What is your favourite? – Pastel de Nata

As far as I can remember, I had 10 Pastel de Nata(s) during the trip:

Santo Antonio

Six in Lisbon, one each in Coimbra and Porto, one from a gift box and the last one served with an in-flight meal.

Nata and Hóstias Conventuais for breakfast @ Pastelaria Briosa, Coimbra

Somehow, I had none whilst in Lisbon 10 years ago, so I was going to try as many as possible.

And besides, I had planned to participate in a nata baking class in Porto, however, it was cancelled on the very day of the activity…. It was really disappointing and ruined a part of my trip…. What a shame!!

So I am writing about the pastries I had in Lisbon instead of the baking class. Those nata places are:

Pastelaria Batalha

 

Pastéis de Belém

 

Fábrica da Nata

 

Manteigaria

 

A Nata de Lisboa

custard filling @ A Nata de Lisboa

 

Pastelaria Santo António

 

My top three pastel de natas are…

 

  1.  A Nate de Lisboa
    This place may be less popular than others, but I liked theirs most. The crispy thin layers of the pastry case and the smooth and creamy custard are very harmonious. I loved the thinner flaky layers.
  2.  Manteigalia
    As good as A Nata de Lisboa’s, but the crust is thicker. If you prefer crunchy one, this would be for you. and the filling are well balanced.
  3. Pastéis de Belém
    Took it away and had on the following day, so it may not be fair to compare with others. Still very good even though it was not fresh.

Me personally, the rest were so-so or the crust and custard filling, which was too rich, didn’t go well together.

 

I had 10 pastel de natas, but not enough!!! I would have had more if I hadn’t had other eating projects!!  😀

What I regret most is that I missed Aloma’s. I was going to buy one at Lisbon Airport, unfortunately, however, I had to rush to the boarding gate….

Aloma

source: Aroma website

 

Have you tried pastel de nata in Portugal? What was your favourite? Let me know!

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Ichijiku no Kanroni Cake – Japanese Fig Compote Cake

 

The loaf cake baked with the Ichijiku no Kanroni, Japanese Fig Compote, is sooooo good.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni

 

The recipe was adapted from the Roasted Fig and Almond Cake.

 

 

Method – based on the Roasted Fig and Almond Cake:

  1. Omit the 12 figs, honey and icing sugar from the ingredients and skip Process 1.
  2. Add in 300 g ichijiku no kanroni (roughly chopped) after Process 4, and mix evenly.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake as instructed.

 

 

Cherry and Coconut Cake

On 29th of June 2018, Tokyo saw the earliest end to the rainy season on record. The official announced that it had come 22 days earlier than the average and lasted only 23 days although it normally does 40 – 45 days…. How could we survive in the heat for the next three months and avoid shortage of water?

The cherry season here is almost ending, sadly. I guess the shorter rainy season has hastened it! Fortunately, I could manage to complete the recipe in time. On the other hand, apricot one is unlikely to be successful…. Oh well, probably in the next year! Anyway, here is the cherry one. Hope you will like it.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 21 cm round cake tin )

 

100 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
80 g caster sugar
20 g coconut sugar
1 egg, whisked
50 g coconut cream  (I used 25.6% fat cream)
50 g Greek yoghurt
120 g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
50 g fine desiccated coconut
200 g cherries

 

 

Shortbread Sandwich Cake

 

 

The strawberry season here is almost over, which is a shame! As I did last year, I have been making the strawberry confiture hanging on until the last minute!

 

Scones with my strawberry confiture (posted in May 2017)

 

This year, I made shortbread which goes beautifully well with the confiture. I was not sure if it should be called ‘strawberry shortcake’ or ‘Victoria sandwich shortbread’ – it’s not raspberry jam though, so mixed them up: Shortbread Sandwich Cake.

