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« Beyond Nose To Tail by Fergus Henderson & Justin Piers Gellatly. Some Quotes. | Main | Baking in London, part 2. »

24 September 2008


Hello Shuna,
Yes... I deal with this daily in cooking using ingredients from UK, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, or the States. Even though I only cook at home and not professionally (I missed my calling, maybe someday)

Living in China 10 of the last 12 years the ingredients have many times been foreign to me and the results not as they were in the states. However I learned to adapt if that meant using a tad bit less carrot in that cake that called for 3 cups in the states of the carrots that were not quite as orange or quite as watery.

The first carrot cake I made here in China in 1996 stuck to the pan like I could not believe, due to the different sugar, the watery carrots or the humidity I knew not but, I had to get it out of the pan for my then 8 year old who desperately wanted Mom's carrot cake, a taste of home for her. Different icing sugar from the UK and even the butter was different, the flour from China the texture finer and then add in the humidity and heat of southern China in May.

Once I got it out of the pan it was good but not quite the same as in the States. After many carrot cakes I finally became adept at tweeking the recipe to make it the same as at home or perhaps just as good with different ingredients. It meant a lot to that then 8 year old and now when she visits us in China as a 20 year old. Yikes! She always wants Mom's carrot cake because no one can make it the same.

Good luck with the frosting and have a super time in the UK!

Thats funny, I'm not a professional baker, but I find myself getting very confused in the US about all the different baking stuff. Some of the good things about the UK are that the recipes are often in metric and nearly always by weight.

I'm surprised about the icing sugar, it certainly seems the same in appearance.

I still get confused, I was talking about vol-au-vents the other day and it appears that in the UK they are little puff pastry baskets, and in the US they are pate a choux.


Take a close look at British icing sugar-- sift them side by side and they even fall differently. I think Icing sugar looks like snow in that, once sifted, I swear I can see snowflake patterning.

About the vol-au-vents-- you are correct. They are the exact same thing everywhere because they're a classic pastry form. It's possible to make this shape with choux paste but the classic is made with puff. ~ Shuna


Are you using scales with weights as opposed to digital? Delia Smith swears by them, but I can't find any sold in the U.S.

I have glass measuring cups from England and a lot of cookbooks in the British edition. I was just looking at a Simon Hopkinson recipe that called for icing sugar the other day and thought "oh,that's easy - confectioners." Now I know I have to drag down to Myers of Keswick to get what I need.

Sounds like you're having fun though. Keep at it. Keep posting. Keep well.

Hello Victoria,

Thanks for the questions. I have used scales with weights many times before and they can be found for sale commercially as well as at various flea markets. But make sure it's being sold second-hand by someone who deals in such things almost exclusively-- a little bit off in calibration and it's all topsy-turvey after that.

For what I'm doing I absolutely need digital. In fact I have had to weigh 1 Tablespoon and I could have only done that with a .oo gram scale, which I have here. Scales with balance weights are best for large scale commercial baking. Bread bakers prefer them, for example.

I'm not really sure if using American 10X is that different than UK Icing, it's the other way around that's more difficult because an ingredient is missing. It's a long story but the cornstarch helps in a lot of baked goods, but in the frosting it's absence, coupled with the change in "grind" did me in. ~ Shuna

Amen! I recently went from an American p√Ętisserie kitchen to a French one. I'm sure you have some idea how comforted I was to see the exact same bucket of trimoline I've always used in my new workplace. Hooray for French ingredients!

on a much different scale, this seems so familiar (when I moved from the South to the West -the DAIRY---THE FLOUR---ohmygosh!)

Interesting...the electricity is something I would not have thought about.

All my biscuit lovin is headed your way today and throughout your adventures.

These are minor are a bigger fish than have much to teach us through you....
thank you for sharing, as always. xoxoxoxo

oh yes, i know this! every time i go home everything turns out different. i went to work to portugal for a month to help out a pastry kitchen and i had some disasters that i am even ashamed to remember and mostly due to what you are saying... and maybe jet lag too. hope you are enjoying london!

Hang in there - I still suffer problems when I try to bake with all the cookbooks I lugged back from my time in the States.
European baking books I like include The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery, and Gordon Ramsay's Just Desserts.
As well as Borough Market, there are some good Farmers Markets around - try Marylebone for a central one, or use this website to find a local one.

Hello Louise, Thank you so much for the info. and the understanding! If I get a minute away from the kitchen I will surely check out a farmers' market. p.s. If you want to learn how to leave URL links in your comments, check out this post, where I attempted to write it in "laymen's" language. I have written in the code by hand, here, and in your comment so that all of us may be able to click on it. Thanks again for stopping in and commenting! ~ Shuna

Thank you for this Shuna - it at last described an excuse for my complete inability to bake cakes in the USA after 20 years of success in the UK (I never used a recipe). It explains why my Victoria sponges don't turn out as good as I remember and why icing is never the same. It might also explain my dislike of cupcakes. Although I do have electric hear whilst I had gas there. I think both countries have both.

Many, many good thoughts go out to you and your chocolate frosting!

This post really turned out to be doubly great because the comments were good too. If Sam figured out how to make a good Victoria sponge in the U.S., I would love to know because I have never been able to duplicate the one that came out of my grandmother's kitchen in England, and I long for that particular taste and texture.

You are bringing back many happy memories with these messages from England!

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