Posts Tagged With: baking

Baking Marathon With Tomomi

Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with my generation. We are terrifyingly obsessed with our technology (yes I am one of those people who checks my Facebook multiple times a day, I confess! Guilty as charged!), and yet it’s like the wild wild west with zero etiquette or common curtesy!

If there is one major pet-peeve I have, it’s when a friend expresses interest in doing something, so we agree on a day, I schedule it into my calendar, and then when I text them just a few days later to confirm the specifics (like oooh time, or location)…..radio silence.  If I text someone in the morning the day we are supposed to meet, and just never hear back from them period, whether it’s to confirm, to cancel, or the next day to apologize, I feel a bit like Godzilla ready to rampage Fukui and stomp on things.

The only thing worse…when I text an entire group of people, and not a single one has the common decency to reply. RAWWWWWR!

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Maybe Calvin was onto something here…excellent anger therapy!

Luckily for me I have my friend Tomomi.  Tomomi understands how frustrating dealing with other ALTs can be and has always known how to cheer me up when I’m having trouble coping with their flakiness. One of Tomomi’s finest qualities, and one of the reasons we are both such good friends, is that we understand the importance of commitments. I can always rely on her, and that’s something invaluable in a friend in my opinion. I don’t know what I’d do without her!

So Sunday we decided to have a baking marathon and challenge ourselves by making some difficult recipes! We’re both very skilled cooks and bakers, so every now and then it’s fun to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and it’s less stressful trying complicated recipes when you have a partner with baking skills you can trust.

Our last month together is precious, and I want to see her as much as possible before I leave.  We made not only delicious desserts yesterday but special memories that I’ll have forever. Talk about a great way to spend a day!

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 9.33.14 AMOur first challenge was a pie. I was determined to learn how to replicate Tomomi’s incredibly fluffy and flaky pie crust.  One of the best things about this recipe, is that just like my Grandmother’s recipe, it contains no shortening; just good ol’ natural butter.

Tomomi’s pie crust is pretty darn simple as far as ingredients go, just flour, butter, and ice water. The real trick though is in the technique of mixing them together. The secret to making flaky pastry is cold butter and never-ever over-kneading the dough. Always work with the pastry when it’s cool and firm to the touch. That means often having to pop it back into the fridge for a bit, which is a pain, but so very much worth the extra time.

Next we made the filling, which was 2 bags of frozen mixed berries (because fresh berries in Japan cost a small fortune), a pinch of brown sugar, a spoonful of honey, and sprinkling of corn starch. Easy-peasy! Because the berries would release a lot of juice we opted for a lattice-style pie top and got to town making it look gorgeous! What do you think? Pretty snazzy looking eh?IMG_3949 IMG_3958

We were both very pleased with the end result! I hate to torment you any more, but let me just say that is was so good my tastebuds felt like fireworks!

Our next dessert challenge was inspired by my recent wanderlust obsession with the Amalfi Coast. I went to Cinque Terre and Sorrento 4 years ago and adored it. I want very desperately to go back to that magical place, full of colourful houses, kind people and the smell of lemons and the sea lingering in the air….
amalfi coast2Tomomi has been attempting to master the art of chiffon cake making lately, so we decided to try making a lemon chiffon cake. One of the best things to eat in the Amalfi Coast area is lemon desserts, they’ll blow you away!  There’s nothing quite as summery as a little fluffy lemon cake in my opinion, unless it’s pie and we had already made that!

Getting a chiffon cake out of the pan not looking butchered is tough. It takes surgeon hands and nerves of steal, it’s the equivalent of a baking surgery. I chickened out, and let Tomomi do this part because I couldn’t bear the idea of ruining the beauty of our masterpiece.

Tell me that isn’t the fluffiest-looking chiffon cake you ever saw!? Tomomi did a wonderful job, and I thought it looked beautiful! 
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We then drizzled lemon chocolate all over the top and spooned a dollop of homemade lemon jam on each slice. It was like eating a zingy lemon-flavoured cloud. Mmmmmm….

