Maiden hands-on baking class at Phoon Huat

I don’t think I’m gifted in culinary art, even if I have tried my hand at cooking a few times over the last 30-odd years without too much of a mishap or disaster in the cooked item. I probably “cooked” or attempted to, most often, when I was taking Home Economics class in secondary school.

Then, when I was in university, I think my friends and I did fiddle around with some simple home-cooking at her place, but that was about it. Living with my parents meant that I don’t need to cook, since the kitchen is my mum’s enclave and TBH, there really wasn’t a need to. But anyhow, I have always wanted to learn or pick up cooking, baking or the likes. My preference would of course be baking, of breads and cookies, which are my indulgences. I had signed up for a bread-making class sometime ago and it was really fun, though tiring; but it’s something I cannot really replicate at home because of the lack of a proper mixer to make the dough that is needed for bread-making.

Recently, I signed up for another baking class, this time for cakes and cookies, at Phoon Huat. The good thing about such classes is that even if you need to clean up the place and wash up the utensils and equipment, it isn’t at your own kitchen, and so it’s much more convenient. They supply all the necessary ingredients too, so it’s all worth it for the price paid, S$55 for a one-time class.

In the class I signed up for, there were 3 items on the list to be made. First, we learned how to bake a Pineapple Manuka Honey Almond Butter Cake, where the pineapple and manuka honey mixture was pre-prepared by the chef to save time. We did the rest, i.e. making the batter, etc. As there were limited working tables, we did the baking in pairs or groups of threes. It’s pretty scary to know how much butter, eggs and sugar went into baking one butter cake. Horrors!

Here’s how the batter mix for 3 cakes looked like.After the mixture was deemed to be of the right consistency by the chef who was teaching and supervising the class, we scooped the mixture into the cake tins and off they went into the mega-sized ovens.
While the cake was being baked, we cleaned up and starting preparing the ingredients for the second recipe, which was a cookie. But this was how the cake looked like after it was baked, removed from the oven and left to cool. It smells really good and tastes great too, although I found it a bit too sweet. Perhaps the amount of sugar used, together with the honey that was being mixed in with the pineapple, added to the overall sweetness.  I brought the cake to mum & dad’s place for dinner the day after and they all said it was not too bad but somehow it was a little crumbly. Wonder if it’s because it wasn’t oily enough to hold everything together?

The second item we baked was supposed to be Viennese Butter Cookies. The ingredients also looked scary, with the copious amount of butter and sugar that went into it. Everything felt really oily, especially when we had to put the batter into a piping bag so that we could try to create an S-shaped cookie, or something like the figure of 8. I was very bad with this but this was how everything looked like before baking. The cookies I piped were quite small haha.
This was how they were supposed to look like after baking. I took this photo of some other groups’ cookies. The baking smell wafting in the air as we worked in the kitchen was heavenly, by the way. You can tell how much I love pastries.  Unfortunately, this was was how my cookies turned out. All the effort spent piping the cookies ended up in pools of butter, eggs and flour because we somehow got the proportions wrong while measuring out the ingredients. These look like the usual 鸡蛋饼 or 鸡蛋仔, even though comparatively, based on what the other classmates said when they tasted them, these were less sweet and not as oily. I don’t know if they were trying to be nice, but it made sense because a lot of the oil had seeped out of the mixture due to the insufficient flour to hold the oil in. These smell very strong in butter, and somehow reminded me of Jenny’s cookies. I’m not saying these are comparable, even though I don’t find Jenny’s that great (over-hyped if you ask me), but the same buttery smell is just so strong.
The last item that we made were Almond and Tea Cookies. Actually this wasn’t the last thing we made, but the last thing that went into the oven, because after mixing the batter, we had to freeze the dough. It was rolled into a long, cylindrical rod and popped into the chiller. After a certain length of time had elapsed, we removed the stiffened dough and sliced it into discs, laid them out on the baking tray for baking. There were lots of almond flakes used in this, with earl grey tea leaves added to give it the tea flavour. Any tea leaves can be used, but for the class, the chef provided earl grey tea, which was fine for me because I love the scent of earl grey tea!

The end product, which was much more successful than the butter cookies.The roll yielded a large number of cookies so there was plenty to go around that I brought some to office to share with the colleagues and gave a huge bunch to mum. Reviews for this cookie were pretty positive too! 🙂
On the whole, I find the class fun, though the washing and cleaning was very tiring and it made my hands feel very dry and grimy at the same time. Also, as I chose an evening class that was supposed to be from 7-10pm, take note that it usually does not end on time. This was supposedly an easy class and we ended around 10.30pm. Mostly, I heard that other evening classes could end at 11pm or after. If it’s a weekday night, it will be extremely tiring. Weekends would be better, as the timing is from 2-5pm, but then those classes tend to get full very fast. I’ll probably try other classes in future, but only when the recipe has something that I’m interested in!