Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

Interesting Christmas Presents

Was at ToTT the other day, and I saw some interesting stuff which may make good presents aside from the usual Crabtree & Evelyn or BodyShop gifts?! Seriously, while I do know of a friend that loves the cookies and teas from Crabtree & Evelyn, I tend to have this impression that these 2 stores are the de facto places to go to where you have no idea what to buy and yet still want to buy something presentable. But the queues at Crabtree & Evelyn, have you seen them? The time spent queuing would be much better used by doing some research online to find out good gifts to give for Christmas!

Here are some gifts you can by from ToTT (Tools of the Trade by Siah Huat) for your baker wanna be friends!

ToTT (11)

How about an X-mas cupcake kit?

ToTT (12)

More cupcake kits… love the pretty cupcake cases! When I see pretty cupcake cases like these, I always have the urge to buy. After my wedding I guess, when I have more time to bake.

ToTT (2)

Cupcake cases for boys or the astronomy loving types…

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Cake Baking at Baking Industry Training Centre

Being an ardent fan of the cafe culture, I am often smitten by the pretty and delicious cakes and pastries on display at the various cafes in Singapore. When I see those mouth watering creations, not only do I want to eat them, I want to replicate them myself! Watching Nigella, Hugh Fearnley and Anna Olsen churning out sweet treat after sweet treat on the Food Network makes my heart pound with envy. Their cakes look so decadent yet my creations look fit for the dustbin.

They say baking is like Chemistry lessons. Follow the recipe accurately and you won’t go wrong. The problem is, the recipes often aren’t very clear. I mean like what the hell is cream until light and fluffy? How should I know exactly how light and exactly how fluffy? Would that be 5 minutes of creaming, or is it 8? One issue I used to have is that my cakes invariably turn out rather dense. Was it because I reduced the sugar and the butter, which resulted in the flour ratio being higher? Or was it due to the under-creaming? Or was it due to the curdled mess that I get every time I add eggs to the batter? No idea.

Push came to shove, I finally signed up for baking lessons this year. Which is the best place to learn baking in Singapore? After scouring the net for reputable baking classes to attend, I discovered the names of a few big players

  1. At Sunrice GlobalChef Academy
  2. Creative Culinaire
  3. Baking Industry Training Centre

There are others but they mostly focus on short courses. These 3 baking schools above provide in-depth basic to advanced levels of baking knowledge, ranging from cake making, to bread making to pastry making. And each of these 3 schools have their advantages and disadvantages.

At Sunrice is good because it is tied up with WDA and you can get up to 90% subsidy if you take the diploma classes. Of course, you must want to do a full fledged diploma in order to enjoy that huge discount.

Creative Culinaire is expensive, but I hear lessons are mostly taught by the owner of the school Judy Koh. I have also taken one of her baking workshops and I found her to be very good and detailed. She holds several diplomas, one of which is from the Culinary Institute of America.

Baking Industry Training Centre or BITC is the cheapest of the lot so guess what? I signed up with BITC. Okay another huge reason was because I wanted to get started ASAP, ride on the momentum you know, and they had something starting in January 2012, so I hopped on board.

BITC also has its pros and cons. As I mentioned, without a subsidy, BITC is the cheapest. However, BITC is also very “no-frills”, to the extent whereby you have to bring your own spoons, spatulas and knives. You will have those handy because you will be required to pay for a toolbox costing $150. BITC also happens to be a place where lots of people come here to learn how to become a baker. So classes are catered to teaching students how to operate in commercial kitchens and not the home kitchen. The pace is also pretty slow so as to cater to all skill levels. If you want a job as a baker, a BITC cert will allow you to do so.

Have you ever heard of sponge gel and emulsifiers? These are ingredients that will be used at BITC. These ingredients go into the cheap cakes you buy from the cheap bakeries as putting those ingredients into the cake actually makes the cake soft, fluffy and idiot proof to make. If you’re concerned about putting margarine or palm oil in your cake as compared to pure butter, it will be a shock to the system when you see yourself using them anyway because you obviously can’t just sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Oh and lastly, you can only bring home half of whatever you make.

Despite all my misgivings about BITC, I think I still had fun learning all about cake baking. I have never made so many cakes in my life in such a short span of time. And the best part is, everyone loves my cakes! Sure there are areas to improve on, but it has been such a vast improvement from what I used to churn out that I’m already very satisfied with the results. Hey my grandmother asks for my cakes everyday. That’s proof of the pudding isn’t it?

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (7)

Where else can you find a 365days2play brownie?

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (12)

These are the cakes we made for our mid term exams. Mine is the second column from the left, with the exception of the chiffon cake. I baked the chiffon on the right, but I unmoulded someone else’s cake by mistake. Darn, and the unmoulding was quite good if I say so myself. Look at the wreck on the right!

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (10)

My masterpieces…

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (18)

Pandan Chiffon on the left. Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting and marzipan carrots.

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (19)

Tiger skin. I have never heard of tiger skin before until the class, and whaddya know, I saw it at the shops a few days later.

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (8)

Gugelhoph. The best tasting cake I’ve made to date. Love the nutty flavours!

Baking Industry Training Centre Cake Baking Class (17)

There you go, the infamous sponge gel. Just the sight of that neon orange colour puts me off. Plus it’s so sticky and oily! Urgh! I don’t know who on earth invented this, but the bakers love it as it makes their job easy. You can buy sponge gel from Phoon Huat. Why you’d want to, I don’t know.

