Monday, January 28, 2013

After dinner mango cake



Slices of this sweet, moist cake with the tantalizing aroma of mango will be a welcome addition to any party. Nothing can compare with a wholesome homemade cake straight out from the oven! 

Makes 1 cake
Ingredients:
  •  4 egg yolks
  •  7 egg whites
  • 150g cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 180g plus 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 130ml mango juice (fresh, canned or packet)
  • 75ml cooking oil (eg. sunflower, canola)
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 teaspoon mango essence
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ripe mango (sliced)
  •  Canned whipped cream                    
Method:
  • Sift cake flour and baking powder. Add salt and 180g sugar. Mix well.
  • Whisk yolks, juice, oil, vanilla essence and mango essence and mix well. Pour into flour mixture and whisk till just combined. Do not overmix as this will result in a dense cake.
  • Preheat oven at 160 degrees Celsius (325 degrees F) for 10 minutes.
  • Ensure that the whip attachment of the electric mixer is free of grease and water. Beat egg whites till frothy (about half a minute on low speed). Add cream of tartar and 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat at medium speed for about 8 minutes till egg whites are stiff.
  • Add half of the egg white to the yolk mixture and fold in using a spatula. Add remaining egg white and fold. Do not overmix.
  • Pour into a 23cm-diameter chiffon tin (round cake tin with a hollow tube in the centre and removable bottom). 
  • Bake for 50 minutes. To test if the cake is done, insert a satay stick. If the stick comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly, it is ready. Overturn the tin. Let it stand on its tube. This helps the cake retain its height while it is being cooled. Allow it to cool before removing it from the tin. Removing the cake when it is still warm may cause it to break apart.
  • Slice off the dark brown top of the cake and decorate with whipped cream and sliced mango.
Recipe Notes:
  • Ensure that the bowl in which the egg whites are placed in is free of grease and water. There should also be no hint of yolk in the egg whites. The fat in the yolk will affect the ability of the egg whites to be whipped. To make sure that no yolk accidentally taints the egg whites, separate each egg in a small cup first, then pour the egg white into the mixing bowl. Do this till the required number of egg whites is reached.
  • If the cake is burnt at the top during baking, remove it from the oven and cover the top of the chiffon tin with aluminium foil. This prevents the top of the cake from burning further. Place the cake back into the oven and continue baking.
  • After the cake is baked, turn it (still in the chiffon tin) upside down. This helps it retain its height while being cooled. Remove the cake from the pan when it has cooled.

 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Start a bakery business – What equipment do you need?



So what equipment would you need for your bakery? It depends on what you plan to bake and sell. 


Below is a list (not exhaustive) of the equipment you most probably need:

Oven
Actually it goes without saying that the number one item on your list will be an oven. So what kind of oven should you buy? The oven that I bought for my bakery was a second-hand two-deck electric oven. I picked an electric one instead of a gas one. This oven was about 1 metre by 1 metre and the height was about 2 metres. It weighed a whopping 300-over kg! It came with a proofer at the bottom and it had a steam function that allowed me to inject steam into the oven while baking. As I baked mostly chiffon cakes, cupcakes and cookies, I never needed to use the steam function and the proofer. So why did I buy it? The reason was that it was reasonably priced and it could fit into the shop space I rented which was about 250 square feet. And since I wanted to buy a second-hand instead of a new one, my choice was limited. Anyway the oven could bake 12 large chiffon cakes at one go and that was good enough for me. But if I could turn back time and choose, I would have gone for a four-deck oven instead of a two-deck one, so that I can bake more items at one go.

The one disadvantage of this large oven is that it takes about an hour to preheat to the desired temperature. So if you decide to buy this kind of oven, start preheating it the moment you step into your bakery every morning. So that by the time you prepare the batter, the oven will be ready for baking. Industrial ovens like these require three-phase electricity, so the shop unit you rent must have this kind of electricity installed. Another thing to consider is: can this oven fit through the door of your shop unit? Will it take up too much space? When viewing an oven, remember to take along a measuring tape (the retractable metal type) so as to note down the dimensions.