 

 

Ingredients

(makes about 8 )

for the shortbread
180 g white rice flour, plus for dusting *
20 g ground almond
½ tbsp baking powder
60 g caster sugar (I used extra fine caster sugar)
⅛ tsp salt (I used finely powdered salt)
110 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 – 3 tbsp whole fat milk, to adjust
½ tsp vanilla extract

for the filling
strawberry confiture ** or jam

for the topping
fresh strawberries, hulled
double cream, whipped with sugar

*If you try Japanese rice flour, buy komeko or rice flour for baking, not joshinko, mochiko or shirotamako for sticky rice cake.

** Japanese strawberries are sweeter, which is the reason I made the fruit/sugar ratio 5:1. Add more sugar according to taste.

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking sheet.
  2. Sift the flour, ground almond, baking powder, sugar and salt together into a bowl. Put in the butter and rub in until smooth. Combine the 2 tbsp milk and vanilla extract, stir in the flour mixture, then together to form a dough.  Add more milk little by little as needed, but not sticky.
  3. Roll out to the thickness of 6 mm on a lightly floured surface, then stamp out using a 5 cm diameter round cutter. Carefully transfer using a serving knife or something to the baking tray and bake for about 8 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. When done, leave on the tray to cool completely.
  4. Sandwich the shortbread together with the confiture, and top with a strawberry and whipped cream.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Carrot Cupcakes

I’m in good health; however, I’m afraid I have taken too much gluten and sugar because of my baking experiments…. You know, I don’t want to throw them away…, so now I am trying to cut down on some.

 

 

Ingredients

(for about 10 servings/5 cm diameter cups)

[for the cake]
80 g white rice flour
30 g chickpea flour
20 g buckwheat flour
20 g ground almond
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
⅛ tsp gluten free bicarbonate of soda
a smidgen of salt (I used finely powdered salt)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ ground ginger powder
¼ tsp ground coriander powder
a pinch of clove

2 eggs
4 tbsp rice bran oil (or sunflower oil)
4 tbsp date syrup
4 tbsp maple syrup (I used Grade A: amber/rich flavour)
1 tbsp Cointreau
½ tsp vanilla extract

200 g coarsely grated carrot
40 g raisin, finely chopped
30 g walnut, chopped

[for the frosting]
140 g cream cheese
30 g sour cream
2 tbsp maple syrup
⅛ tsp vanilla extract
a little cinnamon
a little salt (possibly finely powdered salt)

[for the topping, optional]
chervil or chopped pistachio
candied orange peel or marmalade

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the oil, syrups, Cointreau and vanilla, and beat well. Spoon in the flour mixture, then stir in the carrot, raisins and walnuts. Mix until well combined.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases. Bake for 25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Sit at least 24 hours at room temperature but don’t let them dry.
  4. For the frosting,  beat the cheese, soured cream, syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until smooth, then chill until required. Spread the cream on top of the cakes with a cutlery knife or pipe swirls. Decorate with the orange and chervil or pistachio.

 

Lemon Scones

Still playing around with lemons….

 

Ingredients

80 g whole fat milk, luke warmed
60 g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

40 g caster sugar
grated zest 1 lemon

250 g plain flour
20 g wholemeal flour
strong white flour, a little for rolling out
3 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda

50 g salted butter, chilled and diced
20 g lard, chilled and diced

2 tbsp lemon jam (sugarless is preferable)
30 g candied lemon peel, finely chopped

50 g icing sugar
little lemon juice, freshly squeezed

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking sheet.
  2. Put the caster sugar in a small bowl  and work the lemon zest into the sugar with the back of a spoon until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
  3. Put the warmed milk, yoghurt and lemon juice into a jug and mix well. Set aside for a moment.
  4. Sift the flours, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl. Using fingertips, rub the butter and lard into the dry mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and spoon in the jam, peel and the two-thirds of the liquid. Combine quickly until a sticky dough forms with a flat-bladed knife, adding more liquid little by little as necessary. Don’t overwork or you will toughen the dough.
  6. Flour onto the work surface and tip the ball of dough out. Fold the dough 3-4 times until it’s a little smoother, then pat out to a 2.5 cm thickness and stamp out the scones using a cutter.
  7. Place the scones on the baking tray and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until well risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  8. Mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick but runny icing. Drizzle over the scones.

