Playdate, Sharing & an Orange Almond Cake Recipe

We resumed our regular playdate this week and initially, we had planned to have it in the outdoors but due to the haze, we had to abandon that idea.

Ade hosted us and since we were early, we took the time to explore some of the materials that the host had kindly set up for the kids. Among them was the LeapFrog farm animal mash-up kit which Faith was attracted to. She had to identify parts of the animals and if she has done so correctly, the sound made by the animal would be played. Cool eh?

20140918_092546 Ade started the session with the recap and introduction of the farm animals using materials like this and this. I think the kids especially liked the Melissa and Doug‘s farm animal sound puzzle. You can see them inching forward to piece the animal so that the relevant sound was made.

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After that she read the story ‘Barnyard Dance’ by one of my favourite authors, Sandra Boynton. Faith has read this book before and we love the story. This time round, we did the actions! So fun!

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We missed craft time for this week and shifted Practical Life up to replace it. We had five stations – snake button, sorting of coloured animals, practising of pincers’ grip, matching of animals’ parts and stacking.

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Sorting

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Snake button

Practising pincers' grip

Practising pincers’ grip

Matching of animals' parts

Matching of animals’ parts

Stacking

Stacking

When I put myself in charge of this segment, I was worried that I might not have enough ideas and resources. Thankfully, friends lent me stuff prior to this day and in the end, I was able to set up the various stations, each requiring the kids to work on different skills. I am indeed thankful for their generosity and I am reminded that this is a quality that I want the little one to learn from young. I don’t embrace the idea of buying things for her just because she likes it. Most of the time, we borrow from others and she has to learn to lend her belongings to her friends too. And I’m heartened to note that the mummies in this group share their resources all too willingly. Yay to such a spirit!

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Chinese lesson – Jenna shared the Chinese terms for the various farm animals and we sang ‘Row, row, row your boat’ in Mandarin, and this we did the action too! The children had fun and I really feel that the kids want to have fun with their mommies too and not just learning with their peers.

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For big muscle activity, I got the children to have relay with the bottle caps that were given to me by a dear friend. Just in time! The kids were supposed to run from one end to the other, gathering as many bottle caps as they could within a certain time frame. I think they like it and this item could be kept.

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After the activity, Maths came in as the mummies counted the number of bottle caps that the kids could gather.

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Just the four of us today!

Below is the recipe for Orange Almond Cake which I have baked for the mommies. Got the little one to help me carry the baked goods to Auntie Ade’s place! Hopefully, the girl will catch on the spirit of giving and serving from young!

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Group A
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
150g sugar

Group B
190g unbleached flour/ plain flour
50g ground almond
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Group C
40g Orange juice
1 orange zest, grated
200g unsalted butter, melted

Almond slices

1. Whip (a) until sugar is dissolved and the mixture turns thick. Fold in (B) and mix until well blended.

2. Stir in (C) and mix until well incorporated.

3. Pour it into greased cup cake moulds ( I used square ones) and sprinkle some almond slices on top.

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4. Bake at 190C for 20-25 minutes or until the top turns golden brown. Remove them immediately from the moulds when done.

😉

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Pastries Chronicles: Red Bean Pinwheels

These pastries are made using Danish Dough and sweetened red bean paste, both of which are leftovers from previous bake.

Makes 1 dozen
All purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 recipe Danish Dough
Sweetened red bean paste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Granulated sugar, for sprinking

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 17-by-13-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel, trim the edges of the dough to form a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Then cut the dough into twelve 4-inch squares.

To form the pinwheels, use the pizza wheel to make diagonal cuts three-quarters of the way toward the centre, leaving a 1-inch square. Fold every other point toward the centre, pressing down to seal.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of red bean paste into the centre of each pinwheel. Place the pinwheels on the prepared baking sheets, six to a sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F, with racks in the middle rack. Brush the dough lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until evenly brown, 20to 25 minutes. Transfer pinwheels to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. These are best eaten the same day they are made.

