Thursday, April 28, 2011


Chou a la Crème  シュークリーム

DSC_0051Chou (pronounced shoe, some spell choux) means cabbage in French. This sweet is named after the vegetable because the shape looks like a tiny cabbage (mine didn’t come out quite right but that’s another story). Americans call this ‘cream puff’ but that is not exotic enough name for me. When I went into ‘norecipe’ site for Mark’s Mont Blanc recipe(2009) via PlanJapan blog recently and Mark mentioned about Choux a la cream. Also when I was Spring cleaning a few weeks ago, I rediscovered this recipe I kept since 2001. I had some hesitation as to whether I should make it or not but it’s a sign! I must make this Chou a la cream!

This is from a professional Japanese patisserie’s basic Chou a la Cream recipe and I like it very much. My problem is that this recipe uses many pans and gadgets for 10 small cream puffs! I could double this recipe but I’m afraid I mess up,  Who is going to clean those dirty dishes anyway? Honey!  Honey? Where did he go? It must be that reason I don’t make this often and tucked away in a box? Anyway, the shell is not soft but a little firm and saku saku texture (sorry, I don’t know the English word for it) like in cake shop.

Basic Chou Shell

Makes about 10

Equipment - cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, pastry bag with round tip (3/8 inch), mister.DSC_0117

  • Unsalted butter 55g
  • Whole milk 120ml
  • Weak power flour (薄力粉)70g sifted.
  • Eggs 2 maybe 3. 2 eggs scrambled.
  • A pinch of salt
  1. In a medium pan, using wooden spatula combine butter, milk and salt on medium heat. Turn off the heat when the butter is completely melted.
  2. Put flour in the pan all at once and quickly mix until smooth.
  3. Turn the heat on again and stir until white thin film start coating on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Heat oven to 380 F.
  5. Transfer flour mixture to large bowl, then start adding egg at little at a time and mix well each time.DSC_0014
  6. Stop adding egg when the batter is lifted with wooden spoon and and falls forming a triangle shape. I did not use all of 2 eggs. Batter should be just the right consistency - not too runny and not too stiff. Add 3rd egg slowly if it hasn’t reach that texture.
  7. Put the batter in pastry bag with a round tip. Twist the bag so that the batter does not run out as you put it in.DSC_0001DSC_0003DSC_0005
  8. Hold the pastry bag perpendicular to the cookie sheet and squeeze out the batter without moving the tip – make about a 2 inch round.  Leave about 2 inches between the puffs. DSC_0017
  9. Wet finger with water and push the center to smooth the point.
  10. Spray with a mister evenly from about a foot away.
  11. Bake shells for 15 minutes at 380 F then lower the temperature to 340 F and bake for 10 more minutes. Turn off heat and leave it in the oven for 5 minutes to dry out . Do not open the door until then.DSC_0045

Basic Custard Cream

.Equipment-strainer, pastry bag with round tip

  • Whole milk 250ml
  • 3 egg yolk
  • Sugar 60g divided in half.
  • Weak power flour (薄力粉) 20g sifted
  • Vanilla essence 1 teaspoon
  • Unsalted butter 10g
  1. Combine milk, 1/2 of sugar and vanilla in a sauce pan then heat over medium heat. Turn off the heat when sugar is dissolved.
  2. In a bowl, combine egg yolks and rest of sugar and flour. Using the whisk, mix well.
  3. Pour milk mixture into the bowl of egg mixture slowly. Mix well. DSC_0023
  4. Put the egg/milk mixture back into the pan and heat over high. Constantly stir with wooden spatula. Be careful not to burn, the center bottom and edge is especially susceptible.
  5. When small bubbles appear on the surface-only take 1 minutes or so, turn off heat and add the butter. Stir until butter is melted.
  6. Immediately, turn into a small casserole dish and put plastic wrap over it.Put the wrap directly on the mixture so that a skin won’t form. After it has cooled little bit chill in the refrigerator for an hour.DSC_0041


Strain the chilled custard (This process makes the custard ultra smooth but may not be necessary) DSC_0050and put it in the pastry bag with round tip. Whip 200g of heavy cream and 2 tablespoon (or more) of sugar until soft peak. Cut off 1/3 of top of shell and squeeze custard cream into it, then the whipped cream. Dust with powdered sugar if you like. I wished I had doubled this recipe because I ran out of custard. DSC_0056


Instead of custard, fill in with vanilla or chocolate ice cream or chocolate pudding will be also nice. Sprinkle toasted nuts to add texture. Mmmmm.

