Sunday, July 16, 2017

Puff Pastry Ticked

I think I told you in my previous post that I was attending a Puff Pastry baking class. The only reason I took the Puff Pastry class is that it is a prerequisite for another class I want to take. It was very lonely attending the class because I didn't know anyone. When I attended BITC's cake, cookies and muffins class, I went with a friend and believe me, going with a friend is so much better than going not knowing anyone. What made it worse was the school was totally new to me and the school had this attitude that I will figure it out one way or another. Until today, I have no idea where the toilet is or where to put the rulers. Where do you keep the damn rulers?

It's possible that age is an issue here. I think I'm the oldest student in my class. I found it hard to absorb the lecture and the instructions often sound terribly incoherent to me. I had to keep asking and asking to make sure I was doing things right. I took a photo of the pink dough but what each dough represents escapes me. I'm guessing it's to show how the different number of folds will result in different results. In my mind I was thinking, who the hell cares! Ha ha. I really hate the theory part of baking.

Night 1 of class was spent sorting out my registration *&(#}! up, theory from power point(just picture the teacher reading line by line) and making the pastry dough. We used the fold in method. (For home bakers, Richard Bertinet explains it quite well in his video.) The first part was done by hand and the rest of the turns were done using a dough sheeter. We spent a lot of time waiting for our turn to use the machine. I felt so miserable the whole night. The class size was big - 15 of us. The kitchen was small. I didn't know where the hell anything was. And one of the chefs would yell at us from time to time. What is it with chefs who yell? At the end of the night, we went home without any baked goods because all we did was make the pastry dough. So disappointing. I wanted to cry.

Night 2 was the night we baked two items. It was a lot more enjoyable. But I made many mistakes. Sometimes it's my fault. Mostly it's the fault of the teachers. They give instructions to groups of people. Sometimes you are somewhere else.

This was my fruit band. I did not hear any instruction to dock the sides which was why the dough did not hold together. I was not the only one because there were a few that looked like mine. But it was edible.

The apple strudel turned out not too bad. My family and I ate everything. However, I am not a fan of apple strudel. Maybe it's the cinnamon... I paid attention to making the apple strudel because we had to make it again for the assessment.

The newbies were informed that we had to do kitchen duty. I really hate kitchen duty. It's disorganised and never ending. I started to feel less alone as I could talk to one or two persons.

For home bakers, this video by Gerald Burg explains how apple strudel and apple turnovers are shaped. The only thing we did differently is we docked the bottom piece of the apple strudel pastry.

Night 3 was another busy night. I think I blacked out for a few seconds towards the end. We baked Victoria's, palmiers and apple turnovers. These were not hard at all. As we won't be tested on them I took it easy!

Victoria's and palmiers
apple turnovers

Palmiers are really good to eat. I wonder how much weight I'm going to put on?

Night 4 we made pastry dough using the chop in Scotch method. It really means using the mixer to do the mixing of fats and dough! This is of course followed by sheeting using the dough sheeter. Another night of queuing.

This time though, our filling was tuna or cheese with spinach. The tuna was nice but cheese with spinach? Gross. Fortunately I only made 2 with cheese/spinach. The tuna puff was in the practical assessment but it's easy peasy.

Night 5 We learnt to use scrap dough to make eccles cakes and cream horn.
I didn't hear the instructions to put sugar on one side of the dough only so the bottom got a bit charred.

In the end, not too bad. Some of the students had theirs in bits and pieces.

These eccles cakes were delicious even though the filling was tinned apple which I swear I can no longer eat. I think if I were to make these again, I would put some other filling like ham, bacon, luncheon meat...

We were supposed to have revision on theory but it didn't happen. Thank god! I don't think I can go through theory again.  For home bakers, this video by Gerard Burg explains how Victoria's, eccles cakes and palmiers are shaped. Very close to how we did it in class.

Night 6 As our class was big, we were put in 2 groups for our assessment. Mine was on Friday night. I assumed the practical assessment would be conducted in a similar way to BITC but of course I was wrong to make any assumption! Despite the initial hiccups, I managed to make the required apple strudel and 8 tuna puffs. I did make one major mistake in my apple strudel. Can you tell? But I managed to creatively work around the mistake. As I was making the tuna puffs, I realised our teacher had taught us to make the tuna puff differently. Her method was to use round cutters whereas the assessment required us to cut squares. After the practical assessment, we sat for our theory test. After the tester had marked our papers, we were told our results. Yes, I passed. I was happy to be done with puff pastry.

My family finished the tuna puffs. It is rather tasty when warmed up using the oven. To be honest, I'm not sure if I will make puff pastry at home. Firstly I don't have a dough sheeter. Yes, who does? Secondly, Singapore is hot and humid. The butter will turn oily and it will be a disaster. The alternative is to buy pastry dough from the supermarket and put my own filling. Anyway, I don't have to think about it anytime soon because I don't think I can eat another puff pastry.