Source: MS’ Baking Handbook

Pastries chronicles: Sticky Buns

With the other 1/2 of the Danish Dough still available, it is now for me to use it to make sticky buns. I saw the recipe from MS’ Baking Handbook and thought it would be interesting to bake these. All along, I thought sticky buns are made from Brioche but this recipe offers another way to baking them.

The result? It is really sticky but not in the way I like it. It has a crisp, sugary edge and a soft centre. However, I much prefer the ones that I ate at Flour Bakery in which Brioche is used and honey is added to make the goo (so it has soft edges). In this case, light corn syrup is added. Nonetheless, they taste like sticky buns all right and they stick to your teeth. I have to brush my teeth immediately after eating them. Not my cup of tea.

Anyway, the recipe calls for 6-cup jumbo muffin pans and unfortunately, I only have the standard muffin pan. So, I halve all the portions. Below is the recipe for 12 jumbo ones if you have those pans.

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Pastries chronicles: Chocolate Danish Braid

The first item that I decided to bake with the Danish dough is Chocolate Danish braid in which the dough encases a chocolate streusel filling in a lattice-topped braid. It may look complicated but it isn’t since the more complex part lies with the dough. Once the dough is made and chilled, the following steps are easy. You need half of the Danish dough prepared earlier.

I have high hopes for this but I must be honest with you, the turnout is a sheer disappointment. Midway through the baking, when I opened the oven door to check, my heart dropped a few levels. I was mortified. My goodness! It looked terrible!

The filling has oozed out during baking (and that’s why you need a rimmed sheet pan) and the braid had expanded and broken away. Hell broke loose! Maybe I shouldn’t have used up all the filling and should have folded each strip all the way to the opposite side. Nevertheless, here’s how I did it.

500g Danish pastry

For the filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg white

1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Sliced (flaked) almonds

Prepare the Danish pastry and refrigerate to chill as directed. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

To make the filling, in a bowl, combine the granulated sugar, flour, butter, cocoa powder and cinnamon and mix with your fingers until fine crumbs form. Stir in the egg white with a wooden spoon until blended.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle about 14 inches long, 9 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filling down the centre third of the rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal strips 1 1/4 inch (3cm) wide down the outside of the pastry on both sides of the filling, cutting almost through to the filling. Cut off the first and last strip on both sides so that a flap is formed at the top and bottom.

Fold the flaps over onto the filling. Starting at the top, fold the strips over the filling alternately from each side at an angle. When you get to the end, tuck the overhang of the last few strips underneath the braid to form a seal. Using a wide metal spatula, carefully transfer the pastry to the prepared pan. Be careful as you transfer! The dough is soft by now. Place in a warm, draft-free spot, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the braid rise until doubled in size, 30-40min. As you can see from the above pictures, it’s very amateurish workmanship.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 425F.

Lightly brush the braid with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until golden brown and puffed, 15-20min longer. Check the braid during baking and if it turns brown early, cover loosely with aluminium foil. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the braid to the rack and let cool completely.

Pastries chronicles – Danish Pastry

Danish pastry is a yeasted dough similar to croissant dough, but enriched with eggs and sugar. Like the puff pastry and croissant, the technique of rolling and folding the dough so that it is interlaced with butter creates wonderfully flaky layers.

This is the master recipe for Danish pastry and will yield about 1kg of dough. It’s all right to make such a big portion as you can freeze the dough for up to 1 week. Meanwhile, you can plan what you want to bake from the dough!

For the Danish dough
2 packages (5 tsp) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 – 115F)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed

For the butter package
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, salt, cardamon, melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla and mix on medium speed until combined. Add the yeast mixture and then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix just until the dough clings together in a rough mass. If it is still very soft, add up to 1/4 cup flour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Place on a half-sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 min. To spend the time, you can wash the dishes (a clean kitchen should be your pride and joy), sweep the floor, do jumping-jacks, read the recipes again to ensure you know the steps well and key in the recipe in the blog.

