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)
caramel syrup or sauce
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.
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.
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.
Figs are fully in season, so I made Ichijikuno Kanroni.
Ichijiku means ‘fig’ and its kanjispelling 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.
Being seasoned with some say sauce, it may taste a bit like mitarashi or daigaku imo.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The juicy, chewy and nicely sweet fig is scrumptious as it is, but really goes well with ice cream!
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.