i know, i know…i’ve fallen off the posting wagon of late. i’ve got a lot of material and not a lot of time to type them up! at any rate, we’re back with japanese cheesecake! Continue reading
blame it on harry! i’ve been so tied up taking care of the little fluff ball that i haven’t had much time to bake…or in this case steam. (plus, he turns into a little gremlin when he knows there are sweets around) . . .
the other day, i got a hankering for this steamed cake that my mother makes. really, it’s the only cake she made with any sort of regularity during my childhood. it’s not very sweet — or just sweet enough in my book, and has a wonderfully moist texture.
my mom refers to it as fa gao, which loosely translates into prosperous cake — it’s something typically made during chinese new year’s. after my visit to tim ho wan last november, it struck me that this cake is actually quite similar to the ma lai gao that they serve there. i think that if you actually substitute the milk in the recipe below with evaporated milk, you might end up with ma lai gao.
anyhow, i called up mum and she sent me her recipe . . .
Mom’s Steamed Cake Recipe
(makes 1 nine-inch round cake)
||2 large ones
||1 ½ cups
||1 1/3 cups
||½ cup (I used light brown sugar; although usually uses dark brown sugar, which gives it a richer colour and molasses-y flavour)
- Set a bamboo steamer on top of a wok filled with water. Then, grease a 9″ cake pan and set aside.
- Whisk together flours, baking powder and baking soda in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- Beat eggs for 1-2 minutes or until well mixed.
- Add in brown sugar and beat for another minute.
- Add in milk and oil. Mix for another minute.
- Finally pour in the dry ingredients you had previously whisked together in step 2. Turn mixer down to lowest speed and mix for 1-2 minutes until evenly combined.
- Pour the batter into the greased cake pan. Place the pan inside the bamboo steamer. Cover with the steamer’s lid. Steam for 40 minutes.
- Resist the urge to open the lid . . . as this will prevent the cake from blossoming — and yes, if you’ve made this cake properly, the center is supposed to crack open!
- When the 40 minutes are up, turn off the heat. Allow the cake to cool inside the steamer with the lid on for 15 minutes. Then remove the lid and allow the cake to cool completely.
when i was a kid, i remember watching my mom stock up on these bricks of jelly-like substance every time we found ourselves in the basement of a japanese depato. they’re called 羊羹 or yokan, and come in a variety of flavors like red bean, green tea, yuzu, et al. i think my mom liked to bring them back as gifts because while heavy and dense, these yokan blocks are relatively compact (about 2x6x1 inches in size), can be stored at room temperature, and sturdy enough to be stuffed into any which nook of one’s luggage. plus, she likes the flavor quite a lot. personally, i think it’s an acquired taste. the texture is denser than jello, and also tends to be a lot less sweet.
i decided to make a yokan terrine for thanksgiving. everyone oooed and ahhed the 3 layers, which consisted of yogurt on the top, followed by matcha and red bean. i don’t think everyone liked the way the yokan terrine tasted, but my mom did. she brought the whole thing home with her and proceeded to eat it the week after thanksgiving, and even asked me for the recipe.
the yokan terrine is very easy to make. the hardest part is probably sourcing agar agar, also known as kanten powder (see box above). agar gar is the firming agent used to bind the liquids together into a solid jelly. it’s made from seaweed and totally vegan (yes, if you got rid of the yogurt portion of my terrine, this would be a 100% vegan dessert). i found kanten powder at my local japanese grocery store. just 50g of the stuff goes for about $12. on the flip side, you only need a little bit to firm up a 5×9 inch terrine.
a few things to note about agar agar (especially if it’s your first time using it):
- you really do need to boil agar agar in order to activate it. the first time i started working with the stuff, i thought it was like gelatin. i dissolved it gently in hot water, and then waited and waited and waited for it to solidify. it remained watery even after 4 hrs in the fridge.
- unlike gelatin, when properly activated agar agar will in fact solidify at room temperature, and in record time too (compared to gelatin). i had a fun time watching it turn from liquid to a wobbly solid in under 15 minutes.
Triple Yokan Terrine
(makes 1 5×9 inch terrine)
|Agar Agar powder
|Agar Agar powder
|Red Bean Layer
|Red Beans (azuki)
||1 cup either pre-made in a can or dry beans boiled for 1 hour
||1 ½ cups
|Agar Agar powder
- Line terrine container with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Yogurt Layer: put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, let it cool for 1-2 minutes so it doesn’t melt the plastic. Pour about 20% of the boiled solution into the lined terrine container. Wait 2-3 minutes and then pour in the rest. The yogurt layer should begin to set in about 20 minutes. Start the matcha layer, when the yogurt has just begun to set.
- Matcha Layer: same as above. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Wait 1-2 minutes after it has boiled to let it cool slightly. Pour a small amount of the matcha layer on top of the solidified yogurt layer, wait 2-3 minutes and then pour in the rest.
- Red Bean Layer: same as matcha layer.
- When all three layers are complete, let the terrine set at room temperature. Then wrap the whole thing in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours to allow it to further solidify. Well-covered, it will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
- Slice to serve.
