Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ricotta muffin リコッタチーズマフィン

This is, again, my wife's baking. I may have to change the title of the blog to reflect the fact my wife's baking is more frequently featured. In any case, she baked this from La Brea Pastry cookbook. This is a muffin with fennel flavor stuffed with ricotta cheese/cream filling. It is topped with pecan.

The stuffing got mostly absorbed in the muffin. I asked my wife to take over from here.

for the batter

2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 cups All Purpose Flour and 1 cup +2 Tbs cake flour (or 3 cups AP flour)
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
3/4 cup vegetable oil

for the filling
1/2 cup (4 oz.) ricotta cheese)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sour cream

for the garnish
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans


Toast the fennel seeds in a pan until slightly brown and fragrant. Cut or crush into fine bits.
In a large bowl add the dry ingredients including the fennel seed. In another bowl mix the yogurt and vegetable oil until blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until blended.

For the filling mix the ricotta cheese and sour cream (for a thicker filling just use the ricotta cheese).

Spoon the batter into greased muffin cups to fill about 1/3 full. Spoon the ricotta cheese filling on top #1, then cover with more batter #2.  (It doesn't matter if the filling seeps out the sides, put in a healthy amount). Sprinkle with chopped nuts (#3). (Press the nuts into the batter otherwise they will just fall off after the muffin is cooked.) Cook 20 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven #4 & #5.

The muffin had a nice section of filling #6. I was cautious about adding the filling and I had a lot left over. In retrospect I will be more aggressive in adding the filling and use it all up because I adds a very nice texture and flavor to the muffin.

We are not sure we really like fennel flavor in the muffin. Other spices like cinnamon may work better. For the stuffing, my wife thought straight Ricotta cheese may work better instead of a mixture of cream and Ricotta. In any case, this is a good muffin especially for a breakfast.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Spiced apple with nuts インド風のリンゴのデザート

Among apples we like Fuji apples the best. So when we see them we tend to get them. Some of them stay in our refrigerator for quite sometime. Although apples last for long time, we decided it was time to make room for the new crop apples which should appear in the stores soon. So we used the apples from last year, that were somewhat past their prime to make this spiced cooked apple with nuts.

This comes from an Indian cookbook but my wife reduced the butter and sweetness. She also tamed down the spices a bit to our taste. Since we happened to have a Ricotta and cream mixture, we topped this with it.

6 apples (we used Fuji apple), peeled, cored and cut into small wedges (see below).
1/4 cup butter, unsalted enough to lightly saute the apples
1/3 cup honey or to taste
1/8 tsp. Cinnamon,
1/4 tsp. ground cardamon,
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Roasted blanched almond slivers
Walnuts, toasted, skin removed and chopped


On low heat gently saute the apples in the butter. (The more butter you add to more sauce you'll have.  The apples will start to exude juice. Cook slowly until they start to soften and become partially translucent. Then add the spices stirring until the apples are coated. Finally add the nuts. Remove from heat. (The apples will keep cooking as they cool so keep that in mind if you would like an apple with a little bit of crunch in the center.)

This is a nice desert. Not too sweet but pleasently sweet with mild spices. The apple still maintains some crunch. My wife overdid it with the two kinds of nuts. Next time she can reduce or even eliminate the nuts.

P.S. We have had long days of rain and clouds. One afternoon, this totally wet red tail hawk landed in our cherry tree. Although this was a rather small hawk, it looked fierce. It specializes in squirrels.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Honey corn muffin 蜂蜜とコーンフラワーのマフィン

This is my wife's baking. This is a corn muffin using finely milled corn flour and honey. She made in two different sizes.

To the left are larger ones and to the right are smaller ones.


2 cups pastry flour
2 cups corn flour
6 Tbs. sugar
4 Tsp. baking powder
2 Tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup honey

 Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (four to salt). Mix together the wet ingredients (eggs to honey). Mix until blended. Scoop into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 18 to 20 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before attempting to take out of pan.

This is something between desert and breakfast. It has a nice delicate (not crumbly) texture with strong corn flavor but it is a bit sweet. Since my wife used buckwheat honey, the assertive taste of honey is apparent. We really like this muffin. We can choke it down either as a breakfast or desert.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Pistachio nut bread ピスタチオのパン

This is another of my wife's baking projects. This is unusual since half of the flour is actually ground pistachio nuts and Greek yogurt is used as a part of the wet ingredients. It has a very nice unique taste and we love it as a breakfast bread.

You can see small pistachio nuts on the cut surface of the bread.

When finished baking some fissures appeared on the surface but the texture was quite tender and delicate.


