Stress Baking: Fruit Tart

I am a stress baker – I bake mostly when there is too much going on and I need time to think; when it feels like I’m just barely plugging in the cracks in the pie.

making a fruit tart in Singapore

Here’s what’s on the plate at the mo, on top of a full-time “secular” job 5 days a week:

Romans – weekly Bible study
Romans – monthly youth training
Luke – weekly children’s ministry
Philippians – monthly Indonesian ministry
Revelation – weekly intern/apprentices’ training
Psalm 119 – S
Revelation – D and G (from another church)
Ephesians – a bunch of medical students
Hebrews – S and D (who lead groups in a university)
Genesis – M (who leads student groups in secondary schools)
John – J (who leads student groups in primary schools)

Graham Beynon’s “Last Things First” – book club

making a fruit tart in Singapore
As always, there is that tension between:

(i) the awareness of what a formidable responsibility it is to be saying “thus says the Lord” and so wanting to be absolutely sure that what I’m teaching is what God is saying in his word, the Bible; and

(ii) acknowledging the I am a sinful human with a mind that has yet to be completely renewed, and so can never attain perfect knowledge of what God is saying (though, we can expect to get quite close – after all, the purpose of the Bible is that it is to be heard/read, understood, and responded rightly to); and
making a fruit tart in Singapore

(iii) relying on the fact that God knows who are his, that all believers are already (in one sense) united with his Son, and that it is the Spirit who, in changing our minds and hearts as the word is taught, conforms us to the likeness of God’s son and helps us to persevere.

SDG. I’m going to bed.

CreatureS Cafe and the Book of Revelation

Laksa, CreatureS Cafe, Asian Fusion, Desker Road, Little India, Singapore

Noon on a Saturday after a crazy work week, my empty stomach and I were in search of a good feed, physically and otherwise.

CreatureS Cafe, Asian Fusion, Desker Road, Little India, Singapore

CreatureS Cafe (facebook) on Desker Road (red light at night, but not when it’s bright) looked promising. Ensconced in a corner, I made fair progress through a big tasty bowl of laksa, a slice of durian cake, and the Book of Revelation.

Durian cake, CreatureS Cafe, Asian Fusion, Desker Road, Little India, Singapore
It’s a bit of a tall order describing the Platonic ideal of a bowl of laksa or a slice of durian cake to one with no experience of such matters – “rice vermicelli in spicy coconut gravy” and “pungent fruit in sponge cake” just doesn’t quite capture the lip-smacking lemak lusciousness of the stuff.

In the same way, John seems to be almost hitting the limits of human language with the apocalyptic genre in which he wrote Revelation. But while someone in Outer Mongolia isn’t really going to need to know the taste of Singaporean delicacies, Revelation is applicable to every one alive today and every one who will be born and will live in the future – Mongolian herders, American rednecks, Zimbabwean farmers, Thai hawkers, English chefs, Australian CEOs, the first person on Mars…

Working on the Book of Revelation

In blockbuster movie terms, it is the disaster movie to end all disaster movies. Uncontrollable natural disasters? Got them all. Monsters and beasts? Far more terrifying and powerful than anything ever shown. Something that concerns not just one nation but the whole planet and all of humanity? Yup.

Worse, all this is wrought by the most powerful person in the universe – God. No hope of a deus ex machina turning up and saving people at the end, because God (being really God) decides exactly what happens, and it, well, happens.

Here, in full-colour and Dolby surround sound, we are shown the last days of this universe, and then the end of the world.

If this had been the ravings of a mad man, or a product of the fertile mind of some Left Behind-inspired writers, it would be all somewhat amusing. But it is the message from the God of the universe, told to Jesus, mediated through an angel, and given to John (Revelation 1) for everyone who has lived since the first century.

CreatureS Cafe, Asian Fusion, Desker Road, Little India, SingaporeSo now in current reality, as we go about eating and drinking and working and getting married etc, Jesus isn’t just sitting far off in heaven; he knows exactly what is happening in the churches, his churches. This is a warning to those churches who have been deceived and have wandered from the truth, and a comfort to those suffering because they hold on to the truth (Revelation 2-3).

We’ve also just had Romans 1:18- Romans 3 at Sunday sermons for the last month. God’s judgement on the world isn’t the temperamental whim of a capricious deity, but the completely just sentence of a righteous judge who must, because he is just, punish those who commit the ultimate evil – refusing to worship God as God, and in fact, suppressing the truth about him.

Menu, CreatureS Cafe, Asian Fusion, Desker Road, Little India, SingaporeIn Revelation, we’re taken first through 6 seals – “normal” disasters of war and civil unrest, famine, breakdown of civilisation, then more cosmic destruction (Revelation 6), before the 7th seal opens into 6 trumpets – the escalation of terrible judgement on the earth (Revelation 8:2-9:21), until the 7th trumpet heralds the 7 bowls of final judgement (Revelation 11:15-18, Revelation 15-18) when Satan and all who side with him are utterly cast into an eternity of absolute horror.

Through all this, people are given time to repent and acknowledge God as God. But instead they curse him.

The interludes (Revelation 7, Revelation 10 – 11:14, Revelation 14) assure us though that those who keep holding on to the truth that God is God during the last days will not be subject to God’s judgement in this way (but they will certainly suffer persecution and hardship from, and be killed by, those who disdain God). They endure and conquer not by their own strength, as if there were something great about them, but by the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of Jesus.