What labor to make this little delight. But its worth it when I hear the word “oishii” (美味しい)delicious from my loved ones. Honey, I will help you with the dishes of course.

Note to my fellow bloggers: While I’m away for a month in Hawaii my husband will be subbing my blog. I’m sure he is making something starchy. I will be checking your blogs while I’m gone so I can be inspired by your awesome dishes.  Mahalo!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pork and Shrimp wrapped Asparagus


DSC_0086Making my husband lunch is easy when I have left overs. He has such an easy going personality that he is happy when I pack left overs for him. If there is no left over then it is a race with time as I only have 15 minutes to prepare. First I start making vegetable juice while it’s going I may cook Japanese omelet (卵焼き) or cold cut sandwich in a jiffy. If I’m organized and a morning person then he gets to take a gorgeous and nutritious bento every day. My reality is not so dreamy though. My daughter had bento making class at her high school culinary class. It looks mighty fun! I recently discovered a food blogger who makes fantastic bento in Germany. I marvel at Japanese moms who spend so much time and energy making one of a kind, really artistic and cute bento for their child. Wait, why on earth would I do that? Do children just eat away in 20 minutes? When I ponder the questions and thought about my late mother who made fabulous rolled sushi (巻き寿司) for me and my brothers for sports day (運動会) or field day (遠足). Without thinking we ate those good looking rolled sushi. It’s the same thing, just a power-up version of what my mom did for us is what Japanese moms are making today. There quite a few books out there on how to make cute bento. Some techniques are really complicated, no way I can follow. See the bento book flying across the room into the trash can? Score, 2 points! I don’t need that book anyway, I’m making bento for a grown up,,,. I take that back, I may need that book for my grandchildren someday. My husband gives me a break from making lunch by going to lunch with friends a few times a month. He often brings back left over or brings an extra order of whatever, even dessert so I end up have not just lunch break but dinner break also. Isn’t that nice?

I like asparagus now but my first encounter of asparagus was a disaster. A side order of salad had white asparagus from a can (I presume). It was very mushy and I literally gagged. I was only 12(?) then. I didn’t try asparagus again until much, much later. This recipe is good for bento because it keeps the flavor even when it is cold and is great with rice. Deveining shrimp is bit of a pain though. I don’t think it’s necessary but old habits are hard to break. If I have fresh shrimp then I keep the shell for soup stock later. That soup is also good with this dish. Too bad my daughter doesn’t like shrimp. Is there any cure for shrimpaphobia?

Pork and Shrimp Wrapped Asparagus

DSC_0065Make about 8 wrapped asparagus

  • 15 medium size shrimp. Shell and devein then mince with food processor into a coarse pasteDSC_0066
  • Ground pork 400g
  • 1 Green onion minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • Ginger, about size of adult thumb, minced
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoon sake
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 asparagus, cut off hard stem end. Peel the skin if you prefer
  1. In a medium size bowl, combine all the ingridients except asparagus and mix until pasty.DSC_0069
  2. Put asparagus in microwaveable dish, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water then cover with wax paper and microwave for 2 minutes on high. Do not over cook. Asparagus should be tender crunchy. If it is still tough then microwave another 30 seconds. 
  3. Mean while prepare ice cold water in a bowl big enough to soak asparagus in.
  4. Plunge asparagus in very cold water to stop cooking. Dry with paper towel.
  5. Heat oven to 375 F then put a little vegetable oil on your hands. Start wrapping asparagus with shrimp and pork mixture evenly over the entire asparagus stalk.
  6. Place the wrapped asparagus on a rack in a baking pan.DSC_0075
  7. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until it starts releasing clear juice when poked with skewer. Rotate 2 or 3 times to bake evenly.DSC_0088

Eat with Japanese style hot mustard, Ponzu dipping sauce or sprinkle with lime juice.