On the other hand, if you decide to go for a convection oven, then it is likely to be a single-phase one. It is a much simpler process. You don’t need to hire a mover to transport it. If you plan to bake just cupcakes or cookies or a few cakes, then I think this kind of oven is good enough. This kind of oven can bake buns as well. It heats up very fast, unlike the large industrial oven which takes one hour. Also, this oven can also be placed on a table, so it saves space. And because of that, you can rent a smaller shop unit and save on rent.

The bottomline is you must be clear about what you want to bake and sell, so that you can pick the right oven for your business. For me, I bought both an industrial oven and a convection oven, as having both ovens helped cut down production time.
Two-deck oven




Convection Oven



Mixer
The next important piece of equipment to buy will be the mixer. In my previous bakery, I first bought a second-hand 20-litre mixer. It was large enough to mix my batter. However, as sales went up, the 20-litre one was not big enough. So I bought a second-hand 30-litre one. With a 30-litre one, I could mix more batter at one go, saving much time and labour. Does that mean that you should go for a larger mixer from the start? Maybe even a 40-litre or 60-litre one? For me, even though I bought a 30-litre one, I still kept the smaller mixer. Because a smaller mixer can mix a smaller amount of ingredients. If I tried to mix a small amount of ingredients in the larger mixer, the beater can’t even ‘catch on’ to the ingredients and mix them! What happens is that the ingredients will be left swirling around and settling to the bottom of the mixing bowl. For the large mixer to work, you need to add mix a substantial amount of ingredients. If your bakery is a very small scale one, then it is better to get a smaller mixer. I’ve seen some bakeries with smaller mixers of 10-litres which they use to whip cream and frosting. These smaller mixers can be put on the table. For the 20-litre and larger mixers, they have to be put on the floor.
 
20-litre mixer
30-litre mixer


Chiller
A chiller is a must for storing butter and other cold ingredients like milk, cream, etc. Most chillers have a worktop which is great because you will need whatever working space you can get in your bakery. The one I bought was a three door one with a stainless steel worktop. I bought it from a pie bakery that closed down. It is a requirement for the chiller to have a temperature gauge. This is to ensure the temperature in the chiller is cold enough and that your ingredients are stored at the correct temperature. This prevents the ingredients from spoiling and causing your customers to suffer food poisoning.
 











Freezer
If you plan to sell decorated cakes in your bakery, you may need an industrial freezer. These freezers are roomy and can store several cakes. A freezer is good for storing cookie dough too.
 
Steam Proofer
This is what you will need if you plan to bake and sell bread/buns/donuts. After you prepare the dough, you place it in the steam proofer to let it rise. The warmth and moisture in the proofer will enable the dough to rise much faster than usual. If you plan to open a bread bakery, my advice is that you should go for a professional course in bread baking and work in a bread bakery to gain some experience first. Because to sell bread, the standard of your bread must be very, very good. To open a bread bakery, you need to spend a lot more money on equipment, such as a large industrial oven, a steam proofer, large mixer, a bun-divider & rounder, a bread moulder, electric bread slicer, etc. All these do not come cheap. On top of that, you need a lot of space, so you have to rent a larger shop unit. You also need more manpower, and these days it can be hard to hire employees who are willing to do manual jobs. A lot of investment goes into starting a bread bakery.  

















When I closed my bakery, I shifted some of the equipment over to my father’s shop at Grandlink Square. I sold the large industrial oven because my father’s shop did not have the three-phase electricity feature. But I did not sell my turbofan convection oven. It was easy to transport and needed only single-phase electricity, so I brought it to my father’s shop. The shop happened to be vacant at that time. Using my experience in setting up a bakery, I equipped the shop with the necessary things to start a bakery or a baking school. At first, I thought it was a gamble to do that because potential tenants would want an empty shop so that they could bring in their things. Plus, we could only rent to those tenants who are into the baking business. Won’t this severely limit us to the number of potential tenants we could rent out to? But lo and behold, actually the response turned out to be much better than expected. A lot of Singaporeans have a passion for baking and some want to have a chance to turn the passion into a profit-making business. And they want to do so without sinking in too much money. My father’s shop made perfect sense; no need to spend money on renovation or equipment. After I put up the advertisements, I had calls and SMSes every day asking about the shop. Of course, some of them had reservations about setting up shop in a low human traffic area (Grandlink Square is not a popular mall at all). But those who were interested were planning on depending on online and delivery sales. The shop is a mere five-minute walk from Paya Lebar MRT Exit D. What’s more, Paya Lebar MRT is an interchange MRT station. This accessibility made my father’s shop attractive to potential tenants who wanted to set up a baking school.



