I didn’t know that I’d develop such an obsession with all things baked during my time in Toronto. Now since I’ve been back, I find myself being drawn to the baking needs aisle more frequently, lamenting the fact that I do not have access to a proper electric oven, and trying out as many bakeries as I can. I miss my pumpkin pies, cheesecakes and biscotti too much.
However, I’m sorely disappointed in the quality of baked goods/baking items available in the markets in Karachi. Maybe, I’d have been less disappointed, had there not been so many cooking channels airing special programs on delicious baking... Maybe, due to this, I had a lot of expectations with the “professional” bakers. Here’s a series of complaints about things that got me disappointed:
Seriously? It’s the easiest thing there is out there to bake. Anything with sugar, eggs, flour and a dash of vanilla tastes delicious... and adding loads of chocolate into the batter makes it simply divine. How can one go wrong with fudgy, chocolatey brownies? When there are a million recipes out there in books/mags/newspapers, and for free on the internet? And if you’re totally lazy, you can simply pick up a box of brownie mix to bake a batch in under 20 minutes! Heck, you can bake it in less than 6 minutes if you’re like me (using a microwave oven)!!
The brownies these so-called “professional bakers” present us with are brick-hard blocks of flour (almost black due to the excessive artificial colour) that taste like cardboard. No fudgy, chewy chocolate in there- not even a decent amount of cocoa powder. You might come across the occasional white spots (evidence that the baker was in too much hurry to mix the batter properly) while you take your bite. You may also get an unpleasant surprise when you discover a hard little pebble between your teeth- don’t worry, it’s only a rather smallish bit of mouldy, rancid walnut that the baker thought was a great idea to add and perk up the flavour. It’s too small to cause any serious stomach troubles. Really...! Stick to your old Betty Crocker boxes (thankfully available at most supermarkets), a microwaveable dish, and your reliable old microwave... you do NOT need to spend Rs.500+ for a terrible disaster from a showy bakery.
You know, there was a time when your dad used to order your birthday cake from the bakery closest to your house, and you couldn’t wait to cut it and later lick the icing off your knife...remember? When the candles used to go smoothly into the decent amount of chocolate icing, and the sponge was soft and delicious... and the nice little line of icing in the middle made you so happy, it was like eating two pieces of cake instead of one...anyways. Those days are gone. Over.
The cake from the bakery closest to your house has some nasty obsession with pineapple pieces and canned juice nowadays...in fact, it’s all the rage I hear. The cute decorations are also gone- you only get blobs of white stuff all around with a ‘glazed’ cherry on top of them. Once you cut into the cake... the middle layer is completely full of all sizes and shapes of pineapple chunks you could imagine. The lower sponge is soaking through with pineapple canned juice... the “juice” you throw away when you eat out the chunks from the can. Yes, that juice. No matter what flavour the bakery claims the icing/sponge is... I can guarantee it will taste like pineapple. 100%- no doubt about that.
Then, if you are like me, you blame the neighbourhood bakery...and decide to go to that hip little cutesy place everyone’s been talking about. It’s the bakery that charges 50% more on every item, just because it’s a hip little cutesy place everyone’s been talking about... you know the one, don’t you? You pick out the loveliest, scrumptious cake you can see in their fridge, and pay a ridiculous amount for such a small cake...but (you tell yourself) this bakery actually uses some expensive stuff... that’s why.
|Yup...that's the one.|
Well guess what? Surprise!! You get a repeat of a brownie disaster! It’s a brick made out of flour, tasting mysteriously like that cardboard box it came in... and you even get some sticky icing that makes your teeth turn blue! (or green or red... depends) Ooh...the fondant decoration made you melt? Now it’ll make the bite hard to swallow by sticking to your throat...awesome! Just what you paid for.
Whatever you do, do NOT buy a cheesecake from said hip little cutesy place. It’s just a plain frightening mess of white cement, with a bit of cream or vanilla or something...that’s sitting on top of biscuits ka ‘choora’... that powder you find at the bottom of cookie packets. The point that’s frightening is: it’s not baked...it’s frozen. Using some kind of corn flour or gelatine mixture. It has raw eggs inside. Now that’s frightening.
Ah! Cupcakes... who doesn’t like them? First of all... those aluminum “cups” on display look completely empty. Upon inspection, you find- oh yeah...that’s dark chocolate icing on it... You buy a dozen of them to fill a box to take home (ridiculous amount of money for the almost empty aluminum cups, but it’s the hip little cutesy place after all). You use your nails to pry apart the aluminum from the thing inside, while the “icing” leaks onto your fingers. You take a dismally small bite of the cupcake...tastes like sugar and vanilla..not bad. Atleast not cardboard... but that’s what you get. If you are stupid enough to get those fondant-with-icing on top ones, be sure to brush your teeth properly later. You don’t want to scare people with purple teeth.
Yes, I went to the world’s most renowned pizza franchise after 5 years of being abroad. After 5 years of eating pizza from small unknown places that used to serve halal and charged no money for home delivery. I discovered that the basic sizes followed all over the world are unavailable at our place. We get to choose from “Large” (read normal/regular all over the world) and “pan-sized” (read so-small-it-fits-in-my-plate). The “Extra”-large option is unheard of. No dips on the side. You pay extra for salads and drinks. The garlic bread is likely to pull out your front teeth, so is the crust with barely-there toppings. No matter what flavour you order, you are only going to enjoy the flavour of the crust, and some hanging strips of mozzarella...yay! for your expensive pizza. They serve ice-cold drinks, so your mouth is thankfully too numb to bother about all other tastes.
Oh well... Time to start baking by myself.