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Teaching In New York

My first order of business for this next vacation is to teach my nephew how to bake. He has come of age, finished high school with no failing marks (although he has gained a lot of weight all this time) and so i said, this is the perfect time to teach him all the basics while he stews at home.

No rush to find work yet, although in the past i would ask him to help me bake, i think his mind was a little off somewhere, to his League of Legends game and podcasts. This time, i can see it in his eyes. He wants to learn indeed.

I told him right off the bat. The money is in food. Especially breads. Never mind if you don't perfect your cakes, i prefer that you master and start honing your skills in baking the best bread ever. Last year, i taught him how to bake a carrot cake, scaled down to the diabetic level, my term for reducing the sweetness down to a level where it's not too cloyingly sweet but not too bland it tastes like hospital food.

So he gets that, and really loves making them. First problem. The bread flour. You see that's the biggest difference when you bake in New York and Manila, at least for me, and i cannot speak for everybody here. I can get the best bread flour around my area in Fairview in under an hour, a whole sack if i want to, plus all the other ingredients but not where i live in New York. If i have a student in New York, i need to order online and pay a whopping amount for shipping and handling. I want the best flour for my class and that's it.

In the grocery aisles are just the regular Gold Medal Better For Bread flour and King Athur High Gluten Flour and although both do the job of coming up with a very good Pandesal for me, i cannot use it for Ensaimadas and other high ratio recipes. For reasons i cannot explain at length here because it is rather complicated, i know my students know more after they finish the whole session.

So since i know John and i would be baking breads at least once a week only, i settled for Gold Medal Better for Bread, yes, the one with the yellow packaging. Good enough for his Pandesal review lessons, his first Pandesal did not rise properly because it was too cold so i gave him another chance to bake a fresh batch. Great. So let's try doing it with me upstairs and you downstairs. Unfortunately, i was on the other side of the table ranting about what i was reading online about politics back home ( i am sure you know who the topic is) while he was weighing and i made him break the very first rule i told him when it comes to baking.

Never talk while you weigh. This is something i do back home, every time i bake, i shut the doors and my mouth as well, and become totally incognito. One small distraction and my ingredients will either miss the salt or the butter. Or the yeast which is the worst thing for a bread baker, and sometimes the margarine. I am telling you this because it happens to me all the time. When someone magically just appears in my kitchen and interrupts my "me time" that is while i am weighing the ingredients, it will always and i swear it is bordering on insane, result in a disaster. One time, my niece butts in and begs to help me while i was doubling a cookie recipe, i doubled everything except the flour so there.... I was scooping the cookie dough on the baking sheets already when i found out that the cookie dough was toooo sweet because i missed the flour. That's it. I had to lock my doors so she can't get in while i weigh.

So there i was confident John would maybe finally get it this time since he did it just a week ago and the Pandesal disappeared in just 2 days. What i did not know is that my rule applied to John too. When he was baking the Pandesal already, i left him totally by himself. Morning after, i looked at the breads, touched it and i noticed something. They were a bit hard, right color but something is not right. I took one piece and sliced it open, took a bite and there. I realized what just happened.

"John, you forgot the sugar." He he he, oo nga Tita, napansin ko rin. You see, he was waiting for the breads to get light brown in color, and just because there was no sugar in the dough, it was taking too long to brown. The rolls did not bake properly, spent too much time in the oven so they dried out. What normally should happen in 12 minutes, happened in 20 or so. That's a huge difference. 2-5 minutes i can take, but not more than that.

Oh well, that's nothing compared to what happened to me i said. If you haven't gone through any of this, how will you learn?At least now, you know what i was talking about when i said, weigh your ingredients at night, when nobody is there but you in the kitchen to talk to. Shut your podcast off, and organize your bake. At 19, not to shabby. At least the breads were still edible. If you missed the yeast or the salt, that would have been worst.

Until the next bake. Long way to go, but i know he likes what he's doing so get going. That's the best part. It does not make sense to me to teach someone who is not into it, heck i would rather do my nails. What's admirable about John is that he likes to listen and loves to do well. Good enough for me.

While i am here, i also teach him the basic creaming and folding techniques in baking cakes. I admit, we both gained some weight doing this but i go back home in Manila and there will be tons of work to do, i think i can manage to lose them by the time i sent away my sister's xmas giveaways. We did Pound cakes, Pianono, Chocolate Mousse cakes, cookies, butterscotch, etc.,


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