Friday, December 06, 2013
Taking things slow.
Recently this seems to require more effort and thought than what I have in my reserve. The constant gaze at the clock, rushed deadlines at work, lack of quality sleep, downing lunch in front of the computer. I had to check myself when eating - take your time, savor the taste, feel the fullness. When reading, try not to skim through. When walking, avoid the hordes of phone-wielding zombies. In a conversation, pause to listen. When doing nothing else, take a deep breath.
Will we realize when everything is clocked with a countdown results will suffer? The rushed sandwich with just one sad piece of pastrami. The burnt milk around the steam wand. Unhappy customers, angry clients, mistakes to correct, tasks to redo, botched grand plans. Worst of all, when it all ends, we become too tired to care. It's no longer about details, standards, consistency. Just get it out there, over and done with, let's move on before losing out.
Perhaps this is why I always return to baking.
It can't be rushed. It demands focus, mindfulness and a little bit of discipline. Read the recipe once. Check the quantity twice. Sift the flour thrice - our grandmothers meant business. The butter creams for four minutes, and it will be another five after the eggs. The cake bakes for an hour, if not 10 minutes more. Keep peeking into the oven, it will not rise faster. Two hours to cool down, way after you're done with the dishes and finish a cup of coffee. Take it or leave it.
Understand the process, appreciate the art and insist on quality. Apply yourself.
Blood Orange Chiffon Cake
Recipe modified from this Pandan Chiffon Cake.
Yield: One 25cm 5-inches tall cake.
- 180 grams cake/top flour
- ¼ tablespoon baking of soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 180 grams castor sugar, halved
- 160 milliliters blood orange juice
- grated zest of 2 blood oranges
- 8 eggs, separated
- 6 tablespoon corn oil
Pre-heat oven to 170°C and position a wire rack at the lower third rack. Prepare a clean 25 cm chiffon cake tin, do not grease.
Sift the flour and baking soda into a small bowl, add in the salt. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the corn oil to form an emulsion. Add the blood orange juice and orange zest. Mix well before adding half (90 grams) of the sugar and whisk till sugar has melted. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk well into a smooth batter, there should be no lumps. Set aside.
On medium-high speed of a stand or hand held mixer, whisk the egg whites. Start adding the remaining sugar once the egg whites begin to foam, gradually in 3 additions. Beat till the meringue is smooth and glossy, with stiff peaks. Be careful not to over-beat the egg whites.
Immediately stir in approximately 1/3 of the meringue into the flour batter. With a flexible rubber or silicon spatula, fold in the meringue gently and mix well. Once a roughly homogeneous mixture is achieved, add the rest of the meringue and repeat the gentle, light-handed folding process till the cake batter is well combined. Scoop from the bottom of the bowl to ensure no meringue or flour batter is left unmixed. Do not beat or overwork the batter as this will knock out the air you've put into the meringue.
Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin. Using your spatula, dip it into the batter right to the bottom and make circles around the tin twice. This is to remove any large air bubbles possibly trapped while pouring in the cake batter. Bake at 170°C for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 160°C and bake for another 45 to 50 minutes or until cake is done. The cake tester should come out clean. Don't fret if the top of your cake cracks a little, this is normal.
Remove the cake from the oven and immediately overturn it to cool completely, up to 2 hours. I like to do this over an upturned funnel as the legs of the chiffon cake tin are not long enough to avoid the top of the cake touching its resting surface - the cake should rise to the same level or slightly higher than the center tube. You can also use a narrow necked bottle but ensure that it's stable enough to support the weight of the cake. Release the cake by running a sharp, thin knife along the sides of the cake tin and subsequently the bottom of the tube. The cake is meant to be served upside down as it is heavier on the top.
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“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
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