homemade boba pearls


This isn’t a recipe for making bubble or boba tea. What I want to do is to make the boba pearls from scratch. It seemed pretty straightforward: tapioca, water, and a bit of food coloring. I soon found that tapioca starch in Thailand is not the same thing as tapioca flour elsewhere. The recipes on the internet use the terms flour and starch interchangeably but this is wrong. Tapioca starch must be cooked in order for it to become a dough. The starch looks like cornstarch/cornflour and like cornstarch, it is used as a thickener. It is fine and silky but it does not absorb liquid. It clumps into fine grains when water is added but it doesn’t hold together. But heating the starch with water changes it into a dough. Then each boba must be hand-rolled, a labor-intensive endeavor. The added brown sugar provides a deep amber color and a slightly sweet flavor.

Homemade Brown Sugar Boba Pearls (adapted from 3thanwong)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups tapioca starch (not tapioca flour)

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Take it off the heat and add the brown sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Add the tapioca starch and mix it until no lumps remain. Return the pan to the stove over a low heat and cook the mixture, turning continuously to prevent the tapioca from sticking to the bottom and the sides of the pan. It’s best to use a non-stick pan for this. Cook until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth.

Using the same medium saucepan, heat 6 cups of water to boiling. Then reduce heat to simmer.

While the water is boiling, cut the dough ball in half, quarters, and eighths. Take one-eighth and set aside. The rest can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated until later. Roll one-eighth into a rope about 12 inches long. Fold it in half and cut it with a dough scraper. Roll each half into thinner ropes, about 1/4 inch in diameter. Using the dough scraper, cut each rope into small pieces. Then roll each piece into round balls. I found it easier to do this on the work surface. Repeat the process with another one-eighth of dough. And so on.

Return the simmering pot to a rolling boil over high heat and add the tapioca balls. Boil the pearls for 5 minutes on high heat then reduce the heat to medium. Cook the boba for 25 minutes or until the balls are translucent and chewy. They came out with a dark brown color without any food coloring at all. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pearls to a bowl of cool water. The pearls can be used right away. Put them in a glass of homemade iced tea, about 2 tablespoons per glass. One-eighth dough makes enough for two glasses. The boba can be stored in a covered container with honey and water or a simple syrup to prevent them from sticking and drying out.

Cook’s Note: Unused boba dough can be wrapped airtight in plastic and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before rolling and cutting.

banana avocado smoothie

banana avocado smoothie
Banana Avocado Smoothie
Is an avocado a vegetable or a fruit? According to Wiki.Answers, it’s got a large seed so it’s a fruit. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to fruits and vegetables in a meal, like avocados belong in a salad or a sandwich. But I’ve learned that I’ve been restricting how I use an avocado in my cooking. It is quite a versatile fruit, adding fat to cakes, for example in this avocado-polenta pound cake and this avocado marble cake. Now I’m trying it in this banana avocado smoothie for breakfast.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: none
Servings: 2

6 cubes ice
1 frozen ripe banana
1 small Haas avocado
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk (can use any flavor nut milk)
honey or agave nectar, to taste (can use stevia)

In a blender, crush the ice. Slice the frozen banana and add it to the blender. Scoop out the avocado flesh and discard the seed. Add the flesh to the blender along with the milk. Blend until smooth. Taste. If more sweetness is desired, add honey to taste.

Cook’s Note: Before freezing the banana, peel it and wrap it in waxed paper then put it in a zipper lock bag in the freezer.

homemade ginger ale

homemade ginger ale

Today was the first day of 2013 that I did not wear a coat outside! The temperature went up to 76 degrees. Summer comin’ fe true. So tonight for dinner I made homemade ginger ale to go with the pepperoni pan pizza I made almost-from scratch. I saved time by buying fresh pizza dough from Whole Foods today. The ginger ale recipe, which came from epicurious,  has the freshness and sharpness of ginger. It’s very refreshing and so easy to make.

Homemade Ginger Ale (from epicurious)

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Rest time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4-6

1 1/2 cups fresh ginger root
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
about 1 quart chilled unflavored club soda or seltzer

Peel the ginger root with a spoon. Slice it into rounds, cut each round into sticks, then dice the sticks. Put the diced ginger  a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups water. On a low simmer, cook the ginger and water for 45 minutes partially covered. I rested the lid on two wooden chopsticks. Remove the pan from heat. Cover the pot tightly and let the ginger and water steep for 20 minutes.

Pour the ginger and water through a sieve set over a large bowl. Using the back of a spoon, press the liquid out of the ginger. Discard the solids. Return the ginger liquid to the pot. Add the sugar and cook until all the sugar is dissolved, about 1-2 minutes. Cool the syrup then pour it into a glass jar and refrigerate.

When the syrup is chilled, get a tall drinking glass. In it, pour 1/4 cup syrup, 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, and 3/4 cup club soda/seltzer. Mix and add ice cubes. This makes one serving.

agua fresca: fruit-infused water

I wandered into the Home Goods on Columbus Avenue to get out of the rain on Sunday afternoon. I found this pitcher called a fruit-infuser. If you’ve ever had Hint water at Starbucks you’ll know what this is. Like everything at Starbucks, fruit-infused water is expensive. You could make your own espresso at home but part of the Starbucks experience is enjoying it at one of their tables. However, why would you pay for water? That’s why making your own fruit-infused water is not only fun, well, you’re saving money too!

The infuser pitcher comes with two tubes. One is filled with water then frozen and is used to chill the pitcher’s contents. The other tube is the one you see here. It has slits all over it. To try it out, I bought some strawberries (They were on sale 2/$5.00 too). I cut up the strawberries and put them in the tube. The tube goes in the pitcher then I filled it up with filtered water. Then I put the pitcher in the fridge and waited. I had to go on the internet to see how long it takes to infuse the fruit in the water. One website Bohemian Revolution, said two hours. After two hours, the drink was lightly flavored and barely colored. Delicious and refreshing poured over ice cubes. After six hours, the water had turned the color of rosé wine and the strawberry flavor was intense. So good.

fruit smoothie

It’s soo-oo hot that we need to cool down! This smoothie is thick enough to eat with a spoon. To suck up through a straw it can be thinned with milk or juice. It is so easy to make!


Serves two.

6 cubes of ice, crushed
1 cup plain or vanilla flavored lowfat yogurt or juice
1 frozen banana, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup each blueberries or strawberries
Juice or milk, as needed, to thin the mixture

In a blender, crush the ice. Add the yogurt or juice and blend well. Add the banana and process until smooth. Add berries and process until smooth. Add milk or juice and stir, pushing down the mixture.