To make the butter package, use the heel of your hand (you can use the rolling pin too) and knead the butter on a work surface to flatten it and warm it to about 60F. Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into an 8-by-7-inch rectangle. If the butter has become too warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable (60F).

To laminate the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 10-by-6-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. Then, with a folded side to your left, roll out the dough into a 12-by-20-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This completes the first turn. Return to the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Return the dough to the work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding and chilling each time, for a total of 4 turns. I promise you that the shape of the dough improves with time. Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours or for up to overnight before shaping.

That’s about it. With the dough, let’s see what we can do next.

Pastries chronicles

Let’s start from this day forth! I’ll work on pastries for the whole of this week and the next. Beware though. Pastries have a high butter content and it’s only wise that you add in some exercise regime; you might pile on those pounds unknowingly. Doing housework will help perhaps?

I am having a few texts to help me understand the workings of Pastries. They are James Paterson’s Cooking, Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of baking, Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and E. Prueitt & C. Robertson’s Tartine.

In my maiden post on Pastries, I shared a little on the topic and the various kinds of pastries we can have. Broadly, they are puff pastry, Danish pastry, croissant dough, Choux and Filo.

Puff pastry, Danish pastry and croissant doughs are laminated, meaning that it is a tender dough that is repeatedly rolled and folded with a butter block until the butter is divided into scores of layers within the mass.

Flipping through the pages, I decided to do a map-mind on the goodies that we can have from pastries.

Ok. Let’s type them out clearly here:

Classic Puff pastry/ Quick Puff pastry
* Apple turnover
* Cheese straw
* Palmiers
* Strawberry/Chocolate Napoleans

Danish Pastry
* Apricot/Prune Pinwheels
* Chocolate Danish Braid
* Cheese Danish
* Apricot Bowties
* Chocolate-Pistachio Danish
* Sticky buns
* Sugar Buns

Choux Pastry
* Cream Puffs
* Eclairs
* Profiteroles with ice-cream & chocolate sauce
* Gougeres

Croissant dough
* Almond croissant
* Pain au chocolat
*Pain au Jambon
* Croisssant aux Amandes

This list is not exhaustive but I’m aiming to bake these in the following few weeks.

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche, a French cuisine, is an oven-baked dish made with eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust. Usually, the pastry shell is blind-baked before the other ingredients are added. The most traditional quiche of all is a quiche Lorraine, made by pouring a custard mixture over pieces of bacon, and sometimes cheese, arranged in the tart shell.

A little history: Both France and Germany play roles in the history of the classic quiche Lorraine. Since sovereignty over Lorraine (now a province of northern France) has bounced back and forth between the two countries, the word quiche may have originated with the German Kuchen, meaning “cake” or “pastry”(Essentials of baking by Williams-Sonoma). A true quiche Lorraine would not have cheese as its ingredient.

I intend to make this for lunch and judging by the time needed to prepare the crust and then the baking of the contents, it would at least take me about 1.5 hours. It was my first time making the pastry crust and naturally, was quite fearful if it would turn out well.

I decided to make the basic pie and tart pastry dough (Pate Brisee) which is unsweetened pastry, normally called for in recipes for savory tarts such as quiches, dessert tarts or pies with very sweet fillings. I used a 10″ pie pan and followed the recipe found in James Paterson’s baking.

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs (help to make the pastry less tough)
2 tbsp additional water if dough is too dry

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix both flours and salt on slow speed (you don’t want the flour to start ‘flying’) for about 30 minutes. Add the butter and combine it with flour on low to medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the eggs and mix the dough on low to medium speed for 40 seconds up to 2 minutes. The end result should have the dough holding together in a clump. If not, add the 2 tbsp of water. Mine clumped together effortlessly. Thank goodness!

Flatten the dough into a disk on a non-slipped pastry mat. I love this mat because it has markings on it which guides me on the size of dough. Roll out the dough that is big enough to cover your pan (at least 4 inches wider).

This stage is called baking “blind” in which the shell is baked empty before any filling is added. Blind baking the shell is necessary because when liquid or semiliquid fillings are cooked in a shell, the shell must be pre-baked or the filling will keep the shell from getting hot enough to become crispy.

