I’ve gotta say, I’ve taken a few dings for not presenting only the best parts of life in a foreign city. People may, or may not, want to hear about dealing with cranky cashiers, rigid administrators, or worse, paper-thin bath towels, instead wanting a perfect story of life in an apartment with a balcony, and watching sunsets every night over chilled glasses of Champagne, toasting yet another day in paradise. Invariably, however, almost all those “love letter-style” books end with the author moving back home in the final chapter or epilogue. And I always wish I’d hear the real story about why they stayed, or why they left.
Results tagged yeast from David Lebovitz
There are a lot of people who come to Paris and can’t wait to get their hands on one of the amazing baguettes that are packed in baskets and lined up on flour-dusted bakery counters seemingly on just every street corner. (And people still ask me why I moved here?) Well I have good news and bad news for you – there are plenty of great baguettes in Paris, and unfortunately a few not-so-great ones out there as well.
You just can’t assume that every bakery makes great bread, just like not all wine companies make great wine or all restaurants serve good food. Paris is a large city with lots of bakeries of various quality. And in Paris, a baguette generally isn’t something worthy of great adulation or bread that someone would take two métros to buy – a baguette is simply part of everyday life and something you’d pick up on your way home from work for dinner. And they come in all different sizes, shapes, dimensions, and colors.
The other day, I was looking at the overload of tomatoes that I bought as the season was winding down as the end of summer nears. But I realized that I was being gradually shoved out of my small kitchen by them, so I oven-roasted the louts with garlic and herbs to reclaim a few precious inches back of kitchen counter space. Yet when they were finished, I looked in my refrigerator, and there wasn’t any room in there either. So I was left holding a bowl of roasted tomatoes that needed to get used up.
Coincidentally, I also had a round of yeasted dough in my refrigerator from a batch of recipe testing that hadn’t found its meaning as something else yet—as experimental leftovers are want to do. So I took it out, which made room for the tomatoes – but then I realized that was defeating the purpose, so I decide to use both of them. (Am still stunned to see some vacant space in my refrigerator. But I may keep it empty as a constant memento and testament to my frugality.)
One of my biggest, deepest-darkest secrets is that a few times a year, I buy a frozen pizza. I used to do it on the sly, but lately I’ve even got so brazen that I’ll go out and do it in broad daylight. I am sure after my goings on about the popularity of frozen foods in France that I was going to get busted one day standing in line, clutching an icy box containing a pizza jambon speck, roquette, mozarella at the frozen foods store. Yet so far I’ve escaped detection.
But it’s not the fin du monde and everyone has the right to enjoy a frozen pizza once in a while, right? I used to make homemade pizza a lot more when I lived in California since it’s a simple thing to make, and you can turn out a couple at a time and eat the leftovers later. They reheat so nicely but for those of us who are impatient, it’s nice to know that cold pizza makes a great breakfast, too.
(And we used to take home leftover pizza dough at the end of the night when I worked in the restaurant, so it was especially easy to roll ‘n bake a pizza on your day off.)
I just got a copy of Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan, a nifty book full of recipes for cooking for one. Joe came to Paris a few years ago and like everyone who meets him, I was charmed off my pieds by his graceful intelligence and instant friendliness, and we ended up sharing a couple of meals together.
I was browsing through my archives this weekend and landed on a post that I wrote back in 2005, about Vandermeersch. The bakery is really out in the middle of nowhere and for most visitors and even local, whether you’re going by foot or even by métro. But I was looking at the pictures I’d taken back then, which didn’t do the kouglof justice, that I hadn’t been back there in a while and since I had friends in town, I figured there was no time like today.
When I arrived in the nondescript area just at the perimeter of Paris, my friends were a few minutes late and I noticed—then panicked—because there were only five large kouglofs left in the shop, and just a few individual ones. Certain they’d arrive just as the last ones were being bought up by someone less-worthy than me, I was a little rude and went ahead and bought two of the pastries, and stashed them in my bag.
When I got the opportunity to re-release my first two books, which had gone out of print, my publisher and I decided that they should be combined into one brand-new volume, Ready for Dessert, with new photos and more than a dozen new recipes added. So I made a master list of all the recipes, then chose my absolute favorites: the ones I’d found myself making over and over again during the years invariably rose to the top.
I had to choose le top du top, as they say in France. Then I sent the list to my editor, who worked for many years at a food magazine known for their exactitude and trying a recipe over and over and over again with every variation (a bit crazy, like me), and we went back and forth for a while, until we agreed on the ones for the final book.
