I’m trying to cut back on baking.  Work takes priority in the day time, so the only time I get to bake, other than the weekends, is in the evenings after work.  But in the evenings, I exercise, I meet E or friends for dinner, or I cook myself dinner, and all that competition for the precious few hours of twilight before bed-time is taking its toll.  Sometimes, I end up baking past midnight, and by the time I get to bed, it’s less than 6 hours before it’s time to wake up for work again, and that is on the premise that I’m not afflicted with insomnia on the night in question.  I’ve been very tired lately.

Still, I managed to make gougères for the colleagues on Tuesday.  My first attempt to make it was several years ago when I had my first taste of it at db Bistro Modern at Marina Bay Sands.  Since then, I’ve had it several times at the now-defunct db Bistro Modern, the relaunched db Bistro & Oyster Bar that took its place and then again at Le Diplomate last year while I was in D.C. with C on vacation, but I never really thought about trying to make my own again until this week.

It didn’t turn out too bad.  No bad reviews, but some liked it more than others.  I think my pastry could be fluffier though.  I used the Gargantuan Gougères recipe from Daniel Boulud at Food & Wine, but replaced the Piment d’Espelette with regular cracked black peppercorns, and Gruyère cheese with grated red cheddar cos I didn’t have Gruyère lying around.

I’m going to follow Alain Ducasse’s gougères recipe, also from Food & Wine, the next time I attempt it.  I’ve never had the privilege of biting into a gougère at any of his restaurants, but his recipe calls for mixing the cheese into the batter in addition to, as opposed to merely sprinkling it over the scooped batter.  It may not rise as much, I suspect, but it might give the pâte à choux a more well-rounded cheese flavour.

I’ll post a recipe, if I ever find success in making gougères.

So this weekend, I reverted to my original passion – baking and decorating cakes.  E’s mom’s birthday falls on the early part of next week, and there is a superstition that one should celebrate their birthdays in advance, as opposed to belated.  Not sure about the origin of that superstition, but since E is traveling next weekend, baking a cake for her this weekend works out great!

I decided on a strawberry shortcake, done the Japanese way.  She’s never been a big fan of saccharine sweet confections, and the Japanese strawberry shortcake is the least sweet cake I know how to make, cos the tartness of the strawberries work well against the lightly sweetened and fluffy genoise sponge cake.

I over-mixed the batter today.  I forgot about measuring out and sifting the flour in advance, so my anxiety got the better of me as I was forced to multi-task, and I ended up being a little less conscientious about mixing the flour quickly and lightly.  The batter was somewhat deflated by the time the pockets of flour had disappeared.

But as one of the instructors at a cake-making class told me, there is no such thing as a perfect cake.  You’re going to end up consistently disappointed if you’re expecting a perfect cake.  You roll with the punches and you fix what goes wrong as you go along.

So, I generously piled on two layers of Japan-imported strawberries and stablised crème chantilly, made it into a three-layered tall cake, and crossed my fingers.  The sides were not perfectly frosted, you can see some crumbs in the pictures where the layers of cake were not perfectly aligned, but here’s to rolling with the punches!