June 2, 2013

The Baking Story and Cupcake Therapy

I have to admit that baking is not really my strength. I have had numerous baking faux pas - sunk cake, hard rock buns, overbaked cookies...and every other baker's nightmare imaginable, you name it. I've been so tempted to bury all my baking books and equipment for good in the backyard with a stunning "RIP" tombstone for excellent measure and then wail over the depressing attestation that I wasn't born to bake. Yes, it's that bad. Pathetic, to be exact.

But in cooking, in the words of my husband, "When have you ever cooked something bad? Never." It could be true or it could be a case of him getting over-intoxicated by all the belacan (fermented shrimp paste) that I use in the Asam Pedas and Sambal, dishes which he enjoys. Honestly, he's a great fan of my cooking and I am very grateful for that.

My baking failure could have something to do with my cooking style. You see, I am the "thrower" sort of cook. Precise measurement of ingredients bore me very much. I go by "a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, a bunch of this, a handful of that". In my opinion, you can't be too clocklike in cooking, which I regard as a creative process. It is stifling. Just watch the likes of Jamie Oliver and Nigella. When they say 2 teaspoons of salt, they actually dig their fingers into the salt bowl (not spoon per se) and leave you to wonder if the universal size of teaspoons has been modelled after their hands.

Unfortunately for me, precision is quite important in baking. Two teaspoons of milk versus a gut-feel quantity of it does make a difference between getting a desirable and a doomed frosting cream, for instance. Unless you're a baking genius. So, over time, I have learnt and accepted the fact that I have to put the measuring cups, spoons, thermometers, etc to good use if I ever wanted to get re-connected with my oven and cake mixer again.

Needless to say, that change in kitchen habit I made several years ago (mainly for baking) has led to many proud baking moments. I then upped my baking ante by dabbling in cupcake decorating for sheer fun. It's a self-taught foray, after getting inspired by pictures and videos I saw on Facebook, Pinterest and Youtube. I see it as an extension of gastronomic therapy and creativity - all from the comfort of my home. Or kitchen, to be precise.

A happy ending. Or beginning. So, if you think you weren't born to bake (or cook), perservere and get inspired from everywhere. There is hope yet :)

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