Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chocolate Christmas Cake

Raspberry Chocolate Cake With Caramelized Almonds

DSC_5628Technically this is not a Christmas Cake…obviously, we did not have this for Christmas…  Fujiya (不二家) the huge bakery chain in Japan had a genius idea in 1922. Let’s sell Christmas cakes to a non-Christian nation!

Sounds fishy but it worked! Just having a beautifully decorated cake on Christmas day brings happiness to all of the children of Japan (?)…our home included.  Anticipation of waiting for the cake to arrive, lighting up the candles, taking pictures with cheap camera (in the dark ) - none of them turned out good naturally, rock, paper and scissors with siblings to see who gets the sugar Santa…all good memories. To see this year’s selection click here…hurry, today is the last day to order.DSC_5641

We were puzzled one year over our finally-arrived Christmas cake, 
‘Is this what we ordered?” 
“I dunno…. “

Back then the order was made by using the ‘pointing system’ from the poster hung in the store front, we’d like that one, no not that one, the one on the right… then the store clerk would write down on the piece of paper.
It was era of no cell-phones…who do you call? Ghost busters?..just kidding. The delivery boy was long gone ….we started worry that the fresh cream would melt and it was too big to fit in the tiny refrigerator. Examining the cake for 10, 15 minutes, hoping someone to say, let’s eat but initiating the first move felt wrong somehow.
We were saved by the bell finally… the door bell. ‘My bad” said delivery boy (not so much as the words of course). He gave us the right one and took the not–our–cake which I saw my brother licked the conspicuous area while examining it…. what a rascal.

Phew! I shouldn’t make the cake between errands and obligations. Rush to decorate, rush to take pictures… lost bit of joy of baking…just a tad.

Ingredients and Instruction for one 8 inch cake (Print Recipe Here)

Necessary equipment – 8 inch removable bottom round pan, food scale, parchment paper,  food thermometer, pastry brush, electric mixer

For caramelized almond

  • 50g sugar
  • 20g water
  • 60g sliced almond

For cake

  • 4 egg whites
  • 80g and 60g sugar
  • 70g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 70g of 60% cacao chocolate shaved Note: no shaving is necessary for chocolate tablets. Save your time by shave all your chocolate at once and label it.DSC_5576DSC_5607
  • 80g low viscosity flour (薄力粉)
  • 4g baking powder

For Grenache

  • 280g cream
  • 185g dark chocolate (I used 60% cacao chocolate) shaved

For syrup

  • 45g sugar
  • 50g water
  • 2-3 drops of rum flavoring or orange extract

For Chocolate coating

  • 180g cream
  • 60g dark chocolate, shaved
  • 80g milk chocolate, shaved

Fruits – Any berries for filling and garnish (optional)

  1. Make almond caramel  – Put water and sugar into small sauce pan, boil for few minutes to thicken at medium heat, turn off heat and add almonds and stir well until it gest dry, color gets white and crystalize. Back on the burner and stir frequently until the almonds turn deep brown at medium heat. Spread onto parchment paper to cool. Chop. Set aside
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  2. Prepare and set aside following - cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan, and side (cut so that it is a little bit taller than the pan, mine showed that it’s unnecessary tall).
    DSC_5565
    Sift flour and baking powder together.
    Melt 70g of shaved chocolate in small  microwave proof bowl and microwave for1-2 minutes with 50% power stir well.DSC_5583 DSC_5584
  3. Beat the egg white and 80g sugar In large bowl on high till stiff peak but not dry Set aside.
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  4. Pre-heat oven to 356F. In another bowl, cream butter with whisk or hand held mixer until light then add 60g of sugar and egg yolk,  mix well with each addition. Check the temperature of melted chocolate, ideal temperature is 113F/45C, (if it’s too low then put back in the microwave for 5 to 10 second at 50% power to warm it up, cold chocolate will result in heavy batter) add chocolate to egg yolk mixture and stir well DSC_5579.DSC_5580DSC_5585DSC_5586
  5. Add half of meringue into the egg yolk mixture and whisk lightly together. Switch to spatula, fold it in the sifted flour and baking powder mixture until you no longer see the flour. Add rest of meringue and combine without over mixing. Bake for 30 minutes, turn the oven off after 30 minutes, perhaps the cake is still wet though, leave the pan in the oven will cook through. Leave there until it’s cool.
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  6. Make syrup – Boil water and sugar until the sugar resolve, add rum flavoring or orange extract after it cools down..DSC_5612
  7. Make ganache and coating  – Put shaved chocolate in the bowl. Cook cream at medium heat in a small sauce pan until the bubbles start appearing, turn off heat. Add 1/3 of cream into bowl, gently stir first then beat with wooden spatula, add rest of cream in two steps. stir well until smooth. chill in the refrigerator to thicken ( in assembly process, use room temperature ganache). *Make coating chocolate same way but no need to chill. Set aside.
  8. Assembly - Slice cake in three. Brush syrup on top side of one sliced cake. Spread ganache (mix well before so that it is easy to spread) on top, raspberries is next, spread more ganache. Brush the one side of another sliced cake, place onto the first layer syrup side down, brush syrup on top and repeat ganache-raspberries ganache process. Brush the syrup on the last piece of cake and place on top of 2nd layer syrup side down. Brush syrup on very top then spread ganache. Sprinkle some chopped caramelized almond (no need to use all).
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  9. Coating – make sure that coating chocolate is loose- may need to warm in the microwave for 10 second or so (50% power). Pour over the cake at once and spread with pallet knife to smooth out top and side. Decorate with fruits if you like.
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Variation – Skip caramelized almonds and fruits for sleek look and short cut…then call it simply ‘Chocolate Cake’.

