Category Archives: dessert

Dango, Mochi and Mochiko Flour

I thought I had it straightened out in my head … dango were Japanese confections in which (sweet glutinous) rice flour was mixed with water (and some sugar), kneaded and shaped into balls, boiled, threaded onto skewers in 3-5 pieces, and basted with soy sauce or topped with sweet red bean (anko) paste, as in mitarashi dango. Grilling the balls before topping was advised to get the maximum flavour out of what can be relatively tasteless, chewy balls.

Chichi Dango

Of course, there were exceptions like in the tricolour hanami dango (pink, white and green), which are served without a sauce to allow the colours to shine. Although one can use food colouring to get the respective colours, for the pink colour, strawberries pureed with sugar and added to the dango mixture adds both flavour and colour, while for the green colour, matcha powder serves the same function.

For dango, one of two particular types of rice flour may be used, mochiko and shiratamako. One of the blogs I read suggested that the latter was preferred but, since I could only get the former, that’s what I used for my experiments.

Mochi was more confusing. I read that the difference between dango and mochi was that the latter was made with cooked sweet glutionous rice which was pounded to make the mochi base after which sugar was added for flavour.

And then I ran across several recipes in which mochiko flour was used, for convenience. Cooking style varied as well. I’ve seen the mochi ‘dough’ cooked in a pot on the stove and, my favourite, microwaved mochi. There are many delicious Japanese confections called mochi, including the most traditional one in which cooked mochi dough is wrapped around a ball of anko paste. Other delicious fillings include sesame paste and ground peanut paste (NOT peanut butter). For a very special mochi, called “strawberry daifuki”, a whole ripe strawberry is covered with a thin layer of the anko and then wrapped in the mochi dough. The most recent, and likely westernized variation, wraps frozen balls of ice cream in the cooked mochi dough. When mochi ice cream started appearing in my local grocery store, I knew I had to actually try to make one of these confections.

I started with the simplest version of dango I found, a Hawaiian variation called “chichi dango” which is served for celebrations. I used a recipe that I found on the Youtube channel TabiEats for the dough but cooked it in the microwave using the power/timing suggestion on another Youtube channel, emmymadeinjapan. One of the chichi dango recipes I researched substituted coconut milk for the whole milk for added flavour. As I had some in my freezer, and only 2% milk in the fridge, I thawed the coconut milk quickly and used it in my recipe.

In the first picture, the dango ‘dough’ is mixed and ready to microwave. In the 2nd, the dango after 2 minutes in the microwave

Cooked dango turned out onto the cornstarch and patted out into a rough square. Then, the dough was flipped over before cutting with a plastic dough scraper, a freebie from my recent banneton purchase..

My cutting needs some work … oh well, there were lots of irregular scraps for sampling

Cooking: The video said to cook the mochi dough at 600 watts for 2 minutes, then to stir, and cook for an additional 40 seconds. My microwave power output is 900 watts at 100% power so I calculated that I should use 70% power (100% x 600 W/ 900 W = 67%) to achieve the same result. I stirred and ‘tasted’ the dough after 2 minutes. The ‘grainy’ texture and consistency led me to cook the dough for another minute. Although the consistency was better, the dough still tasted grainy. I ended up cooking the dough for a total of 5 minutes, which was probably too long on reflection.

REVIEW: The cooled and cut slices of chichi dango were a bit rubbery in texture but quite tasty and not too sweet. The chalky taste of the starch was a bit off-putting at first, but after brushing most of it off, I made my way through about a third of the dango, starting with the trimmings. I hope to leave enough to allow my nephew to taste it when he comes over some time next week. But that may not happen.

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Craquelin Cream Puffs with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

The basic cream puff may be dressed up in many ways.

In this post, I used Chef John‘s recipe for ‘crack’ cream puffs in which a crunchy sugar cookie type topping is placed on a larger than usual cream puff before baking.  I also made the vanilla bean pastry cream to fill the puffs but skipped the chocolate base for the puffs because, unlike my friend Dolly, from the ‘koolkosherkitchen’, I’m not that big a chocolate fan.

Cream Puff with a Craquelin Topping – Taste tested the freshly baked cream puffs filled with French vanilla ice cream as I hadn’t made the pastry cream ahead of time and it took several hours to chill and set fully.

