Looking at those past photos reminded me how long it has been since I've last blogged. Actually, I think my subconscious knew it long ago. As the number of photos increased rapidly, I dreaded to think about the number of blogs it would take me to do in order to account for my photos.
Anyhow, I will try to blog on all of them. Blogs on foods will be quite fair and NOT subjected to any memory lapse as I've written down notes on what I thought and felt in a notebook while I was tasting the dishes or right after tasting (read: when I reached home).
Recently I have been inspired by the numerous food blogs and I've been baking/cooking a lot more. Actually, it started with a whim when I saw the Savioardi biscuits (Italian sponge fingers) at Woolworths and I felt like making Tiramisu. My first attempt was a HUGE success. Alcohol and coffee laced fluffy sponge fingers, smooth light and delicious mascarpone mixture, I was inspired to make it again. My second and third tries were less successful despite using almost the same recipe. The taste remained but the texture was different. BUT the forth tries and onwards were hugely successful ONCE AGAIN. I've made it about six times in a span of two months? After that, I have tried making other things like Chocolate Souffle, Mocha Pie, Rose Meringues and recently, Quiche Lorraine.
It's not like I've never cooked before. I do cook and bake but the number of times I have done so has increased dramatically. Now I just can't wait till my cough is over so that I can start baking again. (I'm quite paranoid that people will fall sick after eating the food I've made.)
I am very excited because recently, I have spent a fortune on a quite a number of things.
A Day at elBulli by Ferran Adria. This is something I've wanted to get for AGES. Ever since the book came out, I wanted to lay hands on it notwithstanding the fact that I was in Singapore when it was first released, it was super expensive, and considering the meagre luggage allowance I have, this book would take up a couple of kilos off the allowance. Anyway, I chanced upon this book here in Perth and I bought it. It is still quite expensive but not as expensive as Singapore. Then again, prices might have dropped in Singapore since the book has been out for some time already. I wouldn't know now, would I? This book is massive and quite inspiring. It catalogues what days at elBulli are like. From experimenting, cooking, sourcing, service etc., this book is like WOW. The things they do there are just so.... challenging. Quite exciting actually. Anyway, 1 cookbook down, another 4 more to go.
Planet Cake by Paris Cutler. I knew I had to get this book when I saw the cover. Isn't it adorable? Besides, this book is very informative with instructions on decorating cakes. It is a book for both beginners and intermediate amateur bakers keen on learning how to decorate their cakes and make them look good. The book is a good 101 course (introductory course) that starts beginners off to reach the intermediate level to the advanced level where the book shows you how more complicated and intricate designs are made. FYI (for your information), Paris Cutler is the founder of Planet Cake; a hugely successful cake decorating business which makes celebrity cakes. Planet Cake is in Sydney and they also export their highly demanded cakes to Europe and USA. Their portfolio also includes Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's wedding cake.
Lavender blossoms from T2. I was estatic when I found this at T2 at Garden City. I wanted to buy Matcha (green tea powder) too but they didn't have it. Oh. Guess what? Apparently Gunpowder Green Tea isn't Matcha. I nearly grabbed a box of Gunpowder Green Tea before I saw the sample bottle and saw coils of tea in it. Definitely not what I was looking for. And I've always thought Matcha was Gunpowder Green Tea. Anyway, something was learned.
Lavender has been widely used in so many recipes that I knew I had to get it. I hated the feeling of not being able to do what I want due to the lack of ingredients in the pantry. I am a pantry hoarder. I confess to that. I like a well-stocked pantry that allows me to make anything I want without worrying like a clucking hen whether the recipe will backfire if I substitute or omit an ingredient that I don't have or can't get at the last minute. I know I want to make Lavender Sables soon! Or Madeleines.
Italian "00" Flour. THIS IS THE LEGENDARY "00" FLOUR. It is an Italian wheat flour with low protein content. I promise you I had no idea what "00" flour looked like until now. I've been trying to find it to no avail till I chanced upon it in Woolworths. OH! It is not as expensive as I thought (AD$2.95, it is cheap! Don't tell Woolworths that or they will mark it up!) and it was the ONLY pack on the shelf! I've wanted to make Ravioli but I have no idea where fresh pasta is available on sale. There is no choice but to make my own. I don't have a pasta machine so I will try to roll it out and hopefully get it really thin and silky. I've already thought of a filling for my Ravioli but I still can't make up my mind what to serve it with. Recipes call for oil, butter or jus. My family don't really fancy eating oil or butter as a sauce. My father will be convinced that I'm trying to speed up the clogging of his arteries. And jus takes a long time to make. Too much work for me. I'm the lazy sort. Anyway, back to the flour. Normally I buy ingredients that I keep seeing in a few recipes I want to try. No point buying an ingredient and only use a bit of it to make a dish. This flour is really useful because you can also use it to make breads and pizza too!
Note: I have been trying to find out what is the difference between "OO" Flour and other types of flour. Apparently, "00" flour is flour that has been milled till it is super fine. Like baby powder fine. Contrary to popular belief that it is low in protein and unsuitable to make bread, it is untrue. Different types of "00" flour have varying amounts of protein content in it. A good substitute for it would be all-purpose flour though you would definitely see a difference if you used "00" flour. For those who do not understand about protein content and all, read the next bit. Otherwise, just skip to the next picture.
Bread flour is high in protein content as bakers want the as much gluten as possible to work their magic in the bread. Glutens allow the bread to rise as well as give the bread structure and texture. Cake flour is lower in protein content than bread flour, as bakers do not want their cakes to be chewy or tough. Cakes should have lighter and softer textures than breads. The science of flour is extensive. You should definitely look up on it if you are interested. There was so much information when I yahoo-ed 00 flour into the search engine. Too much to be listed here. Try http://www.yahoo.com.au
Arborio Rice. No fine science here. Used to make Risotto and Rice Puddings. Risotto is a dish on my list of things to make next.
Almond Meal. Macaroons! My loves. Too bad almond meals are expensive. It is rather costly for a 150g pack of almond meal. There were 2 choices. Pay a fortune for blanched almonds and go home and make almond meal out of it OR pay a fortune for almond meal. Either way you still pay a fortune for it. You know my choice already.Madeleine moulds! This is the right sort of madeleine moulds I wanted! It is really quite and small. Too bad I was rather hasty on the day before when I spied a madeleine mould. I bought it though it was rather big for my ideal madeleine. Hey, I was desperate. I was even thinking of getting my relatives in Singapore to hunt it down for me! And you know how things work. When you want something, it will never appear. When you have it already, it will keep appearing. So when I saw this, I knew I had to get it. It is just PERFECT. For me, at least. It makes me smile. :) Think of all the madeleines that I am going to make using it.
Palette knife. For future spreading of creams, ganaches, and what not. NO MORE uneven surfaces. Good for my future attempts on decorating cupcakes. It is on my next to do list after sables and madeleines.Murray River Gourmet Salt Flakes. Last but not least, the posh pink river salt. It's so pretty! Oh. Fyi, this salt and sea salt are saltier than your normal table salt so you can't be heavy handed with it. If the recipe calls for 1 tsp of normal salt, you would have to reduce the amount of sea salt used. To put it plainly, if the recipe calls for 1 tsp of sea salt, you put in slightly more if you are using normal salt.
Okay. This is it for now. It has been a very long post.