Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What is the difference between baking powder, baking soda and bicarbonate (bi-carb) of soda? What are their different uses?

Bi-carb of soda  and baking soda are different names for the same thing; in Australia, we mostly refer to it as bicarbonate of soda, but in other parts of the world it is commonly referred to as baking soda. 

Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)is a pure leavening agent. It needs to be mixed with moisture and an acidic ingredient for the necessary chemical reaction to take place to make food rise. Because it needs an acid to create the rising quality, it is often used in recipes where there is already an acidic ingredient present, such as lemon juice or buttermilk. 

Bicarbonate of soda  can have a slightly “tangy” taste and it makes a lovely golden colour. It also makes a very specific texture not achievable with baking powder. It is very important to sift bicarb of soda well as it can get lumpy - and to use very exact measures as the “tangy” taste can quite easily become bitter or soapy if you use too much of it in your recipe.  

Baking powder is a mixture - it contains bicarbonate of soda and comes pre-mixed with the acidic ingredient (often cream of tartar) for you. All you need to do is add is the moisture. 

Baking powder is easy to make: mix two parts cream of tartar with one part bicarbonate of soda (don't forget to sieve). Baking powder has a neutral taste and is often used in recipes that have other neutral-tasting ingredients, such as milk.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

So I'm buying a rice cooker....

And hopefully my rice will get that much better. So of course my interweb browser is full of this sort of thing at the moment:


The one thing that always irritates me about those Tuesday newspaper food supplements such as "Epicure" and "Taste" is the terrible un-originality of the scheduling. For example, the edition before Easter is always, always "the chocolate edition". The thing is: making more chocolate stuff at Easter. You've stuffed your face full of chocolate Easter eggs first thing; the last thing you want to do is eat some chocolate macarons, chocolate cake or whatever. And of course there is always a roast lamb recipe! 

We've already had the healthy new years recipes to support that resolution to lost 5 kilos; the valentines day couer de la creme and next we'll have "kids cooking" for Mothers Day. 

The edition before the football (whatever code your state follows) grand final is always "footy fever"! And the accompanying recipes are what I would term "bloke canapés". Tiny burgers. tiny sausages. cheesy dips. Sausage rolls. Some variation on hot dogs. It's pretty much a rehash on the Father's Day offerings. 

Maybe the problem isn't the newspaper supplements - maybe it is me? Perhaps I've read them for too many years, and perhaps they are more more suited to non-cooks? I don't know the answer. It's what is in-between those editions that is far more interesting. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sometimes I wonder... it is that time passes so damn quickly? A little while it seemed that there was all the time in the world, and now the time has passed and I'm back into the real world next week. Honestly, I can't wait!  I said to someone yesterday that I was probably ready to go back to work after the Christmas break had passed and that's the absolute truth. I live for (adult) social interaction, and I feel as though I've wasted all this time sitting at home. I feel refreshed and ready to go and like a whole new world is laid out in front of me. 

There is so much lovely backing to be done, I'm almost paralysed with too much choice. So I figure I'll start at ice-cream. If you follow me on twitter (hey, and if you don't follow me, get onto it, bitches...), you'll know that recently the lovely people at Minimax sent me a Cuisinart 2 litre ice cream maker and I've been experimenting with chocolates, raspberry and macadamia flavours so far..Also made a lovely lemon sorbet with some packet much from Woolworths just to see if it is worth it (it isn't, it tastes alright but the amount of preservatives is phenomenal..)

I feel like I've completely lost my photographic mojo so I'm working on that too. Why? Who knows. 

Anyhow, still going on the "proper" website, I need to faff around with the visuals for it. And get past my irritation at Firefox (Sitebuilder doesn't appear to like chrome) and just bloody well get on with it.

Made some lovely Honey Joys today - seriously love that it's such a simple little thing to do. I made a full lot and they seem to be disappearing very quickly. And I'm trying to find something to make for some International food thing we have at work soon - considering some sort of molé chicken just for the "wow!" factor but will probably be safe and do something sweet. Mexican wedding cookies? Key Lime pie? 

*sigh* getting off the computer and will go make a lemon tart. That lovely lemony yellow cheers me up no end!

Monday, February 4, 2013

What went wrong? Shrinking shortcrust

Q: One of my lovely readers has a question to ask to kick off this new "What went wrong" series. Pat emailed me with a question regarding her failed sour cream pastry; the pastry shrunk in the oven. Why does this happen, and how can she prevent it from happening in future?

A: So much can go wrong with shortcrust pastries! Pastry shrinks because the liquid component of the pastry (in this case, the sour cream, and the fat in the butter) evaporates as you bake it. Obviously, it is inevitable, but there are steps you can take to minimise shrinkage. 

1.  Firstly, don't overstretch the pastry when you are kneading it out/shaping your dough. Obviously, the thinner your pastry is, the higher the shrinkage.

2. Leave a bit of overhang on your pastry and then let it rest. This way, any shrinkage is accounted for (by the overhang), and the resting actually allows for any liquid to spread out in the pastry dough. This ensures a more consistent result at the end. 

3. Finally, bake with an overhang, and when it comes out of the oven and is still warm, cut the overhang off with a sharp knife. If you leave it till it is cold/use a blunt knife it will be flaky, obviously (being flaky pastry and all!) 

If you have any questions regarding something you've cooked and it didn't turn out how you were expecting - I can help! My science-y background means that I love working out the real reason behind a recipe failure - thus determining how to prevent it in future. Leave your question in the comments below (or tweet, or FB) and I'll do my best to work it out!