Healthy Cooking Demo by Chef Redj Baron Saguin

I love baking and cooking. Much like a box of memories left at the back of a cabinet, however, I’ve set aside the passion that I have for it. I just can’t do it at the moment. Despite the “baker’s block” though, the yearning to learn more is still there, so aside from taking classes once in a while, I’ve joined baking and cooking groups on Facebook (guilty: I joined almost all of them… and dragged BF along, too! Haha!).

One of the groups that I enjoy the most is the Newbee Baking & Cooking International group. The “newbees” (members) are friendly and encouraging, and despite her being overseas, “motherbee” (the founder) always makes sure that everything is going well in the group. Aside from the members themselves, a group stands out when they’re as much a group out in the physical world as they are online, and this was proven at the event hosted by the Newbee Baking & Cooking International: Healthy Cooking Demo by Chef Redj Baron Saguin.

Despite the abundant fresh produce found in the Philippines, cheap and instant food are very popular among the Filipinos. In fact, in 2014, among the most popular companies in the Philippines are those that produces instant noodles and artificial food seasoning. It seems that a Filipino dish isn’t complete without a packet of something something mix or a pinch of magical powder and I think the dish loses it’s soul in the process. As for me, there’s something about fresh food that’s been seasoned with only herbs, salt, and pepper that’s really inviting, and I’m really interested in the versatility of fresh ingredients which is why I went to the cooking demo.

The event started off with an introduction by Chef Niel, followed by a bonus fondant demo by a fellow member, Ms. Charlotte. First, she taught us how to make an easy ruffled cake with fondant. I wasn’t really fond of fondant since I think it’s just to sweet, and I was more attracted to the classic buttercream, but I think I’ll give this one a go. I learned that fondant can be made in a big batch and it’ll keep for a while so that’s really convenient.

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pretty ruffles 🙂

Ms. Charlotte even taught us how to make a cute bear topper afterwards! 🙂

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adding details to the bear…

I knew it was easy to deal with fondant, but the creativity and artistry is only acquired through constant practice and a great amount of experience.

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the finished product 🙂

After the fondant demo, the healthy cooking demo started right away. I don’t watch TV at all, so it was only later on that I found out that Chef Redj has his own cooking show, and is a contributor to different food magazines. A celebrity chef!

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Chef Redj was fun to watch — and it is not a secret that a happy cook will serve happy food! In between the Paella Valenciana, the Grilled Chicken Canape, and the Steamed Fish Florentine with Mornay are lots of tips and tricks, too! In addition, I learned a lot about how to make a good stock which is important in cooking for good health.

When the Steamed Fish Florentine was done, we were each given the chance to put it all together and taste the finished outcome. This was really nice — the lightness of the fish, the spinach, and the wanton cup was balanced of by the creamy mornay.

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audience participation at its best 🙂

The next dish was the Grilled Chicken Canapes, and, just like the previous dish, we all had a small piece to try it…

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Grilled Chicken Canape

Finally, the most awaited Paella!

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After mixing everything together, we were finally able to try the paella… and it was amazing! I don’t really eat paella, but this was really delicious! Plus, the generous amount of seafood and the use of good soup stock instead of artificial seasonings made this dish really special. 🙂

Another bonus treat was a unique demo of a pineapple upside down cake. What’s so special about it? It wasn’t baked in an oven! It was “baked” on a stove top, with a pan made by Berghoff — a European brand that produces high quality cookware… How cool is that?!

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This demo taught me more than just cooking and making fondant, and to be able to see firsthand how technology, creativity, ingenuity, and passion can transform the way we do things in the kitchen was really unforgettable. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing about their personal experiences in the kitchen — being reminded that other people has their fair share of bloopers in the kitchen made me realize that it’s okay to make mistakes. And what’s a better way to be a newbie than be a NEWBEE? 🙂


SLTB

P.S. Watch out for updates as the group will be organizing other demos for everyone to enjoy! 🙂

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participants (c)raquel melendez

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Avocados!!!