Having said that, next week I start another pastry class this one uses yeast. It is also a night class and will span a few weeks. I'm sick of it already. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Embroidered Shoulder Bag

The weather in Singapore changed this week. Know how I know? My body hurts. I get aches and pains when the weather changes. Some people have gaydar. Me? I have weardar. Thanks!

Bad news for the one or was it two persons waiting for my next bag pattern. Last week I suddenly remembered I had to attend a baking course one day before the start date. I quickly called up the school and was told to "show up". I had signed up for the course last year which in my world is a decade ago. These days I barely remember yesterday. This baking school is new to me but it's been around for a while.

Anyway, the baking course was a disaster in the beginning. It turned out my name wasn't registered at all. Let's just say some one quit and didn't do a proper handover. After the initial hiccup, I was accepted into the class. The inadequacy of the admin dept is a clue on how the baking class is conducted. If I can find a perfect word, it is chaotic. Perhaps I'm not the best person to give a review because I am biased having attended baking school at BITC, now defunct. You know, suddenly BITC is starting to look very good.

The class I'm in is very large - 15 of us. Odd number because of the &^%$# up. The kitchen is hilariously small. In the beginning my butt kept hitting this other student until I decided to move to the other side of the table.

There is no orientation of any kind. I thought that at the very least, the newbies should be given a tour of the kitchen, what goes where, how to operate the oven and the mixer. Nope. Zero. The teacher assumes you know or will figure it out somehow. You have to push someone to help you.

I don't think I'm dense. But when the teacher gives instructions, I barely understand what to do. After much consultation with the other students and watching out for their mistakes, I am able to do it right.

Despite everything, I did learn a bit and I may possibly be able to add "Puff Pastry" to my repertoire. The course is not over yet. It spans a few weeks because I'm doing it at night. I'm quite regretting doing it at night because it is so so exhausting. After my class I have to spend the next day lying down to recuperate. Sometimes it takes a day and a half. Which is why it will take a while for me to finish my next bag pattern.

Today is supposed to be my recuperation day but early this morning I went with hubs to watch the Spiderman movie, 3D, IMAX. My knees grew weak during some of the scenes. I really thought I might throw up. Oh if you do go see the movie, be sure to stay back for 2 clips during the credits. Don't leave after the first clip. There's one more. Make sure you stay and watch that one.

Oh, I suddenly remembered why I wrote this post. I didn't mean to rant. After I had written the Forever 19 Shoulder Bag pattern, I made this sample using some leftover Ikea fabric from a previous project.
There's something about Ikea fabric that makes me want to embroider on it. Or scribble a marker pen...
Even the top stitch around the bag opening is done by hand.
I showed this bag to hubs and he said it's nice but it's too quilty. In hubs' world, quilty and handmade are not desirable. What do you think of the bag?

The bag pattern is available for sale at my Etsy shop and Craftsy shop. If you prefer to buy it off my blog, you can click on the "Buy Now" button below (ecommerce by Payhip). Read my faq if it's your first time buying from my blog. p.s. the pattern does not contain any embroidery tips. (i think you know that!)

Buy Now

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Knitted bow tie for Bear

I lied. The knitted bow ties are for my girl. (Bear doesn't know) A long time ago, I offered to knit her a bow tie. But I never got around to do it until recently.

I'm quite embarrassed to say this again but I haven't made any progress in knitting. I can knit small flat pieces and that's it. By the way, while knitting these bow ties, I discovered that I am most comfortable knitting continental style although I use the knitting needle more like a crochet hook!

Anyway, I have no time for knitting. I am working on TWO new bag patterns simultaneously. I know. It's stupid. Sooner or later I have to abandon one.

Look at Bear. He's getting stir crazy. I've neglected him horribly. I'm getting a bit stir crazy myself. Recently hubs had several days off and we looked up air ticket prices for a short trip nearby and the prices were crazy. I think it's because it's June, a peak travel period in Singapore due to the school holidays. That kind of money for such a short trip, I think it's better used on food for our kids.

Excuse me while I give Bear a tummy tickle. Look at the bastard's face. Know who else will benefit from a tummy tickle? The Lee siblings. Yes, the offspring of Lee Kuan Yew. Have you heard that Singapore's PM is in a public feud with his siblings. Read here, here or here if you haven't. At first, it was intriguing. But after so many weeks of back and forth accusations, often repeating over and over what had been said, it's getting tiring. The PM has arranged for a July 3rd Parliament date to address the allegations made by his brother and sister. I don't think the PM's siblings are invited to the Parliament sessions so I doubt they will stop their facebook posts. Maybe a tummy tickle might do the trick?

