Monthly Archives: March 2019

“Jiggly” Japanese Cheesecake… Trial 1

I’ve been curious about this cheesecake for some time and finally got around to giving it a try.

“Jiggly” Japanese Cheesecake

Since some recipes called for as many as 8 yolks and 12 whites, which I didn’t want to commit to the recipe, I looked for one which seemed more restrained in its egg use, and didn’t give complicated baking instructions involving adjusting the temperature during baking.

As a final complication, I didn’t want to make a full sized recipe.

I don’t have the 7 or 8 inch diameter springform pan (mine is a 9 inch) called for, in the first place, and, secondly, a full sized cake is too much for a single person. Based on the recipe, I used, I guesstimated that a full recipe, would make about 4-6 cups of batter. So, I thought that the batter from a half recipe would distribute nicely among three or four one-cup ramekins with room for souffleing. I prepared four, to be safe, and added four inch tall parchment paper collars to accommodate the expected souffleing. (The collars didn’t turn out to be needed.) I filled each ramekin about three-quarters full and baked the ramekins in a water bath for 40 minutes, at 320 degrees Fahrenheit. A wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of a cheesecake came out clean, at this point. Even though the top was as pale as when I put the cheesecakes in the oven, I decided not to bake any further and shut off the oven, leaving the cheesecakes in the oven for another 30 minutes to cool and set fully.

ETA (03/30/19): Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before eating. The cold temperature sets the cream cheese and improves the flavor and texture. Store any remaining cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To freeze, wrap the cake tightly with plastic food wrap and then a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.

For aesthetics, I brushed some apricot glaze, made from stirring together 1 tbsp of apricot jam with 1 tbsp of warm water until smooth, over the top of the cheesecake.

I ate the first one warm because … well, I couldn’t wait until the next day to eat it cold.

Review: The recipe isn’t very challenging technique-wise, especially if you’ve ever made meringues or any cake involving folding flour etc into a fluffy egg white base to minimize deflating. It was very tasty warm, with just a bit of added sweetness from the glaze to contrast with the slight tang from the lemon juice and cream cheese. I liked the texture which was more similar to a moist pound cake than to a classic cheesecake.

NOTE: Refrigerating the cheesecake overnight transformed the cheesecake. It became more CHEESECAKEY and less ‘cakey’.

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Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 3 – Japanese Hamburger Steak (Hambagu)

The last post on the theme of easy Japanese dishes features a Japanese version of the classic Western hamburger, hambagu, or hamburger steak patty. I’m including a couple of miso soups, a vegetable side dish and some pudding (or purin, in Japanese) to finish things off.

The recipe for the hamburger comes from TabiEats and the result was meant to be used in a bento box. Instead, I used it as a topping for leftover Japanese mixed rice.

Hamburger Steak Mixed Rice Bowl

Hamburger Steak Patty – for 2 patties

100 gm /~1/4 pound ground beef or chicken
30-40 gm enoki mushroom base, shredded
1/8th finely diced onion (or 1 tsp fried onions)
1/4 tsp salt
few grinds of pepper

Ground beef and shredded enoki mushroom base

Mix all the hamburger patty ingredients together well. Shape into patty to get out the air. Divide into 2 and reshape into hamburger steak patty. Make a small depression in the center as the middle puffs up during frying. Pan fry over medium heat in 1 tsp vegetable oil for a few minutes on the first side and then turn and finish.

Since the burger on its own seemed a bit dry, I borrowed a recipe for a wine reduction hamburger steak sauce from Nami’s Just One Cookbook. Halve the ingredient amounts for the sauce, from the recipe below, if you’re only making two patties.

Hamburger Steak (Hambagu) – for 4 hamburger steak patties

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 hamburger patties, about 90 gm each
~1 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Sauce for the hamburger steak

3 tbsp red wine
3 tbsp water
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)

Heat a cast iron or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the hamburger patties and fry 3-4 minutes on the first side. Flip, and add a couple of teaspoons of red wine into the pan.