Avocados are prepared in many different ways — as a guacamole, added into salads, etc. In the Philippines, however, savory preparation of avocado is trumped by the only way our childhood has ingrained in us — chilled, sweet, and creamy. Personally, pairing avocado with condensed milk is the only way I’ve eaten avocado, and though I’m willing to try the savory ones, I’m still a bit unsure how I’ll like it.

Anyway, I got some avocados the other day for Php75 (Php60/Kilo) and made one of my favorite treats — frozen sweetened avocado. I mashed up some avocados in a container, mixed in some condensed milk, then placed it in the  freezer to just freeze up a bit. It ended up looking like this:

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I’ve been playing around with making ice cream lately so I decided to give this a shot. Now I didn’t really want to add cream, milk, and sugar because I’m a huge fan of the condensed milk + avocado love team so what I did was just pureed the avocado, added the condensed milk, and froze it. When it was frozen, I thawed it up a little bit, incorporated some air into it using my hand mixer, then froze it again. I ended up with this:

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This, my friends, is how I love my avocado.

How do you like your avocado? Please do comment below your favorite avocado recipes that I can try… And if you’ve tried it the sweet way for the first time, let me know if you liked it, I’d love to hear from you! 🙂


SLTB

A ‘No-Bake’ Day

No-bake desserts should be a no-brainer right? Well, that’s what I thought until I attended the No-Bake Desserts Class at the Joey Prats School of Baking and Pastry Arts last Saturday (June 27). Though excited about the class, I have to admit that a part of me thought I wouldn’t learn as much as I have from the past few lessons I took here since this particular class deals with no-bake desserts (Class #1 was “Cookies and Bars,” while Class #2 was “Macaron”). But then again, it’s Chef Joey… so with much anticipation, I went to the blue and green little house in Marcelo Green Village for my no-bake baking class.

There’s always something new to learn beyond the recipes in his classes – and I’m looking forward to learning more and more new things. Oh, and don’t forget the free food! I love being able to taste new flavors and Chef Joey Prats’ recipes are all to-die-for. By the way, if you’re going to take any class of his, try not to eat too much before the class. Trust me on this one.

The first recipe was the Strawberry Shortcake Tiramisu – a gorgeous twist to two classic desserts that’s sure to be the center of everyone’s attention at any party. The lady fingers used in this recipe is homemade, and is very similar to a sponge cake. The flavors are easily soaked in, giving us a ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ feel with enough character brought about by the different flavors of each layer of the tiramisu. Another ingredient that’s difficult to find is mascarpone, so he taught us a good alternative to this – American Heritage Cream Cheese. I think this treat would be great for people who are working late at night — you’ve got the sugar for energy, strawberries for nutrition, coffee for focus, and alcohol for creativity! Yay!

strawberry tiramisu
the final layer of strawberries

Next up is the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Minted Fruits. Before teaching us how to make this, we were given a sample made with minted mangoes. I love the idea of putting it in a jar as it saves the hassle of transferring the panna cotta or packing it up for transport. During the actual demo, he used peaches instead of mangoes to show the versatility of the dessert (I’ll try making this with strawberries).

panna cotta collage

The third one is a No-Bake Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake made with American Heritage Cream Cheese. Again, we were all able to have a slice each before the actual demo. Now, I’ve never actually tried American Heritage before, but it’s nice how there’s not much water when you open a package of it – meaning it has more of the good stuff that you need. This particular recipe has no eggs and flour which gives it a texture reminiscent of a very light mousse, yet it’s stable enough to hold its shape when plated.

blueberry swirl cheesecake

I would say that my favorite recipe for this class is the Espresso Almond Praline Ice Cream. The smooth ice cream was balanced off by the crunch that the pralines gave, and the flavor was just absolutely lovely. During this part of the lecture, it was also explained to us how ice creams differ in their texture, and how different ingredients play important roles in an ice cream. It was easily done with a KitchenAid stand mixer using the Ice Cream Attachment, and I just wish I can take one home and make ice cream immediately. I swear, this ice cream, by far, is the best I’ve ever tasted. No exaggerations, it is addicting.

churning...
churning…
warning: very addicting
warning: very addicting!

As absurd as a ‘no-bake baking class’ may sound, taking this class was absolutely worth every centavo. All of these four desserts were very easy and fun to make, and I’m 100% sure that family and friends will love them.

