After the rat race – part 1

My rat race was the stressful grind of a regional job. It had its benefits and I enjoyed the opportunity to be exposed to many cultures and different ways of doing things.

The rat race also included the downside of over-consuming energy and personal time. I tried to manage this by limiting travel to a week each month and to get home punctually for  family time. However there were late night  and early morning teleconference calls with other parts of the world which again ate into personal and family time. Then there were egos of various guises which I shan’t start describing. 

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”

It has been a few years now being out of the rat race and this post is a reflection on this period. I have learnt many new things, developed new hobbies, gained new experiences and formed new friendships. It is very much a work in progress, so this post is an interim reflection.

For one thing, I began to learn how to bake. Being a dessert lover, I found most recipes prescribing saturated fats and far too much sugar that went above the daily limit recommended by the health promotion board. So I have been looking for desserts that I love with healthier recipes or else to substitute the regular recipe with healthier ingredients.

For example, butter has a high level of saturated fats while vegetable oils have better levels of unsaturated fats. However, if vegetable oils are treated to solid state by hygrogenation then there is trans-fat which is not good. So reading the ingredient labels carefully is important.

Most desserts have far too much sugar, way above healthy levels. To omit sugar entirely is not possible as it  not only serves to sweeten but is also hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs liquids. This affects the texture of the cake. A sponge cake without sugar becomes a dense fudge – if that is the result wanted.

There is no real substitute for sugar. Agave, stevia, brown sugar etc – are all based on sugar so the calories is as just as much. After experimenting, and several failed cakes later, I have found that reducing the sugar amount in the recipe to 50 – 60% is a happy compromise. Also to only eat 1 piece and give the rest away.

Practice makes perfect so I would practice several times on a particular recipe until it gets right. My friends have been benefactors of these. It reminds me of the speech by Portia in The Merchant of Venice:

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes”

The satisfaction that comes from creating a dessert is doubled when loved ones share in that satisfaction.

Another thing I learnt through baking is to break up a difficult bake into several mini-projects spread over a few days. For example the opera cake has 8 elements. To do them all in one day will really be stressful. A chef recommended to split it over several days to maintain the joy of baking. That’s really beautiful. So i baked the sponge cake on day 1; the biscuit joconde and feuilletine on day 2;  the buttercream, ganache and glaze on day 3; and assemble them all on day 4. Day 5 would be to light the candles on the cake and celebrate. Thus a whole week of creation and enjoyment of the process.


Isaiah 25:6 here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
    a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.

There’s gourmet desserts in heaven!!

So I would like to think that my baking and giving away desserts is in a way giving others a taste of heaven!





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