Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Assassination of Bob

Today, Bob was MURDERED.

Hi, this is a guest post from Nooboy, to report on the purging of Nooblet's yeast, better known as Bob.

Today I arrived at home at 8:00pm, having just finished my late lecture at Uni, and I found myself looking at the kitchen sensing something amiss. On the kitchen bench a new void now exists, which can only be described as the missing elephant in the room. I look around and I see Bob's home upturned on the sink.
'Bob asked for it' Nooblet said as she entered the room.
'Bob asked for what?'
'He was bad'

What Nooblet meant by 'bad' (curse her and her 'woman talk') was that Bob had a number of issues:

1. He looked terrible, much like the ugly kid in kindergarten (you dont know why but all you can say is that they must have had a terrible upbringing) - but according to Nooblet he did not look that bad
2. Bob had a terrible stench, he simply 'smelt wrong' (quote from Nooblet)
3. Bob stank so bad Nooblet allegedly wanted to spew

So Nooblet poured Bob down the drain and much like the purging of our childhood clown fish friend, Bob went to where all bad thrush... I mean yeast, go: the sewer. Before the water in the sink could settle, Nooblet whipped out two more containers, methodically measuring equal amounts of flour and water into two new batches of sourdough yeast (much like the equation: lost pet + quick replacement = less tears). Yet to be named, they now sit on their high horse (shelf), staring down on all other lowly yeast and the sink, the scene of the crime. They act innocent on their assigned shelf like tweedle dum and tweedle dee, they are smug twins which live only to eat. Little do they know that they will soon end up in my stomach as light fluffy sourdough bread.

I Love my bread


Late Night Comfort Food > Ginger and Tofu Soup with Prawns

Late night snack = late night lighting = not the best photo. Oh well. It tastes good.

Since the blog started, it has been focused completely on either macarons or sourdough starters. So I thought I'd break it up with something a little bit savory.

Both my parents love cooking. And they're both pretty good at it. My Mum is amazing at the home style everyday food, that she seems to throw together like magic. My Dad prefers showing off with his flashier restaurant style dishes. Although this is one of  my Dad's recipes, it is uncharacteristically homely and comforting.

This is one of my favourite cold-weather dishes. Originally, Dad made it for me when I was sick with the flu. Ginger is supposed to have immune boosting properties, so I guess he was hoping it would make me better. I'm not sure if it worked, but it tasted so lovely that it became something we ate every autumn. 

The sharpness of the ginger is balanced out by the mellow flavour of the tofu and the prawns add an extra level in both taste and texture. Yum.

Ginger and Tofu Soup with Prawns
600-700ml chicken or fish stock (use water if you must)
200g firm tofu (make sure it’s the white, un-fried tofu)
50g piece of young ginger
100-150g green prawns (shelled, deveined and roughly chopped)
1 tbsp corn starch, mixed with a little water to form a thin paste
Small length of green onion (also known as spring onion or shallots)

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a small to medium sized saucepan.
  2. Slice the tofu and ginger into a fine julienne and add to the pan. Let it simmer away for a few minutes to impart their flavour to the broth. The timing here does not need to be precise as both tofu and ginger are quite forgiving in that it takes a fair bit of time to ‘over-cook’ them. If fact, I’m not sure firm tofu can be overcooked. While they are simmering away, you can prepare your prawns.
  3. Turn up the heat and bring the soup to a rapid boil. Season with salt, and if you like, a little white pepper (I find the pepper isn’t necessary as the ginger gives plenty of spice, but Dad always added a little). Add prawns. When the soup returns to the boil (it should only take a few seconds) add the cornflour paste and stir (make sure you stir just before adding, as the cornflour likes to settle to the bottom of the bowl). When the soup thickens, turn off the heat and serve with a little green onion snipped in.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nooblet's Macarons > The First Perfect Ones

Lemon mascarpone macaron after 24hrs maturation

Oh, gorgeous insides...

I made perfect macarons. A monumental feat where Nooblet made something so decidedly un-noob. 

After my strange footless 'macarons', I wanted to try the sucre cuit method again. After all, it's supposed to be the more reliable approach to macaron making. And after yet another day's worth of 'research' on food blogs, I decided to follow Ms Humble's recipe for lemon mascarpone macarons which can be found here (Ms Humble is my Macaron Goddess, her blog is a must-read for anyone thinking of attempting macarons).

They turned out perfect. I had, in my own kitchen, beautiful fluffy macarons with tall, compact feet and delectably shiny tops. Having been scared by everyone on the internet into thinking macaronage (that flows-like-magma consistency) is impossibly hard to achieve and terribly easy to pass into over-beating, I was surprised to find that the batter took a fair bit of folding to reach the desired consistency. I found that this time, my macarons were weirdly invincible. I even piped them using a freezer bag (I know, zip-lock at least right?). But when they came out the oven, they were perfect. 

They have feet!

Just for the record, Nooboy took this photo and really wanted it to be included on the blog. Please don't judge me for graininess. I'm just trying to keep domestic peace!

And they tasted perfect too. The lemon mascarpone filling set of the sweetness of the almond meringue perfectly. And they were soft and fluffy after 24hrs maturation. I managed to rescue some from the jaws of Nooboy and his sister to share with my girlfriends and they loved them. I'm so happy!

Of course, this could be a fluke. One success amidst thousands of failures. But I'm hopeful. Stay tuned.  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bob > An Update

Bob has been rising nicely, frothing up to twice his size every day. There's just one problem. Bob smells. Like really smells. I've never had a starter before. Are they meant to smell so bad? I've heard that they should smell beery, or acidic. But Bob just smells.