     

As you can see from the picture, I didn’t roll out the dough at least 4 inches wider in diameter. Thinking that it was good to be able to cover the pan, I just left it as it was.

  

Into the oven it went, at temperature of 400 F for about 15 minutes for the edge of the tart to turn pale brown and about15 minutes more for the inside of the shell to turn golden brown and look matte instead of shiny. After 10 minutes, I opened the over door and checked and to my horror, the sides had shrunk! I have to think of repairwork because if it continued to be ‘pulled down’, I could not fill the shell with liquid!

 

 So, I did some patch work with the additional dough I had. I’m not sure if it will stick with the existing shell but it’s worth a try. To solve the previous problem, I should have placed a parchment paper over the shell and put dried beans to keep the shell from puffing up in the oven. It worked and after being baked, I set it aside.

For the content of the quiche, you would need
Egg wash to seal the tart shell
1 1/2 cup of flavourful cheese ( I used Gruyere)
4 slabs of thick-sliced bacon
2 eggs
1 cup milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper

1. Prebake the tart shell. Brush with egg wash and bake for 5 minutes more to seal. Reduce heat to 300 F.

2. Cook the bacon strips over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until they barely begin to brown. Remove, drain on a paper towel. Cut them into 1/3-inch-thick slices.

3. Beat he eggs until combine and then beat in the milk and cream. Add a little pepper.

4. Sprinkle bacon over the tart shell, then spread the cheese over it. Pour the eg mixture last.

5. Place the quiche on a sheet pan for about 40-45 minutes ot until set – there’s no motion on the surface when you move it back and forth. Mine took longer than 45 minutes and I turned up the heat to 350F and baked till set.

Note to self:
1) If dough is not used immediately, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2) My rolled-out dough was too thick this time round. Consider a thinner shell.
3) Consider putting spinach in the quiche.

Vocabulary

In my reading of the cookbooks, I came across terms/methods which LOOKED familiar but didn’t really make sense to me. So, I resolved to look them up! These are taken from CIA’s Culinary Boot Camp.

Basket method
A method for deep frying in which the food is placed in fryer baskets, which are then immersed in the fat. The preferred deep-frying method for breaded items and many small items such as french fries.

Blanch
To cook an item briefly in boiling water or hot fat before finishing or storing it. Blanched food is usually cooled, or “shocked”, immediately after cooking in an ice-water bath.

Braise
A cooking method in which the main item, usually meat, is seared in fat, then simmered in stock or another liquid in a covered vessel. The cooking liquid is then reduced and used as the basis of a sauce.

Broil
To cook by means of a radiant heat source placed above the food.

Caramelize
To cook an item until the sugars in it brown. The temperature range in which sugar caramelises is 320 F to 360F.

Parboil
To rapidly boil a food (usually a vegetable) to minimise cooking time and retain colour and texture. An item is never parboiled longer than 7 minutes. Parboiled vegetables are usually shocked in ice water and held to be finished before service.

Poach
To cook gently in simmering liquid that is 160F to 185F. Shallow poaching is gentle cooking in a shallow pan of simmering liquid. The liquid is often reduced and used for the sauce. Deep poaching is gentle cooking in which food is completely submerged.

Saute
To cook quickly in a small amount of fat in a pan on top of the stove.

Sear
To brown the surface of food in fat over high heat before finishing by another method (e.g. braising or roasting) in order to add flavour.

Raspberry Jam Sandwich Hearts

I would have baked these for our wedding anniversary if not for the fact that I couldn’t find the cookie cutter (yes, I left all my cutters back home). A few days ago, I found the one that I wanted and today, it has arrived! Imagine the great joy!

So, the hands immediately went to work. I’ve all the ingredients ready, just waiting for the cutter. The ingredients needed were simple and mixing easy. I found the difficult part was the moulding of the shapes since one had to be careful to peel the dough and bring to the baking tray. Since it was not thick, it could go out of shape easily and my patience was tested. However, when you were able to assemble all the ‘parts’ together, the product was beautiful!

