Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Baking Class - The Art Of Superfine Baking, Japanese Cakes

Twas a lazy afternoon, the first day of the long weekend. With great effort, I lugged my posterior to the bake class that I had signed up for, some weeks back, at my favourite "Learn to Cook" place, the Cooking House. Earlier that morning, we were at a Brunch birthday party for a friend's kid. Usually, I avoid kid's parties like the bubonic plague, but I knew this hostess would ensure we had proper nourishment. In any case I had to supply two chicken pies, so I thought I'd drop by anyway and check out the spread. And I wasn't disappointed. Gourmet sausages, imported streaky bacon, grilled mushrooms, designer bread and real butter, and chunky marmalade, and of course, my chicken pies. Hostess with the mostest in question actually has the same birthdate as me, which begs the question, are people's personilities REALLY defined by their birthdates?

Anyway, as the kilos of pork produce settled in my stomach, I braced myself for yet another culinary caper. To my horror, I realised I had left my camera in wife's car and she had already gone off to work, (on a Saturday afternoon), leaving me with no camera for the class. So I had to make do with the cheap obsolete Kodak camera that my dad normally uses.

The three items on the syllabus were Matcha Cake, Jap Moist Chocolate Cake, and Honey Cake. A cursory glance at the recipe told me that Japanese are very health conscious, because NONE of the recipes contained butter. Immediately alarm bells went off in my head. However, what they lacked in cholesterol from butter, they certainly made up with eggs. The chickens in Japan must really have a tough life, especially the hens. Look at that bowl of yellow, its ALL yolks. I think about 30 eggs went in there.

Cooking classes are very interesting by virtue of the composition of people. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say there's a mishmash of people, predominantly females, save for the chef, and me, some of whom, despite attending the class, will probably never get beyond cracking eggs for an omelette, to those who probably tried out the recipe that very night itself. One particular lady showed off her culinary knowledge by wowing us with questions like, "Oh, how much are those eggs? 28 sen or 29 sen each?" I'm sure such precise knowledge of egg prices will go a long way in helping her make those chiffons rise. Boo, Paprika and I exchanged rolling of eyes.

With not a lot of previous industrial bakery exposure, I have never seen this method of folding egg white. With hand. Somehow the entire motion reminded me of a hairdresser going through a lot of lather on the head. Ignorance IS bliss. Not that I'm particularly queasy about where my food has been, or whose finger's they've run through...but yes, some people might find it disconcerting. Apparently however it is normal to fold chiffon with your hands, like some people use their hands to toss their salads, including Domestic Goddess. Also, his method of separating yolk emulates Nigella's method somewhat, ie, using hands, BUT he breaks all his eggs into one bowl and fishes out the yolks.... which to me, with my clumsy fingers, is like unsafe sex, for one of those little yolkies is bound to explode on me, rendering the egg whites useless.

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The next cake was the famed honey cake. I finally got a chance to see the The Role Of Ovalette As A Rising Agent In Sponge Cakes. How's that for a dissertation title. Yeah, so there's local ovalette, vs Australian Ovalette, for the Japanese Cake. Even baking is a borderless world.
It's quite amazing to see how the batter rises, it reminds me of that childhood story we read about that magic porridge pot, and how it flooded the entire town coz the silly girl who was operating it forgot the password to stop the pot. But just before the mixing bowl looked like it was gonna do a Mt Vesuvius, it was done. Again, the sploshing about with bare hands, even ladelling it into the cake pans.

The moist chocolate cake employed more or less the same technique, all very chiffony, and using egg whites to incorporate air.

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The green sponge cake, dotted with red beans, prompted Boolicious to exclaim, OOOH, LIKE SPOTTED DICK. Immediately thought of diseased appendages that turned green with purple pocks sprang to mind.

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Verdict: The matcha cake, layered with non dairy cream (ugh) and made into cake form as well as swiss roll, is probably the winner of the 3 contestants. The distinct green tea flavour goes well with the red bean. I could have done without the fake cream. I would try to make this.

The famed honey cake apparently was the wrong texture. It tasted like a very light sponge with a hint of chemical. And as I am not a honey fan, this cake got struck off my list. For this kind of cake, supposed to be more dense, I think I would like some aromatic butter.