Spreading joy! (and calories) - I sent my husband to deliver pieces of this cake to neighbors.

IMG_2112The nativity display at Portland Oregon Temple

I’m sincerely grateful for your visit to my blog.

May your world be filled with peace and happiness this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chinsuko

Okinawan Cookies

DSC_5543The Holiday is approaching with record speed. We try not to do too much as to gift giving…yet when I’m in a mall or some boutiques, my heart rate climbs up and I get sucked into a whirlpool of Christmas buy, buy buy…that has something to do with the music that they are playing insensitively. I rarely bake Christmas cookies, though a hot steaming cup of my fav decaffeinated Earl Gray tea needs some accompaniment of sweet little thing to ease my exhausted body and spirit?…yep! And time to re-exam my purchases…mostly buyers remorse…how in the world? I must have been insane!DSC_5549

Chinsuko, an Okinawan cookie that originated in China 400 years ago, were a gift sent by by my son and daughter-in-law. They traveled to beautiful Ishigaki Island south of Okinawa to see my son’s in-laws in late October. This earthy, crumbly and just the right amount of sweetness brings back my sanity…. I wonder if I could re-create this cookie?…right.. I have plenty of spare time... I’m a bit delusional!IMG_2071DSC_5522But vegan chinsukos are surprisingly easy and only need 4 ingredients.

Ingredients and Instruction for 20 Vegan Chinskos, (Print Recipe Here)
I mostly followed Kimihide Machino (町野仁英) ‘s recipe.

  • 75g low Viscosity 薄力粉 flour
  • 75g whole wheat flour
  • 60g sugar or more to adjust sweetness.
  • 60g vegetable oil
  1. Lay the parchment paper on the cookie sheet. Sift flours together Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 356F
    DSC_5509DSC_5511
  2. Put sugar and oil in bowl. Whisk until sugar is almost dissolved. DSC_5531
  3. Add sifted flours in the bowl of sugar, oil mixture and combine.
  4. Knead the dough by hand until the dough comes together. Note: if the dough is overly dry add a few drops of oil. Shape the dough to your choice
    DSC_5517
  5. Place shaped dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. After it bakes leave on the cookie sheet until it cools down.DSC_5519

Variation – Yomogi chinsukos

  • 70g of low viscosity flour
  • 70g whole wheat flour
  • 8g yomogi flour (Japanese mugwort) Note: may substitute with green tea powder( 抹茶パウダー), roasted green tea powder (ほうじ茶) or ginger powderDSC_5528
  • 60g sugar
  • 60g vegetable oil

Add yomogi powder in the sifted flours combine well.then follow the instructions above.DSC_5540DSC_5544

My husband usually opts out of Christmas shopping. Instead he worked on Kulebyaka, a savory Russian pie from a blogger milkandbun. It was a quite construction. He had to make crepe-like pancakes first…DSC_5526and it took him almost the entire Saturday afternoon to build. We had this for supper next three nights plus bonus of cinnamon rolls he made from left over bread dough…yeah I know we were over loaded with carbohydrate but it was sooo good.DSC_5555DSC_5560DSC_5564

It’s time to hit my favorite nursery for Christmas greenery…coincidently, reindeers were visiting also. OK, it was not the most famous reindeer of all but it’s Prancer! IMG_2102

IMG_2110 And a baby Cupid! IMG_2104

Here are some photos (imported from his FB) of my son, his wife and her parents. And a new monkey friend of Yaeyamamura (八重山村)1458471_10101681491883759_7099057372477998538_n10662169_10101681480761049_1197443036413243077_oHer parents own a restaurant Kurashita. Her father is an executive chef10700482_10101681480506559_3573007997799425862_o

My son is lucky to have really cool in-laws.