 

Lemon & Coconut Posset

It’s been a while since I last posted the recipe…. It’s been so hectic that no time to post here. Besides, I have been in a kind of the winter blues – probably because Tokyo experienced the coldest winter in 40 years – and weary to complete my cooking/baking experiments. However, Sakura, or cherry blossoms here came out earlier than usual  and it’s high to wake up from hibernation. Sorry guys, I will catch up with your blog posts soon!

Sakura in bloom – nearby cherry blossom viewing spot
different variety of Sakura

The UK switched to the summer time earlier today,  and what I am posting here is a chilled dessert recipe developed from English lemon posset which is perfect for spring and summer days.

Ingredients

(for 4  servings)

400 ml coconut cream (I used 25.6% fat cream)
200 ml water
80 g caster sugar
agar-agar powder*
2 grated lemon zest
80 ml lemon juice (about 2 lemons), freshly squeezed
2 cardamom pods, crushed
fresh mint leaves (optional)

*Adjust according to the package instructions. I made it softer like thick yoghurt.

Method

  1. Put 10 g sugar in a small bowl  and work the lemon zest into the sugar with the back of a spoon until the sugar is moist and fragrant. In another bowl, mix the agar-agar and the rest of sugar. Set aside.
  2.  Pour the coconut cream with the water in a pan, add cardamom and gently heat. Scatter in the agar-agar mixture a little at a time stirring continuously and bring slowly to the boil. Add the lemon infused sugar and simmer for 1-2 minutes mixing well. Just before taking off the heat, add the lemon juice and whisk well.
  3. Remove the cardamom and pour into ramekins of the sort and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
  4. Garnish with mint leaves when serve.
Ghraiba baked with a recipe I found on the web (click here for the recipe)

Posset is usually served with shortbread or biscuits, so I baked Ghraiba, Tunisian chickpea biscuits to accompany.

Kabocha & Caramel Biscuit Cheesecake

 

Just yum… 💛

 

 

Ingredients

(for 18 cm cake tin)

150 g Belgian caramel biscuits, bashed to crumbs*
40 g salted butter, melted

200 g cream cheese, at room temperature
50 g maple sugar
10 g coconut sugar
100 g soured cream
100 g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground clove
1 egg, lightly whisked **
1 egg yolk
150 g mashed kabocha ***

(optional for garnish)
whipped cream
caramel syrup or sauce

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 240°C.  Grease a loose-bottomed or springform round tin or line with a baking parchment. For the crust, mix the biscuit crumbs and melted butter until evenly moist, then press into the bottom of the tin. Set aside.
  2. To make the filling, cream the cheese in a bowl, put in the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the soured cream, yoghurt, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon and clove mixing well between each addition. Beat in the eggs one at a time rather than whisk not to incorporate too much air as this will affect the smooth surface of the cake. Finally, add the mashed kabocha, blend well and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the batter over the crust in the tin.
  3. Bake for 5 mins (Do not open during this period!), then turn down the oven to 100°C, bake further for 40-50 mins****.  Turn off and leave the cake inside to cool down slowly. When cool, chill in refrigerator overnight.

Notes
*       Belgian caramel biscuits such as Lotus Biscoff
**     Just stir white and yolk not to aerate.
***   Ideally Kuri Kabocha.  Steam or microwave, remove green skins and mash well.
**** If not sure, measure the temperature of the cake an inch from the edge, turn off when it reaches 75°C.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni – Japanese Fig Compote

 

Figs are fully in season, so I made Ichijiku no Kanroni.

 

 

Ichijiku means ‘fig’ and its kanji spelling is 無花果, which denotes a plant that bears fruit without flowering: 無=naught,  花=flower, 果=fruit.