I originally imagined I would sit down and cut and paste recipes, putting them in order, and maybe adding a few notes here and there. But as I scrolled through the recipes, many of which I hadn’t made in over a decade, I started reading through them more carefully. And soon I realized that I was not just making mental notes, but I was jumping up from my desk chair and heading to the kitchen, taking butter out of the refrigerator to soften, and running to the market to buy eggs by the flat.
Although we can’t expect things to be like ‘back home’, many of us do miss certain things and for us bakers, it’s often a challenge to adapt to new ingredients or ones that behave differently than what we’re used to. Here’s a list of commonly used baking ingredients and where you can find them, or what you can use in their place.
Buttermilk, Heavy Cream, and Sour Cream
Many grocery stores and cheese shops sell lait ribot, fermented milk from Brittany. Arabic markets also sell fermented milk (lait fermenté) as well. In many recipes you can substitute plain whole milk yogurt or you can milk 1 tablespoon of white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice, with 1 cup (250 ml) of whole milk and let it stand ten minutes.
For sour cream, full-fat (20%) fromage blanc is the closest substitute for baking. Crème fraîche, which is usually at least 30% fat, can be used as well, but is richer. I also use Bridélice, a low-fat dairy product (called crème légère, or “light cream”), whose 15% fat content is similar to American-style sour cream.
Heavy cream is called crème liquide or crème entière in French. Both are liquid pouring creams. They are available in supermarkets, although their fat percentage is usually around 30% whereas American cream is about 36%, although it behaves the same in most applications. (For whipping, get the cream with the highest percentage possible.) Fresh cream is available in supermarkets in the dairy case; be aware that UHT cream is often sold in France, and is often unrefrigerated.
To replace the sticky brown sugar used in American recipes, there are two options. One is sucre vergeoise, which is beet sugar sprayed with caramel-coating (to resemble brown sugar) and sucre cassonade, which is unrefined cane sugar. Both are available in dark and light variations: light (cuivrée) or dark (ambrée), for cassonade.
Sucre vergeoise is more available, found in supermarkets, although I prefer cassonade, which can be found in supermarkets (most often under the Daddy brand, which they sell online at La Boutique Daddy and you can find other brands at natural food stores, like Naturalia and Biocoop.
Coarse crystal, free-flowing cassonade is available in most grocery stores as the French use it for coffee and baking, and can be substituted in some recipes, although I prefer the sticky varieties when a recipe calls for light or dark brown sugar.
You can read more detailed information in my post: French sugars.
Flour varies from country-to-country. French ‘all-purpose’ flour (type 45 and type 55) is closer to American cake flour: it’s milled very finely and has less-protein and gluten (strength). In most cases, you can’t just substitute French all-purpose flour in American recipes like cookies and cakes. I know too many Americans who opened the oven door and found all their carefully rolled-out chocolate chip cookies, melded into one, giant blob.
In spite of the listing, I found that organic type 65 flour is the closest, which you can find in natural food stores like Naturalia. You can also buy type 65 organic flour at Monoprix and other supermarkets. It will say on the side of the package.
Regular whole wheat flour can be found in most groceries stores, as well as in natural food stores. Type 110 is equivalent to regular whole wheat flour, and Type 80 bise is a lighter flour, similar to whole wheat pastry flour.
You can buy mélasse at natural food stores, but it’s sulphured, unrefined, and very strongly-flavored. When using it in recipes, I cut it with some mild-flavored honey. Otherwise it can overwhelm all other flavors in whatever you’re baking. Unless you like that strong, molasses flavor…then go for it. American-brands of mild, unsulphured molasses, as we know it, is available in stores that cater to the expat community.
Treacle, available in British stores and markets that carry British foods, is a close substitute, but is similar to blackstrap molasses and quite strong. In a pinch, cut it 50:50 with mild honey, unless you like the strong molasses taste.
You can ask your local boulanger if they’ll sell you some yeast, or it’s available in supermarkets (not in the refrigerated section, like in America) in packets like the one shown above. You can also buy it in small tins in Arab markets, under the SAF brand.
Since yeast is a living organism, the yeast in Europe behaves a bit different than American yeast, but I’ve had few problems. You can test yeast by adding a teaspoon to half a cup slightly-warm water; it should start bubbling within a few minutes if it’s still good. You can find a yeast substitution guide at the Red Star yeast website for swapping fresh yeast for dry yeast. Fast-acting yeast in France is available in the baking aisle of some supermarkets called levure rapide or “action express.”
