The pandemic has unleashed the baker in many people. If you’re among those who wish to hop on the bandwagon but do not know where to start, allow me to guide you.
- Click on this link: https://www.anvilpublishing.com/shop-anv/uncategorized/baking-basics-cookies-and-bars/.
- Click “add to cart”.
- Follow the instructions for check out.
The book you just bought, Baking Basics: Cookies and Bars will give you confidence to put on a baker’s apron and get busy in the kitchen. Aside from recipes, there are pages and pages of tips for every step – measuring ingredients, prepping baking pans, cooling, etc. For added convenience, the utensils required for each recipe are enumerated. A list of basic ingredients and their functions is also included as well as a table of standard measures and oven temperature equivalents. There’s a troubleshooting guide too. Do you know what to do if cookies of the same batch are unevenly browned? The book will tell you!
Authors Cris Abiva and Bubbles Cruz-Lerias have anticipated everything a baker wannabe could possibly ask. They know exactly what beginners need. After all, they have years of experience as teachers.
Bubbles has been teaching since 1997 and is currently an instructor of Baking and Pastry Arts at the International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management. Cris was a baking instructor at the Maya Kitchen for more than 9 years where she taught basic baking to adults, kids and teeners, and did a lot of baking demonstrations. She also taught at the Center for Culinary Arts.
“I know the value of having a well-written recipe with clear instructions and ingredients listed in the order of use,” says Cris who has authored five books including the award-winning The Coconut Facts Book (2012 Gintong Aklat Awards), A Quick Guide to Filipino Food and Cooking, and the Cooking for Health series. She is a former food editor of Good Housekeeping Philippines and has served as cookbook editor for more than forty cookbooks. She is presently the editor-in-chief of World Food Magazine.
Baking Basics: Cookies and Bars has 40 recipes under the following categories: bar cookies, drop cookies, molded cookies; pressed, rolled & refrigerated cookies, plus Pinoy cookies.
The top 3 picks of Cris are the recipes for Lemon Cookies, Food for the Gods and her all-time favorite Macaroons. For Bubbles, it’s the classics: Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies, and Butter Cookies.
The recipes are presented using two types of measures – using cups and teaspoons, and weights. So even without a weighing scale, you can still bake. Heck, even without a mixer, you can still bake! “When we were testing, I insisted we do the recipes first by hand instead of using a mixer. My point was that not everyone had a mixer at home and not having one did not mean you can’t bake anymore,” relates Cris. “I also think doing it by hand helps develop a rhythm so you’ll know when you’ve creamed enough, when it’s time to add in the next batch of flour, when you’ve kneaded a dough enough. You can, of course, learn all this while using a mixer but I think you get a better feel of the batter or dough when it’s by hand. I suggest new bakers start out this way – just use a mixer for recipes which might be more difficult to mix by hand or when you are making a big batch,” she advises.
Both Cris and Bubbles are so passionate about baking that their goal is to reel in the non-bakers into their world and encourage those who already love baking to continue with the craft.
“Although I know it is 99% science, baking still carries a certain mystique. It is the ability to create all these exciting aromas, textures, and flavors from a combination of ingredients. It is the factors of weighing, mixing, end points and temperature that come into play to yield deliciousness. It is a laboratory experiment done in the kitchen. It is the marriage of science and art,” Bubbles rattles off after being asked what she loves about baking.
“Everything!” Cris gushes. “I enjoy measuring ingredients. I like mixing by hand. But what I enjoy the best is the aroma as it starts to bake – up until you open the oven door and you get this sweet, sweet smell that makes you want to grab one cookie, even if it burns your fingers and your tongue,” she elaborates.
It was a Calumet pamphlet that got Cris started in baking at a young age. “I did not know anything about baking, the book did not have much photos but still, I was fascinated. I pored through that Calumet book and penciled the recipes I wanted to try, mostly based on the ingredients we had at home. That summer, I tried to bake one recipe a day. They were not all successful – some were dreadful – but I was not deterred. I truly enjoyed every aspect of it. No one actually taught me, I just read other cookbooks we had at home. It wasn’t until high school that I had formal classes in cooking and baking in Home Economics class,” she recalls.
Way before she was tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, Bubbles was already helping out in the kitchen. “My mom was a Home Economics teacher and I always loved watching her bake for the family that I ended up assisting her in setting up, gathering ingredients, and doing minor work like sifting and holding the bowl so it doesn’t move while she whips the egg whites. My siblings and I would spend some summers with our maternal grandparents who owned and managed a restaurant in Dumaguete called La Caviteña. I would spend some afternoons watching the baker make breads,” she shares.
At 13 years old – when she no longer needed to stand on a stool to work in the kitchen – Bubbles started doing some recipes from her mom’s cookbooks and I tried her hand in duplicating her mom’s recipes. “It went well, I think it was because I’ve seen it done like a million times,” she muses.
Apparently, that inspired her career path and she went on to earn a degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines and a Master’s in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide. Bubbles was part of the team that represented the Philippines at the Le Mondial du Pain (The World of Bread) competition in France in 2017, the first time ever that the country qualified. She is also the first Filipino pastry chef to be featured in the organization’s cookbook, “Respectus Pain”.
Baking doesn’t come easy for everyone, though. “It is a skill, there may be a few who are gifted and get it right the first time but it has to be repeated and done over and over again until you get the feel of the ‘dance’ and build confidence,” Bubbles points out.
And there’s no better time to start ‘dancing’ than today! If you’ve been wanting to bake, Baking Basics: Cookies and Bars is the sign that you’ve been waiting for. Once you’re satisfied with your creations, you may even want to take the next step and make a business out of baking. The Baker’s Percentage section of the book will come in handy in quantification and production, it makes scaling up or scaling down a recipe so much easier.
During the virtual launch of the book, event host (also chef and author of So You Want to be a Chef? and The Gospel of Food), Sharwin Tee asked about the best recipes for Christmas.
“You can stick with the classics but put Christmasy flavors like for chocolate chip cookies, it can be chocolate and mint. Or maybe add cinnamon or a mix of spice for gingerbread. Or you can make the shape something interesting or Christmasy. And packaging,” advised Bubbles. “The classic sugar cookies, you can cut out into Christmas shapes and decorate with your kids. It’s a fun activity also,” injected Cris. “If you’re giving away or selling, consider cookies with longer shelf life, those sturdy enough and not crumbly, those that keep moisture well so it’s nice, soft and moist when it reaches its destination,” added Bubbles.
Watch the event on Facebook to learn more about the book and get to know Cris and Bubbles.
Behind Baking Basics: Cookies and Bars is Anvil Publishing, eleven-time Publisher of the Year awardee by the Manila Critics Circle. The book is available for P250 at www.anvilpublishing.com as well as Anvil Publishing’s shopping channels on Shopee and Lazada. Also expect copies on shelves of selected National Book Store branches.