After you flip, pour 2-3 tsp red wine into the saucepan and then lower the heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minute, or until the inside of the patty is no longer pink. Take the lid off and increase the heat to medium-high to let the red wine cook off. When the pan is almost dry, remove the patties to a serving plate and reserve.

Combine the liquid sauce ingredients in a bowl. In the same pan in which you fried the hamburger patties, add the butter the and sauce ingredients and mix well. Lower the heat to medium low and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol. With a slotted spoon, remove any meat bits or scum from the sauce so it’s nice and smooth.

When the sauce has thickened to your liking, pour it over the hamburger steaks.

Serve with vegetable sides and rice.

Shira-ae is a tofu ‘dressing’ made of ground sesame seeds/tahini, miso and tofu and added to shredded vegetables.

I used it to dress some blanched broccoli florettes and served it with one of the hamburger patties and a bowl of miso soup.

Two kinds of white miso soup … egg drop/egg flower and tofu or a clear soup.

To finish up … dessert. Cause you ALWAYS need to finish up with something sweet. (Ok, I like cheese and fruit and nuts too but they weren’t in my budget nor did I know any savoury Japanese afters.)

Dessert was pudding, or purin, in Japanese. Both these desserts were made with the same vanilla bean custard mixture. For the flan/creme caramel, I made a hard caramel and poured it into the bottom of the large ramekins. The smaller ramekins were turned into creme brulee and bruleed under the broiler.

Vanilla Bean Flan/Creme Caramel and Creme Brulee


Lazy Weekend Plans … Saturday

I stayed up late last night reading the last J.D. Robb mystery I brought home from the library. Eve Dallas and Roarke are a pretty hot couple. Determination, brains and a kick-a&& attitude.

I had intended to run some errands today. Maybe pick up some carrots, onions and garlic from the grocery store, cause I’m out. Or go out to Bulk Barn and Canadian Tire and pick up some baking ingredients and a replacement spice and coffee grinder … then I didn’t.

Right now I’m watching TabiEats videos … the Food Hauls or tours of various areas of Japan or cooking traditional Japanese foods etc, always something interesting … while doing a load of laundry. Supper is going to be pizza (and possibly a focaccia) and a bowl of turkey noodle soup with some home made turkey stock and the last of the picked turkey meat from the freezer.

I keep putting off posting the last of the Easy Japanese themed installments I was planning. Because there are a couple of other dishes I want to throw on the post. I guess I really SHOULD just post what I’ve got and clear out my camera.

Here’s a picture of the bulbs peeking through the ground at the front of the house. It’s been a colder month than usual with temperatures yo-yoing up and down. I think the plants are confused.

Hokkaido Milk Bread with Tangzhong (Redux)

I haven’t made this delicious, fluffy bread in years.

And I DO mean, years.

This was my first attempt. And then I made it again.

It’s easy enough to make … except for the fact that you should really use a stand mixer to knead it for the 10-15 minutes needed to get it to the point where it passes the “windowpane test” and my inexpensive stand mixer travels across the counter, risking falling off, with the effort. Still, I decided to make it again, because I wanted to ‘sort of’ participate in a bread baking challenge on the Bread Baking FB group. I’ve actually made the recipe they used before, so I decided to try a slightly different recipe. That’s why it’s a ‘sort of’ participation.

The technique behind this bread is based on making a cooked ‘roux’ of flour and water which is incorporated into the bread dough. This roux is called a ‘tangzhong’.

Here’s a picture of the tangzhong … it’s glossy from the cooking process or ‘gelatinization’ of the flour and water.

The name refers to the milk or cream and milk powder used in the recipe. And Hokkaido … well, it seems that the milk produced in Hokkaido, the second largest prefecture, or district, in Japan, is something special. Incidentally, the capital of Hokkaido prefecture is Sapporo. Where that famous beer comes from.

I like Sapporo beer. A lot.

Anyway, this is the recipe I used. I was going to knead by hand, but after about five minutes, I dug out my stand mixer and let it do the job.