To them, an entirely peaceful and intimate relationship with God awaits for eternity (Revelation 21 – 22:5). People sometimes pooh-pooh this as harps on clouds forever, but this shows a lack of imagination. They forget that not only is this when everything will at last be right in the world and in our very beings, this is also a wondrous future with the best person ever, who loves us far more than anyone could ever do.

In Search of the Best Red Velvet Cake / Cupcake / Ice-cream / Confection in Singapore

So it’s that time in the Singapore calendar that requires a seasonal amount of red in all shades and in all objects – from clothes to decorations to food.

The younger tiers of multi-generational families aren’t usually superstitious. So they don’t believe that good luck (whatever that is) can be derived from surrounding themselves with scarlet, vermillion, rose, maroon etc, but are quite willing to toe the traditional line for the sake of the older folk. Besides, it’s all in good fun – like dressing up for Halloween.

Food, however, is the issue. There’s only so much you can do with mandarin oranges (believed to represent prosperity) before everyone gets citrused-out. So I wondered if we could fit in some red velvet confections (so we could say,”Look – it’s red!” to any elderly objectors). It’ll probably be easy just to buy something with the requisite red food colouring. But what about that slight cocoa taste (though not full-on chocolate), paired with cream cheese frosting? Might be slightly harder. And it’s all generally cohinealled nowadays (Adams Extract being on the main beneficiaries perhaps?), so I wouldn’t expect of find them containing the depth of the earthy beets of World War II.

Will update “reviews” (ha!) as we try more red velvet stuff:

red velvet cupcake, Plain Vanilla BakeryRed velvet cupcake from Plain Vanilla Bakery (facebook, , 34A Lorong Mambong, Holland Village). Plain Vanilla is known for its tender-crumbed cupcakes with buttercream frosting and this delivered. A nod to the Platonic form of the red velvet with a hint of cocoa in the cake base and a whiff of cream cheese in the frosting, but I was hankering for more than a mere reference.

red velvet cake, Rouse, Dunlop StreetA slice of red velvet cake sold at Rouse (36 Dunlop Street). Dense cake with good cocoa taste, cream cheese evident in frosting, topped with a sprinkling of cocoa nibs. Just a pity we had to scrap so much frosting off to even out the cake-frosting ratio.

Molecular Gastronomy in the Heartlands at Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar, Bedok North Avenue 2

Photograph Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar, Bedok North Avenue 2, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px “You manage to travel half the world but cannot navigate your own backyard?” is the usual incredulous question when I admit to having gotten lost in Singapore…yet again…

Yes. So while passing Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar (416 Bedok North Avenue 2), wondering where the Bedok hawker center might be hiding, I notice a strange phenomena through the glass panes: there were young people hovering over their tables, peering through phones held aloft. Super Happy Dev House? I thought at once, for no reason at all.

Photograph Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar, Bedok North Avenue 2, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Nope, but there was hacking of a different sort going on.

Photograph Charcoal waffle with butter beer ice-cream and salted egg sauce, Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar, Bedok North A by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px

Charcoal batter for the waffle was right on the aunty-health trend (something about detoxification, i think). The butter beer ice-cream, inspired by Harry Potter-verse, was made from Belgian beer and French butter. And salted caramel on the plate and the salted egg sauce conspired to keep things interesting. I usually get bored with a whole waffle after a quarter or two of same-same-ness, but this was fun. Not sure about the lavender flower bits though – a nice surprise to bite into a strong flower fragrance here and there, but didn’t think it played well with either the butterbeer creaminess or the salty pair.

Photograph Lime Mojito Sphere, Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar, Bedok North Avenue 2, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500pxAnd what do you know? Molecular gastronomy in the heartlands! Now that’s what we want – more innovation and differentiation! Doubtless many clone cafes will soon follow, but one of the joys of living in Singapore is being buoyed each successive food-trend wave. Above, basic spherification produced a lime mojito, erm, sphere that was then sprinkled with lime zest and microgreens.

Photograph Banana Nutella, Fatcat Ice-Cream Bar, Bedok North Avenue 2, Singapore by parentheticalpilgrim on 500px Here, blow-torched banana split with nutella powder (the hazelnut spread possibly transformed with malodextrin – like so), and the two cross-section slices topped with cardamon. Interesting separately, but wondered how it was meant to work as a whole.

Glad that the molecular gastronomic food delivery system has been made available to the masses. Loads of potential for playing around! Perhaps more flavour cohesion on the plate might work better, but it’s early days yet and it’s far better to try stuff out and get it wrong than to stick with the tried-and-tested. This detour made me smile more than a carrot cake (black, with chilli) from Bedok hawker centre would’ve.

(A side note: what also piqued my interest was that, when asked for recommendations between plated desserts, the nice wait-staff said,”Oh, I think the strawberry cheesecake looks better.” And later he said assuringly,”We are very big on social media.” Once seated, I checked the usual sources and true enough, there were many posts/tweets/comments commending Fatcat for instagrammable desserts.

Having only just arrived from the technological backwater that is England, I’d only heard third-hand about the social media boom in Singapore. While I think the caution with which older generations approach new forms of communication is understandable, and might in fact be helpful in making us all aware of their impact, the content of their complaints isn’t new. Superficiality, selectivity, etc have all been dangers common to, for example, letter-writing, town-crying, small town-gossip, book-writing, mass media-coverage.

However, I wonder whether the criteria of instagrammability is quite another level – an express and quite shameless priority given to the appearance of the content to be shared on social media. Or perhaps not, Oscar Wilde. Something to think about…)