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Monday, November 8, 2010

Straining the definition

“Watch this.”

And with those words, Chef Seth Seigel-Gardner (now of Kata Robata) sprayed out some batter from a pressurized charger, stuck it into a microwave, and a minute later, was plating a light cake, warm and fragrant.

What he was demonstrating, of course, is that cakes and pastries do not have to be baked. In fact, this is a common theme all over the world. In southeast Asia, steamed cakes are quite the norm

I procured these steamed cakes from a local Thai shop, but an entire set of cuisine called kuih in Malaysia exist for these types of colorful and flavorful cakes. Most kuih are steamed, but they don't necessarily puff up like the heat stabilized foams conventional cakes are known to be. Once freed of the need to even use wheat flour, kuih can be gelatinous, or multitextural, depending on the starch and ingredients used, and can be sweet and savory.

Perhaps the most ornate example of a steamed cake in this tradition is the Korean mujigae ddeok, here demonstrated by the lovely and talented Maangchi.

Funny, but it's definitely possible to have a bakery without actually baking. Granted, the point of dry heat baking in an oven is the creation of a caramelized flavor possible from crust formation, but if you can't bake, well, you can roast a cake.

I'll have to hand it to inventive Japanese manufacturers to take an obscure German baking technique, and make a mass marketed packaged product with it. That's actually available in the large Asian megamarts in Houston. Chalk one up for globalization.

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