Saturday, May 29, 2010

Your hands are a tool in the kitchen too.

Walk into any modern kitchen, chances are you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gadgets and machines at the ready to chop, dice, mix, press and knead. Sadly to say, we have become so mechanized in the kitchen that we tend to overlook the use of our hands. Our grandparents and parent frequently relied on their experienced hands for preparing dishes and even measuring the the amount of ingredient with their bare fingers.
Basically the reason why we can't cook like them is because we have forgotten that our hands are a tool. Your hands will tell you something your eyes can’t, and feeling something tells you the most possible information.You have to do it by feel and you can only tell that with your hands. That’s especially true when it comes to making puff dough, which loses its buttery, flaky texture if overworked by a whirring food processor. I grew up in a kitchen where there was no electrical machines or gadgets. My mother insisted on making all her pastries by hand, including the tiny sweet "kok chye" she made herself during Chinese New year for her family and relatives.To watch her prepare dough was to understand the simplicity of it but also the practice needed to turn out consistently her famous curry puff.

I can still remember how she would quickly use two knives to cut the lard into the flour. But once she added the ice water, her hands were the only instruments in the bowl as she converted the loose mixture into a solid mass until there are no longer any bits of flour clinging to the bottom of the mixing bowl. "You don’t want to knead it any more than that because you do not overly handle the pastry " she cautioned. Because cooking by hand was second nature for her, she sometimes found it difficult to put them into words the tactile sensation of preparing a dish that way. This explained the reason why mum would only say " I can't tell you why but this is how I do it with my hands".
So why not get back to basics and give it a try at home? Ultimately, it’s not the specific recipe that yields that perfectly tender biscuit or flaky pie crust, but the technique of using your hands as a tool.

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