DSC_0091He usually takes this kind of simple bento with fruit.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


DSC_0045My new fave – Jazz apple

I just made up the word veganesque. We are sort of trying to have a vegan night. I can be vegan, just not everyday. I am not at all against all those vaganists (another made up word?) out there. My love of meats, fish, eggs, cheese, and butter would hinder my ability to be vegan. My daughter has a friend who is vegan. Tall and slender with gentle soul; he was very impressionable when we first met. Now, whenever I hear the word ’vegan’ I always associate his face to that. I asked all kinds of dumb questions like ‘What? you can’t have honey!?” or ‘ How about skim milk?’ (like skim milk is not milk duh). I hope he forgave me already for being ignorant and being so rude. Anyway, I am fascinated by their disciplined, meticulous and committed act of which I have none. Can a lazy person be a vegan? Can I still be happy giving up all the foods I love? Most of all, what can I possibly make with a restricted list of ingredients? I may just have an apple and call it a vegan experience.

I look through cooking magazines and find this recipe. I already had quinoa in my pantry –a good size bag of quinoa from Costco and a red color one from Whole Foods. Quinoa is an interesting grain. Tiny seeds come in red or white (may have other color but I don’t know). I think red has a slightly more pronounced flavor. I usually like to cook it with rice. The hint of wild wheat like aroma that comes out of the rice cooker is just great. Though this dish lack color, it is homey and surprisingly satisfying.

Quinoa Risotto with mushrooms and Thyme
4 servingsDSC_0022

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and soak in water for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced or chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 8 ounce sliced white mushroom
  • 6 ounce sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms stemmed, slicedDSC_0003
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme divided
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Parmesan cheese - Omit if you are true vegan
  1. Boil 2 cups salted water in medium sauce pan. Add quinoa, cover and simmer at medium-low heat until tender; about 13 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until onion begins to brown about 5 minutes.DSC_0015
  3. Add garlic to the skillet and stir about 30 seconds.
  4. Add mushrooms and thyme and sauté until tender.
  5. Add wine and stir until wine is reduced and liquid is syrupy; about 2 minutes.
  6. Mix cooked quinoa into mushroom mixture and season with salt and pepper.

DSC_0019Relatively new product this Tofu Puree is made here in Portland Oregon under the parent company Morinaga which is famous for dairy products like ice cream in Japan. Right now it is sold only in Uwajimaya (the Japanese market). Or so I was told by friend who gave it to me along with recipes. It is a cross between soy milk and tofu. I made a smoothie with frozen berry and a banana. These strawberries are from our garden last year. We planted in a container then it just put new shoots around it, now strawberries are everywhere. The blueberries are from a friends garden. They have an acre of blueberries in their property and they allow everyone to pick. They are generous people and that’s a beautiful thing. I have mix emotions on this smoothie. I didn’t hate it but I don’t care for a second glass either. I wished it was cream instead of tofu puree. Anyway, we had this for dessert and that completed our great pretender.

Berry and Banana SmoothieDSC_0027

  • 2 cups soy silken puree
  • 7 oz. frozen strawberries
  • 1.4 oz. frozen blue berriesDSC_0014
  • 1 banana*
  • Sugar for vegan or Honey for veganesque to taste
  1. Pour Tofu Puree into blender at medium speed for 30 seconds.
  2. Add frozen berries and blend 1 minutes.
  3. Add banana and blend 1 minutes.
  4. Add sugar or honey to taste.