Like the pie crust, Tomomi’s recipe for chiffon cake is very natural. Just eggs (lots and lots of eggs!), flour, sugar, a drizzle of sesame oil, plus lemon juice and zest to add flavour. The secret to success is folding the merengue in oh-so tenderly and softly. You want to mix that merengue in, but you still want fluffy streaks of it throughout the batter. If not, the cake won’t be like eating a cloud.

We drank tea and chatted until it was time her her family’s dinner, at which point I headed home with my heart lighter, mind trouble-free, stomach happily stuffed, and very much ready to unwind, relax, and watch a funny movie (Bridesmaids).

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Nutella-Monster Cinnamon Buns

Whenever I think of Nutella I can’t help but think of my wonderful friends Dan and Becca. If there was one thing they loved more than each other it was Nutella. If you know the character Cookie Monster, well they were his adorable twin siblings Nutella Monster #1 and Nutella Monster #2.

Becca got crazy excited if you offered her any dessert containing this super-rare-in-Japan chocolatey-goodness, and Dan was so protective of their tub he would sleep with it at night – yes, like a teddy bear! – to prevent it from freezing in winter months.  They have long since left Fukui, upgrading to sunny Melbourne, but I often think of them and miss them.

This weekend I spent a gloriously lazy 2 days and purposefully made no plans with anyone. I rolled over Saturday morning, read a little of my book and felt the pull to go to my kitchen and bake. I had cleaned it spotlessly in the days leading up to this weekend and it sang to me a siren song, the way only a clean kitchen can. ‘Come make a mess in me, come make something delicious‘ it seemed to whisper.

Soon enough, I found myself kneading dough with flour up to my elbows as I made an old favourite recipe: Nutella cinnamon buns. Becca was very upset she wasn’t in Fukui for these but I promised her I’d post the recipe. I think many people feel daunted when they imagine making cinnamon buns, but this recipe is pretty easy. It’s takes time, patience and love. If you’re still scared, let me ask you a question, how can you really go wrong with Nutella?! If you’ve ever made pizza dough, this recipe isn’t much harder than that.ImageWhat You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons golden sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Nutella (or more if you are feeling particularly decadent!)
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon (sprinkle) + 2 teaspoons (for dough)

What You’ll Need To Do:

  1. In a small bowl stir together the warm water, sugar and yeast whisk with a fork. Wait for 6 minutes for the yeast to activate (it will begin to foam slightly)
  2. While waiting for the yeast to do its thing, place butter in a small pot and melt over a low heat. Add the milk, mix and heat together until milk is warm (but don’t let it simmer or boil!). Allow to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl combine the bread flour, all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of your cinnamon and salt.
  4. Pour the yeast mixture and the milk mixture over the flour. Using your hands knead until well-combined and dough becomes slightly elastic.
  5. Form into a large ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
  6. Wait patiently. It’s tough I know.
  7. On a very, very lightly floured flat surface roll dough out evenly into a large rectangle. You want it to be very thin, about 0.5cm-1cm at most.
  8. Next is the fun part, slather on that Nutella! Have fun and taste it just to make sure it’s ok *wink wink* (hint: if you microwave it for about 20 seconds it spreads much easier, but then again my Nutella was quite cold.)
  9. Once the Nutella has been spread, evenly sprinkle the 4 teaspoons of cinnamon.
  10. Roll up (keeping as tight a roll as you can) and cut into 10-12 rolls and place in a buttered pan all nestled happily together next to one another. This helps to keep the sides from drying out, so every bun tastes like the yummiest and moist middle of a regular cinnamon bun.
  11. Cover and test your patience once again by waiting another 30-40 minutes for the baby buns to rise again.
  12. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 28-30 minutes until gooey and delicious-looking.

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Om nom nom! Enjoy!

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