Housewife Faridah Saadon bakes a whimsical array of cakes ranging from multi-tiered fondant ones to the trendy watercolour cakes that are dressed up in pastel frosting and fresh flowers.
Her elaborate bakes are a far cry from her humble foray into the world of baking 18 years ago.
Then a management trainee with the Pizza Hut chain, she learnt to bake and make pizza dough from scratch. She later moved on to pastry chain Delifrance, where she made pastries such as croissants and baguettes.
The 43-year-old, who is married to a 48-year-old service quality manager, recalls: "I attended these courses as they were part of the job. I wasn't interested in baking after seeing the tedious work that went into it."
It was only in 2006 - four years after she quit her job as an administrative assistant to look after her children - that she realised the value of baking. "I got bored at home and my husband suggested that I bake something," she says.
Despite an seven-year gap, she could still remember the baking temperatures for various types of confections. That fired up her interest in baking again and got her experimenting in the kitchen.
One of her recent baking themes has been treats inspired by ondeh ondeh - a ball-shaped pandan-flavoured kueh that is rolled in grated coconut and filled with gula melaka.
Over the past two years, she has baked cakes, cupcakes and cookies inspired by the green kueh.
"The basic ingredients of ondeh ondeh - pandan, coconut and gula melaka - are easily available here," she says. "As long as you are creative, you can do anything with them."
The recipe for ondeh ondeh cookies, which she shares here, are pandan and coconut-flavoured morsels studded with butterscotch chips.
Replicating the bright green hue of ondeh ondeh was her biggest challenge.
She used various brands of pandan flavouring and freshly squeezed pandan juice, but the colour was too pale.
Three months ago, she found a brand of pandan flavouring liquid that gave her the desired "Hulk-like" shade of green, coupled with a robust pandan aroma.
Staying true to the spirit of ondeh ondeh, she added chopped gula melaka bits, but they melted and stained the cookies when they were in the oven.
A nifty alternative is butterscotch chips, which has a sweet-salty flavour reminiscent of gula melaka. She also sprinkles desiccated coconut into the cookie batter for "a nutty flavour".
She also bakes birthday cakes for her family and friends.
Her creations include a two- tiered chocolate cake topped with chocolate and adorned with sticks of Pocky, a popular Japanese snack; and a Victoria sandwich - sponge cake sandwiched with cream, jam and strawberries.
She bakes cupcakes in flavours such as goreng pisang (banana fritters) topped with cream cheese, and milk tea, and also makes salmon quiche and chocolate caramel tarts.
Although Madam Faridah is big on baking, the mother of four does not like to involve her children, aged nine to 16, in these sessions.
Occasionally, they help her to roll cookie dough and pack cookies into jars .
"There's flour and sugar lying around the kitchen and kids are playful," she says.
"Things will get messy."
She also adopts a "clean as I go" regimen - something she picked up from her time as a food management trainee. She immediately washes mixing bowls and baking utensils after using them.
Looking back on her unintended start in baking, she says: "I am grateful for those baking courses. Maybe it was all fated."
ONDEH ONDEH COOKIES
- 170g salted butter, softened
- 40g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tsp pandan flavouring (Koepoe Koepoe brand, available at Cold Storage supermarkets)
- 600g self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 tsp corn flour
- 2 Tbs desiccated coconut
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 170g butterscotch chips
1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.
2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and caster sugar for about one minute until the mixture turns light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla essence and pandan flavouring and mix for about five seconds.
3. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Switch on the machine again and continue mixing until the contents are well-incorporated.
4. In another mixing bowl, mix the self-raising flour, corn flour, desiccated coconut and salt. Add the flour mixture into the batter, gradually increasing the speed of the electric mixer from low to medium, until the dough clumps up.
5. Remove the mixing bowl from the electric mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Fold butterscotch chips (below) into the batter and gather the clumps to form a ball.
6. Wrap the ball of cookie dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. When the hour is up, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
7. Roll the dough into balls that weigh about 15g each. Place the balls on a 30cm by 40cm baking tray, about 5cm apart.
8. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the cookies turn slightly brown at the edges. Remove the tray from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Let the cookies cool completely before serving. Store leftover cookies in an airtight container.
Makes 70 cookies
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.