Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Adventures in Expat Baking

Καλησπέρα, from Greece. Yes, I did copy and paste that text, but I genuinely know both the meaning of the word, and how to pronounce it. I'm learning. 

There are a lot of difficult things about moving away from the country where you claim citizenship and have lived your entire life to the exclusion of every other country, and every other culture, and every other language--take a breath--to a country where you can't even gesture correctly. One of those difficulties is figuring out how to make chocolate chip cookies. 

Here's a poorly photographed account of that struggle:

The first obstacle is figuring out how to preheat the oven. This Siemens oven has 10,000 settings illustrated by crude drawings, like an IKEA assembly booklet, and is measured in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit. The metric system is much more logical than what we use in America...unless you're an American. If you're an American, it is the worst. I use this handy conversion chart to tell me what to do with the oven. I guess you could do the math on your own, if you feel so inclined. Here you go, show off: (°F  -  32)  x  5/9 = °C

In case you were wondering, 375f is approx. 190c
The next obstacle is trying to convert the recipe itself from tablespoons and cups to milliliters and grams. Because the metric system for cooking is by weight, you can't just figure out how a half cup of something converts to milliliters, and expect that same amount to work for to every other half cup of something else. No; instead, you have to convert each separate ingredient from standard to metric to make sure you're not completely blowing the whole thing. It's at this second phase that you really begin to hate the metric system, the standard system, yourself, and everyone else in the entire world. 

Once my own kitchen gear is shipped, I will probably slip back into the standard system, except when I have to use European butter. Grams? Come on. Until that happens, I'm using this lifesaving website to convert stuff. 
100ml cup. How is this easier?
Also, please note military time on microwave.
I'm so tired of math.
The third phase is mixing the dough by hand, instead of by your beloved KitchenAid mixer, left behind in storage because it would blow up, or something, if you tried to run it on European current. Also, the eggs here are really yellowy-orangey, and they tint everything you make.

I miss my mixer. My arm misses my mixer.
Phase 4: Pray that you did everything right, and that your cookies don't turn out like your awful lemon bars from the night before. Surrender to the oven gods.

Please, Oven Gods, Please, Please

Don't be deceived. They were really terrible. 
The fifth phase is taking your cookies out of the oven, and realizing that they look great and taste great. As you take a bite, you also realize that you've been deceived by the egg tint, and by the "near-perfect" oven temperature conversion. Your cookies need more time, so you stick them back in the oven for a few minutes.

Invest in one of these done-sniffing dogs.
They tell you if stuff's done.
The more done something is, the more they want it.
Just kidding, they always want it.

They are useless.

The sixth phase is when your cookies burn, and you wish you were in America.


  1. I like weighing out recipes using oz and grams. I always have better results. BUT that oven would do me in. I do remember eggs being different there. Sort of like when you get them super local and super fresh here (in Arizona). The egg yolks are dark orange and very sticky and thick. Do they refrigerate them in stores there? In France and the Netherlands we noticed they did not. They were sort of just stacked, not refrigerated.

  2. I've seen some refrigerated and some not. Carrefour (the French grocery chain here), keeps theirs in the bread aisle. Some still have chicken poop on them. Very authentic.

  3. That's how we judge whether they're authentic here too, haha. If we get them from someone in a neighborhood farm as opposed to the grocery store, we're slightly suspicious if they're not dirty looking.


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