Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Dessert for my Daughter

Mississippi mud pie (B)

10mudpieMy daughter was oohing  and aahing when she saw a photograph of  Mississippi mud pie  (B) in the Baked Explorations cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito who reinvented the classic American dessert in this book. Honestly, this is not my kind of sweet and I’m not fond of Oreo cookies either. I just wanted to make her happy and besides, those 3 boxes of Oreo cookies (Costco industrial size) which she bought for her culinary class needed to be used, right?

There are 4 stages to making this pie. Stage 1, crust. Stage 2, flourless chocolate cake. Stage 3 chocolate pudding and the last stage is whipped cream. I started to make the crust at 9:00 in the morning while the baby took a nap. I didn’t progress to stage 2 until the baby sitter showed up at noon because the baby didn’t sleep very much. I hired the university student from next door to watch the kids so I could get further in this process. So the cake cost a little bit more to make but it’s worth it!


  • 16 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies such as Oreos (35 to 40 cookies), crushed
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper and lightly spray parchment and sides of pan.

Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor; process to very fine crumbs. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. Transfer to a small bowl. Add melted butter and, using a spatula, stir until well combined.

Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan and press evenly with the back of a spoon into bottom and up sides, leaving about 1/2 inch between the top of the crust and top of the pan. Transfer to freezer until crust is set, about 10 minutes1mudpie.

Transfer crust to oven and bake until dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Flourless cake

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent), chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon high quality cocoa powder*
  • 1/4 cup strong hot chocolate, at room temperature*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar

*The original recipe calls for coffee but I don’t use it. I like the added chocolate flavor better.

Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water to melt; stir to combine. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, hot chocolate, salt, and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light and almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low speed for 5 seconds. Add cocoa powder and hot chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low for 5 seconds.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually increase speed to high and slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Transfer 1 cup egg white mixture to chocolate mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, about 30 seconds. Add remaining egg whites and continue gently folding until they are almost completely combined; do not over mix. Pour into cooled cookie crust and transfer to oven. Bake until cake is set but still jiggles slightly, 38 to 42 minutes. It may not appear completely cooked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cake will deflate in the center as it cools.6mudpie Tightly wrap cooled cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Chocolate Pudding

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark unsweetened good-quality cocoa powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Add egg yolks and whisk until combined. The mixture will look like a thick paste. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly.

Place saucepan over medium heat and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan. Boil for 30 seconds and immediately transfer to a medium bowl. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate; whisk until combined. Continue whisking until mixture is cooled slightly. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, at least 3 hours.

Stir pudding to loosen and pour on top of cake, making sure to stay within the cookie crust border. Using an offset spatula, spread pudding to form an even layer on top of the cake. Transfer to refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Whipped Cream Topping

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a chilled whisk attachment, beat cream until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over cream and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over chilled pudding layer, working all the way out to the sides. Unmold cake and serve immediately. The cake can also be kept, covered, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

After making this I thought that you shouldn’t use more than 60% cacao dark chocolate. It was bitter enough.




Scan0003Here we are when my daughter was a couple of months old.

Since my husband joined me here last Friday, my days have lots of breathing room. He cookedP1010714 and washed dishes and fixed a leaky pipe too. He gave me a compliment on this left-over pie but did not eat the crust. He does not like Oreos. At all. We’re so much alike. I brought a piece of pie to the baby sitter and she too liked it. She is a sweetheart and is really good with kids.

We’re going back to the mainland soon and I’m sad but I’m sure I will be glad to be home too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Babysitter Cooks