Finding chocolate chips is regular supermarkets is nearly impossible. In Paris, G. Detou carries them at a reasonable price (although they contain the sugar substitute, maltitol) and expat stores carry them, as well as Le Grand Epicerie. You can simply chop up a bar of chocolate, or buy Callebaut pistoles (as shown in the photo) available at professional baking supply shops, such as G. Detou and Metro.
Butterscotch, and similar-flavored chips, may be available in shops that cater to the expat community.
American corn syrup is expensive, and sold at stores that cater to the expat community. But Asian markets often carry corn syrup cheaply, as it’s used in Korean cooking. Stores in Paris are Ace Mart and Kmart (both are on the rue St. Anne) and Tang Frères (in the 13th.)
Professional baking supply shops, such as G. Detou in Paris, also sell glucose, which is essentially the same thing. If you need dark corn syrup, add a generous spoonful of molasses to the corn syrup. For more information about corn syrup: When To Use (and Not Use) Corn Syrup, which lists other substitutions.
Various grades of cornmeal can be found in ethnic markets, mostly catering to the Arabic community. Polenta and cornmeal, such as those that are used for cornbread, can be found in those stores as well as in natural foods stores, labeled farine de maïs which is fine corn flour, or coarser, often called semoule de maïs. In Paris, many of those are clustered around Belleville and near the marche d’Aligre. Natural foods stores sell it as well. The best advice is to go and look because the nomenclature can vary.
Corn starch is available in supermarkets under the name Maizena. It’s available in natural food stores under the name fécule de maïs or amidon. Potato starch is commonly used in France and works the same as corn starch in most applications. It’s available in Kosher stores.
Peanut butter is available in France and now many supermarkets carry it. American brands, like Skippy, can be expensive. But “natural-style” peanut butter can be found in ethnic stores, especially those that cater to the Indian community. (In Paris, many of those are clustered around La Chapelle, behind the gare du Nord.)
The peanut butter you find is generally 98% peanuts, with a small amount of vegetable fat added. You can also make your own by roasting raw peanuts in the oven and whizzing them in a food processor, while warm, until smooth. Natural food stores also carry “American-style” peanut butter, which is similar to our natural peanut butter, but not the same as brands like Jif or Skippy, and won’t behave the same way in recipes.
Virtually all the cocoa powder in France is Dutch-processed, which means the cocoa powder has been acid-neutralized and is generally darker. It often will not say so on the front label, but may list the alkalizing agent (often potassium carbonate or bromate) as an ingredient.
Although one should, theoretically, used what the recipe calls for, you can usually do just find swapping out one for the other.
More information can be found at my post; Cocoa Powder FAQs.
When a recipe calls for bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, you can use any of the dark chocolate baking bars found in supermarkets. If you live in Paris, G. Detou sells chocolate in bulk, in bars and pistoles. The membership only Metro stores also carry chocolate (and other supplies) in bulk.
G. Detou also carries unsweetened (sometimes called ‘bitter’) chocolate in bulk, which in France is called 100% cacao, or 100% pâte de cacao. Some gourmet stores carry it but in general, you won’t find it in supermarkets as the French don’t bake with it like Americans do.
You can learn more about chocolate varieties and uses at Chocolate FAQs.
Some supermarkets carry baking soda (bicarbonate de soudre) and Indian markets usually carry it as well. It can also be found in pharmacies; you’ll have to ask since they don’t normally keep it on the shelf.
Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk
Evaporated milk is lait concentré non sucrée (concentrated, unsweetened milk), and is available in most supermarkets. Sweetened condensed milk is well; it’s known as lait concentré sucré, which is sold in cans as well as tubes, like toothpaste.
Cream cheese can be found in supermarkets under the St. Môret label, or store-brands, labeled pâte à tartiner, in the familiar rectangle shape. Ed discount markets has the best prices if you need a lot. Also cream cheese is available in Jewish grocers in the Marais, and some French people use Kiri squares as cream cheese for making le cheesecake.
Philadelphia-brand cream cheese has decided to become a bigger presence in France due to its popularity with the French and can now be found at many supermarkets in France at reasonable prices.
Shops Specializing in Anglo Products in Paris & France
Here’s a listing of the stores mentioned above, or shops that specialize in products for expats. I’ve noticed that the everyday supermarkets in Paris, such as Franprix and G20 often have sections that sell anglo products at decent prices, and those are worth checking out, too. There are a couple of places that do mail-order and although I haven’t ordered anything from them, if you really need something, they might be worth the extra expense.
