Challenge: Baking in Thailand

If you want to make new friends, there are a few tried-and-true ways you can go about it.

1) Have a really great, super, sparkly personality!! With lots of non-sarcastic exclamation marks!! (Have you met me? No? Well, my personality is not sparkly. Awesome and sarcastic, yes. Sparkly, no.)

2) Give them money. (Uhhh…yeah…I was a teacher before I became willingly unemployed. ‘Nuff said)

3) Have a yacht. (See above.)

4) Give them alcohol. (Drunk people are idiots. I include myself in this.)

5) Give them baked goods. (Now THIS I can do…or used to be able to.)

So, giving baked goods became my number one way to earn affection back home. And it worked. If you do a poll in my apartment, I guarantee that you will find that my chocolate chip cookies are the best in the world and that everybody who eats them wants to be my best friend. And my chocolate root beer bundt cake? Well. That speaks for itself .

When it speaks it says, "I'm DELICIOUS. "

Unfoooooortunately, baking at home is not a big thing in Asia. I didn’t have an oven in Japan and I don’t have an oven here. It’s like I have a limb missing. Yes, the baking limb. It’s a vestigial one that most people don’t even know about.

I haven’t baked anything since mid-August of 2010, when I moved to Bangkok. That’s a long time. My friend Melanie has an oven here in BKK, though, and invited me for Adventures in Thai Baking last week.

We combed through some recipes on the internet and decided on Nutella cupcakes and Baked’s brownies (Baked is a bakery in Brooklyn which is so hip it hurts, but their cookbook is TO DIE FOR).

Because I’d made the brownies before, it was decided that I should be in charge of them and Melanie should be in charge of the cupcakes. I just want to preface all of this by saying that I’m a really good baker. Just saying.

Here's proof: I have a chef's coat and everything! (It's packed away in Missouri right now, but STILL.)

Melanie and I assembled the ingredients and got to work.

Nutella is one of the building blocks of a balanced diet.

Butter is the *foundation* of a balanced diet.

Dark chocolate for the brownies. Mmmmm....

Mixing the cupcakes.

Melanie mixing some stuff.

Mel’s Nutella cupcakes looked fabulous, both before and after they were baked.

Nutella cupcakes before...

and after!

They were very dense, more like a pound cake than anything, and that swirl of pure Nutella on the top pushed them over the edge.

My brownies, however…

Okay, remember how I said I’d made them several times before? I HAD, and they turned out PERFECT.

The first step is to melt chocolate, butter, and a touch of espresso powder in a double boiler. Easy peasy.

Butter and chocolate melting together with a touch of espresso powder. If there is a better smell in the world, I would like somebody to tell me what it is.

This step was fine. The chocolate ended up shiny and smooth, just like it was supposed to. I felt pretty smug. The next step was to add 1.5 cups and white sugar and .5 cups of brown sugar (you can’t make brownies without sugar, people!).

This is what happened:

Disaster!

It’s not supposed to look like poopy sand. It’s supposed to be smooth and silky, with all the sugar dissolved into the fat, so it looks like the chocolate river from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, I did not get smooth and silky chocolate river. I got poopy sand.

The texture was like quicksand; it looked solid, but when you started to poke it, it would break apart like liquid. It was disturbing. I’ve never used the word “disturbing” attached to chocolate and sugar and butter (“The Trifecta of Perfection”) put together, but that’s the only way I can describe it. Disturbing.

We forged ahead, however, because all of those ingredients were expensive.

OH MY GOD, THE CHOCOLATE!

Hooray! Success! Kind of!

In case you are not aware, brownies aren't really supposed to look like that.

They still tasted great. The 11 ounces (!) of dark chocolate, 1 cup (!) of butter, 2 cups (!) of sugar, and 5 (!) eggs really make a perfect-tasting brownie. No skimping on flavor; they’re complex and oh-so-rich-and-chocolatey. But the texture of this batch–ugh! It was like brownie ooze. Truthfully, that would be a great name for a band, but it’s not good if you’re expecting firm squares of baked dark chocolate goodness.

