In the making of this month’s issue, home-baker extraordinaire Ida Collin of Fat Bunny Bakery revealed to us that she relies solely on two countertop ovens to churn out her intricate custom cakes. Even that ten-kilo behemoth on the cover of the magazine? Yup.
So we’re taking a cue, stopping our whining and getting out our cookie cutters. While the usual suspects for foreign groceries around town do carry whole vanilla beans, baking powder, cupcake tins, parchment paper and even the odd hand-mixer, the offerings can be hit-and-miss. Read on to delve deeper into the world of baking in Beijing.
First things first: heat. There are times when the open flame of your average Chinese kitchen just won’t do. Countertop ovens can be bought in many of the major supermarkets like Wal-Mart and Carrefour or electronic stores such as Sundan. But for the most variety, turn to the web. There is Taobao, of course, but the trouble of setting up an account and sorting through the mass of vendors may dissuade you. Consider Jindong (Jd.com) which, for many of their products, offers next-day delivery (and occasionally same-day with an order early enough in the day), a reputable guarantee policy and the option for cash payment. Amazon.cn is also an increasingly attractive option with their recent incorporation of a rudimentary English portal.
Meet Your Models
Of the plethora of oven options, which to choose? Convection or conventional? Nine-liter or 30-liter? Beijing’s professional home-bakers give us the scoop on their machines of choice.
At Fat Bunny Bakery, Ida Collin may be the brains behind the bakery, but the brawn? It’s two humble countertop ovens – Midea MG17CC-AR (RMB 398) and ACA ATO-M16A (RMB 289) – turning out the goods. Available on Amazon.cn and Jd.com
Two Guys and a Pie are lucky enough to have a built-in oven at their location (not very good since the door fell off the spring they report), but when things get intimate? For small parties, they use a small ACA ATO-M09C (RMB 185).
Since their delivery-only beginnings, Sweet Tooth Bakery has had two weapons of choice: a Red Tomato HK-60RCL (红蕃茄HK-60RCL) (RMB 700) and a Royal Star RK-28B1 (RMB 700). The Red Tomato remains on duty at home while the Royal Star now assists in the kitchen of their new cafe. Red Tomato available on Taobao.com; Royal Star available on Jd.com
Flour and Other Ingredients
Flour can easily be bought at a local supermarket. Dumpling flour (jiaozi fen 饺子粉) – high in gluten and a good substitute for bread flour – and self- rising flour (zifafen 自发粉)–anall-purposeflour mixed with baking soda – are the most common. But if you’re looking to get schooled in flours – or at least have countless options – we recommend going to Tongrisheng Lianghang (同日升粮行). The stores are jammed with bulk bins holding all varieties of flours including basic, specialty and organic.
For other ingredients, the vendors at Sanyuanli Market offer the same imported goods as the foreign grocery stores but for several kuai cheaper.
Where to Go
Ziwei Hongbei Wu 滋味烘焙屋
This specialty baking store offers tools, such as mixers and pans, as well as cheaper, non-brand chocolate, coconut flakes, almond powder and other ingredients for baking. They also have an extensive Taobao shop (http://ziwei365.taobao.com)
Mon-Fri 10.30am-7pm, Sat-Sun 10.30am-6pm. 6 Andingmenwai Dajie (8427 0715)
Tongrisheng Lianghang 同日升粮行
See description above.
Daily 8am-7.30pm. 6 Yonghegong Dajie, Dongcheng District (6401 0473)
Daily 8am-6pm. 58 Meishuguan Houjie, Dongcheng District (6404 4887)
Beijing Hotel Equipment Corporation 酒总酒店设备
Get over to Line 4 and make a day of it with the clothing markets at Xidan and the Muslim area around Niu Jie. Further south, a short walk from the Beijing South Railway Station, you’ll find the HEC. It’s a kitchen nerd’s heaven with three-stories of stuff to properly outfit a restaurant with Western gear at local prices. A range of cookie cutters, whisks, ramekins, pie pans, pastry bags and much more is available – this should be your one-stop shop for kitting out your kitchen.
Daily 9am-5.30pm. 1 Kaiyangli Yijie, You’anmenwai, Fengtai District (8355 9988)
Not enough here on water, flour and yeast? For a comprehensive guide to breadmaking in China, visit the excellent blog Haw Berries and Kumquats.
This article appeared in the Beijinger April 2014 issue.
Previous dining features and more can be found here.
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