*OK, I did not like banana in this smoothie.DSC_0034

In conclusion, I can make wonderful dishes without whole lists of no-nos. I was still happy. I am certain there are many great recipes out there and also with substitution, I will be just fine. I have new respect for people who choose to eat this way. Even though I can’t be all the way vegan, I believe we could still be friends and respect our choices. I will continue explore new vegan recipes and I hope to share with you someday.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Strawberry Short Cake

Chantilly a la fraise

DSC_0040DSC_0028I had a dessert in mind when I went to the market. But the store was having a sale on strawberries - 1 pint for 98 cents. Though it’s too early for strawberry season and it probably doesn’t have good flavor, I couldn’t resist it. I scratched the dessert idea I had before and I put two pints of strawberries in the cart. Strawberry is such a versatile fruit and you could do lots with it but if you want to have a special sweet to ward off stress that I was feeling then what is the most precious cake I could make? Anyway, I needed to think of something fast while I’m in the store to get the rest of the ingredients.

What a disappointment that was when I had strawberry short cake here in the States long ago. It came in bowl with a biscuit-like base covered with overly sweet, syrupy strawberries and vanilla ice cream and whipped cream piled high on the top. Nothing compared to what I was used to in Japan. I became homesick and lost weight while adjusting to American foods. My husband was thoughtful even then. He went to pharmacy to get lactic acid and citric acid and made me Calpis(カルピス) drink. His close approximation of the original Japanese drink had healing power for me. 

This strawberry cake recipe (they named it Chantilly a la fraise) came from a professional patisserie Kenichi Nishio who has his store ‘Patisserie Ken NIshio’ in the city of Nagoya Japan. I believe this nostalgic and romantic cake is the most popular cake in Japan. Every cake shops has their version of this cake (see the pictures at the end of this post). The simpleness of the cake demands perfection and high quality ingredients though. The sponge must be soft and light. The cream should taste fresh and smooth. What is remarkable about this cake is that he doesn’t use baking powder, soda, vanilla or salt. I made a half-recipe because I just needed to curb my craving for sweets but when I finished making it I regretted that I didn’t make enough. If you decide to make the full recipe use a 10-1/2 X 15-1/2 inch pan with at least 1 inch deep rim.

Sponge cake

Reduced recipe for 9-1/2 x13 pan lined with parchment paper. You also need a candy thermometer.

  • 4 large eggs
  • Ultra fine sugar 100g
  • Weak power flour (薄力粉)90g sifted - substitute with cake flour.
  • Whole milk 20g
  • Unsalted butter 20g melted
  1. Mix eggs and sugar in a medium bowl over a pan of simmering water but not touching the bottom of bowl. Keep mixing until the temperature reaches 105 degrees F.
  2. Put the warmed egg mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Lower the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
  4. Put flour in gradually with the mixer on low speed
  5. Add milk and butter and mix on low for 1 minute.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven (when you making whole recipe then 13 minutes) or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.



  • 600 ml Heavy cream
  • 45 g Ultra fine sugar
  1. Beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form, set aside. This is a lot of cream; I didn’t use it all.


  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 10 to 15 strawberries sliced
  1. In a small microwaveable bowl, put sugar and water and heat in the microwave until sugar is dissolved about 40 seconds on high power to make syrup.*
  2. Cut the cake in half and cut off edges.
  3. Brush half of the cake with syrup then lay half of the strawberries on top of the cake.
  4. Spread half of the cream generously over the top of strawberries.
  5. Turn the other half of the cake upside down and place on top of the strawberries and cream
  6. Brush the top cake with syrup
  7. Cover cake with the remaining cream and decorate with the strawberry slices.

*In his recipe he used some kind of liqueur, but this worked just fine.


I was right about the strawberries. They were not very flavorful and quite large so it was somewhat awkward to decorate with but hey, they only cost me $1.96. The cake was soft and had chiffon-like lightness. The best cake I ever made!

Update: At last Tuesday’s restaurant event, we chose Bluehour on 13th avenue to dine out for part of Japan’s relief effort. We were well pleased with their dishes. We liked the cauliflower soup and crab risotto, my entre of quail with polenta was excellent. The basil panna cotta was also nice. My only complaint was the fresh oysters. 6 for $18. 4 of the oysters were so tiny. Their service was friendly and knowledgeable but slow and took over 3 hours to eat. We don’t know about their regular Tuesday but a good crowd filled this chic restaurant. I appreciate their generosity very much.


Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, 2009