The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Young baker abroad needs help from home!!'s picture

Young baker abroad needs help from home!!

Cioa from Italia,

I am an American girl living in Italy for a spell, and I miss baking dearly. I have chosen to post this in professional topics, as I woudl like soem expert advice...

Here, in Italy, baking powder, soda, adn cream of tartar simply dont exist. While I have managed to get my hands on a bootleg box of baking soda, I can not make many baked goods with only this... Or so I think not anyway. While the pastries of Italy are quite nice, I miss the simpler items... like homemade biscuts and the like.

All that is available here is a moist yeaest block type substance. Can anyone please offer advice? I will be here for sometime to come!

Thank you in advance!


Jw's picture

Cheers, Jw.

hukari's picture

Staci, where are you in Italy? I am in the north. You need to look for these things:

Soda - Bicarbonato di sodio

Baking powder - Polvere lievitante (mine is from "Cameo")

Cream of tartar - tartaro


A good bet is to look in health food stores. That's where I get a lot of the things that are out of the ordinary for Italy, like cream of tartar and molasses. If you really can't find anything, maybe I can send it to you.

Janknitz's picture

I'm not a pro or anything, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and the purpose of baking powder is to chemically react with the alkaline in baking soda and cause a chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide.  

What you want to do is introduce a little acid into the mix.  Wikipedia suggests using vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or lemon juice.  I have no idea about the amounts--you will have to play around with that.

Cream of tartar is a by-product of wine fermentation.  It is that crystalline substance (tartaric acid) you sometimes find in wine bottles--I wonder if you could dry it out and use it when you find it?  

I think you may be able to find online sources for your missing ingredients, but that may be expensive!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You've just got to know where to look for it.  And that it has other names.  It may come packaged differently.  Baking powder comes in small individual paper envelopes, sometimes grouped together in cellophane not in a can, instant yeast looks identical but most likely in a foil package in singles or grouped together in cellophane.  They both have similar names.

The yeast you describe is fresh yeast.  It is perfectly good if used before the expiration and kept refrigerated.  Read the foil on the block, it normally says how much flour is used with it, 500g, 0.5kg, 1kg, etc. you can crush it into the flour and then add liquids.

Here is a link to Italian flours:!openframeset&frame=Right&Src=/edible.nsf/pages/italianflours!opendocument&BaseTarget=Right

Have fun!  Relax and enjoy your exchange!

Mini Oven

executor's picture

Hey, I have been moving from spain, now living in south america, also I spent some years in taiwan where I learned some really usefull baking tips. I owned a bakery now, and I have had problems like the one you are having right now. Basically you can get everything you need for baking even in Italy. Some things can be substituted by others, and some products are very easy to make at home. You can make your own Baking powder for example, your own milk jam, custards, chocolat, caramels and syrups, you can also get you own sour cream, buttermilk and yougurt. You are able to make your own cheese (but you have no need of this there, right???). I'm here if you need help, but be a little patient cause some times I'm a little busy, but often available.

Go to the nearest Drugstore and get some "acido tartarico" (Tartaric acid) also "Bitartrato di potassio" can be used cause it's the same. Mix equal parts of this with the baking soda you have got, and a half of cornstarch (there this is called "amido di mais") and there you have your baking powder.

And for "the moist yeast block type substance" you got, use it as you use the instant yeast. Just rub it strongly into the flour (In the same way you doit with the butter for scones). But remember that this yeast is not as strong as the instant yeast is. This means that if you use 5 grams of instant yeast you'll have to use 15 grams of the moist yeast in order to get the same result. The proportion is 1:3,being 1 for instant yeast.

I hope this will help you a little.


Best regards, from young baker to young baker.


lagrassa's picture

I'm living and baking in Bologna and while some things are difficult to find, they do exist, tucked away in some improbable corner of a supermarket or specialty store.  First, look closely at the little boxes and envelopes in the supermarket near the flour -- the leavening agents are different combinations of sodium and potassium salts but you use them as you would baking powder.  Beware the lievito per dolci, which often contains an insipid artifical vanillin flavoring. (real vanilla is another impossible thing to find).  The chemical leavening is usually alongside dry or instant yeasts.

In my Coop acido tartarico is sometimes hidden with the spices, and bicarbonato is sometimes near the softdrinks and sometimes near the cleaning supplies.

hukari's suggestion of searching in the health food store is a good one.  You could also try to find a store that sells "coloniali" or foreign stuff -- here in Bologna I've found one that has British and American items like molasses and baking powder, etc.  Also good for baking projects is a "granaglia", dry goods store, where you'll find exciting kinds of flour and nuts and grains, etc. 

good hunting, and good luck.