Kanroni is a cooking method or type of dish, and it spells as 甘露煮: 甘=sweet, 露=dew, 煮=simmering /simmered. The ingredients stewed in sweet sauce or syrup are not necessary to be fruit, and fish like sardine, smelt etc. are also common for kanroni served as an appetiser or a side dish.

For kanroni, green, firm and less sweet ones like White Genoa or Kadota varieties are preferable, and they need to be just before fully ripe and not splitting open.

 

left: White Genoa for kanroni / right: Horaishi to eat raw or for jam

 

Being seasoned with some say sauce, it may taste a bit like mitarashi or daigaku imo.

 

my daigak imo, Japanese caramelised sweet potato (click here for the recipe)

 

Ingredients

1 kg fig,  green, firm and less sweet such as White Genoa or Kadota (just before fully ripe and not splitting open)
200 g caster sugar
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp koikuchi shoyu (dark Japanese soy sauce, not tamari)

 

 

Method

  1. Wash the figs and remove the stems. Put the figs in a large pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to the boil over medium heat. When boiled, take out the figs and drain off the water.
  2. Pour the sake in the pot, place the figs and sprinkle over ¹⁄3 of the sugar. Cover with an aluminum foil or baking parchment lid (on top of the figs so as to circulate heat and the liquid), then bring to simmer over low heat for about 60 minutes. While simmering, do not stir but shake the pan occasionally, so it will not burn to the bottom.
  3. Add another ¹⁄3 of the sugar, and the rest after 60 minutes. Continue simmering for 30 minutes, stir in the soy sauce and honey, and simmer for further 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for overnight.
  4. Bring back to simmer for 15 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. It can be store at room temperature for a week or so unless in hot weather, but keep in refrigerator for longer storage up to 3 weeks.

 

Ichijiku no Kanroni with Yukimi Daifuku, mochi icecream

 

The juicy, chewy and nicely sweet fig is scrumptious as it is, but really goes well with ice cream!

 

 

Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins

 

Sadly, the strawberry season has been over here… but I have been playing around with  my strawberry confiture – scones, Victoria sponge, strawberry choc brownies etc. Today, I am posting the best result from those experiments I have made so far: Strawberry & Cream Polenta Muffins.

 

 

Ingredients

(makes 6 jumbo muffins)

130 g plain flour
60 g polenta or cornmeal
10 g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
a dash (18 tsp) of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
70 ml whipping cream (heavy cream, fat 35%), whipped
120 g strawberry confiture

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190° C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each, then add the vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in half of the flour mixture, the whipped cream and finally the rest of the flours gently until evenly combined. Add the confiture, stirring just to roughly mix.
  4. Spoon the batter into a greased or lined muffin tin. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180° C and bake for about 15 minutes more or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

Wagashi of the Month: Minazuki

Here comes June again –  the month of Minazuki, June in the lunar calendar, and the month for Minazuki, a confection. One of my colleagues brought the latter Minazuki from Gionmanju in Kyoto for me, so once again I am posting this Wagashi.

 

Wagashi of the Month: June last year

 

Kyoto Trip in Minazuki Day 1  from my post last year:

 

Kyoto Trip in Minazuki Day 2 and Minazuki sweets from my post last year:

 

 

Strawberry Confiture

 

Here in Japan, the strawberry season is coming towards the end 😦

 

 

So I have been cooking strawberries almost every night 😀
This strawberry confiture tastes sooooo good that I’m going to make it until the last minute!!

 

Ingredients

(makes about 280 – 300 g)

500 g ripe strawberry,  hulled and large ones halved
100 g golden caster sugar
juice of ½ – 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

 

Perfect with vanilla ice cream!

Method

  1. Put the strawberries into a non-reactive pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Simmer on lower heat , stirring from time to time and skimming off scum.
  2. Roughly mash the berries with a wooden spoon or fork, and leave to simmer until thickened. In all, it will take about 45 – 60 minutes to make.
  3. Cool completely. Keep refrigerated and finish in 1 week. (Alternatively, bottle or freeze)

 

Sunday cream tea 🙂

 

I shall post a baking recipe with this strawberry confiture.