For cake pans, muffin tins, bakeware, and paper cupcake liners (and more), I prowl around ethnic neighborhoods. A favorite is the rue de Belleville in Paris; there are lots of stores scattered along that street, that carry baking items at very low prices. For those who want more professional-quality equipment, check out The cookware shops of Paris. It’s a good idea to measure your oven and baking equipment, especially if you’ve brought items to France from other countries as items like silicone baking mats are sized differently and may not fit.
G. Detou (Paris)
My American Market (France & Europe)
Biocoop (France and Europe)
American Market (Switzerland)
English Shop (Germany)
Mr. 10% (France)
British Superstore (England)
The Real McCoy (Paris)
More Paris links:
Where to Find a Great Hamburger in Paris (Kid-friendly)
One thing that does seem to cross international lines successfully is baking.
I never visit a country without sampling their baking. I visit bakeries and want to try everything, from Mexico’s delicious tortillas served warm with butter, to Indian naan breads just from a tandoori oven.
Here in France during the winter, the windows of pastry shops are lined with all sizes of Galettes de Rois, disks of caramelized puff pastry filled with almond paste. Alsation bakers offer sweet, doughyGugelhofs with plumped raisins and toasted almonds with freshly-grated citrus peel. And even though the world is mired in cultural misunderstandings, wars, and hostility, perhaps the United Nations might consider sending an International Baking Brigade around the world to promote cross-cultural baking traditions.
So while that ain’t likely to happen in my lifetime, I was thrilled to receive a new book from Nick Malgieri of baking recipes from around the world. I was fortunate to meet Nick years ago when I was starting my career writing cookbooks and he was overtly generous giving me advice about writing and publishing. Fortunately for bakers everywhere, Nick shares his vast knowledge of baking in his many well-written books. He perhaps knows more about baking than anyone I’ve ever met and is one of my heroes.
His latest cookbook, A Baker’s Tour, is a terrific and comprehensive overview of the world’s most delicious baked goods.
So when last week I trekked out to
I was delighted to find a recipe in Nick’s book and decided to bake a yeasty Kugelhof myself. It also gave me also the opportunity to use the beautiful ceramic Alsatian Kugelhof mold that I found while pickling through some neglected boxes at a vide grenier, a neighborhood flea market, a few weeks ago in Paris.
Nick calls this a Gugelhof, which is the Austrian name for this cake. He advises to measure flour by spooning it into a graduated measuring cup, then leveling it off. I made an orange flower water syrup to soak the cake, an inspiration from Vandermeersch bakery, as suggested in Dorie Greenspan’s book, Paris Sweets.
½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (not instant)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (see note below)
- ½ cup sliced almonds, for lining the cake pan
One 6- to 8-cup kugelhof pan (or you can use a bundt pan)
1. Maker the sponge by warming the milk over low heat in a small saucepan until it’s tepid. Pour into a bowl, and mix in the yeast then the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until bubbly, about 20 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the raisins and the rum, then set aside.
3. In a standing electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt with the paddle attachment until soft and light, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla.
4. Beat in the egg yolks until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, add the sponge, then beat another minute.
5. Drain the raisins then beat the rum into the dough, then beat in the flour. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes and let rest for 10 minutes.
6. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes.
7. Slowly beat in the raisins and chopped almonds.
8. Scrape the dough into a butter bowl and turn it so the top is buttered. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough just begins to puff, about 20 minutes.
9. Butter the kugelhof mold well the scatter the sliced almonds over the inside of the mold, turning to coat it evenly.
10. Scrape the dough into the kugelhof mold and cover with a towel or buttered plastic wrap.
Let rise until doubled.
11. About 15 minutes before the dough is fully risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the kugelhof until it’s well-risen, and deep golden, about 40-45 minutes.
Cool the kugelhof for 10 minutes, then unmold.
To make a nice, moist syrupy glaze; bring 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar to a boil. Remove from heat once the sugar is dissolved and add 1 ½ teaspoons orange flower water and 2 tablespoons finely ground almonds (optional, but good).
Liberally brush the syrup all over, on top of, and around the cake.
Cool completely before slicing and serving.
Note: To peel your own almonds, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the untoasted almonds and let cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drain. Once the almonds are cool enough to handle, the skins will slip right off.
Toast the almonds until golden brown for best flavor before using. I snap one in half to make sure they’re crispy all the way through.