With my new job at a better place that has much more work to do, I have less time to do something I enjoy. Baking OR cooking.
At my sister’s emotional blackmail (” You always bake things you like to eat and not what I like!”) and challenge, she asked for Mushroom Quiche. In my busy month of October in which I fell sick, I took out the time to make this for her. The first time failed due to my lack of knowledge that BAKING BEANS ARE SO IMPORTANT and that ordinary beans can be used as baking beans. My second time during that challenge turned out so much better but it didn’t taste as good because I decided to use the machine to help me mix the dough which is highly NOT recommended. Somehow, using your hands to make the dough makes such a great difference.
After my pictures of the successful mushroom quiche came out, my friend J wanted to try at my house baking it with me.
MUSHROOM QUICHE (adapted from Julia Child, Vol.1 Pg 152)
*Using a 8-inch flan pan*
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour (scooped and levelled)
- 1 tsp of salt
- ¼ tsp of sugar
- 170g of chilled butter cut into ½ inch bits
- 4 Tbs chilled shortening
- A scant half cup of iced water, plus more droplets if needed
1.) Place flour, salt, sugar, butter and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces of (slightly bigger) than oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended one more time later.
2.) Add water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together slightly cupped and gather the dough into amass. Sprinkle some water accordingly to make it into a dough shaped ball. The texture of the dough hold together, not too sticky. Proceed to do the fraisage.
3.) Fraisage: Place the dough on lightly floured pastry board. With the heel of one hand, not the palm (because it is too warm), rapidly press the pastry down and away from you about 6 inches. With scraper or spatula, gather the dough into a mass again and knead it into a round ball. Sprinkle it with flour and refrigerate it for 1 hour until it is firm. Proceed to make the filling while waiting.
- 2 Tbs of minced shallots/green onions
- 1.5 Tbs of butter
- 250g of sliced fresh mushrooms
- ½ tsp of salt
- ½ tsp of lemon juice
- 1 Tb of white wine (optional)
Cook the shallots/onions in a saucepan with the butter for a moment. Stir in mushrooms, slat, lemon juice and optional wine. Cover the pan and cook the ingredients at moderately low heat for 8 minutes. Uncover. Raise heat and boil for a few minutes until the liquid is evaporated.
- 2 eggs
- 180-200g of whipping cream
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/8 of pepper
- 1/8 cup of Swiss cheese. (Put more if you like)
- ½ Tbs of butter cut into pea-sized dots
Beat the eggs, cream and seasonings a mixing bowl to blend. Then add in the cooked mushroom mix in Part A. Put it aside or into the fridge.
5.) Rolling out the dough: Take the dough out from the freezer. Quickly roll out the dough as quickly as possible so that it will not soften due to its high butter content. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or marble. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Place the rolling pin across CENTRE and roll the pin back and forth with firm but gentle pressure. Then, with a firm, even stroke and always rolling away from you, start just below the centre of the dough and roll to within of the far edge.
6.) Lift the dough and turn it at a slight angle. Give it another roll. Continue lifting, turning and rolling as necessary and sprinkle flour onto the dough to prevent it from sticking. Roll into a circle that can fit your pie pan.
7.) Once the pastry base is ready, lift up the dough and place it on the pan. Trim of any excess dough. Get a piece of baking paper or aluminium foil and place it onto the pastry base, then pour baking beans/soya beans/raw rice onto the aluminium foil. The layers should be (from the bottom to top: pie panàaluminium panàbeans.) Once done, put it into the oven for 10 minutes at 190 C.
8.) Once the pastry is partially cooked, remove the aluminium foil of baking beans. Pour the filling that was prepared in part A and B. Put into the oven for 30 minutes at 190 C.
For the longest time since I fell ill, I really wondered what is God’s purpose in putting me on earth and really, what exactly should I do in my life. After being reconnected back to Ecclesiastes, I felt that all my questions were answered by the wisest King Solomon who tried everything on earth so as to find fulfillment.
Many people think that Ecclesiastes is a little odd because Solomon keeps saying that everything is meaningless; which is true because all of us have a common destiny: death. Regardless of what you do on earth, whether you are evil or righteous, you end in death. So if everything is meaningless, then what do we do in our lives and why do we even bother being good people on earth? Or at least trying to be good people?
The answers about what we should do in our lives:
24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.~Ecc 2: 24-26
9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. ~Ecc 3
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?~Ecc 3
18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. 20 He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.~Ecc 5: 18-20
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.~Ecc 8:14-15
—-You may wonder, if King Solomon tells us to enjoy our life, then you wonder, wouldn’t give you more incentive to be a bad person to take advantage of other people so as to enjoy more wealth etc?
1 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, [a] the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good man,
so with the sinner;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them.
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.- Ecc 9
King Solomon’s conclusion?
7 Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years a man may live,
let him enjoy them all.
But let him remember the days of darkness,
for they will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
9 Be happy, young man, while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you to judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.-Ecc 11
1 Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.-Ecc 12
Enjoy your life for God has given to you. Whatever gifts he has given to you; enjoy it. Remember that that as good times come, bad times will also come. When the bad times come, remember that God gave you the good times as well. Because He gave you life, enjoy your lot. Work on something you LIKE, for that is your lot. Enjoy your life while always striving to do good because ultimately when you die, it is God who is going to judge your deeds on earth.