 

 

 

Bubur Cha Cha

Burbu Cha Cha is a coconut milk based dessert from Malaysia or Singapore. Usually cooked with yam, taro, sweet potatoes, black eyed beans, pandan leaf etc., but I made it simpler with just sweet potato, banana and tapioca.

 

 

Ingredients

(for 2-3 servings)

800-1000 ml water
35 g tapioca pearls

500 ml water
1 tbsp salt

450 ml water
240 g sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
110 g coconut cream (thicker and richer than coconut milk)
½ tsp coconut sugar
2-2½ tsp caster sugar (to adjust)
½ banana, cut into small pieces
(optional: fresh mint)

 

 

Method

  1. Pour the 800-1000 ml water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add in the tapioca and simmer over low heat for 1-1.5 hours or until transparent, stirring occasionally. Rinse in running water and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, leave the sweet potato pieces in 500 ml water with salt for about 1 hour and drain. Put the potato chunks in a pan with 450 ml water and bring to the boil. Cook on medium heat until tender.
  3. Reduce to low heat, add the sugars, ladle in the coconut cream and simmer for about a few minutes. Add in the tapioca and banana, then cook for further 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more caster sugar if needed. Serve hot. Or let it cool and chill in fridge to serve cold.

NOTE: Change water before adding coconut cream if use purple sweet potato.

 

Rotweinkuchen – Red Wine Cake and Ahr

 Actually, I was not planning to post the recipe in December, but the result has come out satisfactory just before the festive season! The flavour is wintry and Christmassy – wine and spices –  so you might want to try this Rotweinkuchen out for the upcoming holidays. Or maybe with an unfinished bottle of wine from the feast.

As for the wine, it doesn’t need to be expensive or high quality, but full bodied dry red wine should be used for the cake.  So far, I have tried two varieties: Spätburgunder (German Pinot Noir) and Zinfandel. I chose wine with slightly smoky, spicy and cocoa flavours, and that goes well with chocolate. I used:

  • 140 Jahre Spätburgunder trocken (2013) – Winzergenossenschaft Mayschoß-Altenahr
  • Napa Valley Zinfandel (2013) – Napa Cellars

The Napa Zinfandel matched with cocoa/chocolate so well that aroma of spices had been drowned out, so I added ½ tsp allspice more, i.e. 1 tsp allspice for the Zinfandel and ½ for the Spätburgunder cake.

The cakes baked with the each wine properly stored for a few days after opening taste better than with those two right after being opened.


updated 17/2/2017
For the people who prefer less sweet cake with very dry wine:

  • from Mendoza, Algentina
    Amancaya  Gran Reserva (2013) – Domaines Barons de Rothchild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena (alc. 14.5%, Malbec 60-70% Cabernet Sauvignon 30-40%)
  • from Puglia, Italy
    Chocolate Tube (2015) – Mare Magnum ( alc. 14.5%, Primitivo 100%)

If obtainable, do use Alter Eco’s Nor Intense chocolate. My brownies baked with this choc are divine 🙂 , and it turned out be perfect for the Rotweinkuchen as well!!

source: Alter Eco website

Ingredients

(for 16 cm Gugelhupf tin)

110 ml full-bodied red wine (I tried Spätburgunder / Zinfandel), warmed
40 g sugar free dark chocolate (I used cacao 60 %), grated
150 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ – 1 tsp allspice, to adjust
150 g butter, softened at room temperature
150 g caster sugar
2 egg, whisked
icing sugar, to decorate
(optional: whipped cream)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
  2. Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
  6. Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  7. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Tastes better the next day or two than when freshly baked but store properly to keep the cake moist.

 


Some of you may already know, but I am into German wine, especially Ahr red wine. And again, I made a visit to the wine region this September, during the harvest season.