 


 


Friday, January 25, 2013

Start a bakery business : Do you have what it takes?

Hopefully after reading this post, it makes you think whether being the boss of a bakery is what you really want. Being a bakery owner is not all that glamourous, as the media sometimes makes it out to be. Don’t be discouraged when you get to the end of this post. This post is meant to give you some insight into what goes into running a bakery. Being an entrepreneur is challenging and hard work. It takes up all your time; it consumes you! But the rewards can be plentiful! 

So, do you have what it takes to be a successful bakery owner?  

Pastry Arts School
There are many successful bakery owners out there who have not attended a single day of pastry arts school. So even if you are a homebaker who does not have a certificate in Pastry Arts, you can still make it as a successful bakery owner.

Enrolling in a pastry course helps you to learn in a structured way with a proper syllabus and with formal instruction from a certified trainer. This increases your chances of success when you open your bakery in the future. In school, you learn many techniques. It is to your advantage to be able to bake a variety of products. And to understand the science behind the baking. Because this helps when you want to create new flavours/products in the future. Before you enroll in any diploma/degree course, check if there is a module on bakery business management. This will be very useful in your bakery entrepreneurship.

All that said, is it a must to get formal qualifications first so as to start a successful bakery? No, it is not. Because there are so many other attributes that a successful entrepreneur must have, besides qualifications. 

Food hygiene course
In Singapore, all food handlers (that includes you) must attend a one day food hygiene course taught by an accredited agency. The employees you hire must also attend this course.
Google ‘food hygiene course’ and you should be able to find a host of agencies who conduct this course. It is good to ‘shop’ around because the course fees among these agencies can vary quite a lot.

Experience
Do you need experience working in a bakery first before venturing out to start your business? It is not a necessity but it is highly recommended that you do so. Because then you will get to experience many aspects of the job from ground-up. What equipment does the bakery use? What are the good work procedures to follow? How does your boss react in difficult situations? There is so much to learn and observe by working in a bakery.  

Partners
Do you intend to start your bakery business with a partner? You may be the best of friends or that person could be your spouse, but it does not mean that you can work well together. As for the split of profits/shares and other money matters, it is advisable to go to a lawyer and have the terms properly written out. Also, put down in writing who is to take care of which aspects of the business.   
Money
You set aside a sum of money to start your bakery business. Don’t forget to set aside a separate sum to tide your business through unexpected tough times, eg health scare SARS, etc.  At home, be thrifty. Save up for rainy days so that should your business fail, the livelihood of your family is not in danger. It is irresponsible to compromise your family’s livelihood if you spend all your savings (plus your family’s savings) and even mortage the house, etc to raise money for your business. You are highly driven and ambitious, and you tell yourself that you will do everything in your power to make the business work. My business will never fail, you say. But the future is unpredictable. Sometimes bad things happen which are beyond your control and they can cause you to lose your business. So always keep aside some savings, never take out every cent to use on your bakery.  

Numbers
Do you have a head for numbers? Are you familiar with tax matters? Do you know how to do accounts? Have you prepared profit/loss statements? Running a bakery business is not simply bake, sell and at the end of the day, count money. It is more than that. You have to be good with numbers so that you know where the business is headed. How much should you price your products so that you can maximize profit? Is the business making money every month or are things starting to go downhill?