Shaping

 

Characteristically, three or four mini-loaves are shaped and baked together in the loaf pan. (I greased the loaf pan but it still stuck and tore one of the mini-loaves. Next time, I’m lining the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper.)

And the result.

Tearing the mini-loaves apart gives you an idea of the texture of the bread.

It’s a very tasty bread. Light and fluffy. A bit sweeter than I like, which I knew, but, rather than reducing the sugar, as I was tempted to, I stuck to the recipe. The bread is long gone, by the way.

I’m in the process of making the current “bi-weekly challenge” … an artisanal loaf using lager beer. Fortuitously, my brother brought over a 4-pack of Dos Equis Premium today/yesterday when he came to take me out for lunch. The challenge before this was a 2-hour no knead bread.

Here are a few pictures.

 

Kung Pao Pork (or Chicken)

Kung Pao chicken is a classic Szechuan dish, but I had a two pound piece of pork tenderloin in the freezer, that I wanted to use up, so I switched things up a bit. The other elements were still there including the hot chili and crunchy peanuts, even if I forgot to add the latter to the dish, until I was almost finished devouring my first bowl.

Kung Pao Pork – serves 2-3

1 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into bit sized pieces

Marinade Ingredients

1 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch

Sauce Ingredients

1/2 tbsp light soy sauce, or Kikkoman
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or cooking sherry
1/2 tbsp black vinegar or rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp water

From left to right: Shaoxing cooking wine, black/Chinkiang vinegar, Kikkoman soy sauce and dark soy sauce

Remaining Kung Pao Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 tbsp minced or grated ginger
1/2 tbsp minced or grated garlic
1-5 whole dried red chilis, with or without seeds depending on preference, broken into 1/2″ pieces*
1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2-4 tbsp dry roasted peanuts, unsalted

From top left, clockwise: dried chili, ground Szechuan peppercorns, onions/ginger/garlic, marinated pork cubes, and lo mein noodles (no egg, 3 minute cooking time)

* I used one chili, with seeds, and it was very bland.

1-2 stalks of green onions, thinly cut on the diagonal, for garnish

Marinate the pork: In a medium bowl, combine the pork, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Mix well and let the pork marinate, for 1 hour, in the fridge.

Making the Kung Pao sauce: In a small bowl, combine the light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, black vinegar, cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, and water. Stir to mix the ingredients. Set aside.

Cooking the pork: Heat up one tbsp of cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the marinated pork cubes and flash fry for 3-4 minutes or until the outside is lightly browned. With a perforated spoon transfer the pork cubes to a shallow bowl lined with paper towels to absorb the majority of oil. Retain the remaining oil in the wok as you’ll need it to fry the rest of the ingredients.

Cooking the other ingredients: Measure the oil remaining in the wok and if needed, add more oil to equal 1 tbsp. Place the wok back over medium-high heat and add the diced onion, bell peppers, zucchini (if using), ginger and garlic. (NOTE: I don’t have a kitchen fan so I didn’t flash fry the chili pieces and the peppercorns by themselves over high heat before adding the onions etc. Instead, I fried them briefly in the next step.)  Stir fry for about 5 minutes. The diced onions should be translucent and both they and the zucchini cubes should have browned a bit.

Push the vegetables to one side and add the chili pieces and ground Szechuan peppercorns. Fry for a minute or two just to toast the chili and peppercorns. Add the fried pork and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients to redistribute the cornstarch, which will have settled to the bottom, and pour over the meat and vegetables. Stir well to distribute the ingredients and continue to cook until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble a bit.

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with the sliced green onions sprinkled over the top as a garnish.

If desired, pour the kung pao over a bed of plain steamed rice or cooked noodles.

NOTE: I decided to use lo mein noodles as my starch. For serving, I tossed the noodles with the pork. It’s a fairly dry preparation.

Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli)

This delicious Italian soup is filling and usually inexpensive to cook up. The name says it all … “pasta and beans”. I used a copycat Olive Garden recipe that I found on line many years ago, and adjusted the recipe for ingredients and amounts that I liked and had available. I’ve re-posted the recipe below.

