Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sweet and Tender

Chocolate Melon pan

DSC_7313‘Are they with the angels?’ read the front page of Monday’s Oregonian newspaper. December 14th was a crazy, depressing Day. My thoughts went directly to my granddaughter upon learning about the school shooting rampage. I was secretly relieved for the far away distance between Connecticut and Hawaii. I imagined that how painful it would be to hear silence on Christmas morning where children’s giddy excitement should have been, or to see unopened presents under the tree. I’m so sad for parents and family who had to say goodbye in this way, in a flash.

Saturday morning, I felt still heavy with heartache. I had many things planned but moved slowly and nothing accomplished. My husband started making the chocolate melon bread late in the morning, probably for me. He made regular melon pan and posted before - this is almost a twin recipe just not identical. I appreciate his thoughtfulness and his many prayers for comfort to the victims' families.

I don’t know why life is cruel sometimes then moving on with or without your readiness. I believe angels are with them now, to think otherwise would be too brittle and bitter.  

Ingredients and instructions for 8 – 4inch size rolls.

Equipment needed: Bread maker, food scale

  • Bread flour 300g
  • Unsalted butter 30g cut in small cubes.
  • Sugar 40g
  • Cocoa powder 25g
  • Salt 5g
  • Cold water 180g
  • Dry yeast 5g
  1. Put flour first in the bread maker’s pan.
  2. Put the next 5 ingredients all in one side of the pan.
  3. Put the yeast in last. Avoid the yeast touching liquid and salt by burying in the flour.
  4. Choose ‘dough’ cycle

Meanwhile make cookie dough

  • Unsalted butter 80g at room temperature
  • Sugar 100g
  • Egg 1 beaten
  • Vanilla 1/2 teaspoon
  • Weak power flour or cake flour 200g sifted
  1. Whisk butter until creamy in a large bowl.DSC_7251
  2. Add sugar 1/3rd at a time and mix well each time. Butter should get light in color.
  3. Add egg a little at a time. Whisk well each time you add egg.DSC_7256
  4. Add vanilla and stir.
  5. Add flour and combine using a cutting motion with a rubber spatula.DSC_7259DSC_7261
  6. Put batter on the middle of large piece of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or more.DSC_7265

Final step

  1. After cookie dough has rested, flatten dough with rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Separate bread dough in 1/8ths and make balls.DSC_7293
  3. Cover each bread dough with cookie dough and score the surface lightly.DSC_7297
  4. 2nd raise in warm place until almost double.DSC_7298
  5. Preheat oven to 375F.
  6. Sprinkle granulated sugar (need 1-2 tablespoon) on top of  each bread.
  7. Bake for about 18 minutes, until slightly brown on top.

Best time to eat this for me is right after it comes out of the oven. Microwaving cold bread for 15 to 20 second is not too shabby. I spread butter on it if I’m in the mood for more fat, which is too often lately.

Here are the finished products from Glass Art Class. I like them even though they are not perfect.DSC_7312

Just because I had to use pricey ingredients left over from previous post before they go bad, I made Bûche de Noël style but other than the chocolate Génoise instead of almond Génoise, it’s a same marron cake.DSC_7350DSC_7354DSC_7371I made some for my neighbors too (two more plate photos are missing).

A neighbor friend brought us flowers and a plate of cookies. How nice!DSC_7322DSC_7349

We tried a new restaurant ‘Hokusei”(北西). Not bad, a bit expensive. We then went to see a Japanese movie ‘Rent-a-Cat’, a quirky, funny movie.

