Friday, December 2, 2011

Chinese + Baking Brownies

As I already blogged about....I made brownies a couple Sundays ago and we had lots of extra, so I did a brownie delivery to some of the girls on my floor. Then Stephanie, my Chinese neighbor, saw me in the laundry room and told me how wonderful my brownies were and that she had never tasted anything so great before! She wanted me to have a lesson and teach her how to make them. I said I would!

Then a few days ago, I hear a knock on my door. She wanted the recipe. I gave it to her. I showed her what ingredients she will need to buy and explained what cocoa powder and baking powder was. She had no clue about anything. Then the next day, she knocked on my door again. She said, "I found everything I need!" She was so excited and wanted to make them that night. I told her I would help her. She proudly showed me all the ingredients that she scouted around for and found. It was so cute. But, she bought, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, butter, and I didn't know if that would work in baking, and I didn't want to risk it not working, so I told her about the regular butter she needed, with all the fat in it. She was confused, so we walked down to the Tesco express right down the street from our apartment. I showed her the butter and then told her what kind of chocolate bar to buy to cut up for the chocolate chunks. (Chocolate chips are pricey here, hard to find, and they don't come in a very big bag!)

So we started to bake! She came in with all the stuff and her utensils. She had a drinking cup, two different sized eating spoons and a small cereal bowl. I asked her what that stuff was for. She said for the recipe. I was confused and then I realized. She thought when the recipe called for "1 cup flour", that you just use a regular drinking cup to measure the flour. So she had a mug. I explained to her that you can't just use any size cup, or else they won't turn out, the measurement won't be accurate. I explained that the key to a successful recipe is to be exact. She also thought that we would mix everything in a small cereal bowl, and didn't have a clue that it wouldn't all fit in there. So we used my mixing bowls, and she was blown away at how big they were. The spoons, she thought she could use for teaspoon and tablespoon. She was going to use regular eating type spoons, one that was a little smaller than the other. I explained about the measuring spoons and how they need to be accurate as all. She kept on saying, "Wow! So gourmet. So fancy! You are so knowledgeable. Your husband is so lucky." She really boosted my cooking self esteem. :)

She said that in China, people don't have ovens. She said that no one bakes there, at all. If they want a birthday cake or dessert for a holiday or something, they just go out and buy it. All of this baking terminology was completely foreign to her. I had to explain things so simply like I was teaching a small child. But she was so so cute. She was so eager to learn and excited about her first brownies. She couldn't believe that I had been baking my whole life and that I had a mom who made homeade bread, pies, and desserts! What a huge cultural different between the two of us!

She couldn't believe how much sugar was in the recipe. She kept on shaking her head and saying, "Just so much sugar...." It was like she felt guilty for making something with so much sugar. She told me while walking to Tesco that she was worried she might start to get fat if she bakes brownies. She didn't know if she would be able to stop eating them because they were so good. I told her there was no way she could get fat, because she is so thin now. I told her to freeze part of them, share some, and she would be fine. :) She also was so impressed with my stirring skills. We didn't use any type of hand mixer or anything, just with a big spoon. When she stirred stuff, she stirred very lightly, and not really mixing it at all. I then would take over and stir it up and she would say, "Wow. You are very good at that. Your arm muscles must be strong."

So we put everything together and I showed her step by step the whole process. Everything looked perfect and she was so excited. I explained to her how to check and see if they are done. "You put a knife down in it and pull it out. If it has stuff on the knife then it isn't done, and if it comes out clean, it is done." I explained this over and over again to make sure and it seemed like she understood. I cleaned the dishes, and then went back to the room. I was on the phone for a while and forgot about going in the kitchen with her to see if she needed help when the timer went off. About 15 min. after they were supposed to be done, I went in there to check on her......

The brownies were still in the oven, but it was off. I asked if she checked them. She said ya, but that they are still very gooey. I didn't believe her that they would be that gooey, so I opened the oven and pulled them out. They were ROCK HARD. She completely overbaked them! I felt so bad that I wasn't in there to help her. There was a big corner that looked mangled like she moved the knife around alot in it, not the simple knife-in-knife-out method that I showed her.
She said she put the knife in the corner and they had crumbs on it, so she cooked them more.......15 minutes more! :( I should have explained that when you bake them for "more" that means like maybe 2-5 minutes more, not 15. I tasted some, and the middle still tasted good, but the outside was like I said, rock hard. She was so disappointed. But kept on saying, "That's ok, it is just my first time. I will do better." It was heartbreaking.

I guess I didn't realize that something so simple in my mind was something so foreign in someone else's. Here is this amazingly smart Chinese girl that is getting her Master's at a top University in London, in finance, but she doesn't know how to bake brownies. I guess we all have our own talents.

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