Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adventures in Baking

Call me naive, but until I got to Martinique, I didn't realize that cookies are a very American (North American) treat.  Martinicans specialize in cakes, and I'm not a fan.  I just miss the wonderful gooey-ness of a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

So my favorite Canadian, Joelle, and I decided to bake some the other day.  Little did we know that it would be such a difficult task...

We found a simple recipe online at handletheheat.com:

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies 
From All Recipes
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Dissolve baking soda in hot water then add to batter along with salt. Mix in flour until incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Using a spring-loaded ice-cream scoop, drop even and large spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are nicely browned

On the website, it lists this recipe as "super easy"... but obviously, that doesn't apply when living in Martinique.

Obstacle #1: Finding the correct ingredients.
Butter?  Sure.  White sugar?  Check.  Eggs, salt, flour?  Check, check, check.  Chocolate chips?  Umm... those don't exist.  Let's improvise by buying a bar of chocolate and chopping it up.  Brown sugar?  Oh, damn.  There's white sugar and cane sugar... Hey, that's two different types, close enough.  Baking soda?  Uhh... What is that in French?  After an extremely unsuccessful call to a French friend for help, we made an educated guess and bought la levure chimique "alsacienne."


Chocolate bars, as cheap as we could find

White sugar and Cane sugar

Still not sure if this is really baking soda, but it was close enough

Obstacle #2: Measuring.
Obviously, an American recipe is going to have US measurements.  It would be easy enough to convert measurements into Metric on Google, but do I even have any measuring cups, spoons, or a scale?  Of course not.  So again, we had to improvise.  Luckily, I at least have a pot that has the measurements etched into the side.  Baking doesn't need to be precise, does it?  

Close enough to a teaspoon

Look closely, US Cups are etched inside.  A pot is a perfect measuring cup!

Obstacle #3: Utensils.
A mixing bowl?  No.  Hand mixer?  Ha, no way.  Cookie sheets?  Yeah, right.  Something to chop up the chocolate?  Banging with a plastic spoon does the trick, right?  Cooling rack?  Eh, a large serving tray will do.

Using a pot as a mixing bowl, fork as a hand mixer

"Cookie sheets"

Pounding out some chocolate

Cooling rack (or "drying rack" as I kept calling it)

After successfully overcoming all obstacles, we decided our dough was pretty tasty, so the cookies, logically, would be too.  Into the oven they went.  (Trying to figure out exactly how my oven works is still a mystery...)

All mixed up

Ready for the oven

Perfectly browned

End result: Martinican-style American chocolate-chip cookies.
And they taste pretty damn good if I do say so myself.  Did the recipe yield 4 dozen cookies as indicated?  Of course not.  I don't think they take into consideration eating the dough while you're waiting...

But overall: Baking in Martinique?  Success.





Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beginning of the Worst Week

It hasn't been a very good week so far... And it's only Tuesday.

Sunday night, after a small house party in the afternoon, my friend Joelle and I went to a bar called Ti Sable for some Reggae music and dancing.  We ended up leaving early because neither of us felt very well, thinking it might have been something we ate at lunch.

As soon as I started driving home, I heard a weird clicking noise coming from my tires.  Since the roads were narrow and winding, we had to wait a while to find a safe place to stop.  When I pulled over into a shady little gas station, we saw that my back tire was very low, but it was still safe to drive on.  We decided to keep driving, stopping at every gas station to try to find an air pump.

After driving through a small town, we found a gas station to swing into.  There was a small little air pump, but when I got out of my car to try to use it, I realized there was no hose... and that when you touched the box, it practically fell over.  Ok, on to the next gas station...

We were back on narrow and winding roads in the middle of nowhere, at night, when the little click click click click started to sound more like a bam bam bam bam.  Oh shit.  Against our will, we had to pull over, only to see that my tire was completely flat.  So, it's 11:30 at night, two white girls pulled over by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with a pneu crevĂ©... totally the beginning of a horror story.  And it was raining.

Do we know how to change a tire?  Of course not.  We couldn't even figure out how to get the spare tire out of the car.  We had no one to call to help us, so I called my insurance company to have them send someone (or rather, I made Joelle call my insurance company... after our experience of getting locked in a parking garage, I'm not a fan of calling for help.  You can read about that whole ordeal on Joelle's blog).  We just have the worst luck together..

Finally, after waiting for almost 45 minutes, the guy shows up to help us in a huge tow truck.  Really unnecessary just to change a tire, but whatever.  Within 15 minutes, we were good to go... only to have to drive another 25 minutes back home.  Our stomachs still a little upset, extremely exhausted, we finally made it and crashed in bed.

The next day, Joelle said she would take me to a hole in the wall tire repair place to fix my flat.  Used tires were literally piled up to the ceiling.  Luckily, the guy said my tire was repairable, and for 10 euros he could mend it up.  Sweet.  Then for another 5, he put it back on for me and even filled my spare with air.  Fixing my tire was surprisingly fast, easy, cheap, and free of stress or paperwork.  What?  Am I still in Martinique?

Now, I mentioned before that Joelle and I hadn't been feeling well the night before.  Well, the next day (yesterday), neither of us felt 100% but we were fine.  Unfortunately, later that night, I got worse.  (Joelle on the other hand got better...)

Starting at about 10:30 last night, I started puking.  And it continued... all night.  I couldn't even sleep because I was up every 20 minutes throwing up.  Finally, after 2am, I was able to go about 2 hours of sleep in between episodes of vomiting.  Quite honestly, it was the most miserable night of my life.  I have never been so sick before.  And being sick in a foreign country with no one to comfort you just really sucks.

Traveling and living abroad can be empowering and exciting, but no matter what, when you're up all night puking, all you really want is to be home so your mommy can take care of you...