Vanilla bean pastry cream

Preparation … craquelin topping made and the template drawn on parchment paper as a guide for piping the cream puffs.

Cream puffs with their craquelin topping ‘lids’

Baked cream puffs … I normally make a dozen cream puffs with the same amount of choux pastry.

REVIEW: Well written cream puff recipe with very good results. I did have some size issues with the puffs which were almost twice as large as I usually make. I prefer nibbling on a couple of smaller puffs with some time between rather than having to eat one giant puff at one sitting. Also, the crunchy/cracky topping gets soggy on thawing if you need to freeze any leftover cream puffs.

As to the vanilla bean pastry cream recipe … it was an easy recipe and not overly sweet which was good, but, as with many pastry cream recipes, I didn’t find it firm enough for my taste.

Dorayaki (Japanese “Pancake” Sandwich)

Dorayaki is a delicious Japanese snack or confection which traditionally consists of a sweet red bean paste (anko) sandwiched between two ‘pancakes’. Slightly different versions of the recipe may be found on several blogs but this is the first one I ran across some time ago, on Nami’s “Just One Cookbook” site. It uses the Mochiko (sweet rice flour) that I mentioned in the previous post though I HAVE seen a recipe which used all purpose flour.

I made a half batch of the recipe, and, even though I forgot to add the water, which I figured out after the fourth pancake, I still ended up with some edible, though misshapen early results. The final six pancakes, after I added about half of the amount of water listed into the remaining batter, were perfect.

Dorayaki with Sweet Red Bean Paste

The pancakes are easy to make though you DO have to be careful about the cooking temperature (medium-low is definitely advised) since the sugar and honey can burn quite easily if you exceed the temperature suggested. Moderation in the amount of filling is also necessary. Too much and you won’t be able to shape the pancakes around it and gently ‘pinch’ the edges closed. I used a ‘coarse’ sweet bean paste with some bean pieces left in it to fill the pancakes. Definitely use the plastic wrap to help in the shaping.

  

I used red bean paste (purchased) for the filling, because I like the taste, but if you can’t get it or don’t like it, and want to try something else, a thick pastry cream, crunchy peanut butter and Nutella and very lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit are alternative fillings.

Newfoundland Jam Jams

This jam filled sandwich cookie is a copycat of a commercial cookie produced by the Purity Factories in Newfoundland. The same recipe is found on several web sites. The one I found first and used is here. Even though there’s no ginger used in the cookie dough, the finished cookie tastes similar to gingerbread cookies, probably due to the brown sugar and molasses.

I used some apricot jam inside the first tray I made.

For the second tray, I tried to emboss some cookie balls with a maple leaf. Sadly the design disappeared during the baking. They still tasted delicious.

The maple leaf ’embosser’ was lightly dipped in flour before being used. I found that I needed to refrigerate the dough balls before attempting to emboss because they softened quickly at room temperature and stuck to the embosser. I was quite happy as I placed the baking sheet into the oven.

Disappointing result … no design.

Review: Tasty and easy to make. If you don’t want to fiddle with a filling, you can just roll out and cut out the cookies. Or, shape the dough into one inch cookie balls and flatten with the tines of a fork before baking. You can also roll the cookie balls in sugar and use the base of a glass to flatten them.

Bread, Loco Moco, Tortillas and Ice Cream

PICSPAM WARNING

I’ve got a backlog of pictures that I wanted to share but couldn’t come up with a good way to tie these disparate items together, so I’m just going to lump them into one post, and let you sort them out.

Since I gave up buying bread at the grocery store, I have to restock whenever I run out of bread in my freezer. And, of course, pizzas are on the roster of regular meals at home or for work lunches.

Instead of making my usual two pizzas, I used half of the dough to make a foguasse, a sort of pull apart French bread. The shaping (leaf-like) is designed for easy tearing and sharing. Or you can just eat it all yourself dipped into a small bowl of herb, sea salt and freshly ground pepper infused extra virgin olive oil. I rolled it out a bit too thinly so by the time I slashed and opened up the dough, it got too thin in some areas. They got crispy rather than remaining puffy and being a sponge for the oil. But I dealt with the hardship.

