June 13, 2013 § 2 Comments
It’s been a great week for the cafe. The crowd has not stopped, regulars came in to congratulate us, families from the neighborhood fed their curiosities and images have been shared/clicked/retweeted furiously. While the hype and pressure is on, there seems to be a sense of steadiness in the air.
Perhaps it is just me, or the effects from waking up before sunrise even on the weekends. I have been finding solace in the quiet dimly lit kitchen. From the minute I unlock the door, the footsteps I take towards the oven and setting the temperature for the first bake. The undivided time dedicated to sifting flour, creaming butter/sugar, clearing last night’s clean dishes and picturing the dinner service. Though the shortage of hands seem to be a pain, there will never be a shortage of kindness or laughter. An unexpected gesture, a note of gratitude, a silly joke to break the ice, or dance in the middle of the kitchen.
Although by the end of the day, we are all physically drained, my heart is light. I look forward to the alarm at 0530, and demanding suppliers for my produce. Who would have known that it is not worth delivering 200 eggs, despite being just around the corner? Or I need 5kg of frozen fish from the Atlantic ocean, just so we can have one scrumptious item on the menu? If there is one thing I learnt from working in kitchens, is that always treat your suppliers nicely (from the dodgy delivery man to the rude but oh-so-desperate marketer).
What time do you open? I’ll let my delivery man know.
10am but I will be there by dawn.
Woah so early!
Here, I retreat into the comforting kitchen made with hard metal, but allows me to bake anything. I tried three new recipes and already have five more lined up. Here, I am not afraid to be vulnerable. In fact, I think we take joy in them. As NBC puts it “characters welcome”. We yell when we need to, we demand when we want to, we laugh when it is most inappropriate and perhaps even cry at some point. But the dark sides of us have seemingly made us into a family. Being selfless sometimes, can be the best thing you do for yourself.
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. – Pema Chödrön.
My favourite girl is back!
May 29, 2013 § 4 Comments
An accidental bake. I had wanted to make something else but had forgotten to write the ingredients in the grocery list. Having Deb Perelman‘s book in my hands, I stumbled upon the simplest ingredients and without a second thought, turned the oven knob on and rummaged into the refrigerator.
With the new space coming up, we have been testing a few recipes and getting the place together. I am enjoying the silent kitchen with construction noise behind thick walls. The cleanliness of our bare feet against spotless beige tiles. Unused porcelain still wrapped in newspaper tucked near the dishwasher, which is still adjusting to its awkward piping system.
For the cafe family, we are thrilled for the opening day. But the delay had costs much frustrations yet allows us to ease into the comforts of our new home. Already, we have a creative corner, the manager’s favourite chair, an habitual angle to lean on the wall and usual parking space. While there will be many more avenues for each of us to fall calmly into, it is already a great start.
Much like this cake, which was shared and enjoyed immensely, the day turned out unexpectedly lovely. Perhaps, perfecting our crafts, slowly taking our time to focus on shaping and molding, brings unadorned pleasant surprises. In turn, reflects individual personalities, understanding characters and working better as a family. Learning to be patient with time, with ourselves and one another.
recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
1 1/2 cups (190g) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk
Soft Gooey Layer
1/4 cup (60ml) light corn syrup or golden syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/4 (155g) cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Line a 9- by 13-inch cake pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all four sides. (I overturn the pan, shape the foil over the bottom, remove it, then flip the pan over and ease the foil into the pan.) Spray the foil in the pan with nonstick spray or brush with melted butter.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. To make the cookie base, whisk together the 1 1/2 cups (190g) flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Beat the 8 tablespoons (115g) of butter and the 3/4 cup (150g) of sugar in the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand, until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the egg and the milk and mix in, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients, until fully incorporated. Put the mixture in the cake pan in dollops (it’s too thick to spread if you add it all in the same place), and spread it into an even layer with an offset spatula.
(You don’t need to clean the bowl; you can reuse it for the next step.)
4. To make the soft gooey layer, in a small bowl, whisk together the corn syrup or golden syrup with the milk or cream, and vanilla.
5. Beat the 12 tablespoons (170g) of butter with the 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225g) of sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add one-third of the 1 1/4 cup (155g) flour, then half of the milk/corn syrup mixture. Add another one-third of the flour, then the rest of the milk/corn syrup mixture. Then stir in the remaining flour. Dollop the batter over the unbaked cookie layer and spread evenly.
6. Mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle it evenly over the cake.
7. Bake the cake for 25 minutes, or until the cake feels slightly damp, but gently set in the center. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. When cool, lift out the cake using the overhang of the foil, and cut the cake into 1-inch (3cm) squares.
Note: Sharp-eyed folks might notice that my cake squares didn’t get as dark has hers, as shown in the book, which I attribute to a new oven which I’m still learning how to use. The cinnamon I ground was also not as fine as the finely ground cinnamon that you buy, so the pieces are more distinct, which also led to the tops of mine looking a bit different from hers. Regardless of any differences in appearance, it’s quite an amazing cake and I urge you to try it.
*coffee is from Nylon*
May 22, 2013 § 6 Comments
She loves antiques. She loves junk. She loves anything she does not need but gets them nevertheless. She loves the idea of a hand me down, a good thrift store, a good bargain, a good steal and even more so, a fantastic car boot sale.
We would be forced to wake up at dawn, whist the moon barely set and dreams are just beginning to climax. Lifted from an innate zeal, she will get dressed eagerly and be at the door without haste. Layered in three/four winter clothing, she manages to look divine under the dim bedroom light. As we drive down the country side with beaming car lights shining along the hedges leading the way, I wonder if my stomach had completely digested the buttery apple pie from last night.
