Tag Archives: tokyo

a very baumkuchen holiday

we arrived in berlin on a gloomy grey afternoon.  soon after checking into our hotel, hubs and i walked over to gendarmenmarkt to see its famous christmas fair.  we wandered around the many nostalgic stalls selling everything from pizza to christmas ornaments to cookie cutters, when lo and behold, after rounding a corner, we came upon a rustic wooden sign with the words “BAUMKUCHEN” painted onto it.  OMG OMG OMG! i felt my heart race as i leaped around the corner to get my hands on some authentic german baumkuchen, the root etymology, the grand-daddy of all the japanese baumkuchen versions i’ve been obsessing about for years.

the baumkuchen stall we came across at the fair bore the signage: baumkuchen backstüberl.  i’m not sure if it was a famous brand of baumkuchen in germany or not?  i have a rather limited knowledge base when it comes to germany baumkuchens, unfortunately.  when i entered the word into google, it took me to the website of some traditional pastry shop in wien, austria.

unlike the slick japanese baumkuchen enterprises i visited that were manned by an army of white clad pastry chefs and salesgirls, baumkuchen backstüberl is a one woman show.  the proprietor made a single baumkuchen cake log at a time (the japanese machines will make several logs at once) on her rickety gas powered machine.

she sells her baumkuchen by weight.  there are two varieties:  fresh baumkuchen and baumkuchen coated in dark chocolate.  you can buy a segment of the log intact.  or she can slice it up for you into little cubes, which she then places in a paper cone.  it reminded me of eating popcorn out of cone.  now imagine if movie theaters in the US started to sell buckets of baumkuchen when you went to the movies instead!

in terms of taste, the german baumkuchen i tried is a bit different.   it is less dense, a bit more spongy in flavor, a tad sweeter, more vanilla-ey, and less nutty.  if i had to guess, it probably contains a lot less almond paste in its batter than the japanese baumkuchens.  i’m not complaining though.  i popped that baumkuchen cone in mouth in about 30 seconds flat.  happy christmas to me!

and just, when i thought i was done with new baumkuchen finds for the season, when i got back stateside, my friend G, who had spent his vacation in tokyo, presented me with a matcha flavored baumkuchen from kyoto based sweet shop sho-ayana (匠、彩菜).

Oo la la! what a way to end 2010 and kick off 2011! thank you G!

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hidemi sugino’s financiers

S came over early on thanksgiving to “tablescape.” i literally turned around after i saw what he did, and said, omg, who is getting engaged!  i’ll post more S tablescape pictures in a bit, but his floral arrangements and tablescapes were romantic, artistic and stunning.  personally, i think he should start his own tablescaping enterprise.

as the title suggests, this post is really about hidemi sugino’s chocolate financiers.  while in tokyo earlier this fall, i picked up a little cookbook  because the front cover contained a picture of a financier that looked very much like those sublime ones i tasted at Victor & Hugo in paris.  the book itself is titled, Desserts Faciles Au Chocolat par les Plus Grands Pâtissiers, and contains chocolate related recipes written in french from some of the most famous pastry chefs around the world (though weighted towards those in europe).  [note: if sugino’s recipe is any indication, the recipes are not by any means beginner.  you do need an understanding of pastry fundamentals to decipher a lot of the recipes — assuming you can read french.  on the other hand, most french recipes are written assuming the cook knows something about what they’re trying to cook.]

while sugino isn’t the pastry chef at Victor & Hugo (he has his own shop in tokyo where he’s famous for mousse cakes), his recipe for financiers turns out a velvety morsel that is shockingly similar to the Victor & Hugo financier.  S, who had recommended the V&H financier to me initially, took a bite and excitedly agreed that this was in fact the V&H financier.

the rise in sugino’s version is achieved by whipping egg whites into a soft meringue; no baking powder is used.  having looked at several other financier recipes, i think it’s this technique that enables sugino’s financier to achieve that peerless velvety texture.  he doesn’t stop there though.  he goes on to add a rich nutty encore behind the chocolate curtain through the use of browned butter. all this packed into the petite body of a simple financier. so genius!

sugino’s original recipe also calls for morello cherries and raspberry jam.  having run out of steam cooking 16 dishes and 6 desserts, i decided to simplify his financier a bit by baking with fresh raspberries instead.  (And yes, i don’t have a financier pan, so i suppose, technically, i didn’t make financiers, but you get my drift…)

Simplified Sugino Chocolate Financier
(makes about 30 one-inch round financiers or 20 small rectangular financiers; modified and translated from the original recipe publishes in Desserts Faciles Au Chocolat par les Plus Grands Pâtissiers )

