Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Gluten Free Dacquoise aux Marron (ダコワースのマロンケーキ)

_DSC8691“Probably Strawberry Short Cake” my son said for his birthday cake selection. “Every cake you make is (very) good” he added. He basically said “Whatever”. I should have recorded that conversation. When I presented him this Chestnut Cake he goes “Whaaa…t?” like that. Happy Birthday to you!

The matter of truth is I didn’t have strawberries. I went to the market yet I spaced out completely. Like he said, whatever I make is SUPER ( he omitted this word but I know he meant to say it) good so let’s try this new recipe, in all honesty, I was really not in the mood for one more trip to the store – request denied.

The origin of dacquoise name perhaps came from the town of Dax, southwest of France and means ‘People of Dax’. However the person who developed this recipe is Japanese.Takao Mishima (三嶋隆夫), a chef who worked at Arthur, Paris’ 16th district restaurant in the 1970’s. I have made many chestnut cakes in the past but I think this is the easiest so far. Because of almost identical ingredients, the flavor is similar to a macaron without footwork. Anyway, my quest for the perfect chestnut cake continues.

Ingredients and direction for dacquoise

Equipment you need: Food scale, 12x9 baking pan lined with parchment paper


  • Egg whites 135g about 4 large eggs (the eggs below are gift from my husband’s co-worker, nice aren’t they?)_DSC8631
  • Granulated sugar 25g
  • Almond Powder 100g. Sift with powdered sugar 70g below. Note: use coarse mesh strainer, it’s tough to get the almond powder through.
  • Powdered sugar 70g plus an additional 2-3 Tablespoons for dusting.
  1. Preheat oven to 410F.
  2. Beat egg white with electric hand held mixer or stand mixer at medium speed till it gets cloudy.
  3. Add 1/3rd of granulated sugar and continue whipping till you can see the solid white color and when you lift up the beaters, they leave a trace.
  4. Gradually add the rest of the sugar and make meringue with stiff peaks but still shiny and not dry.
  5. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup of the almond and powdered sugar mixture and gently fold it in with spatula until the almond disappears. Repeat until all the almond flour has been added.
  6. Pour batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle powdered sugar through a strainer. When the powdered sugar disappears, dust again with powdered sugar.
  7. Put in the oven. Close the oven door and immediately turn down the temperature to 392F. Bake for 15 minutes._DSC8654
  8. Cool cake in the pan on the cooling rack. When it’s completely cooled, flip onto a clean flat surface. Cut cake in 3rds. Then carefully remove paper._DSC8658

Make Filling

  • Heavy cream 120g
  • Granulated sugar 20g
  • Chestnuts about 16 pieces – I used a jar of chestnuts from William Sonoma- chopped small. 4-6 whole chestnuts for decoration later.
  1. Whip heavy cream and sugar till soft peak with electric mixer.
  2. Add chopped chestnuts and gently combine with spatula.

Make Chestnut cream_DSC8704

  • Unsalted butter 100g softened
  • Can of chestnut cream 200g – similar item available in Whole Foods.
  • Rum flavoring 1/2 teaspoon (optional). If using real rum 10g
  1. Put butter in the bowl and whip with electric hand held mixer till the butter gets pale and fluffy.
  2. Add chestnut cream and mix with lower speed till well incorporated.
  3. Add rum and mix._DSC8665

Syrup although it’s optional, this will keep the cake moist.

  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • Sugar 2 Tablespoon
  • Rum flavoring 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon (optional)

Dissolve sugar in the water and add rum flavoring.


  1. Lay first of three cakes on the plate.
  2. Brush with syrup repeatedly using about 1/3 of syrup._DSC8661
  3. Spread 1/3rd of filling evenly on top.
  4. Lay the second piece of cake and repeat step #2 and #3.
  5. Lay the third and final piece on top and repeat step #2 and #3._DSC8664
  6. Put chestnut cream in the pastry bag with tip (I used a multiple hole tip but a one pin hole tip will work too).
  7. Pipe out diagonally and  then again to form a cross-hatch or diamond pattern.
  8. Clean sides with a pallet knife.
  9. Decorate with chestnuts on top (optional). I used chestnuts in heavy syrup._DSC8709_DSC8672I proudly announced that this cake is gluten free. ” I’m ok with gluten, you know that right?” said my husband. Yeah but this does not taste like it. _DSC8675Hummm, this looks like soba noodle.

