Cooking in a foreign country is interesting. Baking can be downright challenging! I remember wanting to make Snickerdoodles in Switzerland in 1977. Any self-respecting Snickerdoodle must have cream of tartar (sorry if you don’t use it in yours – you are wrong, but I still love you). I had to get it at the pharmacy! While not generally used in baking in Switzerland, it’s used as a drug compounding agent 🙂
Leavening agents are one of the most frustrating ingredients for traveling bakers! It seems that every culture has a different way to leaven items, and it can be very difficult to figure out the proper substitutes or amounts. My recipe for corn bread calls for white corn meal (that I found), baking soda (bicarbonate of soda is a simple find), baking powder (hmm – it’s all in little packets, and I’m not sure if it will “translate” in the recipe), and buttermilk. Oh no!
For my first attempt at cornbread I was confident that the buttermilk would be no problem. I’d just put some lemon juice in milk, and it would curdle/thicken and work fine. It never thickened! I had flat, flat cornbread!
For my second try, I used kefir – it’s thicker than buttermilk, and the bread was much denser, but I thought that might have to do with the fact that I just don’t now about the baking powder here. It comes in little sachets, and generally just says to use one when you bake. This second batch just didn’t rise quite enough.
So, I broke down and went to myamericanmarket.com and purchase good old Clabber Girl Double Acting baking powder. My third batch was just about perfect. Still perhaps on the dense side, and I still think the kefir might be the cause. There is also “latte fermentato” (fermented milk) here, and I’ll give it a try next time. But this is very respectable cornbread. Great with chili (see below), and it will hopefully serve as a great base for cornbread sage dressing in a few days at Thanksgiving!