The Jap Choc Cake, not bad, very chocolatey, probably because of the fairly good quality couverture chocolate used. Again, its basically a sponge. So it would be okay as a base cake, with some other unhealthy embellishment, such as choc ganache, or choc cream, but not something I'd eat on its own.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon, then again, I always enjoy my sessions at the Cooking House.

29 comments:

Mandy said...

what? using hand to beat eggwhite? but how? Anyway, I am sure it's a good workout for the arms. Can't wait to see your version of the matcha cake. :)

Lianne said...

noooo, they taugh you guys how to make kasutera/castella/honey cake? The texture looked wayyy off and way too puffy. i understand it requires a special wooden mold to compress the cake down too. The rest looked fab, and what a shock to use hand!

Precious Pea said...

Somehow, am so glad that I skipped this class and saved RM120. Somehow, using 20 egg yolks in one recipe is a big no-no for me cos I wouldn't know what to do with the egg white. Hahaha...furthermore, i don't buy 28 or 29 sen egg..i opts for 30 sen and above! LOL!!!!

DK said...

Is this cooking house at Desa Sri Hartamas? So it's more like a demo than hands on ..?

Kenny Mah said...

"... which to me, with my clumsy fingers, is like unsafe sex, for one of those little yolkies is bound to explode on me, rendering the egg whites useless."

I feel rather juvenile, laughing at this, but I can''t help myself. I'm so glad you've returned to your infamous panjang posts... ;)

Nic (KHKL) said...

"...are people's personilities REALLY defined by their birthdates?"*check,check*
well, i tried asking some girls the same question (just to get their attention) and was surprised to get an answer like this..'hmmm, then the world will be rather monotonous, won't it?'..wah, i tell you, i was speechless...definitely not the 28/29 telur ones.

err, what/who is spotted dick ar? cos the cake looks too flat to even resemble the flaccid form, i thought.

fatboybakes said...

mandy, no no no, he doesnt use hand to whisk egg white, hahahah. he uses hand to fold in the egg white with the other batter.

lianne, yup, that was the idea, to teach how to make castella or whatever its called. possibly the imported ovalette was too efficient, and caused it to puff up like a pregnant woman.

precious pea, aiyo, no la, the egg white is also used. actually, not really a waste of 120, i did learn a couple of new tricks.

DK, yes, this particular one is very demo. usually the classes are semi hands on. but i wasnt complaining that i didnt have to celup my hand into a whole bowl of batter. i'd have lost all self control and would have impulsively started a food fight by flinging the batter at people. (esp girl who asked how much the eggs were)

kenny mah, heh heh, glad you're glad.

nickhkl, so glad to finally meet you, in a sober state... for awhile. spotted dick is some english dish, like toad in the hole, kinda thing. nothing to do with the white whale, or dictionaries...

UnkaLeong said...

5th one on the way, I heard you say? Hmm, or was it the wine jelly? Anyway, about birthdates and personalities..I'd say same same but different!

Pea : Can use egg white to steam prawns with chinese wine! But overkill hor?

Paprika said...

The honey cake is not something I would attempt to make. I can't imagine using that ovalette in anything. It was so synthetic. Who knew chiffon cakes were so easy to make. Cheh. It was interesting class but would've been better if the instructor was more organised with his notes and people didn't ask irrelevant questions! The zhong workshop was muccch better!

What A Lulu said...

i've been trying to bake those [whisk egg, fold flour] cakes, but tak begitu jadi cos the flour is not folding correctly into the batter.
my mum suggests i dip [more like plunge] my hand in to mix it. erhm...

precious pea, i love your "i can cook" tag. i made the siu yoke [inspired by your post la] and char siu [from that same book] last weekend. they both turned out quite well. thanks!

Tummythoz said...

Get to lick fingers (own or otherwise is optional) instead of boring utensils?

Henry Yeo said...

FBB: do bake a matcha cake for us. for the honey cake, what honey did they use? Store honey or some gourmet honey?

