A Lady’s Pride and her Lady Fingers

In our baking class today, the head chef taught us how to make lady fingers (a.k.a. Broas) from scratch. He emphasized the importance of piping the batter close to each other to produce more pieces of broas on the tray. When it was my turn to practice piping, one of my classmates shouted “Nic! That’s too close. You have to make larger gaps between them!” I then replied, “But, chef asked us to pipe them close to each other.”

And so, I continued to pipe.

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After doing my part, we moved on to the other steps and recipes for the other kinds of cream cakes we made. However, somehow, my heart felt very heavy. Without a doubt, I saw the pride in me as I still lingered on self-centered thoughts like “I know what I’m doing. I’m just following the chef’s instruction. I don’t need to listen to my classmate’s comments.” But, who was I kidding, right?

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Instantly, I felt a huge thug on my heart as I realized how proud I was. I went to class to learn, NOT to compete or compare myself to others. Without the grace of God and the guidance of our head chef and fellow classmates, I wouldn’t be able to work and bake efficiently and correctly. Everything that I have and everything that I am able to do is only because of the grace of God. Not even 0.1% of the glory should be given to me. I whispered a prayer to God as our instructor’s voice faded in the background. I asked for forgiveness. I asked God to renew my heart and remove every hint of pride in me.

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After I prayed, while the rest of the class was listening to the head chef, I caught a glimpse of the freshly baked lady fingers that we just made. Guess what? The ones that I piped did stick to each other! They were too close! Unfortunately, they were included in the batch of “damaged lady fingers”. Thankfully, though, they were still used inside the layers of our Tiramisu cakes. Sigh. Ahhhh! It was such a humbling moment for me to see the result of my pride.

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By the time the class finished decorating the cakes, our head chef suggested to take a group photo with the finished products. But, before he asked us to pose, he quickly shouted “Okay! We have to clean up first!” It was interesting, really. Since my first day in our Pastry Arts course, I noticed how the senior and junior chefs quickly cleaned the used utensils, tissue paper, bowls in the area while the head chef cooked and baked. There was never a time in the kitchen when the head chef prepared the baked goods in the middle of a messy table or workstation.

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When the junior and senior chefs were busy with other tasks, the head chef even initiated on cleaning his workstation. While he was waiting for the egg yolk and sugar mixture to boil, he wiped the table near it to remove crumbs or cocoa powder on it. He made sure to clean as he cooked and baked. What a humbling sight and reminder for me. Even the head chef knows how to model humility and cleanliness in the kitchen. I should definitely learn to do the same as well.

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It says in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Simple Sunday Snack: Puff Pastry

I recently watched a video of Gordon Ramsay and a baker in Paris making freshly baked croissants. It caught my attention because the video showed the basic steps of making the delicious, flaky, buttery bread from scratch. The baker used a machine to fold and knead the water-based dough with a huge block of butter since he was making bulk orders for his store. After folding the dough seven times, they prepared it for baking.

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As I watched them roll out, cut, assemble, and bake the dough, I couldn’t help but crave for croissants and other puff pastries. I then remembered a shop (Sweet Craft) that offers really good, pre-made puff pastry dough. So, during the recent long weekend, I invited my siblings to join me in buying and baking the dough. We spent two hours assembling, decorating, and baking the puff pastries. It was really fun! We also experimented with different kinds of shapes and used some of my favorite fruits, chocolate, cream cheese, and nuts as the filling/topping.

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Using the pre-made puff pastry dough helped me appreciate the art of baking more because it reminded me of the hearts and skills of the professional bakers out there. In order to make really good puff pastry dough from scratch, the baker needs to make sure that he/she uses the right amount of ingredients and measure them down to the last gram of flour or butter or teaspoon of water. Also, the baker needs to carefully discern how many times he/she would fold and knead the dough without letting it get tough. These are just some of the crucial aspects in baking and it’s just amazing how bakers can create such interesting and beautiful things.

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Indeed, it really was a wonderful experience for me and my siblings to bake pastries that night. I loved the fact that I was able to do something that I love (baking) and enjoy it with my family. Also, I enjoyed seeing the puff pastry dough transform into delicious, crisp, golden brown, flaky, and buttery treats! They were beautiful. They were exactly how I imagined them to be!

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The day after we baked the pastries, my older sister and I decided to give some of them to our family friends who were visiting the country for a few days. My sister packed a couple of pastries and informed me early in the morning that she would pass by their place to give them the treats. Before she left, God somehow urged me to give our friends fresh strawberries too because we had extra strawberries from our baking session the night before. So, I asked my sister to add three strawberries to the container too.

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A few hours later, I got a message from my sister and it showed a photo of our friend, Ate Riz, and her daughter, Cami, holding the pastries and strawberries. I remember feeling delighted and shocked at the same time because my sister shared to me that ate Riz and Cami randomly prayed for strawberries that morning. It was really amazing to see God’s grace and provision in that simple moment with our family friends. When I woke up that day and asked my sister to add strawberries to the container, I didn’t know that Ate Riz and Cami were already praying for some.

