Well another two weeks have gone by and my baking endeavour continues. Jumping right in to de Bono’s work, he talks about how listening is one of the most important aspects of learning, and if done well, you can obtain much greater value out of what the person is saying. I have definitely found myself listening much more than talking in the first few weeks of my mentorship. I have been trying to pay attention to all the details and fully understand what my mentor is saying.
Through all the pieces I have been picking up during my mentor sessions over the past few weeks, they seem to be forming a single picture as they come together, a secret ingredient you could say. But this ingredient may not be what you expect. From all the intricate designs of icing, and complicated recipe steps, the secret ingredient is the most simple of all.
What I have gathered so far as the key to baking, is that it is not solely your knowledge or skills in the area, but rather your creativity and joy for baking.
Once you have these, you can make anything; the possibilities are endless. Your creativity will take you to the next level, and the touch of a perfect cake is really the touch of the heart.
Continuing, while I have only been saying a little, a lot of what I have been saying is questions. Expanding on this, using de Bono’s two types of questions, fishing and shooting, I have mostly been asking shooting questions. Some of the questions I will ask are things like “Is this the right shape/size/thickness?”. I generally ask these questions to confirm and check on the techniques I have been taught, and am practicing, to ensure I am executing them correctly.
One question that I asked using a multiple choice format was “Do you flip them because they are thicker or because there is more in them?” I used this when we were removing some cookies from the oven to flip before putting back in for a second time facing the other way. I found this question format very useful as it digs even deeper into the topic and in this case caused my mentor to further explain the process. Her answer to my question was actually neither of my two suggestions, which gave me even more reason to have asked the question. As I hadn’t thought of the answer she gave me myself, this gave me more knowledge of why we were doing this. Her answer was that we were actually flipping them to create a more crunchy texture of the cookie, as they were a biscotti style.
Additionally, while spending time with my mentor, our conversations often trail to other topics. This past visit, while waiting for our latest batch of cookies to bake, my mentor told me some tales of her childhood in Croatia. It was very interesting to hear about the different way of life and it gave me a new perspective on some of the things we do here. I again asked some basic questions that spurred more in-depth discussions and explanations.
I am hoping to spend some time this weekend to do some baking of my own and try out some of the techniques my mentor has been teaching me. It should be interesting to see if I can execute the skills without her guidance.
I have been taking photos of all our recipes to keep track of everything we do, and also for practice myself. I may try some of these or try out some of my own. Further to what I talked about earlier on the secret ingredient, her recipes are all written out in hand. She has rewritten them her own style and in very basic form. This allows her to make as she goes, or should I say, bake as she goes, bringing out creativity in every dessert.
I am hoping to capture some of my own baking creativity and bring it to life in some of my own pieces very soon! Brining to life that picture puzzle of the secret ingredient.
P.S. Oh, and sorry, I wasn’t able to capture any pictures of my desserts this time around as they seem to have all magically disappeared somewhere.
You may be wondering why I chose this title for my post, or how it relates to the above picture, crêpes. Originally I was actually going to title this post, ‘The bread Arrives’, as a metaphor for the stage I am at in my project. The bread is being served at the table, one of the first dishes of the meal, and draws you in to the rest of the experience and what is to come. However, I realized that this might not be suitable as I am doing my project on baking, not cooking or full meal cuisine. So I decided on ‘The Mixing Begins’. Nevertheless, you may still be wondering how this title relates to the picture or my project. Well, similar to the bread metaphor, mixing is often one of the first steps in a recipe and provides the base for everything to follow. It is used in virtually any baking recipe, and is a vital piece of creating the unique texture special to the dessert or dish. Furthermore, when mixing, you can often add in secret ingredients or leave out certain things to create a specific result. This is where the title relates to the above(and below crêpes) picture, some crêpes I made with my mentor on my second meeting.
As an additional skill to the cookies, brownies and handy truffles we were already making on our first and second meetings, my mentor taught me how to make some delicious and simple crêpes. As mentioned, this used the skill of mixing, but also controlling pan temperatures while cooking, greasing the pan, working at a slightly faster pace to try to keep an even crêpe all around before it dries in the pan, and some delicious taste testing. As previously, my mentor made the first few and demonstrated how to accurately and successfully create the crêpe, and then allowed me to try cooking some and practice applying the skills taught. I found a couple things difficult such as creating a round circle and being sure there were no holes in the edges of the crêpe, but after we coated the insides with a rosehip jam and some with Nutella, they were just fine.
As for continuing with de Bono’s How To Have A Beautiful Mind, I found many connections and relations to my time with my mentor. In this week`s post and mentor time, we were encouraged to think about and mentally explore two areas of his book: ‘How to be Interesting’ and ‘How to Respond’. One of the examples de Bono gives on how to develop an ‘interesting’ conversation, is to use the phrase “Now that’s interesting.” This phrase deepens the conversation by first showing your interest in the topic or idea, and further, pushing you to explain why you are interested. I found myself saying this or a phrase very similar such as “That’s neat!” or “Oh that’s cool!” very often in my most recent meeting with my mentor.
