Fat Lady Diaries: On The Science Of Baking



Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 05:29 GMT


Tue, 19 Jul 2016 - 05:29 GMT

In her first column for Egypt Today, Heba Shunbo from The Four Fat Ladies bakery explains that baking is a science while the whole process is an art form that requires more skill than people realise.

by Heba Shunbo

My sisters and I grew up with a passion for baking, a love that grew from our mother. Her baking was her way of expressing her love and dedication to us, and my sisters and I took baking seriously from a very young age. It was fun and was ultimately a bonding experience between my sisters and I and our mother. Birthdays took on a whole new meaning for us, the excitement of a homemade cake that looked less than perfect at times remain fond memories that we recollect with as much passion as we do brainstorming for new recipes and ideas for our bakery.

Throughout the years, as “amateur” bakers, my sisters and I experimented regularly, and have had many failed endeavors, and on the other hand many successful tries. We’ve had our fair share of botched pie crusts; one too many batches of chocolate chip cookies in the quest for the perfect chewy cookie; to tweaks over the years culminating in what I believe to be the most yummy creamy cheesecake. However, a business based on a passionate hobby is infinitely different, the stakes are high, particularly in this day and age, where everyone is a Google click away from being an expert.

[caption id="attachment_516941" align="alignnone" width="620"]The Four Fat Ladies bakery was founded by three sisters (shown here) who were inspired by the fourth "fat lady" - their mother. The Four Fat Ladies bakery was founded by three sisters (shown here) who were inspired by the fourth "fat lady" - their mother.[/caption]

Being an owner of a bakery business, with relatively novel desserts, in this society is sort of similar to being a crime scene investigator, decoding clues as I went along. I was the lawyer, the customer the judge and jury, and our dessert the victim — guilty until proven innocent. After a few months of recon and investigative work, ongoing daily interaction with customers, in store, over the phone, over emails and through social media, I realized that our product is the victim of many misconceptions, preconceived notions, and faulty assumptions. My heart goes out to the victim that can’t defend himself or herself, that cute little frosted cake that’s full of passion and that is trying to fulfill its destiny and fill the heart, stomach and mind of its future owner to give the customer that moment of bliss, when he or she bites into a moist chocolate fudge cake with that smooth peanut butter frosting, or that fudgey chocolate bite of salted caramel heaven, that goes oh so well with your morning coffee or afternoon tea; or our simple lemon bundt cake that is just to die for, a light moist cake with a twist of lemon that is the perfect start to anyone’s day.

However, even though our loyal customers revel in the deliciousness of each bite and appreciate our amazing flavors, some customers still approach this relatively novel product with trepidation. “Can’t you make it less rich?” “Can’t you put less sugar” “Can’t you reduce the butter” and a whole slew of questions coming from hesitant customers. Objection! Speculation!

[caption id="attachment_516939" align="alignnone" width="620"]Salted caramel brownies are the bakery's most popular item. Brookie (brownie cookie)[/caption]

The truth of the matter is that a moist cake versus a dry one is simply the result of precise baking, and not an indication of more or less butter. A moist cake, a perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookie, and smooth frosting are so much more than just their ingredients. Baking is a science, where the whole process is an art form that requires more skill than people give it credit. The entire process of selecting premium ingredients, to mixing properly, to baking at the correct temperature for the right amount of time, all that coupled with some heartfelt intuition is what distinguishes a heavenly cake from a good cake… yummmmm… sustained.

I say we round up the usual suspects — cakes, brownies, cookies, pies, cheesecakes — in a dessert lineup and have the experts weigh in on this very serious matter before we convict The Four Fat Ladies to a lifetime of bias and prejudices based on its awesome texture and flavor.

The Four Fat Ladies is here to offer baking tips, insights into our most popular desserts, and is keen to debunk certain myths that have come to light in the past few years. Together, let’s uncover the mysteries of baking. The defense rests, next case…



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