Also, spend some time poring over IRAS’s website (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore). Familiarise yourself with things like filling up Form C and ECI (estimated chargeable income), etc. Go to their website and sign up for their one-day courses on taxation matters for businesses. You will learn a lot plus you get to ask questions at the end of the session.

Also read up on CPF matters online, because you need to contribute to yours as well as your employees’ CPF.  

Employees
Do you think you can be a good boss? Have you ever been in a leadership position? How would you handle difficult employees? How will you treat your employees fairly? If you have employees who slack, do not turn up for work or do not get along with one another, what would you do? Employees may get upset over who has to do more work and who has to do the ’dirty’ work such as cleaning/washing up. (Tip: have a roster where cleaning up duties are clearly written and who to do what on which days.)

Human Resource matters can sometimes be very distracting and frustrating to a business owner. But these are part and parcel of business. If you can manage your employees well, they are happy working for you and they get along well with one another, then I say you are a very successful business person.  

If you have the opportunity, attend a short course on HR or read up on this area. The information will come in very useful.

Visit the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website to find out more about hiring employees (local and foreign). There are regulations you must follow. Do not be ignorant regarding these regulations because the penalties can be quite severe.

Customer Service
Providing excellent customer service is a must if you want to succeed in the bakery business. But are you a hot-tempered person? Are you sensitive by nature and do you get upset over what people say about you? Are you patient and ‘thick-skinned’ enough to serve tough and unreasonable customers? What do you do when customers take advantage of you, eg. insist on huge discounts or refunds and complain about your cakes? If you are argumentative and loud-mouthed by nature, it will be hard to resolve confrontations. But if you are too soft, the customers may walk all over you and you end up feeling lousy.

When customers get good service, they may not spread the word around, but when they are angry and are put off by your rudeness, you can bet they will talk about it, maybe even use social media (eg. facebook, etc) to vent their anger at you.

Whatever it is, you must not let all these get to you and discourage you. It is part and parcel of running a business. But from my experience with previous customers, most of them are really nice people. I’ve had more good experiences than bad experiences when it comes to handling customers.  

Social Media
It is good to be active in social media (facebook, twitter, blog, website, etc) because that’s how you can get more people to know about your bakery within a short time. The downside is that it can take up quite a lot of your time. So in the day and evening, you are baking and tending to the business and at night, you are engaging in social media activities. Where is the time for family and friends? One good tip is to get a timer and set yourself a time limit every day on the amount of time you spend on social media. Another way is to use your travelling time, eg. on the MRT or bus, to update your facebook, etc. 

Family time
If you are a parent, you will find that after starting your business, you have much less time with your children. You may have to work full days on weekends because birthdays and special occasions are mostly celebrated on weekends and that’s when customers want to collect their cakes. That means  you not being able to attend all your friends’ and family’s special occasions whenever you wish. So are you able to strike a balance between work and family?

Most people have the mistaken notion that if you are the boss, you can come and go any time you wish, work anytime you want and take off whenever you feel like it. It is true to a certain extent. But if you add up all the hours you work, including the administrative work you do at home, it is most likely that you end up working seven days a week. At the start of the business, you will find that this is the case – working during almost all your waking hours. But this is not healthy; its leads to burnout. You must plan a time-table and block out periods where you give yourself a break away from the bakery. You need time and space to recharge.

 Health
How is your health? Are you tough? Can you stand hardship? Can you work long hours with very short breaks (sometimes no breaks)? If you are a sickly person who takes many days of MC, then you should build up your health and strength before embarking on such a strenuous venture.

You must be physically strong because in a bakery, you may have to carry 25kg bags of flour, sugar, etc. The working hours are long. You are on your feet the whole day, working next to a hot oven. You have to multi-task and do a few things at the same time. If you are the type who gets sick easily from flu, colds, etc, where will you get the stamina to work and to persevere? From today onwards, exercise regularly and eat healthily.

Are you a morning person? Because bakeries start functioning in the morning, you have to get up bright and early to go to work.  