Ahrweiler Markt
@Ahrweiler Markt

It was a bit early for the beautiful ‘Golden October’, but the leaves in the mountains and the vineyards had started turning yellow and brown.

Ahrweiler Markt from vineyards
The harvest of Frühburgunder, ‘pinot madeleine’ or ‘pinot noir précoce’ in French, had been done a week before my arrival and the vintners were about to move on to Spätburgunder. Frühburgunder is a mutation of Spätburgunder, and ripens approximately two weeks earlier than Spätburgunder. (früh = early, spät = late)

This year I enjoyed a different weinfest: Dernau Winzerfest, or Dernau Vintners Festival. It is one of the biggest wine festivals in Ahr, so tons of tourists got together in and around Dernau, which caused not only traffic (hikers) jams on the Rotweinwanderweg but also train delays! (What was worse, there were construction work on tracks and a fire somewhere on a track or at a station, which caused more delays, train cancellations, destination changes etc… and I almost missed my flight back to Tokyo!! )

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

I didn’t see such a number of people last August – pretty amazing – and I found that “most of Ahr wine is consumed locally and by the tourists” is completely true.

source: Rotweinwanderweg Facebook page

Do you remember that my previous visit was too early for Federweißer and Zwiebelkuchen (Zwiebelkuchen posted in September 2015)? Rotwein the Foodie never forgot about it 😀

Weingut Peter Kriechel’s Federweißer and takeaway Zwiebelkuchen

Bought a 1.0 litre bottle of Federweißer and enjoyed it with Zwiebelkuchen, onion tart  and Käsekuchen, cheesecake, which matched really well! Federweißer is sweet and low alcohol drink (about 8%) and tastes like juice, so I could manage to finish the bottle in 3 – 4 days! Sometimes I sipped it in the morning before going out 😀

Zwiebelkuchen mit Federweißer @ Hof Bärenbach in Rech

Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.

Federrotter @ Weingut Peter Kriechel’s wine station on the Rotweinwanderweg

It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂

Roasted Fig and Almond Cake

I grabbed a bag when I came across fresh figs at a farmers’ market last week. I was hoping to bake an almond cake with the fruit one more time so that I could complete and confirm a recipe, but it’s late autumn already….

How lucky of me!! I thought the fig season had been over, and I had given up the attempt. Actually, the farmer did think so, too, but the fruit ripened somehow in late November. So they were the very last harvest!

The recipe is originally from All-in-one Rhubarb and Almond Cake, which is a nice one and I have tried several times with rhubarb. For the fig version, I altered it to make the cake more moist and flavourful: added roasted figs with honey and some more ground almond, and changed the procedure a bit.

The previous result was unexpectedly good (soooo good!) and a friend of mine loved it so much – far more than the rhubarb cake, which was tasty as well. I was not sure what made it so different other than the roasted figs. Well, the truth is… somehow, this absent-minded had added twice as much ground almond as the original quantity by mistake!! And that is the reason I needed one more experiment! 😀

Enjoy my ‘unexpected success born out of failure’ !

 

 

Ingredients

(for 18 cm cake tin)

12 figs, halved lengthways
1-2 tbsp honey (I used orange blossom honey)
125 g butter, softened at room temperature
125 g caster sugar
2 eggs, whisked
150 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g ground almond
(optional: icing sugar)

 

cake-5

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200° C. Sit the figs cut side up on a roasting tray. Drizzle with the honey and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove the juice and cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170° C. Into a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating well after each.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture and ground almond gently until evenly combined.
  5. Spoon half the mixture into a lined cake tin. Arrange the roasted figs over the cake base, then drop the rest of the mixture over spoonfuls, leaving gaps.
  6. Bake for 60 – 75 minutes or until well risen, golden and a skewer poked in comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool.
  7. Dust with the icing sugar to serve. Best eaten following day.

 

 

 

Wagashi of the Month: November

As autumn deepens and it gets cooler, leaves change colour into bright red and yellow.