I saw this pretty ornament at wedding reception but it reminds me of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. I’m disappointed that the bride and groom photos are not good (a bad, bad camera). I can honestly tell you that she was a beautiful bride and the groom was tall and handsome. Congratulations!!cid_image1E1DE17D-F01D-411B-B3F8-4E43F09C3D28

We said good bye to a couple going on the mission to Barcelona Spain for 18 months for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We will miss you very much. Adios Amigos!DSCN1415

This is the last post for this year. I will take a holiday break. Thank you for all who visited my site and your kind comments. I have 10 or so sites to stop by regularly – I am inspired by most, try their recipes, laugh out loud on some and cry on a few. I would love to say ‘I love you’ without sounding weird – yah that sounds weird. I wish you the very best and Merry Christmas to you all!DSC_7342




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Favorite Thing

Marron Cake

DSC_7206December is fleeting and I’m not even near to Christmas-ready as in my Christmas past. It’s taking quite some time for me to be in the mood. My husband is not so enthusiastic either, that’s coming from his humble background. Although he never received a great amount of gifts as he was growing up, he has a reservoir of happy Christmas memories. I, on the other hand, had very Japanese Christmases – not mainstreamed to exchange gifts yet at that time, Christmas equal Christmas cake – no requirement to be Christian to celebrate Christmas – that sounds not quite right however, I enjoyed fabulous Christmas cake all those years.DSC_7215 

I was quite ambitious when I decided to make this cake for friends because chestnut cake is a very popular item among friends. Wouldn't it be wonderful to make it and cerebrate an early Christmas? I quickly discovered though, I was in over my head on this. So many components involved and many pans and bowls were filling my kitchen sink fast. Time is running out and frantic me screamed “Oh heck!“. How in the world?

I forgot to take many of the process pictures and made some mistakes but I’m sure I’ll revisit this cake at some point when I’m not in such a rush. After all, friends liked it despite it’s shady looks. Can’t you see? Baking is my favorite thing. What? What’s that honey? Oh, ok, I meant to say one of…elementary, my dear, you come in the very top! I’m sure.DSC_7225

Almond Génoise (Almond sponge cake)

Equipment  15-1/2 inch jelly roll pan, parchment paper, food thermometer, food scale and card dredge.

  • Raw almond paste 150g. Keep in refrigerator. Take out 30 minutes before you start so that it has time to soften. Cut in small pieces.DSC_7166
  • 8 eggs or 400g beaten.
  • Granulated sugar 180g
  • Hot water 3-4 cups keep the temperature at 140F
  • Weak power flour 240g –sift twice. Discard flour left in sifter.
  • Unsalted butter 60g melt and keep the temperature at 122F.
  1. Prepare jelly roll pan by lining with parchment paper.
  2. Put almond paste and 1/4 of egg in blender or food processer and blend until combined.
  3. Add 1/3 of egg into the blender and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape side of blender with rubber spatula.
  4. Add rest of egg and run for 30 second more then transfer to bowl of stand mixer.
  5. Add sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved.
  6. In a large bowl, pour hot water (140F degree) and use it as a bath for the stand mixer bowl in. Swirl around with whisk to reach 90F degree. Temperature should not go over 95F. Cool down to the right temperature if it’s over 95F.
  7. After reaching the correct temperature, put stand mixer bowl back in stand then mix on high speed (8 on my machine) for 7 minutes then lower the speed (4) and mix 4 more minutes.
  8. Take the bowl out from the stand mixer, sprinkle in flour. Fold in flour with rubber spatula just until you no longer see the flour. Preheat oven to 320F.
  9. Put 1 ladleful of egg/flour mixture into a smaller bowl. Add butter and whisk to mix. Return the egg/flour/butter mixture into the bowl of stand mixer and mix gently with rubber spatula 8-10 times.
  10. Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Spread evenly to the corners of pan with card dredge.
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness after 18 minutes. DSC_7173
  12. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature and wrap with plastic wrap to prevent drying out.