Tough-minded Entrepreneur
So you can bake very well. But are you an entrepreneur at heart? Once your business is up and running and you’ve hired bakers, you may find that your work consists mostly of administrative work and matters dealing with day-to-day operations. Making difficult decisions, hiring/firing employees, dealing with tax matters, accounting, expansion, franchising, etc. So you find that you end up not baking much at all. Which is quite ironic because the reason why you started your bakery is because you love to bake.

Do you quit easily when the going gets rough? When your business hits a rough patch, you must be resourceful and decisive. You may start off enjoying baking at home, finding it very relaxing. Your family and friends praise you for your creative works and they all proclaim that you should start a bakery (sure make money one!). You feel good. You feel that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Then the harsh reality sets in after you start your business. You may even get bored baking the same cupcakes day in and day out. And things sometimes aren’t all that rosy. Will you quit or will you persevere?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tangy Orange Chiffon Cake

This is a delicious tasting cake that is peppered with tangy orange zest. It has a light sponge texture.
 
Ingredients:               
  • 120g cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • Zest (grated skin) of 1 large orange
  • 100ml fresh orange juice
  • 80g plus 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 60ml cooking oil (eg. corn oil, canola oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

 Method: 
  • Sift the cake flour and baking powder. Mix well.
  • Whisk the egg yolks for a few seconds. Whisk in sugar (80g), salt, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla essence and cooking oil.
  • Pour orange mixture into flour mixture and whisk till just combined. Do not overmix.
  • Preheat the oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes.
  • Ensure that the whip attachment of the electric mixer is free of grease and water. Beat egg whites till frothy (about half a minute on low speed). Add cream of tartar and 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat at medium speed for about 8 minutes till egg whites look stiff.
  • Add half of the egg white to the yolk mixture and fold in using a spatula. Add remaining egg white and fold. Do not overmix.
  • Pour mixture into a 23cm diameter chiffon tin (round cake tin with a hollow tube in the centre and removable bottom).  
  • Bake for 40 minutes. To test if the cake is done, insert a satay stick. If the stick comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly, it is ready.
  • Turn the cake (still in the tin) upside down. Remove the cake from the tin with a knife when it has cooled completely.
Recipe Notes:
  • Eggs are easier to separate when cold.
  • Make sure that the bowl in which the egg whites are placed in is free of grease and water as the presence of either will affect the ability of the egg whites to be whipped till stiff. Egg whites are also easier to whip when they are at room temperature. 
  • When grating orange rind, do not grate the pith (white part of the skin) as it is bitter and will affect the taste of the cake.
  • Using cold ingredients will result in dense cakes. Allow ingredients such as sugar and essences to reach room temperature before preparing the cake.
  • When combining stiff egg whites and yolk mixture, do so by folding in gently with a spatula. Do not overmix and never stir using a spoon. Doing so will destroy the air pockets in the egg whites and this will result in a dense cake.
  • Check the oven during the last ten minutes of baking. If the cake looks burnt at the top, remove it from the oven and cover the top of the tube pan with aluminium foil. Place the cake back into the oven and continue baking. The foil prevents the top of the cake from burning further.
  • After the cake is baked, turn it (still in chiffon tin) upside down. This helps it to retain its height while it is being cooled.

 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CarBaby



My brother and his wife own  a car accessories shop called 'Carbaby' located in the Balestier area. It mainly sells car seat covers but there are other accessories as well. He and his wife have been running the shop for a few years already. My family and I were all very excited when they went into business. They started not too long after I started my bakery.
Presently my brother is looking for someone to manage the shop, who can start work immediately. Someone who can work independently and is passionate in delivering excellent customer service and quick to equip him/herself with product knowledge. No experience is needed as training will be provided. Only Singaporeans or Singaporean PR need apply.   
email your resume to carbabybiz@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Start a bakery business - Location : Step 5

This post will focus on what to look out for when leasing a HDB shop space for your bakery.
Let’s say you have been scanning the classified ads and have called or SMSed agents/landlords and arranged meetings with them to view the shops. So what do you look out for?