Wagashi of the Month in November is fallen Momiji, or Japanese maple leaves on the bottom of river.

 

Autumn colour from my album:

Day Trip to Hakone – Nov. 2011
Lake Ashinoko, Hakone – Nov. 2011
Tokyo in late autumn, 2014

I’ll add some more photos from a local autumn festival last month.

There are countless local festivals (Matsuri) in Japan because almost every shrine celebrates one of its own. Most festivals are held annually and celebrate the shrine’s deity or a seasonal or historical event. Some festival are held over several days.

An important element of Japanese festivals are processions, in which the local shrine’s Kami (Shinto deity) is carried through the town in Mikoshi (palanquins). It is the only time of the year when the Kami leaves the shrine to be carried around town.

(source: japan-guide.com)

 

Mikoshi

 

Chickpea & Almond Biscuits and Sicily

I’m a big fan of pistachio, but I don’t mean any. I fell in love with Sicilian pistachio when I travelled to the island for the first time in 2012. Pistachio gelato, biscuit, cake, pistachio cream filled pastry, etc…. I cannot help trying whenever in the island, and bringing back as many the nuts and the products as possible!

pistachio colomba (dove shaped) Easter cake
Sicilian Pecorino cheese with pistachio
shelled pistachios, ground pistachio, pistachio flour, pistachio cream, pistachio trone

Above all, the nuts from Bronte, a small town on the west flank of the active volcano Mt Etna, is the best. Bronte pistachio, so called ‘green gold of Sicily’ or ’emerald of Sicily’, is characterised by its bright green colour and its marked aroma and flavour. Once I baked a loaf with Bronte pistachios and the flour along with some lemons from my parents’ garden, which was absolutely beautiful!

My baking – ‘Pistachio & Lemon Loaf Cake’ – recipe from the Little Loaf

As for crema di pistacchio, or pistachio cream, I was no idea how to use it other than top over vanilla ice cream or spread on pieces of bread, pancakes etc. It could be used for cake filling, but one jar was insufficient in quantity…. The breakfast I was served at a B&B in Enna this March, however, gave me an idea: chickpea flour biscuit with pistachio cream filling.

Sicilian ‘sweet’ breakfast @ Bianko & Bianko (first stay)
chickpea flour biscuits with pistachio cream filling – so good!

And also, a recipe booklet the host gave me two years earlier inspired me. The booklet is a collection of sweets recipes for religious festivities around Enna, and a lovely handmade piece!

the recipe booklet
Homemade Pan di Spagna “Affuca Parrinu” – made from only eggs, sugar and starch and baked in the mold on the far left. Very light and fluffy! @ Bianko & Bianko (second stay) – the recipe is in the booklet

I added ground almond to make it more Sicilian – like pasticcini di mandorle, Sicilian almond dough biscuit, which is crispy and slightly chewy, but soft and moist inside. The first experiment turned out to be perfect except that the dough was dry and not sticky enough to wrap the cream up. Of course, it’s totally gluten free!!  I wanted to follow the traditional Sicilian style and keep ingredients simple, so I made it ‘pinwheel’ as the solution!

another sweet breakfast at Monastero Santo Spirito in Agrigento – stayed a night at the convent and enjoyed nuns’ homemade almond biscuits!

Oh, I need to mention the black spiral one with sweetened black sesame paste. The dough was going to go with only pistachio cream at first, but the experiment with black sesame paste unexpectedly resulted in a good outcome! As I didn’t have sufficient cream, I attempted with several substitutes: peanut cream or paste (but not butter) was also nice, but chestnut cream wasn’t at all. I guess hazelnut cream would work.