Crème patissiere (custard cream)  Makes about 500g

  • Milk 400g
  • Vanilla beans 3 inch; split length wise and scrape seeds off.
  • Egg yolk 95 g
  • Weak power flour 35g sifted.
  • Granulated sugar 25g and 50g
  • Unsalted butter 20g cut in small cubes.
  • Ice cubes and water in large bowl
  1. Put milk, 25g of sugar, vanilla seeds and vanilla pod in a medium pan. Set aside.
  2. Put egg yolk and 50g of granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the color of the egg became light and it thickens.DSC_7183
  3. Add about two tablespoons of milk mixture into egg mixture. Mix well.
  4. Sprinkle flour in the egg mixture and make big circle with whisk to combine, you should not over mix here but make sure all the flour is dissolved.
  5. Heat milk mixture at medium heat.  Remove the vanilla pod when it floats to the top. Turn off the heat when milk mixture has come to a boil.
  6. Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into the egg mixture and mix well with whisk. Set aside.
  7. Return the pan to cook top and cook at medium high heat. When it starts boiling, pour in rest of egg mixture (#6). Whisk constantly and quickly to mix. It’s very easy to burn at this point so move your whisk very fast.
  8. Continue to mix and boil the egg mixture, at some point it gets heavy and you can see the bottom of pan when you whisk.
  9. When the mixture suddenly gets light and easier to stir then lower the heat and continue to mix till the whisk is coated with thin veil-like membrane (2 -3 minutes).
  10. Add butter and mix well.
  11. Put on the top of icy water bowl and stir with rubber spatula to cool completely. Strain through sieve for smoother cream.DSC_7196
  12. Place plastic wrap directly on top of custard and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Crème Diplomat

  • Crème patissiere 240g Take out of refrigerator and stir until soft with spatula.
  • Cream Chantilly – Heavy cream 100g and 10g of granulated sugar whipped till soft peak.
  • Chestnuts 12-15 See photos. Chopped in small pieces.

Gently combine crème patisserie and cream Chantilly then mix in the chestnuts.DSC_7247DSCN1334

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ~ I instantly start singing this song when I see the chestnuts. You could use any of the above chestnuts minus the song. From the left, chestnuts cooked in heavy syrup is sold at Japanese grocery store, it’s pricey so I use mainly for decoration, whole roasted chestnuts available in Whole Foods or Williams Sonoma, and this inexpensive bag of roasted chestnuts from Asian market.

Chestnut cream

  • Unsalted butter 100g softened
  • Store bought chestnut cream 200g–Oh come on! It’s a big project. Give yourself little break by using store bought chestnut cream.DSC_7211
  • Rum 10g or rum flavoring 1/2 teaspoon (optional).

Cream butter well and add chestnuts cream and rum. Mix everything till creamy and light with whisk.


  1. Cut cake in 1/3rd then trim the edge for neat look (you could slice in half again to make a 6 thin layered cake if you dare).
  2. Spread some of crème diplomat (about 1/4) cream on top of one cake.
  3. Put another layer on top and spread some crème diplomat on top.
  4. Put the last cake on top and spread top and side with rest of crème diplomat.
  5. Put chestnut cream in the pastry bag with tiny hole tip.
  6. Pipe out diagonal and crosswise to make a cross-hatch pattern.
  7. Decorate with chestnuts on top.


Here are some foods that I made for Christmas luncheon.DSC_7201Thrice steamed sweet rice inari sushi.DSC_7199Matsutake mushroom soup.DSC_7203Fried tofu and lotus roots cooked in soy broth. Ah…where are the main and salad pictures? I didn’t take any friends photo either? That sucks!

Took a Glass Art class last Saturday. It was a fun class. DSCN1313DSCN1307DSCN1311DSCN1316DSCN1315DSCN1314DSCN1322DSCN1317DSCN1306DSCN1328DSCN1320I made a pig necklace according to the finished sample on the left. This will go in the special oven to be fired.DSCN1327I also made Christmas ornaments and a sister pig, I hate to say it but she is my favorite. DSCN1329Lovely Yoko sensei. She is way nice and talented!DSCN1380Oh! Hi! Hello deer (there) – this joke is not so funny second time around (see last blog). The neighbor’s lawn ornament I enjoy very much without any effort on my part.