I don’t think anybody at home ever really did any baking back when I was a kid. My lola lived all the way in Bicol so I didn’t get to see her that much, but I was told about how she baked all sorts of things, and it makes me think that maybe my love for baking came from her.
I don’t have any memories of my very first bake, but boxed mixes were probably where everything started for me. It was really simple - just a matter of adding a couple of eggs and some oil. But there it was, the magical thing called flour, and the idea of being able to transform it. It was fascinating to me, and I quickly became drawn to its whole process.
When I grew a little older, I learned the basics and how to bake from scratch. Baking became a hobby for me, something I enjoyed doing over the weekend or after getting home from school. I spent a lot of time trying out different recipes, and after having baked several times without failure, I began to feel like it was something I could be good at. The best part about it was knowing that even if I didn’t do things completely right, everybody still enjoyed what I would make.
It seemed as if their happiness would bounce off of them to me, and it’s probably one of the reasons why I kept going, and why I naturally gravitated towards culinary school. It was a little scary to make that choice at first because all I knew was that I liked to cook and bake, and I didn’t even know if that was enough. But I also knew that there was so much more that I wanted to learn, and that I wanted to be better. Luckily in my time at school, I realized that I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
There was a part of me that was unsure about what exactly I wanted to do. I found myself working in a pastry kitchen for a few months during my internship, enjoying my work there and at the same time, always curiously looking over to where the bakers were. I ended up being moved to a few different stations, but I realized that baking and pastry was what I wanted to do. It took a little bit of waiting before I could graduate, but in those months I tried to bake as much as I could. I taught myself how to make sculpted cakes, which was a challenge I undertook on a whim, but ended up being an outlet for my creativity. It was also when I made my first starter, Jinx, and when I fell in love with sourdough and all its floury bits.
With sourdough, things were tougher. My starter was a living thing, a pet that I happily fed twice a day to keep healthy. It would rise and fall predictably on most days, but go haywire the next. Making sourdough then was different from today – I didn’t really know anybody that made it here, and all my questions were left to books and blogs. Having to feel my way through everything was one of the things I loved about it. It was difficult, but working with flour was enthralling to me, and so was being able to make my own bread. It also made me aware of two things. First, that I had so much more patience compared to when I first started baking; and second, that I had gotten this far on my own.
It wasn’t always that my patience was limitless. Sometimes, baking would frustrate me so much, especially when things didn’t turn out the way they’re supposed to. Nevertheless, I always found myself going back to it at the end of the day. Flour was everywhere, and baking became more than just a hobby. Somehow, it had turned into a passionate endeavor. I embraced every single thing it took – some of them being consistency, artistry, and even restraint. I could take one step forward and two steps back, but I was always reassured that each and every time, there would always be something new for me to learn.
When I look back, it’s hard to imagine that I was able to make all of these things. My fascination with flour and everything I could do with it started when I was just a child, but it never went away as I grew up. Instead, it allowed me to create so many things I didn't know I could. Sharing my bakes opened doors for me, some of which I had to close so that I could be where I want to be – here at Harina, my own bakery, a studio where I can practice my craft. It might just be a small space in my home right now, but it’s where all the possibilities of me as a baker are less daunting, and where I can be reminded of my desire and willingness to constantly learn and improve.
Harina is also where I can reflect on baking and how it has always been comforting and nourishing to me for many reasons. I can't cultivate all there is to know about it in a day, because it's something that can only be improved upon in the fullness of time. Even if I never reach the skill I aspire to have, I’m still grateful. For I've always thought that the most rewarding thing about baking is being able to work with my hands, and create something with a little bit of my heart and soul. Today, it is even more rewarding, knowing that I can share my hard work with all of you through my little flour-powered studio.
Hello there, I'm Daischiell! I know you're already wondering - it's "day-shell", but pretty much everybody calls me Shelly. That's a photo of me on the right with my sourdough starter, Seymour.
I've always liked mixing things together at a young age, so I think it was only natural that I grew to like cooking and baking as I got older. I went to culinary school at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, and I loved bread so much that I eventually took up bread baking at the International Culinary Center.
My favorite thing to bake has got to be sourdough bread. I also enjoy making realistic sculpted cakes, and cooking all sorts of dishes at home here in Manila. When I'm not in the kitchen, I'm probably googling food-related terms and going through my baking books. If I'm not doing that, then you'll likely find me watching movies, spinning, or playing with our two chows!
Jinx was my 100% hydration all-white sourdough starter!
I made a lot of good bread with her, but after keeping her alive for almost 3 years, she was accidentally washed down the sink (Justice for Jinx!). I was really sad about it, but now I've learned to always make sure I have a backup. Seymour, my current sourdough starter, is almost 2 years old!