Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Special Column : Goodbye to Baby Angel..

It was 20 minutes before 9am and my husband was hurried to leave for office. About a few seconds before he stepped out we received a call from a closed family friend. It was a bad news. My closed family friend has a miscarriage yesterday night. We were both in shocked, worried and sad. We quickly dressed up our gal and sent her to the nanny. I always try not to bring her to the hospitals to prevent her from catching any bugs. My husband decided to take a day off as he felt that the grieving couple, my closed friend needed help in one way or another. I am so touched by his kindness and generosity for going extra miles.

We were in the Mt. Alvernia Hospital alas. The grieving mother was crouching on the bed covering her head and body with a white blanket, refusing to talk but sobbing all the way. She was not emotionally stable. The Husband was trying to comfort her though he was bearing tremendous pain and sadness himself masking it up well by his tall and muscular built. Lucky that there are always counselors called religious sisters in a Catholic Hospital who are always ready to send comforting words of God to patients who need them most.

Tiny Baby Angel was just about 8 weeks old. But then the hurt and sadness was tremendously felt by the grieving parents. It wasn’t the matter of whether 8 weeks or 8 months for a parent to grief for the loss of a child. It was the pure and strong love and bonding the parents have had for Baby Angel as early as from the time of conception, a time when life was already granted to the tiny baby in the womb of the mother by God. How can one says that there is no life to an unborn child when heart beat already can be heard and traced and love has already been developed?!

Baby Angel was just a tiny little clot of blood but Baby Angel was alive for 8 weeks though unborn and before God decided to take Baby Angel away with Him. Baby Angel is now under the good care of God and the reasons why Baby Angel was taken away remained as a painful truth for the parents, family and friends to accept.

We had a Catholic ritual prayer to baptise Baby Angel and to bless the soul and the family. It was a simple but solemn prayer. Everyone in the room was crying, sobbing and grieving. Nobody can explain how amazingly this little tiny baby has touched all our life! We know that Baby Angel has returned to the Lord and is in good hands. In that little room, we sense the love and awesome of God and His grace in controlling everything in our life! Our life on earth is only a pilgrimage journey towards eternal life.

We had the car accidents together about 2 months ago and we kept on praising God for saving our life, allowing us to continue living for there are life missions that we need to fulfill on earth. How fragile our life could be and how helpless we are before the Lord. Is being successful in life important when we meet God one day? Yes God never called us to be poor but in the expense of chasing after our self-claimed ‘success’ or a better or more comfortable life do we really need to trade off the significances that are closed to our hearts and souls. I am asking myself the same questions each day…

Our prayers go to Baby Angel, the grieving parents and the family always. As a mark of respect in this grieving period, there will be no post on baking or food for this whole week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Marble Cake



This is my second baking project but first one with this hand mixer that I got. The recipe is taken from a book called Homemade Cake by Philippa Vanstone. The book featured mainly on American traditional cakes and pastry using old-fashioned recipes!
video
The reasons why I am attracted to this book are two-folds. First, I am interested to learn about the traditional cakes, breads, pies, and biscuits as I think as a baker we need to know how to bake traditional pastries if possible from as many countries as possible. By knowing the basis then we are able to understand the changes through times and from there we can creatively modify and transform the recipe to suit our today's taste buds without losing its traditional essence. To me that is important. Though I have not grasp on any baking techniques and skills, this principle will set the foundation for my entrepreneurialship in my culinary journey.. that is know the foundation, know the roots!! The second reason is simply because it has a summarised version of the important basic knowledge and tips that I need to know about baking like equipment, essential ingredients, some terms used in baking like creaming, folding, rubbing etc, how to troubeshoot, cake decorating, freezing and storing. For a novice baker like me these are absolutely helpful!



MARBLE CAKE

Ingredients (make 6 - 8 slices)

175g cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g unsalted butter
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla essense
75g bittersweet chocolate, melted

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F. Grease and baseline an 8inch cake pan.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and put to one side

3. Cream the butter and sugar. Add in sugar gradually. Beat the batter until it turns fluffy and light in colour. I did this about 5 minutes.

4. Gradually add in eggs, a little by little and alternately fold in flour and milk to the mixture. Stir in the vanilla essense. The book didn't mention how many times. I did it in 3 additions that is add and egg and mix at lower speed then add in flour and milk and continue to mix until all are incorporated. Add in the second portion of egg and do likewise for the flour and milk. Add in the last portion of the egg and do likewise.

