Easter 2017

I haven’t been posting for long time on here or my FB page, but I just had a busy baking week and I thought I would sit down and record what was going on.

We moved the house last July to an old bungalow which belonged to my father-in-law from our house in Belfast which we lived about 7 years.  The house is in the country, about 30 minutes drive from Belfast. This is where my husband grown up and where our boys’ Grandad had lived.

Every Easter, ever since my boys are big enough to run around and developed the love for chocolate, we came to this ‘Grandad’s house’ for Easter. Our garden in Belfast was small and Grandad’s garden was bigger (and likely to have more rabbits living nearby), so we would bring a basket each for boys to collect eggs, hot cross buns and a simnel cake to share. Grandad would come out to the garden even if it was bit chilly and stand at the corner of his house to watch boys run around his garden looking for chocolate eggs.

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This year, we are living here. No Grandad now but we did the same as before, with same cake and same buns.

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Simnel cake is a strange one. It is apparently a traditional cake for Easter, but I think it actually became known about 5 years ago or so. I don’t know if this cake was once popular and forgotten OR it was only baked in certain part of UK and became known widely recently. But we like rich fruit cake and burnt marzipan, so it became our Easter tradition.

For this cake, I don’t actually follow certain recipe. I make a Christmas cake dough (any rich fruit cake recipe will do), just add marzipan in the middle (put a half of cake mix in the tin, add a layer of thin marzipan, topped with rest of cake dough), bake as you’ll do for Christmas cake and decorate the top with more marzipan and toast the top. (I just put the whole cake under a grill, but if you have a burner, it will work well. )

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Our favourite for Easter time is this hot cross buns. It’s a sweet raisin bread, with bit of cinamon. You can see the recipe of this bun at my old post. Hot cross bun

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A blue egg in the picture was a wee present from my husband. It had a few champagne truffles inside of a hand-pained wooden egg. A real treat for me. x

A few more days of Easter holiday left. Boys are running around in the Grandad’s garden. I wonder if I should make another batch of hot cross bun before the school starts.

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Spring themed Japanese Cakes – KIMISHIGURE, KOUBAI

It’s Spring equinox today and we had solar eclipse this morning in the UK, and it’s super moon tonight. What a day to celebrate the start of Spring.

I had an opportunity to make some traditional Japanese cakes (WAGASHI), for Japanese spring festival early this month. Some Japanese people living in North West of Northern Ireland organised an event which celebrated HINAMATSURI (Japanese doll festival on 3rd March) and coming Spring. I made three spring themed WAGASHI for them to sample.

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Those pictures are from the event.

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From left: KOUBAI (direct transtation will be ‘red plum’), KIMISHIGURE (‘egg yolk drizzle/rain’), SAKURA MOCHI (‘cherry leaf dumping’)

I had a post about SAKURA-MOCHI here last year, as this is very popular spring sweets in Japan.

The other two are less known, but also quite traditional.

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KIMISHIGURE (黄身時雨)is steamed bun made with white bean paste with egg yolk. SHIGURE means drizzle or shower, and the name came from characteristic cracks on the top, as it looks like the sky when rain is passing by.

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The natural yellow of yolks and slight hint of green from MACHA underneath symbolize the start of Spring. Inside colour doesn’t have to be green, I have seen the one with pink colour peeking through.

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Inside is smooth AZUKI paste, and green tea bean paste on top. It’s very gentle sort of cake, sweet and crumbly. It crumble and melt in your mouth.

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KOUBAI (紅梅)means red plum, but actually these names doesn’t really mean anything. It’s one of NERIKIRI (練りきり) cakes, and NERIKIRI can be formed in any shape or colour like modelling clay. So, you might find similar thing called in different names, like SAKURA (cherry blossom), KANBAI (winter plum), ICHOU (ginko leaf) etc…

NERIKIRI is a paste made of sweet white bean paste and sweet dumpling called GYUUHI (which is made of starch and sugar), and it is one of traditional cake in Japan.
We rarely eat those at home, but it is popular choice if you are having tea ceremony or other traditional celebrations.

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NERIKIRI usually have sweet AZUKI bean paste or white bean paste inside. This time, I put KIMI-ANN, egg yolk white bean paste.

The shape and colour can be changed to fit for an occasion. Seasonality is very important. For example, plum is for late winter to early Spring thing, I just get away with plum in early March, but strictly speaking, it might be even too late to be serving plum shape cakes after the end of February.