After the class, a classmate offered me a ride. We live very near each other so when she asked if I wanted to go with her for me to see her kitchen before I went home, I immediately said yes. When we arrived at her kitchen, this overwhelming joy filled my heart. (Thank you, Ate!) I felt like I walked right into dreamland. I know this might sound weird, but stepping foot in this kitchen made me so happy I was fighting back tears. (*^_^*) I’ve always wanted to be a pastry chef, and I’ve tried different jobs but I’m always strongly pulled back to my love for food. I’m still hoping it’s not too late. 🙂

SLTB

Heavenly Cheesecakes by Joey Prats

If, for others, an event is incomplete without alcohol, then an event isn’t complete without cake for me! I’ve even baked some cakes before, although the last time I did was last year — it was a red velvet birthday cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberries for BF. Seeing loved ones enjoy the baked goodies bring me a certain joy that totally beats store-bought cakes. It’s the appreciation for the cake that says, “I appreciate you.”

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Though I may not have baked for a while, I’ve joined Facebook baking groups and I’m also taking as much lessons as I could so that when I start baking again, I would be better equipped with skills and knowledge that I’ve learned so far.

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Last week, I received my own copy of the Heavenly Cheesecakes DVD by Joey Prats. Included in the DVD are three recipes of cheesecakes — Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake, and Black Forest Cheesecake. I actually can’t wait to try them all! I think the one that’s gonna be easiest to do right away is the Dulce de Leche one because all the ingredients are readily available in my kitchen… plus I love dulce de leche! 🙂 Anyway, I might not be able to do it asap but I’ll be posting it up as soon as I make it. 🙂

I’ve taken 2 classes so far (the Cookies & Bars Class and the Macaron 101 Class) and I highly recommend the Joey Prats School of Baking & Pastry Arts. Though the classes I’ve taken were demo classes, I’ve learned a lot in those classes. They do have an upcoming 3-month certificate course so for those who are interested in baking, I’d suggest this course. I would enroll right away if I have the funds right now, but I don’t yet so I guess there’s gonna be a next time for me… but if you, my dear reader, is interested and you can, then please do so and enjoy learning how to bake at this school. 🙂

For those who want their own copy of the Heavenly Cheesecakes DVD, you can click here to contact them through their Facebook page. They also have other DVDs as well (Joy of Pastry and Best 100 Recipes) so there are a lot to choose from. BTW, those who aren’t in the Philippines can still purchase the videos — I think they’ll send the digital copy instead of the CD, so don’t hesitate to contact them. 🙂

Macaron 101 at the Joey Prats School of Baking & Pastry Arts

Last Saturday, June 13, was a very happy day for me — I finally got to attend the Macaron 101 class at the Joey Prats School of Baking & Pastry Arts! They have an ongoing promotion and this is the second class I’m taking (I attended the Cookies and Bars class last month) so I just have to get one more class and the next one is free! Always remember the green walls and the blue gate — I forgot the number of the house but remembered it was this brightly colored house and I didn’t get lost this time. (Yay me!) As usual with all of their classes, the class size was small — there were only six of us that day. I like the small class size because it allows friendships to be created and it’s a good environment for shy ones to be comfortable with the rest of the class. It also makes it easy for everyone to gather around near the chef if needed be. I sat beside a familiar face (she was a classmate from the previous class) then started a little chitchat with her and the Marketing Director, Eric, while we all wait in anticipation for the class to begin.

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Each student is given an envelope with the attendance certificate and all the recipes to be discussed, plus a box of macarons!

The class started off with an introduction to macaron — Chef Joey discussed its rich history (Laduree, Pierre Herme, etc), the different techniques that can be used (French and Italian methods), and the description of a perfect macaron. When a student sets foot in Chef Joey’s kitchen, not only does the student learn how to bake, but he surely will have a more critical palate for desserts and a much more inquisitive approach to them as well.

