Monday, July 23, 2012

Every day is a perfect baking day.

The Vancouver weather has been fluctuating again this past week, alternating between warm, sunny days and windy, rainy days. I don't mind it too much, because nothing really dampens my mood for baking.

Every day is a perfect baking day. If it's sunny, loads of sunshine stream through the kitchen windows and I feel really at peace looking out into the garden as I mix the dough and hum a happy tune. If it's raining, I'd have to stay indoors anyway and nothing adds more to the feeling of coziness than the smell of freshly baked pastries while it's cold and raining outside. Baking is so soothing, rain or shine.

I'm not an optimist, it's the truth.

Last week, I tried another recipe from "Boutique Baking" and made a marble coffee cake. For some reason, I couldn't find my Bundt cake pan so it didn't turn out quite the way as I had expected, but it was deemed a success by my classmates nonetheless (phew!). This week, I was lent Dr. Oetker's "German Baking Today", a fantastic recipe book full of delicious-looking German pastries that I had never thought of trying before! I looked through it and bookmarked a few recipes.

Yesterday, I tried my first one. I always feel bad for making only sweet things like cookies and cakes, because my grandma has diabetes and she can never have any of it. So I decided to try out the recipe for ham and cheese croissants! And, as it turns out, it worked and tastes fine despite the fact that I forgot to shape them into, well, croissants before putting them in the oven. Oh well.

I don't really eat much of what I bake, to be honest, but I guess my grandparents will be having ham and cheese croissants for breakfast these next few days!

My plan was to try the recipe for plum cake next, maybe on Monday so I can bring it to class on Tuesday. But I ended up staying home today and didn't have much to do, so I wandered around the house until I decided to rummage through the kitchen cupboards to see what ingredients we had at home.

And somehow, I ended up making chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. They actually turned out really nicely and taste great, even though I made them for the sole purpose of using up my remaining chocolate chips. I made at least four dozen of them, so I suppose I'll be bringing these instead of the plum cake to class first! I also saved a fair amount for my grandpa to enjoy during his afternoon teatimes. I hope he likes them.

Oh dear, my blog is slowly turning into a baking diary, isn't it? I promise it's only a phase, I'll eventually tire of it and write about something else.

But honestly, who cares, right? Who doesn't like looking at pictures of food!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I was right to be skeptical of the "Magic" in baking powder!

Boys and girls, it is good to be back in the beautiful city of Vancouver!

When I first came back, the weather was quite chilly despite it being the end of June. Coming from Hong Kong where it was 35 degrees and 80% humidity, I thought it was practically freezing. Whatever thick skin I had grown from spending four winters in Montreal, I had lost it in my one year in Hong Kong; and for some reason, I feel that it's always colder in the house. But, luckily the sun is shining now and summer is finally here! I took full advantage of that last Friday by spending my afternoon lounging on the grass at English Bay.

Despite my constant complaining about my lack of belonging anywhere, I think there's no other place I can even come close to calling home than here in Vancouver. The fresh air, the nice weather, the bustling but not too busy streets. The friendliness. How, when I walk under the sunlight in the morning, I can't help but smile to myself. These are things I was never able to find in Hong Kong, and I have missed them dearly. Knowing myself, I'm sure that I'll soon be complaining about how boring it is in Vancouver again; but in the meantime, I'm still grateful.

I had the most wonderful day last week, having lunch with my new classmates and soaking in the sun afterwards. When I got home that evening, there was a warm meal home-cooked by my grandma. But before dinner, I opened a package that had come in the mail for me that day... to find the loveliest, loveliest baking recipe book from a friend living in Sydney, Australia. She had decided to send it to me as a present when I mentioned my excitement in being able to bake again upon my return to Vancouver. I was so happy I felt like exploding into confetti!

The book is "Boutique Baking" by Peggy Porschen, and contains detailed recipes for cupcakes, tarts, cakes, macarons, and plenty of other sweets. It is also pink. Isn't that lovely?

Having been a rebellious teenager who rebelled in a rather strange way, I don't have a driving license because I didn't want to get one "like everybody else" when I was in high school. And since I moved away for university, I never got the chance to take the test and lessons after that. I'm feeling the inconvenience now especially when I live with only my grandparents and none of us can drive, but it's manageable. Having said that, though, I did have quite a hard time when I bought my baking supplies over the weekend. My grandma had done some cleaning during my absence and a lot of my baking ingredients have disappeared, so I had to go out and get a lot of the basic stuff again like flour, baking powder, etc. It was a lot of work just preparing to bake!

So anyway, I decided to try the recipe of the black forest cupcake first. All the recipes in the book are a lot more difficult than what I usually make, so maybe it wasn't the best choice for getting back into "baking mode" after a year of not having an oven. But nonetheless, I modified a few things in the recipe and gave it a shot. It took a very long time... and I'm not sure if it's my oven from having been out of use for a while, or if it was my slight tweaking of the recipe, but it didn't seem to bake very well and had me worried for a second that it would be my first baking disaster.

But I think it turned out all right in the end, although I definitely have to practice my piping skills. The frosting took a while to make prior to making the cupcake, and this was the first time I tried my hand at piping a cupcake (notice below that I did choose the ugliest cupcake to try on first). I don't think I let the frosting chill long enough in the fridge, so using a star nozzle didn't make much of a difference on the piping... but I'd like to try again maybe for another recipe! I also switched out the Griottine cherries and Kirsch liqueur/syrup I was supposed to use (Kirsch liqueur is terribly expensive), and simply soaked fresh cherries in brandy. I think that worked out fine.

In any case, maybe a pictorial summary of the messy process will be more interesting than my endless blocks of text. Let's see tomorrow if they taste any good! And perhaps next time I'll use less expensive recipes to experiment with, hah.