My Journey into the Kitchen: Baby It's Hot! (Part 2)

By Christina Kim - May 04, 2020

Continuing from the last part of my story, here is the sequel to my journey into the kitchen...

If I used to think that cooking was not part of my future vision, there is no doubt baking would never even cross my mind.
It is weird really, considering how I do love pastries, especially muffins and cupcakes or anything really light, but I never really thought I would bake them myself. I guess it could be due to the fact that I never grew up with an oven back at home?
It was probably easier to just get one or two of these pastries from the bakeries out there and growing up in the city just made everything so easily accessible that it did not seem necessary to have to make anything ourselves and that just probably made us lazy.
So, how did I venture into this whole baking business?

I guess it also has to do with my resolution to eating healthier and due to my fussy requirements and restrictions (which seems to be getting more and more stringent) due to health concerns, I have lost trust in most of the food served out there in restaurants. I have always been very sensitive to food, perhaps due to a weak digestive system and immune system at the same time (they are both interconnected and more vitally linked than you thought), I knew I had to take charge myself to care for and enforce my own immunity.
That was how I started cooking and then I am not sure when it started, but possibly because I also found myself developing sensitivities to gluten, I was advised by my doctor to stay away from them. That meant no more muffins anytime I want or anything that could cause disharmony and discomfort to my system.
It was sad but it was important for my digestive system, and even though it was hard, I know it is definitely worth it.

Perhaps I started missing them and then since I was already preparing and making my own meals, I thought, why not learn a little about baking as well?
I do not aim to be professional or artisan baker, but just to make simple cakes and muffins for my own consumption and since initially I did not have an oven (just yet), I went with the simpler recipes of steaming my cakes.

First, I had to learn about the different types of flour which are gluten free, and it was amazing the varieties that exist. I started out with these gluten free flours, with coconut flour being the first (it's a real beast to tame by the way), almond flour and later to some whole grain flours as well. Everyone will tell you that learning to bake is not that hard but when it comes to experimenting or actual hands-on, you will find the reality differs with each individual even if you were to follow the exact recipe.
Therefore, for someone who never even played with the usual flour and dived straight into these gluten free territory, it was way more experimental than you would have thought.
For starters, it was not easy to find a lot of these gluten free recipes, one that used the type of flours of my preference and most online are the conventional ones using whole wheat flour, cake flour, bread flour, etc, all of which are of wheat-based. With time, guess the gluten free trend picked up and soon everyone started jumping on the bandwagon which was fortunate as more and more bakers and aficionados started sharing their recipes.
However, it still requires a lot of experiment and practice to perfect their recipes, for a novice like me and somehow, the more I learn, the more I found myself immersed in this whole new arena called baking.

After much consideration, I decided to get myself an oven, nothing fancy nor enterprise-like but just good enough for a beginner like me.
I opted to get the oven as there is just so much I can steam and there seems to be so much more to play around when it comes to baking in the oven.
It was a great decision because my oven, is worked to exercise its full potential almost every other day or at least once or twice a week.
From muffins, cupcakes (of course I would learn to bake my favourites first!) to cakes and simple breads (not you rising with yeast type yet, I guess I have not been infected with that interest yet though I am starting to consider making real bread too), it is rounds of experimenting with different flavours to the varieties of flour.
To be honest, I consider myself really lucky, not bragging or anything, but I don't think I failed that many times when it comes to baking. I managed to nail most of the recipes and slowly, even started to tweak the recipes and their ingredients to suit my personal tastes and preferences.
(I zoom through their portions and types of ingredients first to see if they are compliant with me anyway).

   (Some of my earlier bakes - they turned out beautifully!)

I am proud of a few of my bakes and true to my dietary habits, I am quite a habitual eater as I tend to and like to stick to a few of my regular favourites, not just because they are fail proof, but just the way I am.
(I tend to like to eat the same things over and over again, I do not get bored that soon and it will take a long time until I get over it. I call that loyalty)

Over time, I have also started adopting a paleo and vegan approach in baking, incorporating these principles into my experiments.
It may sound infeasible, but honestly I really prefer these styles which is also already part of my lifestyle, though it may not be for everyone as someone had also commented on my bakes that it probably is more suited to my personal tastes and preferences, and that is indeed true (no offense taken).

I am not that bold to bake for everyone yet, as I still do not think I have mastered the skills yet though if I were to bake for others (soon), I will definitely follow an actual recipe which have been properly tested and tried than forcing upon others my taste preferences.
However, I have boldly baked for my own family twice, the first being just an experiment and the second, was for last Christmas. The first was better than expected but my Christmas bake turned out to be a little drier than I had anticipated.

 (My Christmas cake - Pandan Coconut Pistachio Cake which turned out a little cookie-like after refrigerating for three days. It was considered okay since it was made with coconut flour which tends to absorb most of the liquid and makes pastries more dense, therefore given that it was kept in the fridge for three days and even traveled in the car, it was not too bad that it dried up. However, lesson still learnt)

It was a good learning experience though and I learnt to pay more attention to the moisture level in my baking since then, achieving a more moist texture now every single time.

I loved the combination in my Christmas experiment that I even made them into muffins after that and baked them several times.

(My Pandan Coconut Pistachio muffins - I personally loved the cracks on the muffins )

I find baking really an enjoyable activity though my taste tester still remains my closest, the hubby but it was really satisfying to see a nod on the head and an approving smile, not to mention the therapeutic effect of seeing the batter rise slowly in the oven.
*Note: Gluten free baked goods tend not to rise as well as conventional ones but they do rise a little too.

I dare not say I am a professional but I am happy to see my own bakes turning out better and better over time and I am getting bolder to experiment and playing with more varieties of flour. However, do take note that gluten free and grain free flours can be way more expensive than regular flours, and there are also the binding and rising agents to consider when baking with them, so it really takes a bit of time to getting to know and familiarising with the ways the flours work and interact with the ingredients.
Then, there is also the flavours and tastes of each ingredients to consider, along with their effects on the overall final product.
There is just so much to learn and play with that the options and possibilities are just endless.

Baking now seems to be part of my life and muffins from the confectionery? They seem to be far behind in the past, and I doubt I will go back.

Here, a few of my bakes that were more successful :)

(My personal favourite Raspberry Muffins)

(Another variation, Raspberry Almond Muffins - one of the most successful version I made)

    (Yes, one of my favourite muffins for sure)

    (The time I achieved the oversized version, YAY!)

(Blueberry Muffins)

    (Chocolate cake in the baking - for the hubby)

There are still more muffins, cakes and breads that I have made that were not shared in this post, as the photos did not turn out so well due to the lighting (and sometimes I forgot), not because they did not turn out well.
Anyway, be assured that you will get to see more and more of experiments soon, if you would like ;)

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.

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