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All those cakes are great with a cup of green tea.
(Do make sure you drink green tea without sugar or milk or lemon!  Although we often have a slice of lemon with black tea, normal British tea, in Japan, we never have lemon with green tea.)

Those traditional Japanese cakes are called WAGASHI, and sold at WAGASHI-YA in Japan. It’s strange but I don’t think I would have made any of those if I lived in Japan. I’ve started to make them only because there isn’t any shops selling them here. I had to buy some ingredients from Japanese on-line shop, but it is great that I can make and eat those traditional cakes in Belfast.

Have a nice Spring equinox!

and Happy Fiesta Friday!! It’s 60th! Thanks to Angie for super new page for the party and this week’s co-hosts, Tracy @Scratch It Cook and Nancy @Feasting With Friends !

Cake Sale

I had a wonderful opportunity to open my ‘cake shop’ at Japanese women’s coffee morning club last month. ( It was end of November, but time is flying since we hit December, and I haven’t had a chance to post photo. Phew! )

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I made several type of cakes, some traditional Japanese, and some other cakes which are common in Japanese cake shop. (With excitement and stress of organizing everything, I forgot to take my camera, so my friend Y-san kindly took photos of cake sale on her phone and send it to me. Thanks, Y-san! And I manage to take a few more photo at home afterwards.)

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HIOMAME DAIFUKU (rice bumpling with Azuki bean paste with salted red pea)

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CHIGO DAIFUKU (Rice dumpling with Azuki beans with fresh strawberry)
You may find this combination strange, it is certainly not traditional. But it is now common to see this at Japanese WAGASHI (traditional Japanese cake) shop in Spring time.

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reen tea & Azuki Millecrepe: Layers of thin crepe and green tea cream and Azuki bean cream.

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M
ilk Chocolate Cake: Simple cocoa genoise sponge and milk chocolate ganache, topped with a chocolate macaroon.
My son’s favorite is those simple chocolate cake.

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M
ont Blanc: Chestnuts cake, it is French cake, but very popular in Japan in Autumn.
[Almond meringue base, creme pat, chopped sweeten chestnuts, whipped cream, and then covered with chestnuts cream topped with chestnuts. sugar coated hazelnuts at bottom. ]

It’s a time consuming thing to make it from scratch, but it taste wonderful. I only make them in Autumn when fresh chestnuts are in season. I am still learning how to cook sweeten chestnuts (SHIBUKAWANI) perfectly like my granny would have done. But it is a skill and also it depends on quality/freshness of chestnuts you can get.

To whom wondering why it is not white, even if it is called white mountain (mont blanc), nowadays, Mont Blanc is just a name for this cake, this cake doesn’t have to be white on top at all. Sometime you see them with dusting of icing sugar, but I just didn’t have non-melt icing sugar. You can sprinkle usual icing sugar if you are eating it straight away.

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aspberry mousse cake: Mousse cake is very popular in Japan. Many cakes sold in Japan contain some sort of mousse. I guess Japanese likes soft light texture in their cake. I love sharp fruits in my cake, so I love those raspberry mousse.

[from bottom, genoise sponge sandwiched with raspberry jam, raspberry puree, vanilla bavarois, raspberry mousse, raspberry gel, topped with fresh raspberry and white chocolate decoration]

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A
 little box set packed for a friend’s order. Thanks to many friends who came to buy my cake. It was fun to try my ‘pop cup cake shop’.

Have a nice weekend!

Gluten Free Naked Summer Wedding Cake

Don’t worry, no one is naked here.
Yes, we all got clothes on.
You can open your eyes now. (see, you were looking between your fingers, otherwise how do you know if I said to open your eyes.)

Only the thing naked is the cake.

Is that new term? I don’t know, but apparently, layered cakes without any icing seemed to  be called ‘Naked Cake’.

Special occasion cakes often has butter cream icing and regal/fondant icing covering exterior. But those icing can be sickly sweet.  I often peel off the icing and eat sponge and cream. I thought it was because I was from Japan and not used to those type of cake.  But apparently it wasn’t only me. There must have been many people dislike icing on the cake.

I was asked to make a gluten free naked cake, for a friend’s relative’s wedding.

A wedding cake.

This was why I was doing a trail (which I posted about here). It’s a big deal. I couldn’t mess up.

The bride and groom are lovely couple, and asked me to make my usual gluten free Victoria sponge which they had eaten before, then fill them with mascarpone cream and summer berries.

The wedding was in July, in a beautiful garden of Mount Stewart (National Trust).

