07 November 2008
On Perles, Vermicelles and Other Hard to Find Items
This month marks our fifth anniversary in Paris. As anyone who has moved far from home can attest, there are certain things that you will have to do without when living abroad. For me, never has this been more true than when it comes to baking and other foodstuffs. Over the years, I have learned to adapt many recipes where possible, but there are some things that are just irreplaceable.
As my mom can tell you, every time she plans a trip, I send a list over of items to buy and pack away with her on her journey. There is a fabulous brownie recipe from New York Magazine I have used for years that calls for the classic Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate. Now I have tried to make this recipe dozens of times since coming to Paris and I've finally succeeded in making a passable version using the chocolate that is available here but really, nothing comes close to the taste and consistency when made with Baker's. And this is why it is one of the most-often requested items on my list from the States.
I'm also convinced that one of these days on a return trip to France, I am going to get stopped at customs and upon finding the bottle of Karo's Dark Corn Syrup stashed away in my bags, they will either think I am crazy or smuggling some sort of illegal substance. Caution for anyone who tries this: make sure to double or triple-bag your Karo's as this is not the kind of thing you want leaking out into your luggage. I speak from experience! But personally I find there really is no substitute for Karo's in a pecan pie.
Some of the items I have successfully replaced in recipes are plain maple syrup for anything that calls for molasses; a mixture of créme fraiche and local soft cheeses, Kiri and St. Moret for cheesecakes and other desserts that use Philly Cream Cheese (which incidentally you can find here sporadically but that will set you back about 8 dollars for the 8 oz. package); and a one part-to-one part mixture of whole milk and créme liquide for recipes that require buttermilk.
When it comes to cupcakes and cake decoration, however, the assortment of sugars, sprinkles and the like you find in your typical US supermarket just can't be beat. And these are another item I stock up on whenever I am home. Today however while perusing the aisles of Lafayette Gourmet, I came across these little beauties pictured above. My, my, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! I'm showcasing a little assortment here of what I purchased because frankly, I am embarrassed by the actual quantity I bought. To think that just minutes before I had passed on a new table lamp for our entrée because I thought, "I really shouldn't be spending in this economic climate." But I am considering them an investment and well, I just can't wait to bake something up and decorate with these lovely little gems!