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 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 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.
September 24, 2012 § 3 Comments
As much as I would like to spare the time everyday to indulge in a decent meal with my family, work calls. Nevertheless, work is now family and we have our family meals in many delightful manners. Where we lean against one another for comfort or joke about silly customers; eat left overs from the pantry or simply share home cooked food. We learn to love the likes, dislikes, favorites, ups and downs, and fill the emptiness of silence when no one is in the cafe.
What is unresolved becomes impersonal over the table, and most often, echoes into cackles. Those that make you smile when you are alone brushing your teeth or doing laundry. Such joys are unparalleled.
April 14, 2012 § 2 Comments
Stage – is a culinary term for an internship or a brief course, whereby one enquire new culinary skills & experience in kitchens. The dynamics in every restaurant is unique, as each chef has his/her own way in overseeing it. From ordering fresh/seasonal ingredients, special cooking techniques, firing an order, detail plating to serving the dish on the customer’s table.
Kitchens are filled with mundane task. As a new stagiare, one can be placed in the corner to zest and juice a couple of pounds of lemons and lime or asked just to scale out ingredients. If lucky or trusted, one is allow to bake a simple cake or churn ice cream. My eyes are to observe the new environment, how the cooks maneuver hastily over the counters and chefs run about gracefully on the kitchen floor. It is rare to see mistakes as they themselves have been through laborious moments under high pressured seniors.
With envy, I absorb every move, like a lady finger sponge cake soaked with espresso, I filled my eyes with meticulous baking steps, cutting and plating techniques. Sometimes helping a hand or two.
The commis cooks are usually helpful and friendly with newbies. Before service, we break the ice and get to know each another. Break time is often, 4.30-5pm. To answer my friends, who are not in the service industry and ask “so dinner at 7pm?” No dear, we serve dinner. Preparation starts before dinner, we take a quick snack before service, or eat after service, usually when the last customer leaves.
Don’t get it wrong a stage can be immensely fun. A well-prepared kitchen and responsible upbeat service crew make a brilliant team. When front of the house informs the kitchen crew with precise bookings/VIPs, misc en plac is organized, food is fresh or piping hot, orders are fired at the right pace, dishes are served on time to keep customers satisfied.
When the team is not cohesive, hot plates can be seen flying around, profanity is heard in every sentence, spillage over the counter and a tense energy raises ferociously. There is nothing glamorous, just sheer endurance & self-contentment.
Yet I’m inspired by the people, who put their strenuous and passionate heart into the industry. It holds priceless intrinsic values and few extrinsic rewards. I’m keeping my heart and mind open to what is entailed in every kitchen. Finding the right fit, learning more about pastries, and meeting endless motivated people to share their stories with others.