And her reputation is sterling. Nina Zipser, a Lowell Faculty Dean, has emailed her with baking questions, most recently to ask why her custard curdled. (Pong suspects that “the heat was too high, causing all the water to evaporate and make the proteins curl up.”) She also has the endorsement of Beth Terry, Lowell House Administrator, who told Pong, “If I ever get married again, I want you to make that chocolate cake at my wedding.”
Pong emailed the Lowell House list with her plan and received more than 30 enthusiastic responses. In her note, she suggested some flavors for an upcoming scones session: rosemary and currant, chocolate chip, blueberry and lemon, honey, cheddar chive, cheddar mustard — “really whatever people had in their pantry or could get their hands on.”
Pong is conscious of choosing recipes that don’t require complex ingredients, since many students across the world are following stay-home guidelines. The first week she made chocolate chip cookies but went beyond basic recipe instructions. She discussed the importance of salt, how to properly cream butter and sugar, how to butter a pan, and how to achieve the desired chewy or crispy texture.
On a recent Thursday, she convened a group for scones. Within minutes, Pong was fielding questions from Lowell peers on Zoom:
“I don’t have heavy cream. Would replacing it with Greek yogurt or condensed milk work?” (Yogurt!)
“For the rosemary, do I want the whole leaf or chopped pieces?” (Whole pieces!)
Pong instructed viewers to squish butter between their thumbs and forefingers to a lima bean size. Then, let the dough rest in the refrigerator. “You want the flour to have time to hydrate and let all the gluten that’s been formed by the mixing relax. That way it’s less chewy.” Someone asked: “Can I see what your dough looks like?” prompting Pong to hold her bowl to the screen.