The question was once posed to me with an air of dumbfoundedness. Admittedly, I struggled to answer without a brief delay. To be useful to another had always entailed a sense of accomplishment to me, that the skills I've developed thus far had a purpose in society. Any contributions made to society was - and is - viewed as a privilege, validation that my work is not exclusively beneficial in a theoretical space.
As a consequence, it is of no surprise that the inability to make timely progress and results leads to a sense of dread and, in an extreme case, a crippling sentiment of guilt - a self-inflicted belief that a singular fault would be enough to drag down a team. While it is ongoing task to straighten myself of the excessive burdens I've created in my own head, my determination to be "useful" remains as resilient as ever.
Being able to bring some degree of worth to the table was enlightening. Receiving praise, on the other hand, often supplies pressure than motivation.
I've turned to friends (virtually) and, most notably, in-house creations in search of solace. The occasional CoCo provides joy, as do Lindt truffles - in justifiable amounts, of course.
Recent experiences of excitement include quick, weekday trips to the mall, the commencement of Business Proposal, and working evenings with a side of (surprisingly not-too-sweet) cider.
The most repulsive of all was the Peanut Punch, which burned the throat with each sip. Irish Moss was observed as the primary ingredient; only upon Googling did were the authentic origins of the seaweed brought to light. Authenticity aside, the tacky consistency and ridiculously sweet composition did not warrant its hefty six-dollar (plus tax!) price tag.
1) Egg Tarts w/ Puff Pastry Crust (酥皮蛋撻)
"酥皮 or 牛油皮??" I immediately wanted to know. Between friends, it had constituted nothing short of a debate sparking embers from each side of the egg tart-loving spectrum. My personal preference had always been the butter tart base: sturdy, crunchy, and resistant against moisture penetration. Others adamantly disagreed, declaring the unrivalled flaky qualities of a puff pastry shell. I had countered on the bases of puff pastry being messy to consume (oh, the shatters!) and the icky greasiness stemming from the utilization of oil in place of butter.
"酥皮 for dimsum." The response came loud and clear, not imposingly so, but in a manner indicative of preference.
Further prompts came at seeing ochungg's weekday afternoon yumcha spread and confidence instilled from remarks extended towards my baking prowess fostered over the years of COVID. "I believe in you. If anyone I know can pull it off, it'll be you."
To revisit a similar concept nearly two years later was frightening nonetheless. A recipe for Macau's renowned pastel de nata showed a thin slab of butter being encased within a largely bland dough base, followed by letter folding, chilling, and repeating to achieve flaky layers. I opted for an easier formula, a dough crafted similarly to SK's fundamental pie dough. Ruffled layers emerged in spite of the fewer number of folds; the dough was exceptionally dry and rigid to shape, but help its shape well while baking.
The extra egg custard would have been a dream come true for me in my adolescent years, though far too sugary for the present me who swears by black coffee.
Laminated pastry is still a fearful process.
Cravings seem to surface at the oddest hours. The night before a hair-washing day came the sudden desire for Chocolate Japanese Cheesecake. It wasn't an item that Sunday Baking had executed previously, thus I sought guidance from the first video I lay eyes on. (In my defense, it had been a long evening, and I wanted no more than increased screentime before bed.)
But this was no Uncle Tetsu. The cross-section was airier, more delicate, and essentially a hybrid between Japanese Cheesecake and Souffle Cheesecake. Melted Surfin granted a boost of chocolatey-ness to the cheesy delicacy.
- Failure to monitor the oven temperature led to premature cracking.
- Tipping the cake out from within while still warm resulted in a catastrophe: crack propagation and a dismal appearance
- Extending the baking time for an additional ten minutes (with the top covered in foil) rendered the cake dry and crumbly, failing to hold together in a slice.
The recipe wasn't terribly difficult, which will likely induce a second trial under conditions less demanding of my attention (ie. no pending meetings).
That said, despite witnessing success in achieving the correct shape and consistency, the profile pales in butteriness compared to Third Wave's edition.
Onto the next recipe! - I dare to announce my departure from Sunday in this scenario.
Both my birthday buddy and a certain polar bear swore by I Love Pho, and I was keen to rectify my misconceptions, should that have been the case.
Our 8 PM arrival saw limited parking and a full restaurant of patrons. Several others formed the takeout queue leading up to the cashier. Thankfully, the swift turnover rate worked in our favour, enabling seating by a sriracha-splashed window.
The Fresh Rolls could be ordered in sets of two for $6.95 or four for $10.95, allowing for maximum customization capabilities. From the vast assortment of appetizers, I narrowed down my picks to the Fresh Rolls with Shrimp and Pork (#102) and Fresh Rolls with Grilled Beef (#105). The former was true to its name, undeniably fresh with a soft, chewy rice paper exterior, crunchy greens, and mild-tasting cold cut. The latter earned affection from those accustomed to heavier-tasting dishes; we experienced the aromatic waft of grilled beef before even laying eyes on the specimen. Both were scrumptious, though the peanut sauce could likely be omitted for the more flavourful of the duo.
At the time of our departure, I caught sight of the grilled pork and fried rice platters on other tables. I had only strode past while en route from one of the three single washroom stalls, yet its fragrance and vivid presentation invaded my peripheral by appealing to both smell and sight.
The experience was exceptional and budget-friendly to boot, paving the way for future visits, hopefully in accompaniment of my birthday buddy.