Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sweet Seasons /October 2007 - Persimmon -


Yes, I replaced the photo. The previous one did show more wagashi on a tray, but just one persimmon in this shot is certainly more impressive, I think.

Persimmon is a special fruit for wagashi confectioners. Traditionally, people have dried astringent persimmons to make hoshigaki (dried persimmon). You may think that drying was a desperate effort to somehow make use of the otherwise-useless astringent fruit, but that is not the case. The astringent variety was (and still is) preferred for making hoshigaki because it turns out to be sweeter when dried. I've read that astringent persimmons have a higher sugar content than sweet persimmons (such as fuyu), believe it or not.

It is said that a dried persimmon is three to four times sweeter than a fresh persimmon. In olden days when sugar was valuable and hard to get, the sweet dried fruit must have been a beloved dessert. This is a good reason to believe that it was served with tea, and perhaps that is why hoshigaki is often said to be the origin of wagashi: sweets (almost always) served with green tea. But that is not the only reason why the persimmon is a special fruit.

There is a principle widely shared by confectioners: "Wagashi shouldn't be sweeter than hoshigaki." Overly sweet wagashi is not considered decent or elegant; it makes you think "Oh, this is too much!" To avoid that, confectioners seem to have chosen the somewhat mild sweetness of dried persimmon as a guideline. Think about that; Japanese confectioners have passed down this guideline for years-- could be hundreds of years. To me, the hoshigaki guideline sounds more... how shall I say... naturalistic? and I like it. It doesn't sound as dry as, "The sugar content of wagashi should be less than XX%. "

* Wagashi by Nishigawaya


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Looks Like They Loved My Cookies

The last piece of my pumpkin cookies ...

Yep, I baked the pumpkin cookies for the Halloween event yesterday. Actually, so many unexpected things happened during the week before the party and I got so extremely terribly busy -- to the point that it was almost killing me, honestly. But I couldn't give up on the idea of baking the cute cookies, and I did bake them.

I'm so happy to tell you that at the party, my cookies disappeared relatively quickly and I even got positive comments from a couple of moms. :D

Oh, the twists added to the original recipe? To give the cookies more flavor, I replaced apx. 1/5 of the amount of flour with almond powder and about 1/5 of the white sugar with brown sugar. I also added good amount of vanilla extract and a little cinnamon, too. It worked well... I think. The only thing was that the cookies turned out flatter this time, so they looked more like flowers than tiny pumpkins... But they were moister and tastier than before, which I liked very much.

And it was amazing how great I felt to see kids eating what I baked. Believe it or not, this was my first time since I started this blog that I saw any kid eating what I baked. Gosh, it felt sooooooooooooooo good! Kids munching on my cookies!

Now I'm so very much tempted to persuade the boss to let us do a gingerbread-house making project for the Christmas event. I don't mind baking gingerbread slabs at home and donating them. And, yeah, how about letting kids decorate pre-baked gingerbread people? (But maybe cleaning-up would be a nightmare ... ?? I'd better be careful because I will be the one to do the cleaning.)


Saturday, October 20, 2007

No, I didn't Go to Canada

Maple Cream Cookies from Canada

I wish I were the one who went to Canada, but no, unfortunately not. One of the students of the language school I work for gave these to me as a souvenir yesterday.
Yum! :D
It must be beautiful in Canada now... with maple leaves turning colors...


Saturday, October 13, 2007


Pumpkin Cookies ("experimental batch")

The language school I work for at night is going to have a Halloween party in two weeks, and I'm thinking about bringing in some home-made sweets. If you are a long-term reader of this blog, you probably know how I have been cooking/baking to celebrate Western -- or I should say, American -- customs for years WITHOUT anyone to share the food and fun. Man, this school event must be a rare chance to make others eat what I bake for my own nostalgic reason. Why miss it?

So I've been looking for some "Japanised" recipes (to stay on the safe side) for Halloween goodies, and today I tried out a pumpkin cookie recipe that I bookmarked the other day. The cookies are very cute, easy to make, and more importantly, pretty cost-effective! ;) But to be perfectly honest, I'm a bit worried that they might taste a little too light or bland when eaten with other store-bought munchies at the party, thus I'm going to give the recipe a twist or two ... Good thing that I still have some time to experiment.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Chan-Chan Yaki

Chan-Chan Yaki

Miso (fermented bean paste) is such a versatile ingredient. And it's amazing how well it goes with some dairy products like cheese or butter.

To tell you the truth, I didn't know chan-chan yaki until I read about it in a manga, "Cooking Papa" several years ago. This must be a popular dish in the northern part of Japan, but in my hometown where seared bonito (katsuo no tataki) is almost like a "staple," combining miso and butter to grill salmon was not a popular idea. At least I had never heard of it. But now, thanks to the manga and other medias like TV cooking shows, recipe magazines and the internet, chan-chan yaki is known throughout the country, I think.

OK. I'm posting the recipe for the chan-chan yaki I made today. Yes, I modified someone's recipe to make it less sweet to suit my palate, but still it was on the sweet side.

Chan-chan yaki ( 1 serving?)
2 pieces of salmon fillet
vegetables (carrots, cabbage, onion, green pepper, mushrooms etc., sliced or chopped)
2 Tbsp white miso
2 Tbsp miso
3 Tbsp sake
1+1/2 Tbsp mirin
1+1/2 Tbsp sugar
20 g (or more, if preferred) butter
1/2 tsp soy sauce

The original recipe didn't call for soy sauce, but I thought it would enhance -- or give a little Japanese touch to -- the butter flavor, so I added a little of it.

This is really easy to make. First, melt a little butter in the frying pan and sear the salmon fillets. Then put the cut vegetables in the pan, place the salmon fillets on the vegetables, put the lid on and cook. Combine miso, sake, mirin and sugar in a bowl to make miso sauce. When the vegetables are soft, pour the sauce all over and cook (covered) for a few minutes. Add butter and soy sauce and cook for a few more minutes until the butter melts.

Pretty good with cooked rice. :)