Putting the kids to bed was an exhausting job indeed.Top-2

This is one of my first paintings.   _DSC8708

I needed to make amends with him with his favorite dish –  crab cream croquette but he was out with friends. Fine! _DSC8641

My son made us beef stroganoff over egg noodle under the guidance of Betty Crocker. It’s good though, my recipe is betty…better._DSC8624

We went out for dinner last Saturday then stopped by the Petite Provence for a little treat. From the right – chocolate, vanilla, caramel, orange, half eaten raspberry and missing is pistachio. _DSC8698





Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heavy Weight

Tofu Bread

_DSC8533Tofu bread may have created such a stir last year in Japan. I just didn’t know about it until recently - All the ingredients go into the bread maker and push the rapid bake button – sounds super easy, right? I let my husband do the work since he is a King of Bread._DSC8518

Although this bread is very moist, it is also unexcitingly heavy.  I guess all the water content of tofu makes it bloated? It was an interesting recipe...I neither love or hate this weak flavor. Yes! Definitely it needs more punches or an upper cut, or maybe just a bit of a jab. My husband  thinks this recipe requires a bit of training and he’s positive it could throw a knock out punch in the next round. Whatever honey, but is this worth fighting for?

Ingredients and how-to for 1 loaf of bread (my husband doubled the recipe because Japanese bread maker is smaller)

Necessary Equipment – bread maker, food scale _DSC8524

  • Butter, margarine or olive oil 25g

  • Milk 80cc
  • Tofu (soft type 絹ごし) 150g
  • Salt 3g
  • Sugar 30g
  • Bread flour 250g
  • Dry yeast 3g
  1. Put ingredients in bread maker in the order written ( our bread maker does not have a built-in yeast dispenser, to protect the yeast from touching the liquids and salt right away, the yeast should be put in last) and choose the Rapid-Bake course. Note: Rapid-Bake makes bread with a trendy (in Japan) pale color and soft crust but it’s optional.


Because my husband and my son are part Irish, we make a fuss around St.Patrick's Day. Is it when the Irish eyes are smiling? No, Oh Danny boy!_DSC8548_DSC8476_DSC8480The napkin fold is called Bishop’s hat. Congratulations Pope Frances! Good luck! I wish you the best._DSC8490The green butter on the tofu bread was perhaps too much for breakfast? Go brush your teeth, quick!_DSC8606Irish hot chocolate? No, it’s a regular cup of my hot chocolate with an Irish motif. _DSC8607

Corned beef – must have dish for Irish celebration. The meat comes from the butcher not from package which means it is less salty._DSC8622Busy Sunday, no time to make dessert. I settled for gold nuggets (Ferrero Rochers). Though I didn’t see a rainbow that day, I felt lucky._DSC8592

The Yellow Cake my son made from scratch last week was good. We’re all polite – no you go ahead, have the last piece, no you take it, I insist – now it is all dried up. _DSC8515

Advertised in Garden magazine, “Be the first to own Raspberry Shortcake plants”.  I drove to the garden center and got one. I hope I beat everybody else._DSC8549_DSC8550

Signs of Spring are everywhere. The slug knows it too._DSC8575_DSC8569_DSC8560

The friend’s 90th birthday party invitation reads ‘No gift please’, so I went empty handed. It was a lovely celebration lunch. She gave each of us a gift of a potted flower (Begonia). She is like a precious jewel. I felt privileged to have been invited… I can’t believe I forgot my camera yet again!_DSC8484


Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Japanese Savory custard/茶碗蒸し

_DSC8440The seller was a Japanese woman whose husband’s job here is done and so they are going back to Japan. Six custard cups for $15 was the asking price I took a closer look and they were in perfect shape. It’s like one for… 2 dollars and …before I could finish the calculation in my head, I was told they were sold already. Darn it!