I turned a small sweet potato, into a loaf of regular sandwich bread (700 gm of dough) and four small (60 gm, pre-bake weight) buns. Two of the buns were used for mini hamburger patties.

The hamburger patties for the buns were leftover from making loco moco. Loco moco is a Hawaiian dish consisting of a bed of hot steamed rice (long or short grain works) topped with a hamburger patty and beef/brown gravy. It is often topped with a fried egg, runny yolk preferred, and served with a side of pasta salad. Two slices of fried Spam may be served along side. I’ve made the classic burger loco moco and one featuring Spam served with eel sauce instead of the beef gravy in the past and it’s a delicious and easy meal to put together.

Loco Moco with hot sauce … runny yolk adds flavour to the rice along with the beef gravy

Flour Tortillas … a version with all purpose flour and masa harina

Chicken fajita with home made flour tortillas and Mexican rice

Top and bottom of tortilla

I wanted something sweet and had a bit of nostalgia for my mom’s favourite ice cream flavour. This was a boozier version than she ever tasted.

Rum and Raisin No Churn Ice Cream

Rum and Raisin No Churn Ice Cream – makes ~2 cups

1/3 cup raisins
2-3 tbsp dark rum
3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Soak raisins in rum for one hour or overnight. Drain off the excess rum and add the raisins to the condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the heavy cream in second large bowl. Fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk/raisin mixture. Pour into freezer container and freeze for at least 6 hrs or overnight.

Dreaming of Strawberries

A while ago, I went shopping and came home with a nice clamshell of strawberries. They were on my list. They were even on sale. Trouble, was, I had forgotten why I bought them. (I must learn to write these things down … somewhere.) So there I was, staring at these very perishable fresh fruit while the clock was counting down. I finally came up with few ideas.

I had a lone banana in the freezer so I made this Banana-Strawberry Smoothie. I’m sure I wrote down the recipe somewhere and when I find it, I’ll be sure to add it.

I know that I used a half a cup each of milk and orange juice, about a cup of washed and hulled strawberries, 2-3 tbsp plain Balkan yogurt and a tbsp of honey for sweetness. And, of course, one frozen banana broken into chunks so as not to strain my blender. An ounce of Cointreau may have found its way in there. Just sayin’.

After a bit of searching on line, I found a recipe for a barely cooked, strawberry sauce. and stirred some into a batch of mini Strawberry Cheesecakes. Less is more, as in many things, and I actually liked the marbled version of these minis better. Just a touch of concentrated flavour, and the visual was more striking.

Strawberry sauce for Cheesecake

2 pkgs (10 oz/283.5 gm each = 567 gm) sliced sweetened frozen strawberries, thawed and drained
1 tbsp corn starch

Place strawberries and corn starch in a blender. Cover and puree until smooth. Pour strawberry sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook and stir until the sauce is thick and shiny, about 2 minutes. Set aside 1/3 cup and cool. Cover and refrigerate the remaining sauce for serving.

For a fresh touch, I chopped up some fresh strawberries into small pieces and stirred them into the still warm sauce.

Strawberry sauce over French Vanilla ice cream or spooned over the mini Cheesecakes

I DID eat some plain. Oh, and I finally remembered why I bought the strawberries. I was going to make a vanilla sponge/Swiss roll and add diced strawberries and whipped cream as a filling. One day, it WILL happen.

“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’.

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


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.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

I decided to splurge on a pretty pink St. Valentine’s Day cake to brighten up an otherwise ho-hum occasion.

As you can tell, my cake decorating skills are at the novice level. (Is there something below that?) The cake was tasty though … I ate a third of it to confirm that fact.

Profile of the Pink Cherry Cake

Pink Cherry Cake – makes 2 mini cakes baked in 1 cup ramekins

Basic Vanilla Cake for Two recipe
pink gel food colouring
1 tsp Kirsch, substituted for the vanilla extract
2 tbsp finely minced red glace cherries, stirred into batter just before pouring into ramekins

Glace Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting – enough to frost 2 mini cakes including filling

2 oz/57 gm gm cream cheese, room temperature
1 oz/28 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp Kirsch

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Add the Kirsch and beat in briefly. Beat in the powdered sugar.

Spread/pipe the frosting over the cake.