Bake It Till You Make It

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Program

Authored By:

Robyn F.

Ahhh, it’s finally fall in Madrid. The leaves have fallen, rustling and rumbling with the wind. It makes me nostalgic for my hometown where fall is so beautiful. I won’t lie, fall feels a little different in Spain; there aren’t many decorations, pumpkin patches, or any Pumpkin Spice (well, maybe at Starbucks, but I haven’t checked). Since arriving in Spain, I’ve been trying to blend in as a local. I’ve been lying low with the American stereotypes as much as possible, but it’s fall and there are some things I just can’t give up.

If you know me well, you know I love baking; I really always have. I grew up eating the best cookies in the world (shoutout to my mom...hey mom). I love baking for holidays and parties, so I thought I’d introduce my European friends to typical American fall cookie decorating. 

I’m somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to baking. I’m no star of The Great British Baking Show, but I do know how to make cookies. I’ve been baking cookies since I could hold a spoon. But last weekend when I made cookies for this fall shindig, it was like I’d never baked a single thing in my life. Apparently, baking is not the same in Spain. So, without further ado, I present to you the premier of The Not So Great Spanish Baking Show.

It was a beautiful fall night here in Madrid and time to start the cookies. Immediately realizing I didn’t have a mixing bowl, I pulled out a giant soup pot for mixing the dough. Luckily, I am a resourceful former-poor-college-student, and can bake with almost anything. But, I should have known at this point how this story would turn out.  

Preparing the dough was going just fine, until I noticed we didn’t have baking powder. BIG ISSUE! Now, some people think baking powder and baking soda are interchangeable. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I know this, and yet...well, just keep reading. My first thought was to run to the corner store. But of course, the corner store was already closed. I had already made half the dough, so I couldn’t really stop and wait until the next day. Determined to make these cookies, I googled “can you substitute baking soda for baking powder?” And what do you know! You can! (You can??) All I had to do was add lemon juice with the baking soda to create the right chemical reaction. Ok, I could work with that. I then finished the dough and let it chill overnight.

The next day began with me discovering that my oven only went to 200 degrees when I needed 375 degrees. Strange. But, after a few hours, I finally had a sheet of semi-pumpkin looking cookies in the oven... and a kitchen full of flour.

Inhale, exhale. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Cold rain outside, warm cookies in the oven, and the smell of...Wait, what was that? Burning? How could the cookies be burning? It’d only been three minutes?! I spun the temperature dial down thinking these European ovens just don’t work right. I frantically looked around the kitchen for a pot holder, which conveniently we didn’t have (guess I should have checked that one earlier). I grabbed a dish towel instead, pulled out the burnt cookies, and put the whole tray outside on the windowsill.

Ok, that batch was clearly ruined, but “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” right? With the oven temperature much lower, I put in the next batch, checking the cookies after two minutes. To my dismay, they were still super flat and starting to burn. I could not wrap my head around this!

And then, madre mía, it hit me like a ton of bricks. THE TEMPERATURE WAS IN CELSIUS!! I’d been baking my cookies 100 degrees too hot the whole time!! It wasn’t the oven, it was me!! I can’t even describe how awestruck I was at my own level of stupidity.

In the end, I got the temperature right, the cookies didn’t burn, and everything turned out fine. Well, almost. Remember when I used baking soda and lemon juice instead of baking powder? IT. DOESN’T. WORK. My cookies looked more like flat sheets of paper than pumpkins, but es lo que hay. I suppose even in Spain, all’s well that ends well.