Baking American-style in France

Folks, the French know how to bake. They make melt-in-your-mouth croissants, and these beautiful tarts, and chocolate cakes with barely enough flour to keep them standing up, and sponge-like cakes with airy stiffness. I have no shortage of desserts to tempt me. Strangely enough, though, sometimes I get homesick for American baked goods. Chocolate chip cookies with tender insides, cupcakes with a certain moist denseness, and frosting. And pie; not tarts, but real pie.

It’s at these times I feel led to try baking at home. I say “try,” because some seriously fundamental differences in ingredients lead to constant surprises in the kitchen. I’m learning, though! My best tutor has been this gentleman, David Lebovitz, who has done much of the experimenting on ingredients for me. This post alone solved my problem with cookies that spread way too thin, and turn out crispy and bubbly whatever I do (I know what flour to buy, now!).

This time I wanted to try for chocolate chip cookies. I haven’t found the sticky brown sugar David talks about, so I creamed the granular brown that I found. It seemed to work ok.

I don’t have even a handmixer at the moment, so I try creaming the butter and sugar with a pastry cutter. Works for cookies.

Like most eggs in the US are white, most eggs in France are brown, and with rich yellow centers.

The chocolate chips here are pepites, and quite small, and shiny, and not really like Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips. So we go for chocolate chunk cookies instead. France has long aisles of chocolate bars, many of which are not unlike a thin bar of baking chocolate in the States.

Chopping our own chunks of chocolate.

Hand-mixed cookie dough…looks good, but…

I learned from David that I need to be using the bio type 65 flour, and it definitely helps. But I think it is still lighter than US flour, and I think my butter choice was wetter than US butter (there are as many choices on butter here as there are on flour–trés confusing), so the first batch needed some tweaking.

Still too thin and spread-y. However, there is none of that bubbly-crisp thing the cookies had been doing.

The tweak here was merely the addition of more flour. The results:

Note the greater puff in this batch.

Voila! Finally a passably American batch of chocolate chunk cookies! The best ones had pecans added. They were lightly crisp on the outside, but soft-crumbliness on the inside, without being fall-apart crumbly. YUM!

My most recent experimenting was with molasses bran muffins. You open the molasses here (a challenging treasure to find as it is) and go WHOA! Now there is some stiff molasses, blacker than blackstrap. Next time, we will mix with a little honey. They turned out tasty, though, with both a chocolate chip AND a chocolate chip pumpkin version. This flour is definitely more workable for me!

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1 Comment

Filed under France, home & garden

One response to “Baking American-style in France

  1. Kimdao

    Ah! I had already intended to take along my baking arsenal. I am rather attached to my cooking and baking tools. Do let us know if there’s anything we can take for you! Baking powder, vanilla extract, flour, or anything like that!

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