Momofuku pork buns

P10106674pork bunsThe Momofuku cook book that my daughter bought after she went to the restaurant in New York last year was filled with great recipes. I particularly liked this pork buns recipe. I already posted my version of pork buns in the past but I was intrigued by the photo of happy faces accompanying the recipe in the book. I decided I wanted to be happy too or maybe I was simply hungry.
On the first day, I made the buns. The process is not that difficult but with children to watch while cooking it is very hard. I was interrupted many times by my 4 year old and 10 month old grandchildren for their needs! How dare they! What am I? A miracle worker? I finally put the 10 month old down for his nap while the dough was raising then, and the 4 year old wanted to watch a show on the computer. I told her “I don’t know the password” (actually, I’m not a computer savvy person). She brought my cell up to my ear and told me to call her mom (my daughter). I warned her beforehand that her mommy is very busy and probably would not answer the phone, but she did. I got the password, started the computer yet I could not find the cartoon she wanted to watch. I wished strongly that my daughter had a TV. I ran next door for help! A university student came over and found some cartoon for her to watch. Even after all that, the dough is not yet doubled in size. I sat down on the couch just for a few minutes then woke up half an hour later. When the dough was ready for the next stage, the baby woke up. By the time I fed the baby, gave him a bath and changed his diaper, the dough was over raised but hey, you can’t win with a hungry baby. At the near-final stage of making buns, the 4 year old wanted to help. After a few instructions, she made neat buns -- I was impressed. Encouraged, she decided to make other shapes as cookies for her mom and dad.  Those are not cookies, silly!

Steamed buns - supposedly makes 50 buns but I only got 45P1010640

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 cups water, at room temperature
  • 4-1/4 cups bread flour
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons non fat dry milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening
  1. Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda and lard or shortening and mix on the lowest speed possible for 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly oil a medium bowl, put the dough in it. Cover the bowl with dry kitchen towel and let rise until it doubles in bulk, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
  2. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a pastry cutter or knife, divide the dough in half. then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs. then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total, They should be about size of a Ping-Pong ball and weigh about 25 grams. Cover the armada of little dough balls with a draping of plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes. P1010625
  3. Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Coat a chopstick with whatever fat you’re working with.
  4. Flatten one ball with palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4 inch long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the folded dough, and put bun on a square of parchment paper. (I just greased it, without the chopstick because the chopstick was sticky.) Stick it back under the plastic wrap. Let the buns rest for 30 minutes. Here she is wearing the tie dye shirt she made yesterday.P1010627
  5. Set up a steamer on the stove. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. If you can’t use the buns immediately, allow to cool completely, then seal in a plastic freezer bag and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a stove top steamer for 2-3 minutes, until puffy, soft and warmed all the way through.P1010637

Pork belly

  • 3 pound slab of skinless pork belly*
  • 1/4 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Put the pork belly into an oven safe pan that holds it snugly. Mix the sugar and salt together in a small bowl and rub all over the meat discarding any excess. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for 6 to 24 hours.P1010642
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Drain off any liquid in the container and put the pan of pork in the oven, fat side up. Cook for 1 hour basting with the rendered fat after 30 minutes, until it is golden brown.
  3. Turn the oven down to 250 F and cook for another hour to an hour and 15 minutes, until the pork belly is tender. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer to a plate. Allow it to cool. P1010649
  4. When it is cool enough to handle, wrap the pork belly in plastic wrap or foil until it is thoroughly chilled and firm.
  5. Cut the pork belly into 1/2 inch thick slices that are about 2 inches long.
* I only found it with the skin on and already sliced. It is easy to trim the skin off before cooking.

Quick salt pickles

Slice 2 cucumbers into 1/8 in thick disks.
Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and toss to coat. Let sit for five to ten minutes.P1010647


Buns, pickles, pork belly, hoisin sauce, thinly sliced scallion
Heat the buns in a steamer until they are hot to the touch. Take the bun from the steamer and flop open on a plate. Slather the inside with some hoisin sauce using a pastry brush, arrange the pickles on one side of the fold and the pork belly on the other. Scatter the belly and pickles with the scallion and fold closed. Pick up and enjoy!2pork buns

Steamed Bun (Baozi, 包子)
My 4 year old granddaughter loved the buns, especially with sweet jam. She ate most of her creations at one sitting. What? I thought those were for her mom and dad.
He has a great personality with super nice smile. I will definitely miss my grandchildren. 
I love you very much, kids.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tuscan-Style Roast Pork


I really like pork. When we go out to eat I will usually try a pork dish. If you look at this site you can see several that Akemi makes for me. If you get a chance to come to Portland, be sure to make a trip to Higgins restaurant (one of our favorites). They have a dish there called “Whole Pig Plate”. It consists of: roast loin of pork, sausage, ribs and braised belly in saffron spiced white beans. While this is not quite to their level, I had to make it after reading it in “The best of Fine Cooking – Real Italian” magazine. It is a keeper I think.