Let’s go through the steps together!

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
6 tsp seedless raspberry jam

1. Sift the flour and salt together. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and icing sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the  vanilla and almond extracts and beat on low speed until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together in large clumps (midway through, I gave up and used hands instead as the dough stuck to my mixer).
3. Press the dough together into a ball and divide it into half. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
5. Remove 1 dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough about 6mm thick. Slide a thin metal spatula under the dough to loosen it from the rolling surface. Using a 6cm heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Using a 2.5cm heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out the centre of half of the cookies. Place the larger hearts 4cm apart on the prepared parchment paper. I return the smaller hearts back to the dough to work on the remaning hearts. Repeat the procedure.

 

 

6. Bake the cookies until the edges are light brown about 15-20 min (depending on your oven). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to the wire rcks to cool completely.
7. Leaving a 6mm border uncovered, spread about 1 tsp of the raspberry jam over each cookie with a cutout. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the cutout cookies with icing sugar. Place the cutout cookies on top of the jam-covered cookies. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Adapted from Essentials of baking.

Brown Butter Blondies

Sabbath Sunday is a rest day for Christians and I, too rest from cooking =p, well almost. We spent the whole morning in Church and were treated to a good lunch, all prepared by the worshippers themselves!

Back home, after dinner and checking out the fridge, I realised, to my horror again, that the cookies were running low. In fact, it was left with the pathetic one piece and I sprang into action. More baking! So it was Brown Butter Blondies today! And after cutting the blondies into smaller pieces, I really think I ough to purchase a serrated knife. =p

This is a relatively easy stuff to bake except for the clarified butter that is needed and which has to be heated again until it turns a deep, rich brown.

So a little about making clarified butter. Clarified butter is whole butter, cooked long enought to separate the milk solids and water from the pure butterfat.

 
– Slowly melt at least 1 cup (250g) unsalted butter (cut into pieces) in a small frying pan over low heat until it is foamy on the surface.
– Pour the melted butter into a small glass bowl or measuring pitcher and let stand for a minute or two. There are three distinct layers: milk solids (proteins) on the bottom; clear, yellow liquid (butterfat) in the middle; and foam on top.

 
– Use a spoon and carefully remove the foam from the surface. Pour the clear liquid into a clean container, being careful to leave the milk solids behind in the bowl or pitcher. Discard the milk solids.

To make brown butter, heat the clarified butter in a frying pan over low heat until light brown and fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat.
Cooking butter until it is a deep, rich brown, before it darkens and burns, produces a nutty-flavoured butter that enhances the traditional blondie. French chefs call this brown butter beurre noisette (hazelnut butter) because of its nut-brown colour and taste.

Info and recipe are from Essentials of baking and Culinary Boot Camp (CIA).
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Lesson 1.3 How to make vegetable stock

In case any one of you are wondering about the previous entry on Amour doux, that is actually a post that I need to submit for a contest on Project Food Blog. I’m not entering to win but I find the challenge really challenging and so I participated. Well, you could of course vote for me if you find that I am good enough. In any case, I would be trying out the challenge whether or not I am moving on to the next stage. =)

For today, the lesson from my MS textbook is on how to make vegetable stock. For this recipe that is to follow, the vegetables are lightly browned to give the stock intense flavour. This is helpful especially since there is no base of flavour provided by meat as compared to the previous two kinds of stock.

I basically use celery, carrots, corainder (because I love it), onions and garlic for the stock and of course, how could we do without oil, pepper and some salt?

The 3 steps are basically browning the vegetables, making the stock and then straining it.

Browning the vegetables.
Heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add chopped onions and cook, stirring often until they begin to brown. Add celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Making the stock. Pour in enough water to cover vegetables by 1 inch ( for me, 2 inches). Add the herbs (corainder) and the remaining onion. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook (uncover) for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Straining the stock. Pour stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. pressing on vegetables to extract as much flavourful liquid as possible. Discard solids. If not using immediately, cool in an ice-water bath before transferring to airtight containers. Vegetable stock can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 3 months; thaw completely before using (Martha Stewart’s Cooking School).