The cars lined up in a row and their things are laid unkempt with much order. It’s as disheveled as a lovely afternoon tea with the Royalties. You can get anything least likely to imagine. A box of jewelry from a recently deceased old lady, century old stamps, to a barely used camera. It’s a shopaholic haven. For mum, it is her nirvana.
I have fears of her stepping onto the wet field. Her heavy purse will be emptied and her grocery bags filled with unnecessaries.
For her birthday this year, I got her three brass bowls from an antique store. For what need, I do not know. The stubborn elderly man who runs the shop, could not have a better pair of eyes for collectable items. If anything, it would be his cranky personality that helps his memory. I ponder for a moment whether my mum should open her own antique store. The house is one itself.
Her all time favourite dessert is a simple apple pie. This year, I had decided to make a gluten free version as she has gotten slightly unfriendly with wheat.
Thank you for being the best mother and friend. Happy birthday mum!
300g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
1/2 tsp salt
130g vegetable oil
20g non-dairy milk
1/2 cup ice water, perhaps less depending on the weather
apple pie filling
3 green apples, sliced thinly
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
130g Bob’s Mill all purpose gluten free flour
30g sorghum flour
30g walnuts, chopped
15g brown sugar
30g vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 200C, coat 8 inch pie tin with a light layer of oil.
2. Slice apples and combine brown sugar until well mixed, set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, mix pie dough ingredients except for ice water. With your hands kneed the dough until it comes together, add the ice water slowly until it forms a ball. If the weather is humid, add a little more ice in the water. Set the dough aside.
4. For the crumble, add all the ingredients together with a fork or get messy with your fingers. I like the later better.
5. Place the pie dough on the pie tin and spread it with your fingers, make sure to get an even layer on the sides. Lay apples evenly and sprinkle the crumble on the top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C and then, 25-30 minutes at 180C.
May 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Finally a recipe post! This should be a regular go-to recipe as it is so simple to make. I have been approached by a few vegan/gluten-free home bakers on what to use for substitutions. While I have no fix gluten-free flour mix nor foolproof methods, I had managed to bring this lovely chocolate delight to the table just in time for tea.
Baking with gluten free flour is not as challenging as you think it is. I have failed and succeed; threw and sold many gluten free vegan cupcakes/brownies/cookies/shortbread. One thing, I have learnt is to never stop baking/cooking until you find the right fit. It is a journey for you to discover your own tastebuds and explore the wonders of different ingredients.
1 cup 70-80% dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup fruit puree (apple, papaya, pear or any fruit you enjoy)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
50g rice flour
50g sorghum flour
30g tapioca flour
30g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp guar gum/xanthan gum
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla pod
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and lined an 8-inch baking pan with a layer of oil.
2. Melt dark chocolate over the bain-marie or one minute medium heat in the microwave. Do not worry if the chocolate bits are not completely melted. Some bites are always welcomed. Puree fruit in the processor and set aside.
3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Once chocolate is melted, add in fruit puree, oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until very well incorporated.
4. Pour it into the pan and even the top with a spatula. Bake it for 25-30 minutes. It will come out soft and very moist. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before indulging.
And more to say, this is not available at the bakery/cafe I work in, but I am more than happy to share it with anyone.
*After leaving it for a day or two, it tends to get very dense. So best consume within the day of.
May 11, 2013 § 4 Comments
The new cafe is coming soon. While the movers start bringing in old furniture, i sink into a reminiscence phase. The benches are familiar comforts. They hold much more than just for sitting. There were cigarette stains, dog fur balls, and tainted paint. They hold conversations, some important, some futile but mostly connections between people or strangers.
I guess there is a better time to write this but it’s 0134 and I have been up since 0715. It does not help that I only got a few hours of sleep before. I guess there is also a better topic to write about. Since this is a food blog but I have been squandering around, not indulging with food and reflecting more.
When we forget to stop and ponder about things that really matter. When we start to ignore the important. When we pay attention to details so small it is nothing in the big picture. When we get so caught up with being sharp, we get pushed to the edge. We become the inconceivable thoughts of the fragile, thinking that we are strong. When we face the unknown, we fall steadily like a soufflé left sitting a fragment of a second too long.
We lose the signs. We gain the twines.
In Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, she spoke about vulnerabilities. How being vulnerable puts us in a shameful position, and we keep very quiet. We all have them. So the question is, then what is there to be shameful about?
“Shame is the fear of disconnection”.
A disconnection which makes us, again, susceptible to being criticized or judged. Knowingly, it is ourselves that put the preconceived notion before even acting.
But when we share these moments of silliness, these moments of hurt, or shame, it builds trust. It is putting the trust into other people’s hand and go, “Hey, I need help”. So often, others are happy just to listen, but more than often, they are happy to help.
Perhaps, that is why a soufflé is such a beautiful dessert.Its short moment of daintiness becomes vulnerable to time and and is always silently savoured when served on the table.
I had a breakdown moment after receiving some bad news. But a lovely friend lent me her shoulders and allow me to lean on. It is unusual for me to reach out. I cave in when bad things happen. In those short hours, I learnt how to put trust on the table again. This, I am grateful for. We had the best generra coffee, drew and read.
Congratulations Elodie for having the lovely piece published.
But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.” Madeleine L’Engle
May 9, 2013 § 5 Comments
find comfort in lost images
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Jack Kerouac, On The Road.
May 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Always leave one door open for opportunities come knocking when you least expect. Overindulging is food is predominantly adequate when it’s an occasional affair. Share your food, so you can taste others and spread the joy. Immerse yourself in meals with the culture and surroundings. A dish can reconcile disappointments, smoothen feelings and keep that smile of yours going.
Lastly, be grateful and show gratitude in anyway.