Location of shop
Go to the shop earlier to check out the surroundings. What do the neighbouring shops sell? Will they have an effect on your bakery? For example, if the shop next to yours sells car tyres, there will be a constant rubber smell. Will your customers be put off by the smell when it drifts into your bakery?      

Take note of the human traffic. If the shop is located near the bus interchange, MRT station or in the central where there are lots of people, that will be very good for your business. However do note that heartlanders will prefer to buy everyday food such as buns and bread. So if you are thinking of opening a high-end cake shop there, you may not do so well. Let’s say you decide to bake bread to cater to the heartlanders’ needs. But to bake bread to sell in the morning, you will need to come in to work very early every day. Are you a morning person? Can you imagine dragging yourself up in the wee hours of each morning? If you are not, perhaps you need to rethink.  

HDB shops located in busy areas can command rather high rent too. It does not mean that since it is HDB, rent will always be cheaper than in the malls.  

Also, notice the people who frequent the place. If they are undesirable characters, would you be OK with them coming into your bakery, befriending you and ordering cakes from you? 

Area of the shop:
The usual size of a HDB shop is about 600 or 700 plus square feet. A number of landlords put up a dividing wall to split the shop into two shops so that it is easier to rent out. So each half is about 300 square feet, which is quite ideal for a small bakery.  

Sharing of facilities:
If you are planning to rent half the shop, it means you have to share the toilet facilities with whoever is using the other half of the shop. Ask the agent/landlord how the cleaning duties will be divided.
If there are occupants living in the quarters upstairs, do they have access to the shop unit below? If there is no door to segregate, then there may be security lapse issues.  

Asking rent:
Ask what the monthly rent is and whether it is negotiable.   

Rental deposit:
Ask how many years is the rental contract (usually two years) and how many months of rental deposit to pay.  (Usually for a two-year contract, the deposit is two months’ rent.)

Electricity:
Ask how many amps the shop has. If it has 60 amps, that is fantastic because if you plan to use the industrial kind of oven that Breadtalk uses, then you need three-phase electricity. If you are using normal ovens eg turbofan, then you do not need three-phase. Single-phase (1-phase) will do. But most HDB shop units do not have 60 amps. So you may have to stick to buying equipment that uses single-phase electricity. Note down how many amps the shop has because this determines how much equipment it can support.

If the agent suggests to you to ‘step up’ the amps so as to get the 60 amps, take note that this is an expensive procedure, costing thousands of dollars. And future electricity bills can be quite high too.  

If there are occupants staying just above the shop, then it is likely that you share the same water and electricity meter. This sometimes can result in conflict and arguments because the landlord may decide that the occupants upstairs will pay a fixed amount every month, while you pay the rest. So let’s say the bill comes up to $900 for January. If the landlord decides that the occupants upstairs pay $300, then you will have to pay the remaining $600. Let’s say the bill goes up to $1000 the next month, the occupants upstairs still pay $300 while you pay $700. Because it is automatically assumed that since your shop is a place of business, you had higher sales and therefore you baked more cakes that month, so you should be the one to pay the variable amount. Conflict may arise if you do not agree with that. You may argue that since they pay a fixed amount, there is no incentive for them to save water and electricity, so it is possible that the increase in usage is from them, not you. One way to resolve this is to have separate water and electricity meters, but to do this involves paying quite a lot of money to get this procedure done.

It is good to iron out all these issues before you sign any contract with the landlord.  

Overall state of the shop:
Is the shop well-maintained? Does it have a pest problem, eg. rats, cockroaches, ants, flies?
Look at the flooring. Is the flooring suitable for a kitchen?

If the shop is in a bad condition and needs a lot of money to do extensive renovation, ask yourself whether it is worth it to do so. Remember that the landlord has the right to ask you to reinstate the shop at the end of the contract. Reinstatement means to remove everything including tiles, built-in cabinets, lighting etc that you put in at the start of the contract.  And contractors charge thousands of dollars to carry out reinstatement.

Visit NEA (National Environment Agency) website to familiarize yourself with the necessary requirements of setting up a bakery. Print out a copy and refer to it often.

Renovation:
Ask:  How many rent-free weeks are you given to do renovation? 