Me: Stop saying I'm dishonest.
Bear: I won't.
Me: <tickle Bear's tummy> Stop calling my committee a secret committee.
Bear: <giggle> Nooooooo.
Me: Stop posting shit about me on Facebook! <non-stop tickle Bear's tummy>
Bear: <giggle, giggle, giggle> okay, okay. <giggle, giggle, giggle>  I surrender.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Bag Pattern - Forever 19 Shoulder Bag Pattern
Dear friends,

In your mind, how old do you see yourself? When I was in primary school, I saw myself much older because being the second youngest in a family of 9, I was often not allowed to do this and that because I was not old enough. So I wanted to be older and mentally conjured an older self. Then I got older and I realised that in my mind I stopped growing at the age of 19. After I got married, I still felt I was 19. Then came two kids and still age 19. My youngest child turns 18 this year! Honestly, I don't know when I will start to see myself as an older person.

Why 19? I'm just guessing that 19 was my coming of age? That was the year I finished school and went out to work. 19 must have been a pretty traumatic year since I stopped growing older in my mind!

Last month when I was working on my bag pattern, I decided to call it Forever 19 Shoulder Bag. It's not a difficult bag to sew, very good for beginners. I've made many variations of this bag to sell at craft markets in my previous life. (Remember MAAD and VivoCity?) This curvy version was the most popular. The bag comes with two interior pockets - one slip pocket and one zip pocket.

I used a Lecien fabric print of teapots and cups. Anyone else crazy about teapots and cups fabric print?

The bag pattern is available for sale at my Etsy shop and Craftsy shop. If you prefer to buy it off my blog, you can click on the "Buy Now" button below (ecommerce by Payhip). Read my faq if it's your first time buying from my blog.

Oh, you should buy the pattern like now because I'm offering a discounted price of $5 until this Sunday 25th June 2017. (usual price $8) No need for coupons, price has been adjusted at Etsy, Craftsy and my blog. I hope you enjoy the photos. My girl modelled for me.

Buy Now

Lastly, big thanks to Lynnelle for her help with testing. Check out her version below.
Psst. Anyone noticed Lynnelle's shelves with the thingy to hold the spool of thread? I throw mine in containers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Donate your books

Let me ask you a question. Are you like me, incapable of walking past a bookshop or pop-up book stall without buying anything? I thought so. Oh remember I made a resolution not to buy any more books? Ha ha. What utter rubbish.

I already own a lot of books. Some still wrapped in plastic! I think I'm a compulsive book buyer. Despite the current digital age we live in, I'm never into digital books. I enjoy the feel of a book.

Unfortunately, I don't live in a large apartment. Space is precious. Right now I have books lying everywhere. Just two weeks ago, I simply couldn't resist the awfully awfully low price of new books at a pop up - 50 cents to $5. Are you kidding me? I dragged hubs there and came home with 7 or 8 books. Most are still wrapped in plastic.

So the only sensible thing to do is to get rid of some of my old books. In the past I tried giving them away. But you know what? People don't always want your old stuff. Then I sold some to the karang guni man (recycling). He gave me like $1.50 for a huge bag of books. Later he confided that he doesn't care for books and he treats them as trash. So what's he saying? He was doing me a favour? I didn't like the idea that the karang guni man was trashing my books so I decided to find better homes for them.

Woodlands Regional Library

I go to the library quite often and I notice there is a Book Exchange Corner at some of the libraries. What you do is you leave the books you want to donate which are hopefully in good condition on the shelves and anyone can take the book. Seriously, no conditions. I myself have found a number of good reads. Strangely the Book Exchange Corner is not available at every library. Just at the following locations:
Ang Mo Kio, Woodlands Regional, Bedok, Geylang Easy, Marine Parade, Tampines Regional, Bukit Merah, Jurong Regional, Jurong West, Queenstown, Bishan, Central and Toa Payoh.

Once I was at Central library and I saw two men grab EVERY book from the shelves. I get the feeling they did not take the books to read. The Book Exchange Corner can only work if people take what they need and not grab the books to sell.

Another thing is at Woodlands Regional library, I often see sales brochure or religious pamphlets. I'm not talking about one or two pieces but a whole stack. I think that is so rude. Sometimes I get so irritated by the behaviour of locals.

 I left these books at Woodlands Regional library. I hope they find the right audience.

Jurong Regional Library

At Jurong Regional library, the space for the Book Exchange is smaller but so much more civilized. Maybe it's because the shelf is very close to the security guard?

Near Ng Teng Fong Hospital

Anyway I've discovered two other places where I can donate my books - Dignity Mama Stall. Dignity Mama Stall sells pre-loved books and the stall is run by youth with special needs and their moms help to provide guidance and co-work with them.

