GEORGE TOWN, April 26 ― Nine-year-old Maeghan Arlene Ooi loves to cook and bake, so, when schools were closed for the movement control order (MCO), it was the best time for her to indulge in her hobby.
The Primary Three student has baked many things with the help of her mother, and even tried cooking her family’s meals.
She was so enthusiastic about baking that she got her mother, Christina Cheng, to make a video of her demonstrating how to make sausage buns.
“I want to set up my own YouTube channel one day, I am waiting for my mother to help me set it up so I can make baking and cooking videos,” she said.
She said the sausage buns she made the other day came out perfect except for five that were burnt to a crisp because her mother experimented with it.
“I made turtle shapes and my mom burnt it. So some of my sausage buns terbakar because of her,” she said.
The jovial girl, who is an only child, said it was fun to bake and that she hoped to one day become a celebrity chef like those she frequently watched online.
So far, she has tried her hands at making red velvet cake, chicken pie, pizza, mochi, dumplings and spaghetti.
“Next, I want to try making cupcakes, doughnuts and I want to make more red velvet cake because it is so yummy,” she said.
Ooi is not alone in the pursuit, however, as breadmaking and home baking have become a worldwide phenomenon among those stuck at home due to measures countries have taken to try and contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Even celebrity chefs around the world, such as Jamie Oliver, have shared home baking recipes and easy bread making recipes tailored for beginners.
However, this is not only a trend born out of boredom but also of necessity, such as the case of Elvina Fernandez.
The 33-year-old is accustomed to having bread at home and said she could even eat it for every meal, from breakfast to dinner to tea breaks.
So, she was understandably dismayed when she could not find her favourite Gardenia bread in the first week of the MCO.
Desperation prompted her to try making her own bread by following a recipe online but the first attempt didn’t turn out well.
“So I thought, ‘OK, let’s invest in a breadmaker.’ We couldn’t go to a store so we went online to look for one and found one for just RM159,” she said.
Armed with her new bread maker, she tried making different types of bread starting with the basic white loaf, before moving on to experiment with sweet bread and adding honey, milk and even fruits.
Due to the scarcity of ingredients at the local grocery store, however, the corporate communications assistant manager ordered bread flour, yeast and bread knife online.
Now that her bread was turning out well, she was trying even more recipes and giving some to her friends.
“To be honest, if the MCO didn’t happen, I would be too busy working to do this,” she said.
Baking is often considered an escape from the daily stresses of life and for Ainun Mazna Abdul Mutalip, it was relaxing to bake something from scratch.
The training supervisor has been making more local kuih and baking during the MCO than previously.
“I would usually cook on weekends but I won’t bake or make all these additional kuih and cakes,” she said.
To stave off boredom and to release the stresses of working from home during the MCO, she made local kuih such as seri muka, kuih sago, kuih keria, cekodok and baked cakes like sugee cake and banana cake.
Once, her mother had prepared the dough to make cekodok but Ainun converted it by adding other ingredients and baked it into banana cake.
“I love baking, it is relaxing for me so even after I come back from work in the evenings, I wouldn’t mind baking something to de-stress,” she said.
Similarly for lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Sandesh Kabir, baking was a great way to de-stress and relax.
“Nothing like kneading dough to take away the stress. It’s good to experiment and keep your mind off what’s going on outside,” he said.
He started baking last year but, due to the MCO, he found more time to refine his baking skills and got into making specialty breads.
“I’m learning to cut the amount of ingredients that goes into my baking. Less sugar and butter So I started on sourdoughs. It’s less about cost and convenience and all about health to me,” he said.
Breadmaking may sound like a daunting task but Debbie Pereira still pushed herself to learn how to do it when she couldn’t find any mass-produced bread at the shops in her neighbourhood during the MCO.
She was surprised that she could now bake her own bread after using the time she had during MCO to try out different recipes using different ingredients.
She admitted that like other new bakers she made mistakes like burning yeast and using the wrong flour for bread making.
“I did feel angry and frustrated, but can’t give up, otherwise, no bread,”
“Plus making bread allows you to vent some frustrations, you can ‘punch’ the dough,” she said.
When asked if she would continue baking even after MCO has lifted, Debbie said she would if she had the time.