Building off of my last post, many of the techniques or tools my mentor used that I agreed with, caused me to give the initial reaction of one of the above. Some of these techniques include her handy trick of forming a ring of icing around the edge of a cookie and allowing it to harden before icing the rest, creating a boundary stopping the icing from overflowing onto the sides of the cookie. Another being a very useful technique for greasing a glass dish for baking the brownie in. This consisted of oiling the inside of the dish with canola oil, followed by tossing over a large amount of flour to coat the inside of the dish. She then tilted the dish in all four directions one by one and tapped the flour around the edges so as to cover all areas of the dish. Finally she disposed of any excess flour and placed a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the dish with two ends remaining accessible from the top of the dish. The oil and flour technique I thought was very unique and creative and is a useful tool I can use in the future in multiple recipes. Also, I thought how she left the parchment paper sticking out was very clever as then, she explained, when the brownie is cooked, you can remove it fro the glass dish by simply pulling the two ends of the paper upwards and out. Similar to this, when making the crêpes, I also had to grease the pan. These will both be very useful and are a very practical skill which is one of de Bono’s suggestions for responding.
Another of de Bono’s propositions for ‘How to be Interesting’, is to ask ‘What if’ questions. One situation that I applied this to, mentioned previously, was when my mentor added corn syrup to the cookie icing to make it more glossy.This was very clever, but I wondered what effect this might have on the overall consistency of the icing. So I asked, “What if you didn’t put in the corn syrup?” Her answer was that it wouldn’t have any effect other than it wouldn’t be as shiny. Another situation in which the ‘What if’ card was played in our conversations, I didn’t actually have to ask. When I was pouring the mixture for the crêpes, and having some difficulty, my mentor provided me with some information on what impact any holes or imperfections would or wouldn’t have on the end product.
Lastly, something I found very useful and interesting in our conversations was the experience and information I gained from my english research essay on the crème brûlée, macarons, and cheescake. My mentor wanted me to try a small lemon meringue cheescake cupcake that she had been working on to test how it tasted after being stored in a fridge. May I just say it was delicious, but I could distinctly pick out the different textures and techniques that I learned about through my paper. I brought this up as well as in other conversations together and it served as an interesting connection and link even with my minimal experience. This is yet another thought of de Bono’s for ‘How to be Interesting’ and also ‘How to Respond’.
I enjoyed thinking about all these different thoughts and analyzing my conversations with my mentor using de Bono’s ‘How to be Interesting’ and ‘How to Respond’, and, of course, creating all these delicious treats. Unfortunately I don’t think very many of them will make it to school for some of you to try next week, however the next batch might! Thanks for reading and I look forward to adding in the next ingredient to this delicious project!
Picture above: some of me and my mentor’s baking from my first sessions with her.
Well, after a few weeks in the goings, I have successfully obtained a highly skilled mentor and begun learning some useful techniques of baking. You could say I have officially ‘cracked open’ my project, and a few eggs!
I met with my mentor for our first official meetings this past Saturday and Sunday, and we got right down to business working on some baking. So far, my mentor has been teaching me the different techniques and skills and then getting me to try them under her supervision. We’ve done this in the form of baking; she will prepare the first few cookies(for example) and then proceed to guide me in making the next few. Even in the short amount of time we have spent together, I have learnt tons, and I am strongly enjoying our baking time.
In terms of relating our first session to Edward de Bono’s How to Have A Beautiful Mind, it may not be quite as straightforward.
While meeting with my mentor, I tried to keep track of our conversations and everything she was saying in my head. I agreed with many different concepts and tools she explained to me that seemed highly useful in their respective desserts or tasks. I hadn’t heard of all of them before but they seemed like great solutions to simple problems that you may run into while baking. Some of these problems include her suggestions to melt chocolate in a bowl placed in a pot of boiling water on the stove, as opposed to in the microwave. This technique prevents burning the chocolate and also allows you to have greater control of the temperature and keep a close eye on it as it melts. Another handy trick, was to ice a small ring of icing around the edge of the cookies using a piping bag before icing the entire surface. This acts as a barrier to prevent the icing from overflowing onto the edges of the cookie later on. You must let the ring harden before icing the rest so that it is firm when applying the rest of the icing. All of which I strongly agreed with and seems very logical.
As for disagreeing and differing, there’s not nearly that much, in fact, there isn’t really anything I can think of that I disagreed or differed with my mentor on. The reason for this is that I highly respect my mentor and her extensive knowledge of her craft, and in all honesty, everything she advised me of seemed perfectly logical to my mind as well. I have hardly any experience in this area of skill, so I might not be able to tell if she was doing something incorrectly, but at this point, I am focused and appreciative of building a strong mentor to mentee relationship and developing greater knowledge in the area. Maybe later down this in-depth road I will encounter something I can’t quite wrap my head around, but for now, it all seems amazing. At points in our conversations I did make attempts to bring up different solutions or paths for which we could take when making a certain part of a dessert or treat. For example, when she explained her secret ingredient(which I don’t want to expose) for making the icing shiny, I asked if it would affect the icing in any other way if you were to not add that ingredient. She answered saying that the only real effect on the icing is its appearance, which I then agreed with and understood. I suppose you could say that was a slight differentiation in our views on the future but I was really just unsure and asking for further information on what could occur.
Overall, my project is going very well. Our class integrated essay also proved very useful for me to gain more knowledge of some basic baking skills. I have been enjoying what I’ve been working on with my mentor, both baking and intaking, and I am looking forward to what is to come in the near future. Now what’s next on the menu?