To be honest, however, the pistachio cream ones are not photogenic at all – the colour becomes dull when together with the dough, so this is the main reason I added black spirals 😀

Ingredients

100 g chickpea flour
100 g ground almond/almond meal
80 g caster sugar
80 g lard or shortening (trans free palm shortening)
40g whisked egg
100 g pistachio cream (or sweetened black sesame/peanut paste as such but not runny)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 140° C.
  2. In a bowl, cream the lard or shortening and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the whisked egg a third at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and almonds until evenly combined. Divide half.
  3. Using your hands, spread half of the dough evenly on a sheet of waxed or baking parchment paper (20 cm x 20 cm square). Trim the edges. Spread half of the cream or the paste over the dough.
  4. Lift the end of the sheet, and roll up using the sheet like a sushi roll but pressing tightly. Wrap with the sheet when it comes to the end. Repeat with the remaining. Refrigerate the two rolls for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from refrigerator and unwrap, then cut into 1.5 cm slices. Put the slices apart on greased baking sheet. Bake at 140° C for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely.

note: If the baking time is not enough, the chickpea dough tastes a little bit grassy. If longer, they turn to crispy like ordinary biscuits. This baking might be a bit tricky. Please adjust the temperature and time.


MUST SHOPS in PALERMO

If you’d like to purchase Sicilian coffee, then go to Ideal Caffè Stagnitta, a roasting company, just off Plazzo Pretorio. Cannot find the way? No worries, the beautiful roasting aroma will lead you to the place. You can also try a cup first at its cafe, Casa Stagnitta adjacent to the shop.

source: Stagnitta Facebook

Orland, which I mentioned on my Lemon Spaghetti post, is a good place to buy Bronte pistachios, but I found a new one near Teatro Massiomo. Genuino is a fantastic deli with good quality Sicilian food products, and Enrico will give you a warm welcome when you step into the shop. I recommend the foodstuff from his village: olives, cheeses, cured sausages, breads, sweets, nuts etc. The olives I tried were larger than normal ones, and more plump and juicy!
 
I don’t remember the name, but the cheese Enrico’s friend makes – he said it ‘invented’ – was superb! You must try it!!

 

Aperitivo (source: Genuino Facebook)

 

MUST STAY in ENNA

Bianko & Bianko bed and breakfast
First stay in 2013 on the way to Villa Romana del Casale
Second stay in 2016 to see the processions on Holy Monday

My first stay at Bianko & Bianko was so pleasant that I went back again. The host helped me a lot to plan the visit during the Holy Week – sent me the programme of the processions with useful tips. Her restaurant recommendations are always superb!

MUST STAY in AGRIGENTO

B&B Monastero Santo Spirito
Worth a stay for the church interior and the breakfast.

source: Monastero Santo Spirito website
source: Tripadvisor

Wagashi of the Month: September

‘Moon Rabbit’ and ‘Chrysanthemum’ for September

Of all the year’s 12 full moons, the harvest moon in autumn is considered to be the most beautiful here in Japan. There is a moon viewing custom to admire the beauty at the night on 15th August in the lunar calendar, which falls on 15th of September this year. The night is called Jugoya, the night of 15th, and it is said that the moon at Jugoya is the brightest, most beautiful and most sublime of the year although the moon is not always full.

Tsuki Usagi, Moon Rabbit

Why rabbit?

The moon rabbit in folklore is a rabbit that lives on the moon. … The story exists in many cultures, prominently in East Asian folklore and Aztec mythology. In East Asia, it is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the mortar differ among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean folklore. In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang’e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her; but in Japanese and Korean versions, it is pounding the ingredients for rice cake. (source: wikipedia)

On the surface of the moon, Japanese people see not ‘a man in the moon’ but a rabbit pounding Mochi, rice cake.

Mochitsuki – pounding rice cake

Click for more about Tsukimi, moon viewing.

sugar candies: full moon, mountains, Chinese bellflowers, rabbits
full moon and rabbits

 

Another one is Kiku, or chrysanthemum, which symbolises autumn.

Kiku, chrysanthemum

 

Kiku is a symbol of Japan itself as well as Sakura, cherry blossom. I should have put a sword next to the chrysanthemum?

 

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