When I first moved to France, I wanted to bake cookies one night so I ran to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. I ended up buying a special flour mix since I could not find baking soda. The cookies did not come out as planned, but at least they were edible. This experience prevented me from baking until now.
This past weekend I wanted to bake my mother-in-law an angel food cake since she is always bringing me over desserts. If you have ever made an angel food cake from scratch, you know that it requires cream of tartar.
Knowing the baking section of the grocery store does not go beyond chocolate and vanilla extract, I did some research online to figure out the mystery of where French women buy their baking supplies.
In larger cities, you may find some of these ingredients for baking in specialty grocery stores. But those in a typical city can find what they need in a pharmacy. Crazy, non? But it does not end there! Not all pharmacies will have what you need, or even know what you are talking about.
My husband called three pharmacies before finding one in downtown Caen that carried cream of tartar. I had searched the forums in advance to see what cream of tartar was in French and found 5 different ways it could be worded. I gave all 5 variations to my husband for when he called the pharmacies. The first two pharmacies had no idea of what it was that we wanted. The pharmacy in downtown Caen understood cream of tartar as “potassium tartrate acide”. Yes, I know I have the best husband in France.
Doesn’t the photo here of my potassium tartrate acide look like medicine? Oh well, at least it worked! It was 3 euros for 30 grams, so a bit expensive. At least my recipe did not call for much of it. I would have uploaded a photograph of my finished angel food cake, but we ate it before I even had the chance. So instead, I had to post a stock photo. Next time!
If you are looking to bake in France, be patient and call several pharmacies before giving in to premixed flour. It is just not worth it.
Some words you should know:
Baking soda = soda à pâte or bicarbonate de sodium or bicarbonate de soude
Baking powder = poudre à pâte
Cream of tartar = potassium tartrate acide or crème de tarter
Image Credit: LadyInBlack on Fotolia