Posted in Asian Sweets
Tagged agar agar, azuki, 羊羹, green tea, kanten powder, matcha, neriyokan, red bean, vegan, yogurt, yokan, yookan
tokyo is in the throes of a full-fledge baumkuchen explosion. i swear, in the last six years in which i’ve traveled there, the baumkuchen craze seems to have reached the same frenzied crescendo as cupcakes in nyc. fortunately, i happen to ADORE baumkuchen (more on my baumkuchen ravings here). walking around the pastry aisles inside tokyo department stores, i felt sheer joy (or was that the adrenalin putting thru my veins?) i witnessed baumkuchens in every permutation. there was even a baumkuchen that resembled a cupcake of sorts — tiny baumkuchen roll on the bottom, and topped with some sort of frosting or buttercream.
while waltzing down ginza, i came across the nenrinya baum kuchen boutique, nestled in the ground floor of the giant matsuzakaya department store. i’ve never tasted baumkuchen from this company before, and thought i’d get in line behind the 30 other baumkuchen crazed tokyo-ites.
nenrinya sells baumkuchen in two flavors: original (which is kind of a vanilla/almond) and chocolate. they also sell two styles of baumkuchen: straight and mount. the former is softer, less sweet, lightly coated with glaze, and is only available in the original flavor. i purchased a small ring of the straight baum that had been made fresh that day and meant for same day consumption (they also sell a version of the straight baum that is vacuum packed to last longer). of course, it still tasted delightfully moist about a week after i purchased it, even without the fancy packaging. i’ve learned to ignore japanese expiration dates (basically add a few days and up to a week to any date they’ve got stamped on).
i also picked up a quarter sliver each of both flavors of the mount baum kuchen. the mount baum kuchen (pictured above) is more heavily coated with glaze, dusted with powdered sugar, and denser with a ridged exterior. i prefer the straight baum kuchen, but it’s nice to mix things up every now and then. plus, the mount baum is just cool looking.
it was a bit hard to take photos inside the jam packed store, and there was a no photo sign, which i didn’t see until i got up to the counter). that said, i did pick up a brochure and scanned in some of their lovely photos for your viewing pleasure. . .
Posted in Asian Sweets, Cakes, Tokyo
Tagged ねんりん家, baum kuchen, baumkuchen, chocolate baumkuchen, ginza, Matsuzakaya, mount baumkuchen, nenrinya, nenrinya baum kuchen, straight baumkuchen, tokyo
while taking my walk down memory lane, i realised that i wrote one of my very first posts on the anpan — a soft, sweet bread stuffed traditionally with red bean paste. yes, i waxed on and on about how the bread reminded of breakfast as a kid, and even tried to make the bread at home (yes, very pathetic wrapping techniques; i’ll need to wrap a 1,000 before i get it).
while strolling down ginza a few weeks back, hubs and i stumbled upon the headquarters of kimuraya (木村家), the original sakadane anpan purveyor. they’ve been kicking around since the 1860s, even as multi-story depachikas and temples to Cartier, Bulgari and all sorts of foreign brands grew up around them. to be fair, kimuraya has expanded too. they’re now in an 8 floor building (with a few other locations throughout Japan). the takeaway bakery is on the first floor. floors 2-4 house 3 separate kimuraya restaurants of varying degrees of formality. the bread factories are located on floors 7 and 8. we didn’t have time to explore the rest of the kimuraya complex beyond floor 1, but lemme know if anyone has and would like to report on them?
they’ve got all sorts of breads, red bean paste treats, luxury gift sets and of course many varieties of the anpan in the store. i purchased two: one stuffed with red bean paste with the traditional navel indentation (see bagel shaped object below), and one stuffed with lotus seed paste. they were both absolutely scrumptious, so moist and so kawaii! i didn’t know, before going to the store, that kimuraya’s anpan were quite so petite. that’s my hand, holding a kimuraya anpan — about 3 inches in diameter. maybe i should have gotten hubs to hold the anpan instead, so as to provide a better sense of scale.
kimuraya’s anpans keep surprisingly well. i ate one about 1 week later, and it was still rather moist.
Ginza Kimuraya (銀座木村家)
4-5-7 Ginza, Chuuou-ku
Tokyo, Japan 104-0061
(above exit A9 of Ginza Station on Ginza or Hibiya line)
takahachi bakery is perhaps the nicest japanese bakery in new york city. they’ve got a huge assortment of pastry items: asian flavored ice cream, japanese sandwiches both hot and cold (e.g. a yakisoba sandwich), salads, a long counter filled with japanese breads (the mochi anpan is delicious, as is their walnut crumble almond danish), and a glistening pastry case filled with things like shiso flavored puff pastry, artfully decorated cupcakes, opera cakes, fancy mousse cakes, japanese strawberry shortcakes, french macarons and delicate earl grey financiers. they just opened a week or so ago. and while i’ve gone there 4-5x already, i find their assortment so vast that i feel as if i’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg.
i usually get one of their salads and one of their irresistible pastry breads. there’s a light-and-airy, seating area in the back, where you can watch the pastry chefs and master bakers hard at work.
everything is made fresh daily. it’s my kind of place.
25 Murray St (near Church)