I started working on pastries when I was about 10 years old, simply because my late father was a pastry chef and he played with pastries all the time. So, I got curious and started to bake as well.
My first bakes were really simple: rock buns, short breads, simple sponge cakes and butter cakes. I would watch in awe as my father made his breads and served them to us.
This is my father’s little cook book. It is now more than 50 years old. My father was a linguist and spoke Mandarin, Hokkien, Kek, Teochew, Malay and even Tamil. But he neither spoke nor wrote English. These little recipe books he kept were the only things he wrote in English.
When I was about 18, I wanted a cookbook of my own. The first cookbook I could afford was only $6, and this is the book. I actually baked every recipe in it:
From then on, I became really interested in pastries. I have done some research on this matter and the results of my research has been documented here, some as posts and some as recipes. I have revamped many age old ways of making very traditional pastries, often cutting the preparation time to a fraction by using current cooking methods or sometimes by further thinking about the ingredients and their behaviour when combined.
The best memory of my late father was when we had a baking competition. I was trying to make shortbread and there was no butter in the house. It was late and the shops had already closed. My father asked me why I didn’t make the shortbread with the cooking oil in the kitchen. I said it was not possible. In his usual style, he challenged me, and told me that we could. So we had a competition of making shortbread with oil, and my then boyfriend (now my husband) was the judge.
I have forgotten how I made my shortbread, and he did not give me his recipe either. Needless to say, my dad won that competition. He was the professional pastry chef, and I was a noob. He also showed me how it is so important to be flexible and to think about ingredients and recipes in a totally different way.
You’d see that I very seldom use other people’s recipes to cook. I almost never use a recipe from the Internet to cook, because I know that there are people who post recipes that don’t work, or post images that don’t belong to them. Instead of taking their recipes, I normally try to understand how each kind of food is made, the science behind it, do a bit of research and then derive the recipe myself. I think my failing rate is very close to zero because of this extra thought process.
I hope that you will enjoy and journey with me on my research for better and more interesting ways of making pastries better for our children and their children.