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Baking and High Humidity and Temperature


cyen
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Hi, I'm new to the forum. I don't know if this question has been addressed in detail in the past so please excuse me. I love bake goods and while I was still in US, I used to bake fairly regularly though I still consider myself an amateur (mostly cookies, brownies, pies, and, I admit, cake from a box). Moving to Indonesia, I noticed that locally made "western" style cakes are not like the moist and fluffy cakes (creamed type) that I'm used to in the States. These "creamed cakes" seemed heavy and oily (yes, they leave oil stains on napkin). Even others that are supposedly sponge, chiffon, or angel have heavy density and some are pretty greasy again. Even when I try to make my own cakes from good and well tested recipes, they just do not seem as good as the ones I tasted from US though look and taste better than the locally made western-style cakes. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to make the cakes using the same recipe in both US and here so maybe my observation is a bit faulty/biased (grass is greener and all...).

I suspect one possible reason for the not so good cakes here is bad recipe or technique. I'm pretty sure the quality of the flour available here plays a huge role, but I'm interested to know what other factors are in play so I can adopt my recipes and techniques to the current environment. I would like to know what kind of effects high humidity (70-100% all year) and high temperature (80+ F) have on the baking in general, and I'm curious if and how high humidity and temperature affect the chemistry aspect of baking. I know that condition like this make candy and certain bake goods (puff pastry, pies, etc) a lot more difficult if not impossible. What kind of recipes can work well in this kind of environment? Unfortunately, I work in an open kitchen so there is no way I can install air conditioner and dehumidifier.

I hope someone understands what I'm trying to ask here and any suggestions/ideas will be appreciated greatly. Thanks in advance!

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If I were you, and I just saw Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation show on Indonesia and I do wish I were you, I would start by trying baking recipes from my Puertorican cookbooks. They always worked there and are very, very similiar to American cakes etc. And the measurements are all in "American." In Puerto Rico the temperatures most of the year are usually in the 80-95 range and the humidity in the 80-90% range. I have one of the books in English that I can fax, mail or scan and email to you some recipes, if you want (PM me). And more in Spanish that would take more time to translate, unless you also speak Spanish.

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Hi Cyen,

Welcome to the forum and welcome to Indonesia,

I, like you, class myself as an amateur, I don't bake a great deal but have tried my hand at shortcrust, flaky, and buttercrust pastry with a reasonable amount of success. Sponge cakes and a local speciality, Bika Ambon have also come out reasonable well. I never manage to reproduce commercial results but to be honest I wouldn't want to. I prefer the texture and flavour of home baked.

I don't know if you are learning Bahasa Indonesia, but if you are. then a good place for recipes which take into account local conditions is Bogasari Flour Mills Just follow the link for "resep" even if your Bahasa Indonesia is not too good it doesn't take long to translate and memorise the phrases required for recipes.

Good Luck!

"Don't be shy, just give it a try!"

Nungkysman: Food for the Body and the Soul.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for the reply, achevres and tristar! I wanted to reply earlier, but we had to make preparations for Christmas gathering and then the earthquake near Taiwan knocked out internet communication between Asia and other parts of the world....

Achevres: Thank you so much for offering recipes from your Puertorican cookbooks. It sounds like an absolutely perfect solution to my problems with high temp and humidity! I'll definitely send you a message in a day or two.

I managed to catch the Indonesian episode of No Reservation when I was in PA a few months ago. It is full of very interesting foods and people, but the show made it seem that Indonesia totally rural. Then again, the craziness of Jakarta (mainly the terrible traffic congestions) might scare peopel away. Hahaha.

I'm actually a bit envious that you're from Puerto Rico. My sister is absolutely in love with the place, and she's been down there visiting friends for years now.

Tristar: Thank you so much for the warm welcome and advice!! It's great to hear that you had success with various pastries because I'm thinking about baking a pie and I'm worried about not getting the flaky crusts.

I also tried to make sponge cakes and they seemed to be ok. My last one had a coarser texture, and now I'm suspecting it is because I didn't use the Bogarsari flour.

Thanks for the link to Bogarsari website. I've occasionally used that brand of flour, and it does seem to be better than flour I get else where. When I was browsing the site, I noticed that some of the recipes used emulsifier. I'm surprised that one can find that ingredient here. I'm learning Bahasa Indonesia slowly, but I can figure out bits and pieces of the recipes (at least I can decipher most of the ingredients). I would definitely be interested in trying some of the recipes on the site once I'm more comfortable with the language (or I bug someone for translations).

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I think it's your recipe. I've never had issues using European/American recipes in Singapore, where it's equally hot and humid.

Now, if you're talking about candy/chocolate, yeah, we'll have issues. Cakes, even cakes that require meringue, no. I've made meringues etc without any problem too--just make sure you store them in an airtight container once they are cool.

You can find emulsifiers at the supermarket. I think the common on is something called Ovalett, but I've not used it myself.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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  • 1 year later...

the problem in Indonesian cake making is the low-grade ingredients.

There is no tradition of dairy/butter, so cakes are made with margarine and oil. You can forget the idea of finding beautiful patisserie made with cream and liquers, even if they look nice the ingredients are still low grade and there are just not the trained pastry chefs who understand how to make rich western cakes.

In addition, a lot of traditional cakes are steamed, as there's not necessarily ovens in people's homes.

Indonesian cakes are an acquired taste.

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