Let’s just see how I would use my vegetable stock next. Hmmm….

Lessons on baking

These days, besides looking at cookbooks to provide me with ideas to prepare for meals, I have been reading up on cooking and baking. No, I’m not talking merely about recipes.

Take for examples, the book Baking Boot Camp gave me insights on the use of various types of flour, bleached and unbleached, leaveners, stabilizers, blah blah and how they react with one another to give you different products. Baking, in a nutshell, is simple science- chemistry and physics – subjects that I absolutely have no liking to. =p

Chef Hinnerk as mentioned in the book, considered cooking a more artistic activity than baking because we can play around with things and change them frely up until the very last minute. Baking is more scientific. One must stick to a certain fundamental proportions in order for the product to turn out right. And once the baked good is in the oven, that’s it – we can’t tinker with it.

True, isn’t it? How many of us actually wait anxiously around the oven, pacing up and down the kitchen, checking to see if our baked stuff is all right? The timing is a guide but we need to use our senses, smell and sight and touch to make sure it turns out well.

Going on, Chef Hinnerk continued to comment that while cooking can involve a seemingly limitless number of ingredients, the basic ingredients for baking are very few (agree!). Even so, each has a distinct purpose. The 3 categories of functional ingredients in baked goods are the stabilizers (flour and egg), the liquefiers (fat, sugar and a range of liquids) and the leaveners (either natural or chemicals). Just a few basic ingredients can result in a wide variety of baked goods, depending on how they are used. Each time we substitute an ingredient, change the proportions or handle the ingredients in a new way, we will get a different result. That’s where both the science and the artistry come in.

Such information is just, but a few % of the content in the book. There is the information on conversion of measurement (I’m glad CIA advocated using scales!) which I would fail in if I were to have a class on it. I mean, there are different formulas when you convert different things (i.e. dry ingredients and liquids).

I’m just through to chapter 4 of the book and I’m overwhelmed. That, with the ‘textbook’ that I am reading – Essentials of baking – made me respect baking more. We sure can follow recipes and do up a good pastry but to understand how certain things work in a particular way, you definitely need more knowledge.

Oh yes, the following is what I have to cover for baking.
– Cookies, bars and brownies
– Quick breads
– Cakes
– Pies and tarts
– Custards & souffles
– Chocolate
– Pastries
– Breads
– Sauces, toppings and fillings
For each category, there are a few items to bake. Happy baking!

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday, I was at the supermarket and couldn’t resist the chocolates at the counter and…bought it. One month without chocolate is truly deprivation of the tastebud (or stomach or whatever!) and so I decided to start baking. Yes! Finally! Goodness, when was the last time I baked?

It is also high time to test the oven and the handheld electric mixer that I brought over. I will be following the lessons from the book ‘Essentials of baking’ and the first set of lessons would be on cookies, bars and brownies. Dropped cookies such as the ones that I am baking are formed by dropping spoonfuls of dough into a prepared baking sheet and is highly easy!

It is also 59 days to my marathon and I really need the extra motivation to get me running. Ok. So the triple chocolate chips are awfully sinful enough to get me moving. One cookie for each 10km run. =p

I thought the cookies spread a tad too much during baking and according to the write-up, it could be because the butter was too soft when added (could be!).

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Home-based culinary curriculum

After thinking it through for a while, I decided that enrolling into culinary school means digging deep into our pockets and because I am not even sure if I am going to switch profession eventually, designing my own curriculum and learning on my own through various sources is the way to go.

Bought two cookbooks which I considered my textbooks for my curriculum – Martha Stewart’s Cooking School & Essentials of Baking – although I much prefer to get hold of CIA’s cookbooks but they were not available at the Strands bookstore in NY. These would do for now; their content is comprehensible and provides step-by-step instructions.

So, there you go. I would be taking down notes from all the lessons I am going to learn from my home-based culinary lessons! And it’s gonna start next week!