They are having a simple family wedding, just ceremony and coffee+cake later on, so rustic summer feeling of naked cake fitted the theme very well.

I did trial and I know I was fine.
But I had a mishap of shopping, I got to know that Dove’s gluten free self-raising flour does not simply equal to Dove’s g/f plain flour + baking powder. S.R flour also contains xanthan gum, so it gives better texture than just using plain flour + baking powder, which was good but not quite perfect. (Thanks to my lovely helping husband it was all sorted.)

I baked layers of the cake, and sandwiched cream and fruits a night before, kept each tiers wrapped and refrigerated till next day.

On the day, my good friend minded my boys for me, and off I went with cakes. Each rumps and turn, I was so worried that the cake will be moving about and being squashed. I do not know how professional cake decorators deliver their cakes, or do they simply have strong hearts?

I get to the garden well ahead of the time, and stuck up the tier and decorated the cake with lots of fruits and bit of mint.

Well, the setting was so lovely. A simple wedding in such a beautiful surrounding.
Sunny July day in a historic garden, full of flours and greens. What more do you want for a wedding?
I really enjoy decorating the cake under a little white gazebo in a beautiful garden.

The results.

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Gluten free Naked Summer Wedding Cake

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I used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries from shop, and white currents from my garden. I added some mint for colour.

Sponge is gluten free victoria, cream is mascarpone cream.  Strawberry jam is also hiding between the cream.

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I run out of the battery of the camera, so I couldn’t take good shots of surrounding garden, but it was beautiful garden filled with bright summer flowers. Naked cake really suited the occasion.

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Congratulation to M&M.

Happily ever after.

and as for the rest of us, Happy Fiesta Friday! (I had to skip a few weeks, but I am back to the party this week. Thank you for Angie and co-hosts.)
and happy weekend to all!!

90th Afternoon Tea

It’s been a while I managed to write a post, I was too busy planning and baking for two parties.
One of them was a big 90th birthday party for my father-in-law. It wasn’t that big in term of number of people attending, as only immediate family got together for a weekend, but it was ‘big’ in terms of significance. If 90th birthday party isn’t a big deal, what is? (Well, 100th, I guess. )

We decided to go for a BBQ + garden tea party, I didn’t need to prepare much foods. I just concentrated on sweet treats.

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Ta Darrr…. garden afternoon tea.
I really loved that we could use mum-in-law’s cake stands for grandad’s (father-in-law) birthday party. These cake stands used to come out for special tea time when my husband and sisters were young.

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Top: Blackcurrent macaroon, lemon macaroon. Middle: Cherry shortbread, coconuts cocoa biscuits. Bottom: Rocky road, lemon square, rice crispy)

I burnt a good batch of macaroon first, then failed to make another good batch. Ended up with lots of failed shell of macaroon to eat at home.
Heart cherry shortbreads (middle tier, back) were made by my boys who saw it on Cbeebies’s “I Can Cook”.  Boys set up their ‘biscuits shop’ and sold them for penny to their uncles and aunties. They had a such fun.

 

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Top: coffee jelly with cream, key lime pie, raspberry mascarpone cheesecake. Bottom: scone with butter+strawberry jam)

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These small cups are lovely in tea party. I got this idea from a friend of mine, she made lots of green tea mousse cups for Japanese party some month ago. Those little cups are plastic shot glasses which we can buy at party corner of large supermarkets nowadays.

As for the birthday cake, our auntie ordered a huge iced Victoria sponge cake from a home bakery. It was massive, biggest single tiered cake I ever seen, but I forgot to take any picture of the cake itself.

I also baked black forest gateau for my sister-in-law on Sunday, as her birthday was next day. But with too much of partying (not drinking, but getting things sorted and all that), I forgot to take our camera. So no photo. But this classic cake was received well, too.

It was a lovely sunny weekend for all. My boys had a such fun playing in the garden with their cousins. And granddad had a really special time surrounded with his family.

Green Tea Biscuits + Cherry Blossom Biscuits

3rd of March is Hinamatsuri, girl’s day in Japan.
If there are any girls in the household, you display traditional dolls called “Hina-Ningyo” and have a party to wish for happiness and health of the girls. This festival is also called as ‘Peach day’, celebrating Spring coming.

(image of Hina Ningyo from Japanese Wikipedia: http://ja.wikipedia.org/)

My family had 3 girls, I was middle one.
We had large doll set, 7 or 8 steps, with prince and princess  and all the servants. We didn’t have a party as such, because my parents were too busy in spring time as my family has apple and pear orchard. We just had dolls displayed and had a nice dinner or something.

