Monday, April 13, 2009

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, there was this little girl in a small village somewhere in the Cik Siti Wan Kembang state.She lived with her abah, umi, one big brother, one big sister, two younger sisters and three younger brothers. However, this story began a little bit before her five younger siblings were born. There were only three of them, five of course with abah and umi.

Her Umi likes to bake cakes, cookies , kuih sepit ( it is also called love letter), steamed pau, all sorts of jeruk, etc..etc.. Almost every Raya festival , she would ask her two daughters ( since their son was away at a boarding school ) to help her with the whisking and beating and anything related to baking and her daughters willingly or maybe sometimes,unwillingly ( kids being kids )helped her.

What makes the experience unique was how these cookies were baked. You see, those days, they had no oven, not even the black boxy Butterfly brand oven which we put on top of the gas cooker.So how did they bake 'em? There was one "roti" man in the village called Encik Razak ( they called him Cik Rojak ) , an Indian Muslim man who had this big ,enormous, gigantic oven/stove for baking his bread. What they did was to borrow his bread trays ( a few of them, enough to put their cookies ) and they arranged the cookies and went over to his place which is only a walking distance away. When the cookies were ready, they gave some to this good old man as a token of gratitude and appreciation for letting them use his oven since he refused to accept any payment for the services rendered.

There were no cake decorating then. The cakes were eaten as they were. As the little girl grew older, she went off to a boarding school far away from her hometown to a place where she knew no one but eventually that place became her home, her "home away from home", where she met and made new friends . That was the place where they taught Sains Rumah Tangga as one of the subjects . Over there, she learned more about baking and cooking but still no cake decorating. She picked up valuable lessons like, proper whisking, beating, folding, creaming, " gaul dan ramas" method and so many other terms used in baking. But this little girl also remembered what her Umi taught her, "when you beat the butter and sugar, always beat it with the same motion and direction". There were no Kenwood mixer or even the Philips hand mixer, so there were only the wooden spoon and your hand to mix the ingredients. She even used the hand whisk to beat the eggs. When you put the flour in, as in folding, do it slowly so as not to let the air escape or else your cake will not rise to the occasion.

At school, she also learned that you are not supposed to open the oven door during the baking process, if not, the cake will sink because of the sudden gush of air coming in. Actually there are so many "do"s and "don't"s in baking and this little girl, now that she is little no more, picks up more tips here and there as she ventures more into the baking world.
From school, off she went away again, leaving her family behind to further her studies in the land with four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall, land of musical theatres: Phantom of The Opera, Miss Saigon, Cats ,land famous for its fish and chips, just to name one example, land with famous places to visit, : its Covent Garden, Kew Garden, Harrods, Wembley Stadium, the famous Oxford Street and last but not least, its late Princess Diana.
During her university days, she continued baking , trying new recipes, believe it or not, she had her first bite of cheesecake there ( she probably has had it before but not knowing it ) and having tasted the scrumptiousness of the cheesecake, she decided to learn how to bake it herself.
to be continued......