I was being stingy with the amount of cannellini (aka white kidney) beans I used in this soup, since they’re pretty pricey at my local Italian grocery store, but you can’t beat the delicious, creamy texture of the beans once cooked. I added about a third of a pound of light red kidney beans, that I already had in my pantry, to make up the difference. Unfortunately, they took longer to cook than the cannellini so the latter were pretty much falling apart at that point.

Oh well.

And then there’s the pasta. I used just a very small amount of tubetti which I cooked separately, just until they were “al dente” or with a bit of texture left, and then added them to the soup for the last five minutes or so to finish cooking.

You can add meat or leave it out. I had about two thirds of a pound of ground beef which, added to two/two and a half cups of cooked beans, was plenty.

Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli – makes ~4 quarts/16 cups, quantities of ingredients don’t need to be exact

1/2-1 tbsp vegetable oil, depending on how fatty your beef is
454 gm/ 1 lb lean ground beef
6 oz/ 1 cup onion, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup celery, small dice
7 oz/ 1 cup carrots, small dice
24 oz/3 cups canned tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans*
1 cup cooked white kidney beans*
5 cups beef stock (or chicken or vegetable stock or water)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
salt as needed, start with 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
24 oz/ 3 cups spaghetti sauce
4 oz/ 1/2 cup/113 gm small shell macaroni (or any other small pasta)

*  Or use 2 cups of whatever type of cooked beans you like

Saute ground beef in oil over medium/medium-high heat, in a large 5 qt pot until the beef starts to brown. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and saute for 5-7 minutes just until the onions get translucent and start to pick up some colour.

Drain and rinse the beans, if using canned, and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes and pasta. Taste and add salt as desired.

Add the chopped parsley and simmer until the celery and carrots are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

NOTE: Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom at least every 7-10 minutes as the ingredients, especially the beef, settle and may stick and burn. I threw in some frozen corn for the last 5 minutes for added colour. If the soup seems too thick before serving, add a bit of water. You may garnish the soup with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Other vegetable add-ins you can include: cubed zucchini, fresh, torn spinach, and frozen green peas.

Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 2 – Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi Gohan)

This Japanese mixed rice dish was inspired by a recipe posted on TabiEats. I had to make several changes since I didn’t have either the burdock root or any of the mushrooms they used. I transcribed the instructions from the video and rewrote them to make reproducing the recipe as simple as possible.

Japanese Mixed Rice (Takikomi Gohan) – serves 2

1 cup uncooked Japanese rice, washed and soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 cup cold water

Rice Seasonings

2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sake
1 tsp instant dashi powder

Rice add-ins/Toppings

1 1/2 inch piece carrot, cut into thin planks and halved
2 large white mushrooms, cleaned, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 large broccoli florette, cut into smaller pieces
nametake, to taste (I used about 2 tbsp, see recipe below)
40-80 gm firm tofu, drained and cubed

Other options for toppings

40 gm boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
40 gm beef, thinly sliced
canned tuna, drained
konnyaku/konjac, sliced and cubed
bamboo shoots, sliced and julienned
water chestnuts, sliced and jullienned
peas, edamame or french beans
sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

In a medium sized sauce pan, add the washed, drained rice and the soy sauce, sake and instant dashi powder. Stir well.

Top the rice with vegetables and other toppings. Do not stir.

Bring the water to a boil, cover turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 min. Turn the heat down to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the heat and let the rice and veggies steam for another 5-10 minutes. With a sushi rice paddle or large spoon fold to mix the toppings into the rice.

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, a bowl of soup and some pickled vegetables. Make onigiri with leftover mixed rice.

Nametake is a condiment of cooked, seasoned enoki mushrooms. It may be added to soups, rice or noodles as a topping. There are more elaborate recipes or preparations for making your own, but the one below is fast and tasty.