To be honest, he was smelly from day one. But I thought it was just my plastic container. On day two, I measured out 50g of Bob and washed out the container. The container no longer smelled. I rejoiced. However, it has been 2 days since and Bob still really smells. I'm worried.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bob > My Baby Sourdough Starter

Today I created life. Well, sort of. I made a sourdough starter! Yay!

I know, I know, not the best photos. But hopefully Bob will soon produce some pretty bread.

I've been thinking about doing it for a little while, especially after reading Mr Humble's guest post at Not So Humble Pie. I wasn't going to do it. I was just thinking that maybe I should be thinking about doing it. But today, I was making rice (as we Asians do) and was struck with what is hopefully an ingenious idea. Why not use that milky, cloudy rice water in a sourdough starter?

I've read up a little about sourdough starters (google, of course) and some recipes include pasta water, or potato starch. Why not rice water? It's definitely got starch, and apparently it's good for your plants, so why not for your yeasties? Please biology people don't prove me wrong...

I used a tall plastic screw top container, making sure the finished starter filled it by less than half (not hard, since it didn't even reach 1/3). All I put in was 100g bread flour, and 100g rice water. And that was it. Bob was born.

I will feed it like a good mummy over the next week. And then we shall see how my rice water idea panned out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On a side note...

Quick bit of news. I was talking to J over dinner tonight and he announced that he would like to be called NoobletBoyfriend. I told him this was just too long and impractical, so from here on, he will be referred to as NoobBoy.

Nooblet Macarons Part I (and a half) > Meet Macaron

For the benefit of Schnazzie (yet another nooblet, it would seem) I have decided to add a post that was not originally meant to be. This is the post to introduce to you my friend, and elusive prey, the macaron.

For those of you who do not know, a macaron is an impossibly light, impossibly pretty, and impossibly French confectionery. Some would even call it a cookie. A macaron is made up of several parts, i.e. the shell, the feet, the body (or interior), and the filling (please refer to figure 1.1, below).

Figure 1.1 - the macaron

The actual macaron part (the feet, the shell, and the meringue interior) is a baked wonder consisting of only four base ingredients - almond meal, icing sugar, sugar, and of course, egg whites. It is this 'cookie' that Nooblet strives to achieve.

The filling seems less important. It is fine as long as it's a ganache or butter-cream in a half-decent flavour. Apparently jam works too, and I imagine whipped cream can't be too horrible (although it can't be matured like a proper macaron...).

You eat it by biting into and savouring every little bit (please no popping the entire thing in your mouth). And then you reach for a second. 

Class dismissed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nooblet Macarons Part I > It Begins

Not my macarons...Pierre Herme's (the holy grail of petit fours)

I made my first macarons over the weekend. Well, my first attempt at macarons. They weren't perfect, but were nonetheless gobbled up completely by J and his sisters.

It all started with a craving for custard. As a result of that venture, I had five orphan egg whites with nowhere to go. It usually takes me hours, even days, to work out what to do with leftover egg bits. This time was different. I just knew I wanted to make macarons. Not macaroons. Macarons. Yes, those angelic pastel pillows of meringue squished together with oozing butter-cream or ganache. Those famously elusive shells perched ever so precariously on those fluffy feet.

Having decided to make macarons, I Googled. After much investigation, I decided to start with the French meringue approach, using almost the exact recipe found on Serious Eats (I added a bit of vanilla when folding meringue into the amond/sugar mix, or if you want to be fancy, tant pour tant).

I whipped. I folded (perhaps a bit much). I piped. 20 minutes later, my first tray of macarons were in the oven. A further five minutes later had me prancing around J gleefully proclaiming "They have feet! They have feet!" In the end, the macarons were ok. They didn't rise quite as much as I would have hoped, but they did have a crisp shell and the cutest little feet. Unfortunately they also had a bit of an air pocket between the shell and the body of the macarons, and due to insane stickiness, many of them left their insides behind on the tray (a condition colourfully chronicled at Syrup and Tang). I think this was due to slight over-beating and the thin-ness of the trays I used. Still, they disappeared quickly.

I still had some egg whites left over the next day, and decided to try again with the Italian meringue method, having heard that it was more reliable. I used the recipe from Syrup and Tang and again added some vanilla while folding.

I don't have a sugar thermometer, so I used the cold water test. Again, I whipped, and folded, and piped. 5 minuted after inserting into the oven I was wailing at J "No feet! They don't have feet!"

This time my macaron troubles were reversed. They dried out nicely, didn't brown too much, and didn't stick at all. But, no feet! And no shell. While J and his sister both affirmed their deliciousness, I was not consoled. No feet! I think I actually under-mixed, having over-beaten my batter the day before.

So there you have it. My first (imperfect) macarons. They will be better next week.


I've always been bad at introducing myself. I'm never quite sure what to say. Even for this, I'm not sure what I should write.

My name is Vicky.
I'm a Sydney-sider.
I love food.
I love cooking food.
I love eating food.

Ok...I guess not that hard.

I've been a foodie ever since I was tiny. While other kids rush to get their swimmers ready when beach is announced, I always ran to make sure all 9 pockets of my overalls were full of snacks to get me through the day.

I've now grown up a bit, and no longer wear overalls, but food is still a huge part of my life. Only now I'm a bit more involved in the making part of it (no longer just a human vacuum ;p).

While I've been cooking for a little while, I recently began to notice that more of my experiments turn out to be successes, and fewer of them flops. My pastas are tastier, my bread is soft and light, and my cookies are the perfect mix of crunchy and chewy.

This blog, hopefully, is a means of keeping me cooking (and writing). I hope you like it.


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