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Oct 15, 2010 10:59 PM

European ingredients used in American baking recipies - Help!


I came across this site in my ever renewed search to find an answer to the following dilemma.

All my classic American baking recipes--cookies, muffins, biscuits, cakes--are practically inedible when I try to make them here in Holland. They just turn into little dense bricks.

The consistency of the butter here is obviously different (and it is delicious--lower water content). But because of this, my cookies tend to deflate or even melt as they are baking. There is obviously something quite different about the flour here as well, you can buy it by percentages of milled wheat. I have been told 70% is the best for baking.

I have never had a cake or batch of muffins turn out correctly here. They just fail to inflate during baking.

The powdered sugar here has no starch in it, so in making traditional icing or frosting--I have resorted to having powdered sugar shipped to me from the States. The dutch don't put icing on their cakes. They use whipped cream.

For almost four years now I have been looking for that magic person or document that can explain how to restore my baking to its original splendor using european ingredients. I'm not disciplined or patient enough to turn my kitchen into a chemistry lab. Hopefully there is someone out there on CHOW who is! :-)

All the best,
Beth Massa

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  1. Here is a page with flour equivalents for baking in Holland.

    Here is a search on expatica on baking in the Netherlands. Maybe one or more of these will help or you can ask them.

    I hope it can help you, as I live in germany currently and have no experiences with Dutch flours. I haven't had problems with the butter, so maybe it is with the flour and leavening agents? Good luck! :)

    1. First, read this:

      It's aimed at Americans baking in France, but it might give you a few insights.

      I don't know how flour is labeled in the Netherlands, but I can't underline the T65 thing with a bright enough highlighter. I use nothing but T65 bio flour for my American recipes, and everything comes out just like it should.

      Let me know what you're stumbling on, and I'll see if I can help you -- I've been baking in Paris for two years now, and I think I'm getting a pretty good handle on it . French people ask me to bring baked goodies to everything -- school, work, I must be doing okay!

      8 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842


        What things do they seem to like? Here it seems like chocolate chip cookies, and brownies, and cheesecake are favorites. Cheesecake is funny though as I love the german cheesecakes there. :)

        I love David's website too, but was unsure if the flours were the same. I need to get his new books.

        1. re: milgwimper12

          Yes and yes...chocolate chip cookies and brownies are always the favorite. Pumpkin pie is a surprise hit - they're very wary about trying it, but they *love* it if they taste it. Apple pie because I make it with cinnamon and ground cloves (go figure - but classic French apple pastries don't have cinnamon). (I use refrigerated pie dough, though. It's good and cheap and easy!)

          I made an American-style cake with piped frosting for a baby shower (and was quite proud of the hand-painted Peter Rabbit..) -- but it was funny -- the French were completely at a loss as to what to do with it, until my husband picked up a knife, cut it, and took a big piece. The frosting wasn't a hit, but the cake was (a white cake from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook...well, new about 25 years ago....)

          Hilariously, one of the most-requested items from my kitchen isn't really baking per se....I made a Brie en croute for a cocktail party, and no one knew what it was, as no one actually bakes Brie in pastry here! Once somebody tried it, though, I thought there was going to be a fight over who got to lick the platter. They all thought it was funny, too, when I explained that in the US, a baked Brie is considered a VERY French thing to serve...and they've never heard of it.

          I think a lot of it is just curiosity about American food -- as many of our friends have never actually experience "real" American food. They see things on TV, and read about what is supposedly popular, but actually trying the real thing is always harder. (Somewhere along the line, the recipes always get altered, and only rarely resemble the REAL thing!) And then they try it and find out that we actually produce good food on occasion!

          1. re: sunshine842

            LOL That is funny to hear about the Brie in Croute. :)

            1. re: sunshine842

              That is so funny - I had the exact same thing happen to me this summer in France. I had not thought about Brie en croute for years and then a friend of mine came over from the states and she was dying to make it with real French brie. I thought my Swiss and French friends would turn up their noses but of course wanted to humor my friend. And they loved it. Of course the Swiss often do warm cheeses with bread and potatoes so it is not an unusual concept for them, I don't know if the French do similar things.

              1. re: sunshine842

                That's funny, that's always been known in my circles as a very Americanized food, I would think the French would be appalled by the idea of wrapping fine cheeses in Pillsbury crescent dough (which is where I think that recipe may have originated, and subsequently was "classed-up" by home cooks who tasted it and realized they could do better with real pastry)

                1. re: iheartcooking

                  Ugh. Give me that much credit! I put a couple of spoonsful of homemade confiture de fruits rouges (red-fruit jam) on top, then rolled it up in a pate feuilletee (very flaky pastry) made with butter. (couldn't make it with Pillsbury crescent dough if I tried -- it doesn't exist here!)

                  I actually have since found out that it turns out much nicer with a Coulommiers or a Camembert -- the flavors work better.

                2. re: sunshine842

                  "go figure - but classic French apple pastries don't have cinnamon"

                  I think that the French have it right. I do not like the taste or smell of cinnamon, and am really bothered that anything apple that you buy in North America has cinnamon in it. It's even difficult to find raisin bread without cinnamon.

                  1. re: souschef

                    to each his own, I suppose -- I LOVE do my family, so while I don't add extra cinnamon, I do tend to use Vietnamese or Korintje cinnamon because of its more assertive flavor.

            2. One thing that threw me off when baking in Austria (besides the glatt versus mehlig flour thing) was that the ingredients were given by weight, not by volume as we are used to. I'm a good cook, but not much of a baker, so I haven't paid too much attention to this in the past, but a useful tool I acquired there was a measuring cup that showed the volume of various quantities of different ingredients (sugar, flour, rice, etc.) It was a Dr. Oetker brand (German, I think; don't know if it's available in NL). Since returning to the States and becoming an Alton Brown afficionado, I am more inclined to measure things by weight rather than volume as he recommends. This might help even out inconsistencies in the ingredients themselves.

              A propos of absolutely nothing, I still remember fondly a youth hostel breakfast in Schevenningen consisting of white bread spread with butter and topped with chocolate sprinkles!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: kleine mocha

                I have two sets of measuring tools -- one US, one metric, and I bought a digital scale -- I use the measuring tools from the origin of the recipe (US cups for US recipes, French measuring spoons for French recipes, etc.) Absolutely necessary to keep yourself sane when you're cooking in multiple languages.

                I have converted a few recipes for friends here -- it takes forever and makes a lot of dish washing -- but once it's done, it's done, if you write notes in the margins of your cookbooks. (My poor Joy of Cooking is a disaster.)

                Measure everything from your US recipe with your US measuring tools, then transfer it to your metric tools to get the equivalent....a pain, but your friends will love you. (I've done it with cornbread AND with chocolate chip cookies!)

                1. re: sunshine842

                  You are a good friend Sunshine, and I am sure your friends who received the recipes were happy. :)

              2. American Confectioners' sugar has about 1 tablespoon of corn starch per cup of sugar. You can make your own from plain white granulated sugar in the food processor by simply adding the appropriate corn starch and whirring until you have the fine powder you are used to. I have used this in a pinch when I reached for the bag and found I was out.

                If the suggestions here don't get your baking exactly where you would like, what I was told in a couple of places overseas was the flour is less processed than what we have here and more resembles organic unbleached flours we have in that it has less gluten. I used to add a tablespoon raw gluten powder sifted in with the flour to get the consistency I was used to.