Woody Wolston, with whom those of you who have been reading the blog are very familiar, has now been working with me for eight harmonious years. In his first email to me, Woody told me that his fellow T'ai Chi practitioners and broomball players were my best fans. I had never before heard of either T'ai Chi or broomball but since that time I have learned much about the two activities.The cake that Woody made the most often was "The Chocolate Oblivion" from The Cake Bible. Woody has come a very long way since those days. Here in Woody's words is a report of his baking for the recent T'ai Chi Chinese New Year's banquet. Every year, my T'ai Chi studio, "Twin Cities T'ai Chi Chaun," celebrates the Chinese New Years with a demonstration at its studio followed by a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. For the last several years, I have made recipes for the dinner from the upcoming book, The Baking Bible. (The T'ai Chi students have taste tested virtually every recipe for both Rose's Heavenly Cakes and The Baking Bible. Their comments have been helpful for fine-tuning several of the recipes. This year, I decided to make three recipes as we had some baking concerns resulting from comments from our wonderful "Beta Bakers" testing over thirty recipes from the upcoming book. One test explored the best temperature for making a plain caramel for flavor without the risk of turning it into black jack. Another involved prebaking pie shells. The last one was a variation for a recipe in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Using scales, mixers, food processors, and Rose's evaluating eyes via our computers' live video streaming, the cakes and pies were made with great results.
Just before the demonstration, I transported the three angel food cakes, a sheet cake, and two pies to the Peking Gardens restaurant, with adornments prepped for final assembly during dinner. At the studio, some 200 students, family members, and friends were all waiting for the demonstration to begin to ring in the Year of the Snake Chinese New Year. One of my fellow students, Todd Nesser, a gifted graphics designer, every year for the past twelve years has designed colorful posters with the Chinese character for the year's animal, with accompanying photos and language, to be the back drop for the demonstration. Grand Master Mark, 85 years old, thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration. He was still actively teaching his art, Praying Mantis, at the age of 84, a testimonial to the health promoting benefits from some of the Chinese martial arts.
The demonstration began with most of the students demonstrating the T'ai Chi solo form, a series of 150 postures, which is the foundation of the T'ai Chi system. Many of the crowd commented on the peaceful and mesmerizing energy generated by the graceful in unison movement of the students.
After the demonstration, I hurried off to the restaurant to decorate the cakes and pies with their adornments. By the time we were ready for our first family style served course, I had frosted the tops of my angel food cakes and sheet cake and swirled spoonfuls of whip cream on the pies. Some special touches were prepared for once the desserts were staged for serving. Our menu consisted of several courses for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets.
Towards the end of the courses, I was starting to see heads turning towards me sending me the message of, "what did you bring this year; we want some." With the help of some students and the waiting staff, the dessert table was assembled and the line of dessert seeking fellow students began forming. The students enjoyed angel food cakes with caramelized sugar and adorned with a white chocolate buttercream and pieces of caramelized sugar (a big hit with the kids); chocolate cream pies topped with whipped cream and curls of white chocolate from The Pie & Pastry Bible; and "The Tropical Banana Cake" adapted by using a blend of butter and oil for the cake, and frosted with "Passion Fruit Buttercream" from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Our two, go-to, taste testers, Rondi Atkin and Master Paul Abdella, confirmed what we had chosen as the best results for some of our tests.
Almost everything was consumed in its entirety except for the large Banana cake, which became a treat for the following Monday night class. If this is your birth year, here are some of your Chinese Zodiac characteristics for the Snake: charming, gregarious, introverted, generous, and intelligent.