In Belfast, Hinamatsuri would be a distant memory.
But actually, we celebrate it here in Northern Ireland! Thanks to Japan Society of Northern Ireland, we do Hinamatsuri party every year, around early March, with full set of dolls displayed beautifully.
(One Japanese lady actually has her dolls brought over, and now she celebrate this day with her little daughter. She usually let us display her dolls at Japan Society)

To celebrate Spring, I made those biscuits for the party.

P1060932 (640x481)Biscuits for Japanese Spring Party.

P1060933 (640x481)I wish I had cherry blossom powder, but I didn’t. (Cherry blossom is often  salted to be preserved, and it has distinctive flavour.)

So, I just made pink vanilla cookies using star piping nozzle, and put freeze dried raspberry in the middle.

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I coated the back of biscuits with strawberry flavour chocolate.

P1060934 (640x481)Green Tea (Maccha) biscuits with black beans.

I had some sweet black beans my mum sent me, so I put them in. It gives nice texture to the biscuits.

These biscuits were made in log shape, set in fridge and cut into 7mm ish before baking.
When using Maccha powder, you can use it as you do with cocoa powder. But you’ll probably only need to use less quantity than you use cocoa powder, as Macha powder can be strong and also expensive. Make sure to mix Macha powder really well with flour and sieve, before you mix with wet ingredients.

(March 2014)

Fair trade Fudge Favour

Finally done it!
After many tries and fails, I managed to make 160 favour for a Charity Gala.

I am a beginner of fudge making. I checked the web and tested some fudge recipes, and found suitable recipe to use (fudge testing).
I measured the square tins and calculated how to multiply the recipe.

But when I cooked a batch of chocolate fudge, I found there was too much fudge for a tin.

Wondering why, I checked calculation, and it was correct.
I did another batch of raisin one, and it was too much again.

Then I realised that I measured the tin wrong. I used 15cm ruler, and I thought it was 33cm tin. But actually it was 28cm. Terrible mistake!!

Chocolate fudge was fine, as I can cut harden fudge into the size I wanted, but raisin one was tricky one to rescue. The raisin fudge was too thick and soft to cut into small cube.

I had to give up this batch (I kept them to use for something else, off course!) and made new one with accurate measurement.

I found the sugar fudge was a bit soft when it is just made but it settles into good (still soft) texture.

So, here it is.  After some hard working evening, I made those…

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Three chocolate fudge cubes and three rum & raisin fudge cubes per pack.

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160 of them. (this box on picture just have half.)

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It is made to celebrate UK’s Fair-trade Fortnight, with lots of fair-trade ingredients to showcase.

Phew, I done it.
I have done for some quite big baking before, but 160 favour made and packed was quite a record for me.

As a treat, I went to a ball on Thursday night. (not even on the weekend!)

The event I catered the favour for was a charity gala, a formal dinner party, and I was invited to join in.

I was first time for me to go to one of those fancy party, and I was quite excited but also worried.

Actually more nervous about my clothes than being stressed about finishing making the favours, since a friend invited me dropped a line “Have you got your gown? Evening or long cocktail?”

Hello?
Hellooooo??

NO. I haven’t got any ‘gown’.  I already bought a red short dress.

I own a few dresses; mostly casual, a few light silky ‘friend’s wedding’ sort of one (wedding can often happen in summer),  and also a light weight Little Black Dress, and a thicker Autumn/Winter LBD which I actually worn for the friend’s father’s funeral.

I’d been to a shop and bought one red dress which I thought it looks good and formal-ish. But I haven’t really thought much about dress code.

The invitation letter said it was ‘formal, black tie optional’.

Oh dear, I searched the web madly if my dress qualify for a formal dinner.
And what about the shoes and the bag? accessory? coat??

In the end, it was all fine.
It’s Belfast anyhow, not Hollywood.

When I was all dressed up and ready to go, with a red dress and red lipstick, my 3 years old asked, ‘Why mummy looks like someone else?’

Was that a compliment? Or not?

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The Gala was for IJM (International Justice Mission) Belfast, as you can see on the picture of favours.
Very good work they do, bringing justice and law enforcement to people who lives in developing countries. They work  hard against gender claims, forced labour, corruption etc…

As a student I studied about international development, it was very interesting to hear about the work they do.

This Saturday is International Women’s Day, there are so many women still out there in the world  without any law or law enforcement to protect them from gender violence.

(Feb 2014)