_DSC8380I broke my custard cups sometime ago and I have never been able to find ones I could fall in love with. I have impeccable taste in things like dishes, bags, shoes…what? what’s that honey? Oh, yeah,right, in men too. He is absolutely a great find.

I received a phone call from the seller a few days later. The buyer backed out and the cups are still available and did I want them? That was 2 weeks ago. It is not really a good time of year to make this dish because of difficulty getting one important ingredient but hey, that does not stop me from trying._DSC8385

Savory custard is called chawan mushi. Chawan means cup or small bowl. Mushi means ‘steamed’ in Japanese but also means bug. I thought it had something to do with bugs as a child and it gave me a creepy feeling. My late mother was an expert in making the dish but I never got her recipe. The kitchen was her territory and her dislike of other people in her tiny kitchen made her unpleasant. One day in her absence, I re-arranged dishes and so on and she scolded me as she could not find anything in HER kitchen later. But mother, I protested, how am I supposed to get the can of candies if it’s waaay up there?

Ingredients and how-to for my version of  4 savory custards. 

Make dashi (Japanese soup stock) first or skip the whole thing and use store bought dashi powder to make 500cc dashi stock.

  • Water 500cc
  • Dried Kelp (昆布) 2 inch by 2 inch. Wipe the surface with moist paper towel to clean.
  • Dried tuna flakes (鰹節) – a handful about 10g
  1. Pour water and kelp into pan. Slowly bring water to boil at low heat._DSC8397
  2. Remove kelp just before the water starts boil. Discard kelp.
  3. Put a handful of tuna flakes in the pan and cook for 1 minute and turn off heat. Leave for 30 minutes
  4. Strain through strainer and cool.

While the dashi is cooling, prepare other ingredients

  • Dried Shiitake 10 to 12 pieces soak in 200cc water in a pan until it gets soft. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce. Cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  • Chicken breast about 70g cut into bite size pieces. Rub the chicken with 1 teaspoon soy sauce and a little bit of salt._DSC8407
  • Shrimp 8 Shelled and deveined. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sake. _DSC8409
  • Spinach - a bunch. Prepare ice bath in bowl first. Wash spinach and cut off the stems. Boil two cups of water and a teaspoon of salt in a pan, cook for 20 to 30 seconds then drain the water and plunge into prepared ice bath. Gently squeeze water out and cut in 2 inch lengths.
  • Gingko nuts 8 pieces (optional). My husband’s must have-important ingredient. Fresh nuts are available in the Fall. I used dried gingko nuts and that was a nutty idea. There are canned gingko nuts that you could also use but I dunno, they are a little mushy.
  • Mitsuba 4 leaves (optional) Shown below right._DSC8426Other suggested ingredients: fish cake (かまぼこ), eel, crab meat.

Make custard

Gently beat 3 eggs so that  you won’t create air bubbles. Mix with dashi stock then strain through strainer to make smooth custard._DSC8427

Steam processTHIS IS THE MOST TRICKY PART – do not over steam.

Equipment: Steamer with lid (lid wrapped with dish cloth to prevent water dropping into the cups).

Pour water in the bottom section of steamer and start boiling. Divide shitake, chicken, shrimp, spinach, ginkgo nuts by 4. Place in individual custard cups and pour egg mixture 3/4 way. If you see bubbles on surface, prick with toothpick. Place the cups in fully going steamer. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes at low heat. Put Mitsuba leaf on top to decorate
._DSC8432_DSC8433_DSC8468_DSC8460Yup! I steamed that one too long. In all honesty, I suck at it.

I love the name! Yuki no Kakera (Snowflakes), a new crop of rice, was on sale at the Japanese super market. We usually consume Haiga rice or brown rice but with the purchase of a large bag, you get a small bag for free. I wish it was the other way around. _DSC8392It was shiny and white as snow like any other white rice, not too shabby though._DSC8455

These gluten free mini cupcakes were for a church function. I’m not allergic to wheat but made them just in case some people who have a restricted diet showed up.They were surprisingly good!_DSC8372 

Then the gluten free cheese cake my husband made was also marvelous. See that recent find of antique plate made in France? Très belle (very nice) right?_DSC8471