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68 (Baking | パン・お菓子作り)

November 13, 2010

Baking goods in Israel | イスラエルのパン・お菓子作りの材料

We became unexpected owners of an oven a few weeks ago. One of our neighbors who usually never acknowledges us barked something at Yuval as we were walking by. A brief dialogue followed, ending with Yuval turning to me and saying, “He’s giving us his old oven!” I actually had my eyes on the oven that had been abandoned outside for a few days, so I was more than thrilled!

Now I must admit that my interest for cooking started rather late. I’ve always loved and savored food, but not nearly as enthusiastic about cooking until maybe the last 10 or so years. And even then my few attempts towards trying a recipe often ended in a disaster or near disaster. So I’d say my enthusiasm towards cooking have been more or less from the sidelines, or the observant kind. (I’m always reading about recipes but rarely trying them.) Also during those 10 or so years I never had a decent oven. Many recipes that caught my eye had been put in the “when I have an oven some day” pile. And then one day, unexpectedly, I had an oven.

The first thing I wanted to make was banana bread, because first of all it is one of my favorite baked goods, and also because I had very ripe bananas on hand. I recalled the one time I had made banana bread with a former roommate in San Francisco who was a fabulous cook. We barely followed a recipe she found in an old cookbook that had browned page corners and no photos let alone drawings. It came out wonderfully, and I wanted to slip in to baking like that experience, fun, easy, with delicious results. I also told a few friends at the ulpan that I was going to try making banana bread. They both responded enthusiastically.

“Banana bread is so good and also one of the most easiest things to bake!” said one of them, a frequent baker.

“I love banana bread… and it’s almost impossible to screw it up, even if your measurements are a bit off!” said the other, whose mom bakes weekly.

Great! I thought to myself, already daydreaming of eating a perfect, warm banana bread fresh out of the oven.








Our adopted oven | 頂いたオーブン

I hit my first obstacle in the small kibbutz grocery store. “All purpose flour”, “unsalted butter”, “baking powder”… As I stood in front of multiple types of flour, I realized these were not exactly the most common words to know in a foreign language (or the kind of words we have learned in the ulpan). I made another trip to the store with Yuval a few hours later.

The second obstacle came when it was time to preheat the oven. The temperature came in the form of single digit settings, which we had no clue what was what. I searched online for a manual (a former colleague found the manual to an old 35mm camera easily over 30 years old for me once) but to no avail. We had no choice but to guess and before I knew it the top of the bread was burning. But the fork I put through the bread came out all sticky. We ended up nibbling the outside of the bread and throwing out the gooey rest.

I learned later on that the flour Yuval helped me choose was actually “whole wheat flour”, while my recipe called for all-purpose flour. Yuval apparently told me that it was whole wheat, but I guess I missed that part and only heard him say, “It’s healthier,” upon which I grabbed the bag. (And as you baking experts out there probably know something like this makes a big difference.)




The second try | 二度目の挑戦

A few days later, this time with the right flour and a tiny bit of wisdom gained, I tried again. And still, the top started to burn. Whoever said there’s really no way to screw up banana bread?? But it tasted pretty good, despite the deceiving looks. (Next time I’ll try covering the top with foil. Any other advice??)

And that’s my first baking experience here in Israel, and well, basically my whole life. Not as smooth and “fun and easy” as I had hoped, but I’m not discouraged yet.

(I actually started this entry many days ago – and since then I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and a lemon cake. The cookies came out much flatter than I had hoped, but they tasted great. The cake came out nearly perfect! Baking is fun… and fattening if I’m not careful!)




Much love,

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Abby permalink
    November 14, 2010 5:21 am

    I think your oven temp may still be too high. Try lower temp for longer. Here is a good banana bread recipe:

    I do half whole wheat half white flour to make it healthier. You can also substitute apple sauce for butter or oil to make it healthier…not as decadent but still goos.

    Happy baking!!


    • November 14, 2010 3:40 pm

      That recipe looks good, will try it next time! and will lower the oven temp too. Thanks for the tips Abbs!

      I think it will be a while before I start alternating recipes to make them healthier. For one because I don’t know baking enough to guess how much is okay to alternate, and second because I’m enjoying the straight up, too-much-sugar-and-butter-but-oh-so-good recipes right now. I’m just happy to be baking my own sweets instead of buying them off the counter with all the preservatives and other mysterious ingredients! But I will get there… some time! 🙂

  2. sammi permalink
    November 20, 2010 6:14 pm

    Kaori, I am still smiling about your baking attemts with this old oven. It is intersting that banana bread should be the one you started with and had so much trouble with. I too love banana bread, as do the girls. I was baking a loaf not long ago, late at night. I fell asleep on the sofa and missed the timer. The bread baked for hours, and when I smelled the burning bread I was glad I hadn’t started a fire! Anyway, I could not get it out of the pan, so I but the pan in the sink and filled it with water to soak. The next morning the bread, (which had gone very flat in the burning oven) had plumped up and looked good! The water had completely soaked into the bread, leaving no trace of water behind. Carolyn didn’t realize what had happened and thought I must have just set the pan in the sink to cool. (?) She got quite a surprise when she tried to cut a piece. The bread was like a soaked sponge, and the water spurted out! All very funny!

    Good luck with the oven. You could get a temperature gauge at the hardware or appliance store to calibrate the temp. in your oven, so you will know where your settings are. Sending you much love! Sammi

    • November 20, 2010 7:53 pm

      Sammi, what a story! I’m still laughing. What a surprise for Carolyn! 🙂 Would love to know your recipe? Do you send baked goodies in care packages to Sarah in college? Those are the best!

      I actually baked a lemon poppy seed cake today and it came out pretty terrific! I think I’m getting the hang of our lovely oven, although I’ve been meaning to get that thermometer. I’m kind of enjoying guessing and playing with the oven but probably won’t when I actually have to cook for guests one day!

      Much love to you and your family too!

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