Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Death of an oven

I saw the signs but never thought about it. Then it finally happened. Our oven at home has finally stop working after 21 years.

Okay I'm exaggerating. It works. But someone has to stand by the oven switching it on again every 2 minutes. And that includes pre-heating. I made apple tart and scones. And yes I was there every 2 minutes, switching it back on. I finally gave up when the apple tart and scones were under baked even though I gave it an extra 20 minutes of baking time.

I wasn't sure how my dad was going to handle the fact of a new oven. I was back for two days and I was already thinking of asking for something new.

But after my parents watched me sitting by the oven pressing the start button, I think they got the point. So hopefully the new one is coming next week. No more screw ups.

My mum said she'll miss the oven. I guess I will too. Most of the baking I've done so far was with that oven. I remember shortbread cookies topped with an almond. My mum made that when I was about 5 and we would bring some along during trips to Europe. It tasted amazing next to plane food.

It was always a process to prepare the oven before baking. The oven also acts as another table when not in action. So first of all, remove the random stuff on top, clean the insides then preheat the oven. I hated doing that. Wayy too mafan for me.

My mum didn't let me bake until I was trustworthy enough not to burn down the kitchen, which was around the age of 13. I felt so happy after my mum taught me how to preheat the oven. It meant she wasn't going to fuss about and left me alone to my baking. I baked shortbread cookies for the first time.. I think.

Goodbye dear Sharp Carousel Convection Microwave Exceller 120.

Caramelized pear and crisp almond crust tart

I like this tart. Long impressive name and it lived up to it as well. But somewhere down on the ingredient list calls for 8 egg whites. And I knew what that meant during the practical. Whisking egg whites... again.

The thing is, when you depend on a mixer most of your life to do the dirty work, whisking egg whites to a stiff peak by hand is murder. Repeat. Murder. So this was probably the second time I was whisking egg whites by hand, ever! But hey practice makes perfect. You start to learn things after going through the hard part. I found out that:
  • few day old egg whites are easier and faster to whisk. So keep those egg whites after you made that fondant
  • my left arm was actually capable of helping me
  • when you're near death, at least move the whisk side to side to mix it continuously
  • a chef massaging your shoulders actually helps only if he does it to the whole class lol
So after training dear left arm and doing some breathing exercises, that dream of a kitchen aid is far behind me. It's nice not to need technology sometimes. Feels like an accomplishment of some sort.

So back to the tart. Let's do an analysis shall we? The base is made of sweet pastry dough with a filling made out of chopped canned pears, raisins, blackcurrants, heavenly smelling pear brandy, butter and sugar. On top of that is the crisp almond crust which is sort of a almond meringue then sprinkled with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

Chef stressed that the egg whites need to be perfectly whisked to a peak and folding in the ground almonds has to be done as gently as possible. Otherwise you won't get the markings of the star tip.

We also learnt how to make honey filled barquettes which tasted alot like the pecan pie from Alexis, KL. And I'm having some of the pie now! Hopefully i can recreate a pecan pie recipe from the barquettes. They taste like nut brittle. Like the ones from Jakes, Damansara Heights after a good steak meal.

My tart turned out okay i suppose. The markings weren't very clear probably because I was rushing to finish to catch up with the class. My tart:

The best looking tart was made by the slowest person. And I was happily taking pictures while she whisked her egg whites. Lesson learnt.