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It reminded me of how sovereign our God is and it encouraged me to continue listening to His voice and obeying Him even in the smallest things. He can use even the simplest moments and acts of obedience in our lives to bless others and ourselves. Thank You, Lord, for allowing us to experience You in moments like these. :)

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” -Deuteronomy 5:33

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Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

Simple Sunday Snack: Seafood Marinara

It has always been a pleasure for me to cook and bake. Even though it usually requires a lot of resources, I still enjoy it because I get to learn more about the raw ingredients and I see them transform into dishes and treats! However, don’t get me wrong. I also have those days when I don’t feel like cooking or baking anything. Haha.

 

Sautéing onions and garlic in butter

But anyway, recently, I was motivated to further improve in cooking and baking certain treats that I decided to have this personal challenge: To Regularly Cook, Bake, & Learn from Mistakes. For some reason, many years ago, God planted in me a desire for food, cooking, & baking. And although I don’t know exactly what his future plans for me are, God continues to encourage me to improve in these skills now for His glory.

And so, by God’s grace, I’ll cook & bake whenever I have the opportunities to do so. Also, if I’m free every Sunday (starting today), I’ll share Simple Snacks and dishes to you too.

Shrimps & squids seasoned with salt and pepper

All honor and thanks to my awesome, supportive,  and encouraging mentor in the kitchen, God. :)

Enjoy the recipe!

SEAFOOD MARINARA (Good for Two)

(I just estimated the ingredients. You can try experimenting too. :P)

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or any cooking oil)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 can of diced/crushed tomatoes (around 3 cups)
  • Salt & pepper (add to taste)
  • A few, fresh basil leaves
  • 5 pcs. medium-sized shrimps
  • 1 medium-sized squid (cut into rings)
  • Dried herbs for seasoning (Italian seasoning/Oregano/Basil/Rosemary, etc.)
  • 2 cups of uncooked spiral pasta

*you can use other kinds of seafood for this dish. :)

 

Marinara Sauce:

  1. Clean the shrimps and squid.
  2. Cut off the shrimps’ heads and set aside in a bowl (you’ll need this for sautéing). Remove the shells of the shrimps and put the shrimp meat in the bowl with the heads.
  3. Slice the squid into small rings and add to the bowl of shrimps. Add salt & pepper.
  4. In a deep pan, combine butter and a tablespoon of oil. Sauté the onions and garlic. After around 2 minutes, cook the shrimp heads, shrimp meat, and squid rings with the sautéed onions and garlic. Stir every now and then for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp heads.
  5. Add a can of tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. You can add chili powder/flakes if you want.
  6. Simmer for 2 minutes while stirring occasionally. Then, remove from heat.

Spiral Pasta:

  1. Boil a pot of water with a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of oil.
  2. When the water is already boiling, add the uncooked pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  3. Drain noodles and assemble on the serving plate/bowl.
  4. Pour the Marinara sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle cheese and chopped basil leaves over it and serve with toasted garlic bread. Enjoy!

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

Bakery Fair 2013

A few days ago, my officemate asked me if I wanted to have one of her extra free tickets to this year’s Bakery Fair at the World Trade Center. I immediately said “Wow! Yes! Sure!” and thanked her for her generosity.

Because I had work during the first two days of the Fair, I was only able to go during its last day (two days ago).

 

But, nonetheless, IT WAS AWESOME!

 

The place was filled with various booths and products. People were selling ready-made baked goods, ingredients, appliances, and equipments used for baking.

 

Also, in some areas of the hall, different chefs and cooks were demonstrating how to prepare certain dishes, tricks in making desserts, and other techniques and items useful in the kitchen.

 

It was very inspiring to see hardworking and determined entrepreneurs and chefs sell their products and share their ideas and techniques.

Moreover, the organizers came up with baking contests during the fair and showcased the winning items in the middle of the hall. I loved the display!

My two favorite cakes are the ff:

1. Cake with masks (which won first place); and

2. Cake with ‘floral icing’

After two hours of going around the hall, it was time for me to leave the place. But of course, before I left, I bought some baking treats and materials for myself too! Hehehe.

While I was on my way to the car, I thanked God for the interesting (and free) tour that I had at the Bakery Fair. Indeed, it was a wonderful treat! It made me appreciate things like: the art and science of baking, entrepreneurs, innovations & failures, competition in the marketplace, raw ingredients, and of course, unique dishes and recipes. :)

But, one of the things that I appreciate the most that day was God’s encouragement for me to keep on practicing, learning, and improving in the kitchen by His grace. The participants in the fair were really skilled and knowledgeable in their profession and it inspired me to nurture my passion for food and culinary.

Baking, cooking, and making food certainly are some of the things that I can see myself doing for a long time. If God would be honored and if he would want me to excel in these more, I know that He will allow me to grow in His perfect time and through His ways. :)

Its says in Isaiah 41:10: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

 

I hope that this verse will also encourage you to grow where God has placed you right now. — to grow in character, wisdom, knowledge, and skill for His glory. Even if we make mistakes every now and then, even if we sometimes feel that we “lack the resources”, and even if we get discouraged by others around us, I hope that we will still seek His strength as we do our best for Him.

Thank You, Lord, for this year’s Bakery Fair. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)