5. Pour half of the mixture to another bowl and stir in the melted chocolate.

6. Spoon the batters alternately into the pan until all batters are used up.

7. Use a chopstick/ knife to gently swirl the batters to create the marble effect.
Bake for 35 – 40 min and remove to a wire rack after 5 minutes.





The marble cake that I made turned out to be crispy on top but not hard. The marble effect was not clear in fact it just looked like a lump mixture of chocolate and butter cake. Probably I had not divided the batter evenly and being a chocolate lover I purposely pour in more batter for the chocolate flovour! Also I knew I didn't swirl it correctly as I just cut it through with 7 parallel straight lines on the batter and didn't swirl it at all :( Read on some baker blogs and found out that the crispy top could probably due to too much egg! Seem like many people are using cocoa powder instead of the bittersweet chocolate. Nonetheless there are some that combine both. Some use both baking soda and baking powder and bake it in a loaf pan. Anyway there is no one strict way in baking a marble cake! It is a matter of preference and perhaps the economic factor also as I think cocoa powder is cheaper than a bitter sweet chocolate bar. The taste was very good, very moist, tasty, not so sweet and it remained moist after 5 days (I kept in air tight container). My husband loves it a lot! I came across a recipe on marble cheese cake and I will try baking it soon.

Philips Hand Mixer



Everytime when I went shopping especially at the baking section or at the shops selling bakery stuff, I always tempted to buy the utensils, essentials and stuff. Even by reading up books, blogs, magazines etc the more I know about the baking world the more I wanted to buy a wide range of bakery stuff for my experiments at home. Thank God that I am able to control myself and save some money by not buying unnecessary things. I try to be prudent in managing the family budget especially in this inflation crisis.

I may forgo all things at the moment but not this one that is the electronic hand mixer which does wonder and magical job for my baking projects. I think all homebakers should have one of it to make baking easy and enjoyable. I got this Philips brand 3L hand mixer at 10% discount at court at about SGD 65. It comes with 3turbo, 2-year warranty and dual functions whereby you can hold it with your hand and mix or fix it to the machine and let it do the job! 3L is just nice a capacity for a homebaker. I was so happy that day carefully took out all the parts, washed, cleaned them up and assembled them immediately to kick start my next baking project i.e Marble cake.

First Baking Project : Chocolate-Cherry Cupcakes



I went to the Tampines library one afternoon to borrow some baking books as what I have are mostly cooking books but not so much on baking. How I wish I could own all these books at my home library as part of my collections :)So my birthday is coming soon and I have made known to my hubby to get cooking and baking books for my birthday present :) This is the book where I followed the recipe to bake my first chocolate cupcake! The name of the book is ‘How to be a domestic goddess’ written by Nigella Lawson. video This is really a wonderful book whereby she gave a personal touch of comments and sharing of tips based on her vast cooking and baking experiences for each recipe no matter how simple the recipe is. So when I read this recipe book it seems to me that she is ‘talking’ to me and I am so amazed that the recipes come alive to me in that way! Will get one copy of this book hee..

I did my first ever baking project on 29 July 2008. I didn’t follow the chocolate cupcake recipe strictly as I have not gotten my kitchen weighing scale and I didn’t have a kitchen mixer with me and many other baking stuff. In order to make sure that my first project successful and that I didn’t tire myself too much, I used my gut feelings and senses to bake and improvise. I think baking is all about using your heart and soul and of course your mind! We learn as we grow :)

CHOCOLATE-CHERRY CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

12 bun muffin tin and cupcake cases
150g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
125g soft unsalted butter
2 eggs beaten
100g dark chocolate, melted
150g caster sugar
300g morella cherry jam

For the icing :
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
12 natural-coloured glace cherries

Simplified Method for the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F. Grease and line the muffin tray with cupcake cases.
2. Put butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Melt the butter and when nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment and remove from the stove. Stir with wooden spoon until butter and chocolate melted.
3. Add jam, sugar, salt, eggs and when all are well mixed, stir in the flour. Scrape and pour batter into a cupcake cases.
4. Let the cupcake cool on the tray before turning over.

The method for the icing which i didn't do :

5. When the cupcakes are cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces and add the to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to boil, remove from heat and beat until thick and smooth.
6. Ice the cupcake and smooth witht the back of the spoon and stand a cherry in the centre.

I must admit my version of the cupcakes looked bare without the icing. I will try to do the full version next time. Also I replaced the morella cherry jam with St. Dalfour Blueberries jam as I cant find the former. I have reduced the amount of sugar as well.