I’m not saying I haven’t eaten a ton of them, because I have.

I’m just saying I lost this smackdown.

Final Score:

Nutella Cupcakes: 0   Melanie: 1

Baked Brownies: 1  Megan: 0

I vow to try again! As soon as Melanie lets me use her oven again…

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30 Comments

Filed under Food, Living Abroad, Thailand

30 responses to “Challenge: Baking in Thailand

  1. Glad you like the Nutella cupcakes. :)

  2. I miss baking. Like you I’m awesome at cooking and baking my choc chip and cherry “crack” cookies made me loved when I was a working drone.

    Sadly, I left the recipe in australia with my family. Ill be heading back in june to find it as my friends here DO have an oven.

    I will bribe theem with baked treat goodness!

    -Rick

  3. This was just mean. You realize I’m about 5 billion miles away from anything resembling a cupcake or a brownie (okay, maybe not 5 billion — I’m sure they have that kind of thing in Shanghai, but it requires a lot of effort to get there and I want both cupcakes and brownies to be inserted into my face NOW).
    You realize this gives me free reign to talk about cheese anytime I happen to be back in the States. So there.

    • Ha! Well, I think that’s fair enough…

      But it’s also really hard to find a good cupcake and brownie in BKK. They’re here, they’re just…blah.

  4. Guido

    Hi Megan – My oven arrived this week and will be installed right after Songkrang, when we are back in Bangkok. I like to make fruit pies. Call me if you’d like to bake something.

  5. I haven’t had an oven that could bake since… um, 2000? I had a toaster oven in Istanbul that was okay for doing improvised tandoori but couldn’t bake anything. I used to be the queen of baking in my younger years. Luckily Shanghai has bakeries. Otherwise I’d cry.

    • It’s not just the baked goods that are the thing–it’s me making the baked goods. Plus, really, the baked goods in most places are sub-par, unless you want to spend a fortune. Which I do not. :)

  6. Kristin

    Aww, I miss your baking. Although I’m not sure if I miss the muffin top that came with it.

  7. You have a couple of months to perfect the brownies before I come to collect my due.
    How many brownies does 4 bags of chips (3 if you discount the disgusting mocha chips) earn me?

  8. Oh, did I ever miss baking in BKK, I hear you! Incidentally, I think maybe what happened to your chocolate was some water got into the melting bowl…I think chocolate seizes up if water touches it while melting.

    • I thought that it was possible the water content of the butter was different. Everything was fine until I added the sugar, and *then* there was a problem. Who knows? Luckily they weren’t totally ruined!

  9. Jess

    I have the Baked book in case you want me to scan anything into a PDF for you…

    YUMMMY!!!!

  10. We have also struggled to find ovens in apartments we have rented in South America so I really miss baking too. At Christmas I got desperate and tried a variety of microwave recipes but this does NOT work! We have a house sit in Florida next month though and will definitely be trying these recipes out. Thanks!

  11. Ah, baking in Thailand. I’m going to forward this on to my wife. She does a post every week called Tasty Tuesdays in which she either makes something (baking included) or showcases some Thai “delicacies”…

    Check it out at http://www.unglamorouslove.com

  12. I used to be a big baker myself and so I can totally relate to the lack of an oven. I just inherited a kitchen so that’s a good step, right? Your treats look so good and divine. I’m drooling – drooling!

  13. Hi Megan, that black cake in the first picture looks like charcoal. I bet it tastes better than it looks:-) I can’t wait to hear about your next encounter with the oven.

    I hope you are having a nice Songkran.

  14. Marlee

    I made vanilla cupcakes last night. I ate three of them today–is that bad?

  15. Those cupcakes look like heaven.

    The brownies? I’d still eat them. Ha! You’ve made me really want to start baking now though. :P I don’t know how you can survive without an oven. I don’t know what I’d do.

    • It’s one of those things you think you could never, ever live without (like cheese), but turns out–you really can. I mean, there’s a big piece of joy missing from my life, but I get by. :)

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