There are 3 drop off locations - NUH Medical Centre, Dignity Kitchen and Ng Teng Fong Hospital. You can get the address here.

I go to NUH Medical Centre almost weekly for acupuncture so it's convenient for me to drop off my books. The other location, Ng Teng Fong Hospital is also quite close to my home and seriously, my family goes to that area a lot. So bit by bit, I will slowly move my older books to Dignity Mama. Which will give me room for more new books.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Water Kefir Bread

Help! I have become a fermenter.

In early May, I went to Bakerz@Work Academy to attend a water kefir demo. Firstly, let's settle this. How to pronounce kefir. The folks at the demo say "kiefer" as in Kiefer Sutherland. If you go to youtube, you will hear all sorts of pronunciation. I lean towards kur-fear. It sounds more natural to me based on the spelling. Anyway, however you pronounce it, water kefir culture is quite fascinating. Or weird if you're not into it.

The class was quite chaotic. The attendees came with all sorts of experience. Some had zero experience like me while others had dabbled in it. After a while, some people asked all sorts of questions and of course it confused the hell out of me. The person giving the talk focused on answering questions and I couldn't make much sense of it. Later a chef came and he wrote down the process and that made things clearer for me. We were all given some water kefir to drink and I wasn't put off by it because I've had it before. It's kinda like a lame version of apple cider vinegar.

water kefir starter
In the second half of the workshop, two chefs came to show how to make bread using the water fermented with water kefir grains. I like that the chefs weren't stingy with sharing of knowledge. My experience making bread at BITC was the total opposite. Can't ask this and can't ask that. By the way, BITC, the school where I learnt to bake has closed. Very sad about that but you know, the writing was on the wall.

The chefs used a mixer that I've never seen before - Ankarsrum Original Mixer or AO. It is kick ass. I was drooling. See here if you want to see the mixer in action. The mixer alone costs $1,399. The add-ons are relatively cheap. But I'll never be able to own something like this.

These are water kefir grains. I was given some at the workshop to start my own home fermentation. These grains are called blessings for reasons unknown to me. The grains are reusable and they also multiply when given sugar water. Yeah, the multiplying part is kinda creepy.

There is one rule in water kefir fermentation - no metals allowed. Other than that, just feed the grains with boiled water (cooled of course), raw sugar and sucanat. (I have experimented with mineral water and the result is better; not sure why.)  If you go to youtube, you will find all sorts of different formula. I'm following the formula given at the class and the only thing I dislike is having to use sucanat because it's hard to get and it's not cheap. Bakerz@work does sell it at their supply store. One day I'll substitute it with cane sugar or something.

This is the shop owned by Bakerz@work. It's tiny but packed with goods. It's on the ground floor of Shaw Tower.

Later, I found using paper towel to cover, sealed with a rubber band works better

The whitish stuff on the surface are bubbles.
This was my very first fermentation. After 24 hours, you have to separate the grains from the liquid and let the liquid ferment another 24 hours. (second fermentation) During the second fermentation, you can add fresh or dried fruits to the liquid to give it flavour. After the liquid has completed the second 24hours fermentation, you can use the liquid to add to flour to make your starter.

Because the grains multiply each time you ferment, you end up with a lot of grains. I usually throw the excess away. I have drunk the fermented liquid several times and I cannot say with certainty my gut health has improved. On the internet, people talk about how beneficial this drink is. I would still see a doctor if my gut were sick and not try to treat it by drinking this fermented water. Anyway, I'm more interested in making bread than drinking the liquid. Interestingly, hubs refuses to drink it. This is a guy who eats and drinks anything and he rejects water kefir...

When you use water kefir to make your starter, you don't have to use commercial yeast. This is my third starter. The first two weren't so active.

This is the first loaf of bread I made using water kefir starter. Can you see how flat the bread is? I think my starter was not strong enough. The bread didn't taste great. Just okay.

This is my second time making bread with water kefir starter. I think it was under baked. The taste was a bit weird.

This was my fourth time baking this bread and my best effort. The taste though, I've grown to dislike. I have however, grown to like drinking the fermented liquid. It's like light soda.

The whole of June I haven't done any baking or fermenting. I don't know if my grains have died in the fridge. I was too busy with my bag patterns. I think I'm ready to dive back in and this time I hope to get a better tasting bread.

Making water kefir bread is a lot of work.
Day 1: Feed sugar water to grains
Day 2: Remove grains and continue fermenting
Day 3: Make starter using water kefir and flour
Day 4: Make bread

If you are interested in this water kefir thingy (and located in SG), you can join this fb group: SG Fermentation Friends. Look under "Files" and there's lots of info. You can also find people who are willing to donate their grains. There is another fb group which I'm in but you need to attend the water kefir workshop in order to join the group.
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