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.
(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 (1⁄8 tsp) of sea salt
80 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
65 g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 190° C. Into a bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
(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)
Preheat oven to 180° C. Add chocolate in the warm wine to dissolve completely and set aside.
Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and allspice.
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.
Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, then stir in the wine mixture until evenly combined.
Spoon into a greased tin and bake for about 60-70 minutes or until a skewer poked in comes out clean.
Leave it stand for 10 minutes and turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
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.
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.
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!! )
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.
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 😀
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 😀
Also enjoyed Federrotter made from red grapes. I prefer weißer though.
It’s worth visiting Ahr for its beautiful red wines but also worthwhile for Federweißer/rotter in autumn 🙂
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’ !
(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)
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.
Preheat the oven to 170° C. Into a bowl, sift the flour and baking powder.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating well after each.
Fold in the flour mixture and ground almond gently until evenly combined.
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.
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.
Dust with the icing sugar to serve. Best eaten following day.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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 😀
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)
Preheat oven to 140° C.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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!