Nametake – makes about 1 cup

7 oz/200 gm enoki mushroom, cleaned
3 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce

Preparation of the enoki mushrooms

Trim off the brown ‘root’ end of the package of enoki mushrooms. There’s about an inch/an inch and a quarter of edible mushroom between the trimmed off portion and the white stalk portion of the enoki mushrooms that may be cut off and reserved, as it’s still edible. I’ll show you what you can do with it in the next post on this theme.

Cut the enoki mushrooms in two lengthwise, about 2 inches long (note: I forgot to do this but didn’t find it was an issue) and break up into smaller pieces. Rinse if needed and drain well.

Add the mushrooms to a saucepan along with the soy sauce and mirin. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms have picked up some of the colour of the soy sauce.

Transfer to a small jar and refrigerate. Use within a week or two.

Easy Japanese Dishes Pt. 1 – Easy Cheeseburger Ramen

For anyone wishing to try Japanese dishes, yet not fond of sushi, the recipe below is simple and requires few specialized ingredients. It is the first of two or three posts I will be making on this theme.

Dried ramen noodle soup packages may be used for more than just cheap university food. I found the recipe for this Cheeseburger ramen on the TabiEats YouTube channel. I made a couple of changes to their recipe, such as cutting the lettuce (romaine) into three-quarter inch strips, to make eating the lettuce easier. I also reduced the amount of the dried seasoning package used to 1/8-1/4 tsp. Using the full package is just excessive as no one needs that much salt and/or MSG in their diets.

Easy Cheeseburger Ramen – serves 1

3 lettuce leaves, iceberg or romaine, cut into 3/4 inch strips
2 slices cheddar cheese, sliced about 1/2 inch wide
150 gm ground meat (beef and pork mixture)
1 tsp vegetable oil, for frying the burger patty
1 pkg ramen noodles
small pickle, thinly sliced for garnish (optional)
ketchup and mustard, garnish

Add the sliced lettuce strips to a serving plate and reserve.

Shape the ground meat into a 3-4 inch diameter patty. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan and cook the patty over medium heat for 2-3 min on the first side. Turn the patty over and cook on the second side until no longer pink inside. Break the patty into six to eight pieces or wedges after a minute or so. It helps to cook the meat more quickly and you’ll be able to tell when the meat is done.

Bring 4 cup of water to the boil in a medium sized cooking pot. Cook the the ramen noodles as per package instructions. Set aside the seasoning package. Reduce the cooking time as you’ll be cooking the noodles further with the meat.

Drain the ramen noodles and add to the frying pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Toss the noodles with the meat to coat with the meat juices. Scatter the sliced cheese over the top and toss gently. Sprinkle about 1/8 tsp of the ramen seasoning packet contents over the noodles and meat. Mix well and taste. Add an additional 1/8 tsp if needed.

Turn the noodles and meat out over the lettuce lined plate.

Add the pickle slices over the top, if used. Garnish with ketchup and mustard and serve.

Note: You can make your own version of this dish using the pasta of your choice. Season with salt and pepper or Maggi seasoning sauce or bouillon/dry soup mix.

Orange Curd Sponge/Swiss Roll

I haven’t made a sponge or Swiss roll in ages but was recently inspired to recreate the lemon curd roll I saw posted on one of my FB groups.

I dug out the wonky old baking sheet that’s the perfect size for the recipe I wanted to use and the result, with minimal effort since I already had some home made orange curd in the fridge, was delicious. It’s actually easier to make this cake than you’d suspect.

From left to right: ready to combine the beaten egg whites with the egg yolk/flour mixture, the greased, parchment paper lined, greased and floured baking sheet and the cake, ready to bake.

After baking – the top of the cake, the bottom, and the rolled up cooled cake ready for filling.

Ready to re-roll and sprinkled with icing sugar before cutting.

Inside of the sponge roll … nice and light and fluffy

Here are some pictures of my previous efforts at a vanilla roll filled with sweetened whipped cream, cherry jam and drained, jarred sour cherries …

… and a cocoa roll filled with chocolate buttercream.