I like to take photos of the batter or dough when it is going through the baking process or in production. I like to observe how it is transformed as part of the learning process. I just can’t help but to relate baking process to raising a kid somehow. We must use the right amount of ingredients (e.g love) and follow the steps (e.g human rules) yet we cannot overuse certain ingredients or use too much strength or follow the steps too strictly. There are always variations that happen along the line that we have to accept.


The cupcakes tasted so wonderful though without the icing. It is so moist and soft. You can taste the sour berries in between the rich chocolate flavoured bites. My daughter tucked in one and wanted more but I stopped her at one as it was a little heavy for her before her sleeping time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More time to write...



As i mentioned in my first post that I never baked before in my entire life until I started baking about 2 weeks ago, I would like to spend a little more time this week to write on the experiences and the lessons I have learnt from each self-thought baking lesson that I went through. So you will be seeing a lot of posts coming up soon for both baking and cooking projects. I have been taking a lot of photos of the end baking products and infact each time after a baking project I would either take a snap of the recipe or write down the recipe first hand without refering to the recipe book. I will later run through the list and compare it with the recipe book. By doing so it helps me to recall what, how much ingredients are used and what are the steps to follow. It is like another session of mind-tutorial that I have. Going through the baking scenes again through the eyes of my mind helps me to remember the ingredients and steps better so that I won't miss out anything important or repeat the same mistakes. Also it will help me bake more confidently, fast and easy as I may not need to refer to the recipe books all the time and this will allow the creative juice flows more naturally and easily . This technique works for me definitely though it may not work for most of us.

If a person like me can bake at the age of 34 (all of my baking projects turned out well so far), I am sure many of you out there who have not been baking at all can do it as well :). I am encouraging all to start baking as it brings so much fun, contendment and challenge that is unexplainable! I can already feel it so much even i am a novice at this stage. Hopefully, I am able to grasp the baking techniques fast and well. I am considering to sign up for baking course soon. Happy baking and cooking :>

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Humble Background..



I started cooking at the age of 15 for a huge family. I learnt cooking mainly Cantonese food from my sister and my mother. I never baked until the age of 34 now and after married with a daughter who aged 21 months! My daugther is my source of strength and perseverance. A hard day of working, cooking and doing housework will by itself payoff by her hugs, smiles and of course her sweet calling of 'mee mee ah....' :)

I always love cooking and experimenting new recipes and especially the last two years when I have my own family which means I have my own kitchen space and stuff etc.:) I have indulged in cooking ‘Peranakan’ foods through my late grandmother in-law as I am crazy for anyting that is spicy and hot! I find spices are heavenly created natural aromatic ingredients that can enrich and improve one's health and yet may create harm at the same time. I am planning to build a small little herbs garden at my house corridor when I am more settle with my self-thought baking lessons.

I am exploring about food catering business and nutritional foods for kids. There is a strong inner calling to further look into the F & B industry since last few months. My close friend who is a CEO of a private school kept on assuring me that I can do more than working for others BUT i need to find what it is that is really for me. Preparing foods for 30 guests are not a problem for me but to do this as a business is not something can be taken likely. Mind you I have been working in healthcare for almost my entire life and have zero formal training in culinary. Anyway there are a lot of successful professionals who switch career mid way like Lynette Foo, Lynn Chen, Su-Mene to quote a few.

Obviously I do not know where to set my food until recently when I had a car accident a month ago. It changes the total perspectives of my views of life. Yes it scares me but it matures me more than anything else about vocational life! During the recovery period I was homebound. Given the abundant of time and the inner calling to explore F & B I read up a lot about cooking and baking. I began baking during this period learning from blogs, recipes etc... and the result is I am falling in love with baking! I just can't stop baking. I bake and bake and bake.... :)

Learning baking will and has indeed opened another chapter of my informal 'culinary' journey. The excitement and satisfaction started as early as at the stage of planning the recipes to suit the purpose for the gatherings, festives or just for the simple reason to finish up whatever balance ingredients I have in the fridge or cupboard! I always cook & now bake with my HEART and SOUL for my family and friends. I believe that the same passion will be the ingrained motivator for me to do likewise in my food business! I do not aim to be a cook or a baker. What I want to be is a social entrepreneur in this field. What I have now is definitely providence from God. He teaches me to cook the FISH and now bake the BREAD. HE performed the miracle 2000 years ago in feeding seven thousands people and it is my prayer that the same miracle will happen through my future business in 'feeding' or 'teaching the underprivileged how to FISH! God Bless!
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