Baking Industry Training Centre Pte Ltd (BITC)
201 Keppel Road, Level 11 Annexe Block
Singapore 099419

Telephone:+65 6276 6337

Fax:+65 6276 6608

Operation Hours

Monday – Friday 8:30am – 5:30pm

Saturday 8:30am – 12:30pm

Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays

ToTT Cooking Class– Knack with Knives

The other day, I chanced upon a contest on ToTT (Tools of the Trade)’s Facebook. In order to win a free “Knack with Knives” class, all one had to do was to write about a close shave with knives and lessons learnt. I thought, hey I can do that, so I entered the contest. Bam, done in less than 5 minutes. And guess what, my efforts paid off and I got a golden ticket worth 98 bucks!!!

Photos all taken with the iPhone since I figured wielding a knife together with my trusty DSLR would be a tad cumbersome…

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (5)

The knife in the picture is what is known as a Chef’s Knife. This is the knife that will be used for most of your slicing activities. Another knife I would highly recommend buying is the serrated knife. It has a ridged blade to cut through food with skin such as bread. We never used to have a serrated knife in our kitchen, but during the period when I was fervently baking lots of bread, we bought a serrated knife as it was a pain to cut the bread with the chef’s knife. I usually ended up flattening the bread because a normal chef’s knife just wouldn’t slice through the tough skin!

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (9)

Chop chop chop, dice dice dice. There is a nifty way to cut onions such that you won’t cry. Chop off the top, chop the onion in half, then kind of flay it without cutting through the bottom. The bottom still holds all the pieces in tact, which then makes it easier for u to dice the onion. According to Chef Ming, the bottom holds the highest amount of tear causing chemicals, so only cut that off last.

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (7)

Tomato condiments for the bruschetta we were making – onions, tomatoes, basil, garlic

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (8)

With a serrated knife, you can slice up the bread really thinly.

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (10)

Voila, the finished product!

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (6)

Chef Ming from Jam explaining the ins and outs of using knives.

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (11)

Chef Jeremy from Jam slicing and dicing

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class (2)

Other participants. Btw, I really want to get myself one of those wooden island trolley thingies. It’s so convenient to be able to chop wet food near the sink or dustbin, and after that wheel it to the cooking stove. Anything that cuts down preparation time for me is fantastic.

Tools of the Trade - Knack with Knives cooking class

Coffee and tea for the participants. Not that you have time to drink it once the cooking gets fired up.

The class was totally worth my having to wake up at 8.30am! I really enjoyed myself very much. Although I still feel that $98 is very steep a price to pay for a 2 hour hands-on class, unfortunately cooking classes, especially hands-on ones, are pricey. The affordable ones which are less than $50, held at the Community Centres, tend not be hands-on. If you have spare dough and have entertained the idea that you might like to learn cooking, I would highly recommend doing it. Just take at least 1 class to get your adrenalin pumping. After that, you can rely on cook books if you are self-motivated. I assure you the dividends will pay off when you enjoy the fruits of your labour in time to come.

As a proof of how much I enjoyed the class, I went back home and diced up all my asparagus, mushrooms, onions and garlic for dinner. This would normally have been done by the Partner, while I disappear somewhere and pretend to be busy.

See my previous review on the Tools of The Trade Store as well as the ToTT Bistro.

ToTT Store

896 Dunearn Road 01-01A
Singapore 589472
Store Operating Hours:
Mon -Sun: 10.30am – 9.30pm
Tel: 62197077

http://www.tottstore.com

http://www.oooh-jam.com

Pantry Magic

The Chip Bee area around Holland Village is a very nice place to spend a morning or an afternoon. You won’t be able to spot Chip Bee if you’re standing on exciting Holland Village side (it is blocked by 1 building), which is why Chip Bee has a laid back and lazy feel to the area.

I like coming to Chip Bee/Holland Village once in a while to look at the shops. When I was living in Holland Village, I loved strolling past all the 2 storey old houses that are also part of the Chip Bee area. There aren’t many shops at Chip Bee, but each of these shops holds enough interesting things that I can spend almost half an hour in the shop browsing through their wares.

The 1st stop is Pantry Magic. When I first saw their website with pictures of their shops, I knew at once I had to go there. Pantry Magic is like a dream come true for all baking and cooking enthusiasts. It houses so many different types of pots and pans, of every colour you would want. Ordinary things like forks, spoons, knives and chopsticks look so nicely designed that you feel that you just have to have them or your kitchen would not be complete.

And then there’s the cupcake holders made of silicone. They have funny faces on them. Who wants to buy silly old normal paper cupcake holders after this? They also have baking moulds, serving dishes, jugs, plates, bowls. They even sell barbecue grills, ice-cream makers and food-processors.

If you intend to go to Pantry Magic, be prepared to bring lots of money. The things don’t come cheap, not everything is worth the price-tag, and you could probably find cheaper generic (ugly) versions at NTUC or Phoon Huat. But what’s the fun of going to Pantry Magic if you’re going to emerge empty handed? Trust me, any cooking enthusiast young or old will not be able to resist. I wish Singapore had more of such cookware shops. I really could do with a bigger variety like the cavernous warehouse sized kitchen stores they have in the US.

Pantry Magic Singapore Front of Shop view

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