Chef Joey piping the macaron shells

Macarons are finicky to make which explains why a lot of bakers don’t make them much or don’t even try to make them at all. The baking began with the shells which are deceivingly easy to make: follow the procedure and you’re good to go; just don’t forget the correct preparation of the ingredients, the waiting for the macarons to set, the precise mixing needed for you not to over- nor undermix the batter… it’s fussy — yet easy, something you’d love to hate and hate to love. 😉 Next was the ganache — a simple yet luxurious treat made with the finest cream, chocolate, and ground almonds.

perfect macaron shells
perfect macaron shells

While waiting for the cookies to bake, we were surprised with a generous treat — a slice each of the best caramel flan (leche flan) that I’ve ever tasted! It has this gentle taste that’s creamy, and not overpoweringly sweet, that lingers on your taste buds even long after you’ve had it.

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Joey Prats’ Caramel Flan

After the cookies were done baking, and have already cooled down, a generous amount of ganache was piped onto the cookies before being sandwiched by the top cookie… delicious. But painstakingly, we were told that the best time to eat a macaron is on the day after it’s cooked. Tempting as it may be, one must hold back and wait as each cookie is done with its “beauty rest” so as to achieve the different layers of flavor and texture that Chef Joey is proud of. The class ended with more chitchat and we were even able to try some liquid gold — Chef Myrna’s infamous Ultra Special Bagoong (no kidding, it’s so good that you can eat it with crackers). When we finally had to go home, we all left with a box each of macarons (for sharing…?) and a huge smile on our faces.

gorgeous dark chocolate macarons
gorgeous dark chocolate macarons

Although a very finicky treat, one must definitely try making macarons. Patience is truly a virtue one will need when making macarons (and trying very hard not to eat them on the same day it’s baked) but at the end of the day, I love macarons and I shall persist. As Chef Joey said, “mantra is ‘perfection’ and not ‘excellence,’ because the saying, ‘nobody’s perfect’ is just an excuse not to strive for perfection.”

For more reads:
1. Close to Laduree
2. My Sweet Story
3. Joey Prats’ Signature Desserts

For those interested in the Macaron 101 class, there’s another one coming up next month! I also found out that the macaron recipes can be found in one of the DVD that they’re selling. Check out their Facebook page for more details…  🙂

Baking with Joey Prats: Cookies and Bars

Last May 16, I went to the Joey Prats School of Baking and Pastry Arts to try out one of their classes. I originally planned to attend the French Macarons class but I wasn’t able to attend that one so I opted for the Cookies and Bars class instead.

Chef Joey was very friendly and I learned a lot of tips not limited to the topic/recipes alone. He willingly shared tips on different things such as how to improve baking, how to choose the best ingredients (and the best substitutes for those who are looking for more affordable alternatives to expensive ingredients), and different baking equipment/tools. I admire his philosophy on food being more than just something to make you full — he says it should be an experience that would make you feel as if you’ve gone to heaven and back. I can’t agree more because personally, I’d rather spend on something that can make me happy rather than just have something mediocre — that way I’m sure cravings are satisfied. He doesn’t scrimp on ingredients either, only using the best ingredients in the market in order to produce his luxurious treats (remember though, good quality doesn’t always have to mean sky-high prices).

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For p3000 per class, I think this is super worth it. Cookies and bars are what may seem to be the easiest to make for beginner bakers; however, this class proved that making cookies and bars can be done in many different ways. Each participant is given a folder which includes recipes from the class and a certificate of attendance. At the end of the class, we all got to take home a box of goodies to enjoy and share with our family (or to keep to ourselves, whichever one pleases).

raspberry square

The school is located in a quiet village in Paranaque. To get there, you’ll have to get to Marcelo avenue via the West Service Road. You’ll see a 7-11 and a huge “Marcelo Green” sign so it’ll be easy to spot. Go through the village gate and turn left, then turn right when you see the Mango Corner Diner & Living Room Bar. It shouldn’t be hard to find (although silly me got lost the first time i tried to go there, haha!).  You can also refer to the map below.

address

Joey Prats Baking School offers different classes every weekend such as Macarons, Cheesecakes Cookies and Bars, and Artisanal Ice Cream. They also have a certificate program for those who want to take their skills further. For those who want to inquire about their classes, you can click here to check out their Facebook page or contact them through their numbers (refer to the picture below).

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SLTB