Adventures in Baking

Elena Bauer
October 14, 2019

One of my recent solutions to homesickness has been baking. I wanted to start with my favorite cookies to bake at home, oatmeal M&M cookies from a recipe my Aunt gave me for my third birthday. This summer at home, I got in the habit of baking a new batch every few weeks and sticking a large Tupperware in the freezer for future lunches, snacks, and desserts. My craving for homemade, American-style cookies coincided with a plan to make dinner for my host-family from the taco mix my mom sent me. And thus, I embarked on a new adventure.

In general, I tend to refer to most things as an adventure: trips to the grocery store, riding my bike to classes, navigating public transportation. I find that calling everything an adventure allows me to take my time and make a few mistakes, because an adventure is all about the journey (rather than the destination).

My baking adventure began as soon as I looked at the recipe. Two sticks of butter, one cup packed brown sugar, one teaspoon vanilla, baked at 350°F are all very helpful when baking in the States, but in Germany butter comes in 3 x 2.5 x 1 inch blocks, packable brown sugar doesn’t exist, vanilla is only sold in tiny two-inch bottles, and the oven (a gas oven that is lit with a match) is in Celsius without a thermometer, not to mention German recipes measure everything in grams and milliliters and my host family does not own a scale.

With all this in mind, I decided to start with a half batch, and thus began adventure part two: the search for ingredients. First to Kaufland to find sugar, flour, oats, M&Ms, eggs, brown sugar and baking soda, and some cilantro to accompany my taco dinner.

It is a strange feeling to walk through a grocery store, that really does look almost the same as grocery stores at home, but not be able to find things that I have come to consider to be kitchen or pantry staples. I come home from my trip to Kaufland, not entirely empty-handed, but still missing baking soda, brown sugar and cilantro. So, I turned to the handy-dandy internet which directed me to an Asian market for all three ingredients.

I never considered that my grocery list is so affected by Washington State’s vicinity to the continent of Asia, until I walked into an Asian market off Schönhauserallee and saw my familiar Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, a bouquet of cilantro, and a bag of light brown sugar.

Having acquired the necessary ingredients, I set out to bake. Measuring became my new adventure. I used Google to convert cups to mL, but as the conversion is not perfect, I was stuck with packing brown sugar into a glass, eyeballing 177.441 mL of flour, and trying to find an equivalent amount of syrupy German vanilla to half a teaspoon of American watery vanilla.

The cookies turned out just fine, although far from my standards. However, the elation of my fourteen-year-old host sister at her first bite was definitely a joy to behold. I have decided to invest in a set of measuring cups, in mL of course, and my more recent batches have turned out much better. 

I still crave food from home: a Fiamma (a Bellingham restaurant) burger, my mom’s chocolate chip banana bread, my Nana’s cinnamon rolls, my university’s smoked salmon chowder, my dad’s homemade ice cream, Washington apples, and Costco brownies. As many of these cravings will not be satisfied until after I come home in February, I’ll have to make an adventure out of learning to cook my favorite foods for myself and take this opportunity to share a piece of my home with my new hosts.

Elena Bauer

<p>Apart from my first two years at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, I have lived my whole life in Bellingham, Washington, a college town surrounded by green hills and snowy mountains on one side and the Puget Sound on the other. Since I was eleven, I've made a point to ride my unicycle down my town's Memorial Day parade route before it starts, a tradition interrupted briefly in high school when I was in the marching band. My summer job is teaching swim lessons, and I have gotten quite good at talking a scared four-year-olds into jumping off the diving board.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2019 Fall
Home university:
Pacific Lutheran University
Hometown:
Bellingham, WA
Major:
English
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