I found today at the store.

      I plan to stock up on chocolate chips on our trip to the States and this recipe will be at the top of my list. I haven’t made No-Bake Cookies, but I did recently discover a healthier “granola bar” recipe that is seemingly very close. They turned out pretty sticky but I am not ready to throw that blame on the butter yet since there wasn’t much of it in them.

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