For the Brined Pork

  • 3 oz kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 large sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 3-lb boneless pork loin, trimmed of excess fat

For the herb paste

  • 8 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Brine the pork

In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, garlic, and herb sprigsDSC_0057 with 2 cups of water. Stir over high heat just until the salt and sugar dissolve.DSC_0064 Add 6 more cups of water and cool to room temperature.

 DSC_0071Transfer to a large container, add the pork, cover and refrigerate for 8 to 18 hours.

Make the herb paste

Put the garlic, rosemary, sage, 1 tbs salt, and 1 tsp pepper in a large mortar and pound to a coarse paste with the pestle. Add the oil and use the pestle to work it into the garlic paste with the pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine all the ingredients in a mini food processor and pulse into a coarse paste. DSC_0072DSC_0074

Butterfly and season the pork

Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Butterfly the pork loin by making a horizontal slit down the length of the loin, cutting almost through to the other side. Open the meat like a book. Spread half of the herb paste over the inner surface of the roast; then fold it back to its original shape. DSC_0078DSC_0080Tie the roast a 1-inch intervals with kitchen twine and then spread the remaining herb paste over the entire outer surface.

Grill the pork

Set up the grill for indirect rotisserie cooking according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Heat the grill to 350 degrees F. When ready to cook, skewer the roast lengthwise on the rotisserie spit and let it rotate on the grill, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted near the center of the roast registers 145 degrees F, 35 to 45 minutes.

If you don’t have a rotisserie, set up your grill for indirect grilling. Heat the grill to 350 degrees F. Put the roast in the cool zone on the grill, and cook as directed above. Turning the roast about every 10 minutes.

Remove the roast from the spit if necessary and transfer it to a cutting board. Let stand for 5 minutes, remove the twine, and slice thinly. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.  DSC_0082

It goes well with this Quinoa, apple, cashew salad.


One more week till I get to go on vacation to Hawaii too. See you next week, 愛する美人様.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


(A note to all you faithful readers: I am substituting for my wife while she is off in Hawaii helping with our grandkids. Tough job but someone had to do it.)


When I was in Japan I learned that there are many different toppings that you can put on a pizza – some that I have never before considered – such as corn, squid, beef and potato and octopus. Shakey’s was and still is a popular place. Here is a sample of the menu. I was not quite as experimental for this pizza but it was definitely edible.


Pizza Dough

Makes 4 individual pizzas. Can also be used for calzones.


  • 1 pound of bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 11 fluid ounces of cool water (60 to 65 F)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add olive oil and water. Mix with a large spoon until the dough comes together in a coarse ball, about 2 to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes.

Knead dough for 2 or 3 minutes. Add additional water or flour as needed to the dough to make it smooth and fairly tacky but not sticky. DSC_0044

Lightly oil a bowl and the ball of dough. Place the dough in the bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. If needed, burp the bowl by lifting up on the wrap at one edge then reseal.

If desired, you can freeze this. Divide into 4 pieces. It keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for 2 or 3 hours at room temperature.

Sauce & Topping

If you are up for a more American style topping, we really liked this one.

  • 28 ounce can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • Mozzarella – 12 ounces of sliced fresh or 1 cup of grated low-moisture
  • 16 to 24 sliced large fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced red peppers
  • Sliced tomatoes

Put a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface. Press into a rough, round disk. Place the disk on the back of your floured hands and use your knuckles to stretch the edges while slowly rotating to form the crust.DSC_0050 Feel free to toss it like a professional if you can. Once it is the right size and thickness spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce on it. layer 1/4 of the cheese and sprinkle with 1/4 of the basil, peppers and tomatoes.DSC_0052DSC_0054DSC_0055

If you have a pizza baking stone this is a great pizza to get a crispy bottom. cook at a high temperature (500 degrees or more depending on your oven) for 5 to 7 minutes. Let rest for a couple of minutes before cutting. Now, “atsa pizza”…