Baker's confessions

A long time back I wrote that I was elbow deep in flour, baking. I now know, with authority, that I did not know what it means to be elbow deep in flour. Elbow deep means just that. When I decided that it was time to polish my baking skills, I joined this intensive baking course. I always wanted to add 'Professional baker' to my Bio.  Because although home baking may get you far, in my books, getting some kind of professional training is always a good thing. So now, I am not self taught. I get to officially call myself a baker.

Rolls, Buns, bread
Sesame seed buns, dinner rolls, and Sausage rolls: by me.

I joined the course expecting to create sky high, buttery creations as I breezed through the course, returning everyday with goodies to munch on, and getting some more the next day. I was right. What I did not expect (OK fine, I knew it, expected it, but chose to ignore it) was the hard work. Note this, and beware I might sound like the MasterCard Advertisement:

Outside temperature: 38 degree C.
Temperature of the giant industrial oven inside the bakery : 170 degree C.
Water from the taps: steaming.
Refrigerator in the room (to stick your face in every ten minutes for the cool air) to chill the iced cakes: One.
The satisfaction of creating and then eating the sky high buttery creations: Priceless.

cherries, chocolate and cream
Black Forest Cake - made by the author of this post and the sky high creations I so wanted to learn

Biology student that I am, we had a certain way of studying and a certain way of working in the college labs. Wear a lab coat, wash your hands, wash your glassware, get your chemicals, weigh your chemicals, mix them, sterilise them, get a bacterial culture, spread it on the petri dishes, wait for the various cultures to grow. If they don't grow, panic. You get the picture? Our bakery 'lab' was hardly different. We had to wash every dish, pan, spoon we used. We had to weigh out our ingredients. Uhh, no we did not cook with chemicals.  And we certainly could not let anything grow in or on our food. Except, well, maybe Yeast. Definitely Yeast. Yeast was our friend, to be lovingly treated, fed, kept warm so it gave us those soft puffy breads.

It was day 2 of the class. We were working on fresh fruit muffins which I decided might taste better as a cake. Bad idea. You see, the temperatures and times of the oven required for baking a cake and baking muffins don't match. So when you put a humongous cake on the top shelf of an oven where you are baking muffins,  let's just say, the cake isn't something you want to take home. I obviously did take it home, cake loyalist that I am (and I really didn't want to waste it). After all it was a mixture of some real good fruits, fat,eggs, sugar and flour - what's not to eat? Having said that, only some of it was, well, edible. See for yourself.

There was this fruit cake, and then there was THE fruit cake. Oh yes, another cake that more than made up for every bad, uncooked cake I have made in the duration of the class. A cake that had bellowing clouds of cream in between sweet syrup soaked cakes. A cake that had as many fresh fruit imaginable sandwiched between its delicate layers. A cake that had Kiwi and Cherries. The mighty Fruit Gateau.

Cream fruit and sponge cake

In the past 4 years that I have written this blog and attempted serious baking at home, I have made sponge cakes more than once. The beauty of a sponge cake is it's ultra light airy texture, and it also happens to be (mostly) fat less. My cakes are the slow rise variety. I never see them poofing up, but when I take them out, they have in fact doubled in size. Maybe I got too full of myself on those cakes. Because my first ever sponge cake in class - it sank. Just like that - stuck to the sides, but went way down in the centre. I could only muster anger - I mean, how did it just deflate - just like that? I thought to myself - my cakes never sink, ever (hey, there are times when they don't even rise, but they don't just go and sink in the centre), and here was a cake that was out to tell me how much I had to learn.

Over in cupcake baking, I had a little more luck. There were muffins that were ever so soft, with light airy crumbs. There were muffins that tasted like the ones from that little corner bakery. Muffins which came towering out of their cases. Then there were slightly strange ones like Spinach, which were oddly the type that grow on you.

Mawa muffins, Spinach muffins and Orange muffins.

The biscuit range was not as forgiving to me. I had overcooked almost half the ones we made, and in my enthusiasm even flavoured peanut biscuits with butterscotch. If you want confused flavours, this one's on top of the list. Not a good idea. But there were also the classics. The orange, the chocolate chip, the cheese biscuits, biscuits sandwiched with chocolate truffle.

lightly spiced cheese biscuits
Cheese bisucuits

Baking is not easy. It's hard work. It's not easy to sweat it out in the afternoon heat, kneading bread 500 times, waiting, cooking, weighing, and then kneading some more. But if you can look at all the dishes you end up using that you have to wash, and still want to come back and bake the day after, then maybe baking is for you.

Come exam time, and I had certain hits and misses. But that's a post for another time.


  1. Good. May I put this link on my FB wall for my friends to read? They too deserve good food and good reading. Thanks in advance.

  2. Lovely write up, lovely pics and I am sure eating what you baked is/was even more enjoyable! M


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