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

how dodgier and raunchy can ur posts be ar?? hahaha...

is this goin to start another forum abt how unsafe sex is going to be like??

btw you got a new fan in the form of my gf cousin..go over my comment box to say hi haha..

fatboybakes said...

hiya henry...of course it was STORE honey la. i will attempt a matcha chiffon, but i have yet to buy the green tea powder. also, the quantities given in the recipe at the class are for industrial quantities, so.... will need to crank up my math mind to pro rate the quantities.

tummythoz, alas, the batter for chiffon cakes are usually quite gross. its the absence of butter aitelya. and the presence of ovalette. eughhhh.

lulu, yup, so your mother is right. plunge that hand right in, making sure you sterilise it first. wah, even i havent gotten around to trying recipes from precious pea's book, which i actually bought. her siu yoke, i can attest, is gorgeous. she'll never have to buy commercial siu yoke again.

paps, yeah, actually i think the chef probably had some communication problems la, since his england not so good, but i didnt really mind that. i found the england spiaking chicks asking how much their eggs cost ...well...amusing.

unkaleong, i said that non prophetic remark when someone declared the pork trotters only for those in confinement. people lie in desperation. 5th one!!! the only 5th one that i dont mind having is a helping of precious pea's ahem, siu yoke....oh, and that wobbly wine jelly. darn, now you've got the wobble stuck in my head. wobble, wobble...may it haunt you in your dreams too...wobble wobble.

nipples, yeah, i saw...precious pea pointed it out to me. hi gf's cousin.
raunchier? [looking up dictionary to see meaning of word]...my post raunchy meh? HOW pray tell, young man?

daphne said...

matcha in cakes huh. Why did I not think of that? Like the way the eggwhites were whipping!

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

The way I see it, this class isn't very practical, is it? I mean, breaking all the egg yolks and fishing out one by one? Certainly not the recommended method for newbies, I'm sure. I'm sticking to attempting tried and tested recipes from your blog. And using a plastic egg yolk separator.

jamesbluntknife said...

spotted dick?

kinda reminds me of a friend after a trip to New Zealand. and no, this isn't a sheep joke...

jamesbluntknife said...

i think you have to get newbies in at any level - as long as they are not too rough with their hands, they'll be fine (personally i have never broken any yolks with my bare hands)

fatboybakes said...

james, yes, tender loving hands are crucial in handling eggs. And yeah, what were the pommies thinking about when they named their cuisine!

lemongrass, plastic egg yolk separators dont always work. my favourite method is tossing the yolk between the two half broken shells...very therapeutic. tic toc tic toc

daphne, do try using your arms to churn the batter and let us know how that goes.

jamesbluntknife said...

i agree with your technique fbb for separating eggs - that seems to be the tried and true method.

Egg Shell Lemongrass said...

Ok lah...I use two egg shells to separate my yolks too, but half the time, I mess it up, so must always have contingency eggs.

Nic (KHKL) said...

yupe, nice to finally meet u too! oh, thanks for enlightening me on the dick. cool!

and i absolutely agree with lyrical lemongrass...tried and tested recipes from you for sure.(ok lar, slight alterations due to climate change)

why do i get this feeling it's gonna be a forum again...hmmm...

fatboybakes said...

nickhkl, slight alterations such as adding alcohol? thats not alteration, that's embellishment.

lemongrass, you sure nothing is in the way knocking those eggs as you toss them from shell to shell?

james, but i notice quite a lot of people enjoy having the sticky gooey white stuff slipping through their fingers.

fatboybakes said...

oops, james, i meant to say sticky gooey white, not white stuff...as i was referring to the egg white... which is not really white in its unbeaten unstiffened state.

breadpitt said...

the class looks like very fun. its usual to fold a large batch of batter
with hand, i also found abit not used to it at first too , haha!

Henry Yeo said...

oh goodie!

when can we taste it?

fatboybakes said...

breadpitt, yala, i heard its quite common. i imagine it should be quite fun. and yes, the class was quite enjoyable. next time you teach la.

henry, aiyo, let me find green tea powder and also prepacked azuki ...you know where to get? then have to experiment with using hand first.

breadpitt said...

long way to reach that stage where im able to teach........

kat said...

Hence the end of your brief sojourn into brevity. Thank goodness! :)

Y'know, I just went for a chiffon cake demo by a former hotel pastry chef and she also used her hands to mix the batter! Chef thing, issit?? Makes one wonder what else they use their hands for....

Must remind myself to keep my mouth shut if ever I go for cooking demos with you.. :D