Beautiful piece of work, Solomon.
I never prayed for victory, never asked God to let our team win the national championship, never offered up a prayerthat UCLA would set some record or win a particular game. To my way of thinking, God has more important things on his mind. Whatever level of competency we reach is up to us-only us.
It is like the story of the Englishman who was walking down a cobblestone path when he came upon a small cottage with a beautiful garden next to it. The Englishman paused in admiration and said to the gardener who was down on his hands and knees pulling weeds, ” Sir, what a beautiful garden God has blessed you with.” The gardener replied, ” You should have seen it when God was taking care of it by himself.”
Whatever gifts the Good Lord may have blessed us with, we are the ones who must get down on our hands and knees and do the work. It is up to us to make the garden beautiful. -John Wooden ” The Essential Wooden”
In the midst of my recovery, I have been praying to God to point me into a direction where I should spend at least 8hours of my everyday life.
Today, it dawned upon me that baking won’t be one of them.
Though it has it’s set of challenges, there is a science to baking (at some point in time) but I personally find it not challenging for me.
I have a good friend who took off to go Le Cordon Bleu to study baking and up to this day, in my very heart, I would love to see her open her own shop and show our citizens that we are capable of creating beautiful things as well. Unfortunately, she shelved her plans and has yet to open her own shop for fears of unsustainability.
To me, baking is my therapy. I don’t do retail therapy. I do bake-therapy.
Why? Because it is somewhat brainless (maybe that is too harsh a word to use), I think of someone that I love or like and when I pour my affections that translates into effort, the result never fails me.
Anyhow, anyway….I leave this recipie that I googled and altered to my whims and fancies of suddenly wanting to eat apple muffins.
End of reflection.
APPLE MUFFINS (adapted from allrecipies.com)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in the oatmeal, cinnamon and nutmeg. mix
- In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Mix in vanilla. Stir in apples, and gradually blend in the flour mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan.
- In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over tops of mixture in muffin pan.
- Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to sit 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Cool on a wire rack.
I couldn’t wait and chomped into it after 1 minute of cooling.
I find it extremely disturbing of course, like anyone on the street that an oil spill can cause disastrous consequences on human life and animal life bringing one of the greatest imbalances in environmental life. As if we haven’t brought woe to the environment enough.
However, what struck me the most was that the BP CEO had to go through, being grilled and blamed for this environmental disaster. Being a CEO is certainly not easy at all. While I do not want to decide whether he really knew about the mistakes that happened before the disaster, I would also like to point out that it is very hard to keep track of everything. Being on the top is a great disadvantage because once you are on top of the mountain, you can’t hear what is going on below. You can only see from the top, but not necessary know what is going on until it starts to strike you.
This is where the philosophy of John Wooden reminded me where though he was the coach of the team, in that sense the CEO of the team, he made sure that once he gave instructions to the team as a CEO/leader, he would go down and BE part of the team.
Therefore, it is important that you realise that when you are on the top AS a CEO, your role is to lead your team towards the vision that your company is working towards through planned strategies, ensure that daily operations are running smoothly. Once you have fulfilled that, remember to come down to be PART of the team and not hang out in front of your computer.
As my friend Jo always reminds me to write down my blessings that God has given me.
I am reminded to share my blessing on finding this wonderful Almond Biscotti recipie.
I hardly bake my cakes and others 3 times in a row. But I baked this beautiful biscotti 3 times in 2 weeks.
It’s beautiful with that cup of coffee,cocoa and even milo.
The recipie was written by an American and of course would be successful in America’s weather.
But where I live is Singapore, we have high levels of humidity. Temperatures here are much higher. And believe it or not, it all affects the end product.
After much testing, this is the edited version for Singapore.
LENOX ALMOND BISCOTTI (adapted from Dorie Greenspan, *twisted here and there for Singapore weather)
1.5 cups of all purpose flour (plain flour)
1.5 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp of salt
½ cup of yellow cornmeal
8 tbs of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1.5 tsp of pure almond extract/essence
¾ cup of sliced almonds/ chopped almonds (which gives more crunch!)
Preheat the oven at 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon mat.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt together. Add cornmeal and mix together again.
Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed for 3 minutes till very smooth. Add the eggs and continue to beat for another 2 minutes or until the mixture is light and and creamy. Beat in the almond extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Your dough should be soft and sticky. Toss in the almonds and mix it in.
Choose a flat and clean workspace (you can use a chopping board), pour a bit of flour and spread it around. Using 1/3 or ½ of the dough in your mixing bowl (depending how small your oven is), pour it on floured workspace and mould the dough into a rectangular shape.
The height AND width of the rectangle is about the length of your thumb. The length of the rectangle can be up to 10 inches or whichever you prefer.
Transfer the moulded dough onto the baking sheet and put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until it is cooked (test it out with a toothpick). Once cooked, take it out to cool for 30 minutes (using Singapore weather as a gauge). You may mould another dough and put it to the oven while waiting for the first batch of biscotti to cool.
Once the first batch of biscotti has cooled, use a serrated knife and slice it. Then, gather the sliced biscotti and bake it in the oven for another 15-20 minutes (it should look golden and firm), depending how crunchy you want your biscotti to be. Repeat the process for your next dough!