Almond Flour 150g
Sugar 150g
Cornstarch 25g
Cocoa Powder 15g
Egg whites 5 egg whites
Honey 30g
Butter 90g
Raspberries 1 pint
  1. Butter the financier molds and place it in the fridge until ready for use.  Pre-heat oven to 320ºF
  2. Sift together the almond flour, sugar, cornstarch and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside
  3. In a small saucepan, brown the butter and then set aside to cool slightly
  4. Add egg whites into the bowl of your standmixer and beat until you reach soft peaks. You can add a bit of cream of tartar as a stabilizer.
  5. Very gently, fold the almond flour mixture (from step 2) and honey into the meringue
  6. Transfer the meringue mixture into the molds.  Place a raspberry in the center of each.  Then bake for 12-15 minutes, remove to cool on rack.
  7. When cool, you can dust with powdered sugar or coat the raspberries with a bit of strawberry jam.

 

 

 

nenrinya (ねんりん家) baum kuchen

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. . .

 

 

anpan found!

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)
東京都中央區銀座4丁目5番7号
4-5-7 Ginza, Chuuou-ku
Tokyo, Japan 104-0061
(above exit A9 of Ginza Station on Ginza or Hibiya line)

kimukatsu キムカツ: thousand layered tonkatsu

pork tonkatsu, by itself, is a guilty pleasure — a piece of tenderized pork loin, breaded in panko and then deep fried and served with a fruity and caramelized tonkatsu sauce. now, kimukatsu’s rendition of pork tonkatsu, with its thin layers of pork stacked on top of your choice of garlic, scallion, ume or cheese is as  fashionista rachel zoe would say, “beyond, just so beyond, i die, i mean, i literally die.”  i kinda like to think of kimukatsu as the love child of a mille-crepe cake  pastry artist and a traditional tonkatsu chef.

so which flavor to get? i ordered the scallion flavor (in the picture above), and i quite enjoyed it.  when we sat down, our waiter recommended garlic and cheese as his favorite.  my dining companion elected for garlic — they all seemed to gulf it down before i could ask for a sample.  G, who recommended Kimukatsu to me, said he really liked ume.  i did see quite a lot of customers ordering what appeared to be sampler platters, container one of each flavor.

the mille-pork is also served with a never-ending bowl of shredded cabbage (which is delightfully refreshing when dressed with their house sesame sauce) and a bowl of japanese rice.  we got refills on the cabbage about 3 times.

what can i say?  happy eating!

Kimukatsu
[there are various kimukatsu’s in japan. i visited the one in ginza; G went to the location in Ebisu]
Ginza branch (slightly different name ゲンカツ)
東京都中央区銀座4-6-18  銀座アクトビル3F
Tel: 03-3567-1129
(near the Mitsukoshi Ginza)
approximately 2500 yen/pp for dinner

travel + leisure’s food issue

over the weekend, i received travel and leisure magazine’s food issue in the mail. as i flipped through the pages, i found quite a number of items that i’ve both written about and obsessed over in the past year. i thought i’d share some of the magazine clippings, as it adds another perspective, and serves as a bit of a trip down memory lane at least for myself.

the magazine also covered a lot of new food places in different parts of the world that i’m putting on my list of things to do.  it’s an action-packed, taste bud overloading issue filled with all sorts of food porn. . . i’m glad i have my copy.

the japanese kit kat is becoming a bit of a “where’s waldo” exercise for me.  i hit the mega load back in january when i went to tokyo, and then spied some new flavors in london a few months later. according to the t+l article above, the folks at nestle japan have been busy concocting new and more exciting flavors!  i wonder if they’ll ever go the bertie bott’s (of harry potter world) route and create “rotten egg and bacon” flavored kit kats. . . although my guess is that that goes against japanese sensibilities.

remember this place?  the t+l photographers captured a great interior photograph of the pastry display at la pâtisserie des rêves.  the accompanying text in the article gives shout-outs to chef conticini’s tarte tatin.

so i’ve been noticing that i seem to write more about places that i visit while traveling, rather than ones that are close to home.  locanda verde is one of my favorite restaurants in new york city.  the food is rustic, homey, well-made, and it’s also a stone’s throw from where i live.  they have, amazing fig crumb muffins and a to die for sheep’s milk ricotta — happy sheep creamy, spiced with cracked pepper, herbs and orange truffle honey, and oh my god so addictive.  i really can’t stop myself when i order it, which is why, i must now stop ordering it.  and now that i’ve spilled the beans (again), i’ll probably never get a reservation!