December 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Prepare jelly roll pan by lining with parchment paper.
- Put almond paste and 1/4 of egg in blender or food processer and blend until combined.
- Add 1/3 of egg into the blender and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape side of blender with rubber spatula.
- Add rest of egg and run for 30 second more then transfer to bowl of stand mixer.
- Add sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour the batter in the prepared pan. Spread evenly to the corners of pan with card dredge.
- Bake for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness after 18 minutes.
- 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
- Put milk, 25g of sugar, vanilla seeds and vanilla pod in a medium pan. Set aside.
- Put egg yolk and 50g of granulated sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the color of the egg became light and it thickens.
- Add about two tablespoons of milk mixture into egg mixture. Mix well.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour 1/3 of milk mixture into the egg mixture and mix well with whisk. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Add butter and mix well.
- Put on the top of icy water bowl and stir with rubber spatula to cool completely. Strain through sieve for smoother cream.
- Place plastic wrap directly on top of custard and let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Spread some of crème diplomat (about 1/4) cream on top of one cake.
- Put another layer on top and spread some crème diplomat on top.
- Put the last cake on top and spread top and side with rest of crème diplomat.
- Put chestnut cream in the pastry bag with tiny hole tip.
- Pipe out diagonal and crosswise to make a cross-hatch pattern.
- Decorate with chestnuts on top.
Here are some foods that I made for Christmas luncheon.Thrice steamed sweet rice inari sushi.Matsutake mushroom soup.Fried 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. I made a pig necklace according to the finished sample on the left. This will go in the special oven to be fired.I also made Christmas ornaments and a sister pig, I hate to say it but she is my favorite. Lovely Yoko sensei. She is way nice and talented!Oh! 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.