Air-conditioning:
In humid Singapore, it can be a challenge working with fondant cakes. So if the HDB shop does not have air-conditioning, it is not advisable to bake and sell cakes decorated with fondant. You can choose to install air-conditioning (must get permission from the landlord first) but that will be another cost you have to bear. At the end of the contract, the landlord may ask you to remove the air-con units.

 Water point and floor trap:
Ask if there is a water point and check where the floor trap is. The floor trap is for you to drain the water away after you wash the floor. NEA (National Environment Agency) requires bakeries to have a floor trap. 

Take pictures:
Take lots of pictures so you can remember how the shop looks like when you are at home pondering over your decision. You should also take picture of any existing defects so that the landlord knows you are not to blame. 

Measuring tape:
Bring along measuring tape (the metal retractable kind that contractors use) and paper/pen. Measure the size of the shop. Draw out the dimensions of the shop on paper: length, breadth of the shop, and if possible the height of the ceiling as well. Also measure the width and height of the door. Because if you plan to buy an industrial-sized oven, you must make sure that it can get through the door! 

What did the previous tenant of that particular shop sell? Why did he/she not renew the contract?
The agent/landlord may not tell you the real reason why the previous tenant moved out. But it is good to ask anyway. It is also good to ask what the previous tenant used to sell in that shop.

Talk to nearby tenants:
You can try to make friends with the next-door shop tenant and nearby tenants to find out more. But some may not want to talk much and some may talk too much and even try to dissuade you saying what a lousy place it is to do business and that it is very hard to ‘survive’ there, etc. Always do your homework and trust your own judgment and not what others say because sometimes you don’t know what their motives are.  

Go back to the shop a few more times
If you are really interested in that shop, you can go back on different days and periods and look again. But note that the agent/landlord may not have time to meet up with you during your subsequent visits. But if you need to enter the shop to take a second look, go ahead and call the agent/landlord. That is what they are here for if they want to do business with you.

A final note for this post: Can you picture yourself working there every day at that shop for the next two years? Would your bakery business do well there? Think about it and pray about it too.
 

 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Banana Chiffon Cake

 

 














This mouthwatering cake is light and moist with a wholesome banana flavour. For those who love the taste of bananas, this will surely be an irresistible treat.

Makes 1 cake
 
Ingredients:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 7 egg whites
  • 150g cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  •  70g very ripe banana, mashed finely
  • 180g plus 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  135ml water
  • 75ml cooking oil (eg. sunflower, canola)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon banana essence (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  •  Optional: whipped cream and chocolate
  • 23-cm diameter chiffon tin
    
Method:
  • Sift cake flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix well.
  • Whisk the egg yolks for a minute. Whisk in banana, sugar (180g), salt, water, cooking oil, vanilla essence and banana essence. Pour into flour mixture and whisk till just combined. Do not overmix as this will result in a dense cake.
  • Preheat oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes.
  • Ensure that the whip attachment of the electric mixer is free of grease and water. Beat egg whites till frothy (about half a minute on low speed). Add cream of tartar and 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat at high speed till egg whites look stiff.
  • Add half of the egg white to the yolk mixture and fold in using a spatula. Add remaining egg white and fold. Do not overmix.
  • Pour the mixture into the chiffon tin. 
  • Bake for 50 minutes. To test if the cake is done, insert a satay stick. If the stick comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly, it is ready. Overturn the chiffon tin and allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the tin.  
  • Decorate with whipped cream and chocolate.
Recipe Notes:
  • Use a clean and dry bowl to hold the egg whites because grease and water will affect the ability of egg whites to be whipped to stiff peaks.
  • Ensure that the ingredients used are at room temperature. Cold ingredients will produce a dense and heavy cake.
  • Use bananas that are very ripe. Their skin should have balck spots. The more ripe the banana, the more flavourful the cake. Hasten the ripening of bananas by wrapping them tightly in plastic. Store them in a warm place.
  • Do not puree the banana in a food processor as this causes it to become a liquid. This will result in a wet and dense cake.