Evelyn Chan is a childhood penpal of mine who inspired me to make my own wontons (dumplings). Evelyn is now a dentist in rural Benalla in Victoria, Australia. One of her specialties is baking (besides knitting and shopping), and here she tells me why dentistry and sweets go hand in hand. I hereby present thee culinary delights from the kitchen of Evelyn Chan.
How did you get into baking?
My mother is an excellent cook and ever since I was young I’ve watched her cook and bake. But it was only when I was about 21 that I decided to start baking seriously. It all kick-started after my friends bought me a mixer for my 21st birthday.
What’s the first thing you baked then?
Honestly, I can’t remember. It was probably a plain butter cake.
What is it you like about baking?
I like following recipes and seeing the end product, especially when they’re pretty. Also, I like the feeling of accomplishment when I pull off a particularly difficult recipe.
What’s the best you’ve made?
Probably a 3-tiered cake for my friend’s 21st. Or a chocolate covered croquembouche. I haven’t attempted to replicate either of those.
Most people are happy that I pursue this hobby because it means there’s more for everyone to eat!
Any disastrous experiences in the kitchen?
There’s been several but nothing too serious. It’s either I leave it in the oven for too long or mess up the recipe. Baking is very methodical, if you do everything to the T it usually turns out fine.
What have people said about your cakes?
Most people are happy that I pursue this hobby because it means there’s more for everyone to eat! Yea, it’s good. I like getting constructive criticism so that I get better at what I do all the time.
Who inspires you?
I have a friend who’s a pastry chef who’s been giving me tips along the way. I don’t have a particular favourite chef or anything, I pretty much just blog surf until I see a recipe that blows me away and proceed to try it out in my own kitchen. I love reading food blogs by other pastry lovers, and that’s where I get most of my inspiration from.
Will you ever go commercial?
I would love to quit my day job and just become a baker, but the reality of going commercial is actually not that appealing. At home, you can bake what you feel like baking, and if you don’t want to – you don’t. But when you go commercial everything gets very repetitive. Make 30 of the same thing day in day out and cater to what the customers want, rather than what you want.
(clockwise) Lemon earl grey macaroons filled with lemon curd, chocolate babycakes with ganache, cupcakes with flower icing and traditional Malaysian kuih dadar
What’s your advice for those who are serious about baking?
Start small and slowly work your way up. Try to get tips from people who actually know what they’re doing, that really helps.
Evelyn and friend make a wicked gingerbread house
Isn’t it ironic that you’re a dentist?
Yea it is. I thought about opening a bakery and naming it Sweet Tooth, and then have a dental practice upstairs and call it Tooth Fairy. But that would seem too unethical…