1 cup sugar
4 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. orange flavoring
1/2 cup orange juice
2 2/3 cup pistachios roasted
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cardamon
1 tsp salt
8 eggs
1 cup greek yogurt (my wife strained the regular yogurt).
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tsp. vanilla

Roast the pistachios. Don't skip this step the flavor and texture of roasted pistachios is different from un-roasted. Grease and flour 2 bread loaf pans. Cut some parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans and grease it on both sides. (This will make it easier to get the bread out of the pan).

In a food processor combine the sugar and orange zest. Process until the sugar is damp and fragrant Put aside in a bowl (#1). Add the pistachios to the food processor and pulse until coarse. Add the flour, baking powder, cardamon and salt and process with the nuts until finely ground (#2). Whisk the eggs, yogurt, oil, orange juice, orange flavor and vanilla into the sugar mixture previously set aside. (#3).  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold until blended. Put into the previously prepared bread pans (#4). Cook in a 325 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes until a skewer comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing. Let cool completely before cutting into pieces.

This bread has a nice orangey overtone from orange zests, juice bolstered by the flavoring. My wife reduced the cardamon so that this was not too overwhelming. The texture is extremely rich and moist. The flavor is very complex. The pistachio nuts added some nuttiness but we could not pinpoint that this is the taste of pistachios. Nonetheless, this is very flavorful bread with nice texture.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Moon gazing "Tsukimi dango" dumpling 月見団子

My wife really likes the moon (and rainbows), especially a full moon. She always looks for it in the sky. So, she immediately loved  the idea of Japanese "Tsuki-mi" 月見 moon-gazing or moon-viewing,  "Chushu-no-meigetsu" 中秋の名月 or "Juu-go-ya" 十五夜 . It refers to the full moon which falls on August 15 according to the Japanese lunar calendar and on September 24 according to the  Gregorian calendar. It is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox which incidentally also falls on September 24 this year. This moon gazing has something to do with a harvest festival in Japan and in the west this moon is called the harvest moon.  In any case, we decided to cerebrate for the harvest moon and Juu-go-ya moon. My wife even collected "Furoshiki" 風呂敷, Japanese wrapping cloth, and "tenugui" 手ぬぐい, Japanese hand towels, with moon-gazing motifs on them. As shown by the furoshiki below, these usually include the full moon, pampas grass or "Sususki" ススキ, and rabbits gazing at the moon. Rabbits are generally associated with the moon in Japan because according to Japanese folk lore supposedly derived from a Buddhism story, a mochi-pounding rabbit lives on the moon, rather than a man. So in Japan you have bunny-in-the-moon instead of man-in-the-moon. Since the creature living on the Japanese moon pounds mochi, this may explain why the traditional food to accompany the fall moon-gazing is a round mochi ball or dumpling made of rice flour called "Tsu-ki-mi dango" 月見団子 Also because the full moon occurs on the 15th night of August "Juu-go-ya" according to the Japanese lunar calendar, the dango are presented in three layers of 9+4+2 totaling 15 commemorating the 15th night full moon. A plate of these mochi dumplings is shown next to the rabbits in the picture below. The plate of the dumplings I made is in the forefront of the picture.

The last time I made this with mashed potatoes with a center of cheese but this time, I wanted to go traditional and made dango using rice flour. With my wife's help, I used one of her collection of furoshiki as a background for the picture.

Below is a picture of the guest of honor; the moon. I took this picture several days before Juu-go-ya (September 24). It was almost full moon. On the 23rd and 24th, it was rainy and cloudy and we could not see any moon.

I made tsukimi dango a few days prior. After displaying the dango, I put the dango on skewers and warmed it up in the toaster oven and coated it with "mitarashi" sauce. This way of serving dango is called "Mitarashi dango" みたらし団子. It was good (especially the sauce) but the dango themselves were not soft or warmed through. So the next day, my wife tried microwaving the dango with the sauce. That method worked much better and the soft elastic texture came back like the ones freshly made.

I have never made this from rice flour. I looked for the recipes on line and decided on making it with rice flour and silken tofu (the alternative is using just water). This recipe variant came with the claim that the dango stays soft even cold.

At that point, I was not very familiar with different kinds of Japanese rice flours* (see footnote). Because rice contains practically no gluten and gluten-free diet is popular in US, even if you do not have gluten allergy or Celiac disease, rice flour is readily available. Actually, my wife used it in her baking and she provided me with the rice flour she had used.  This is called  "Sweet white rice" flour from Bob's Red Hill. This is made from short grain Japanese eating rice grown in California (Probably "Kokuho Rose"). The flour looked a bit coarser than what I remember but I made dango from it. After boiling the dango for a few minutes, they should have floated to the surface but they never did. Although I boiled it for almost 20 minutes, they never became soft and  not quite edible especially after they were cooled. I then learned about the different kinds of  Japanese rice flours*.  Since I did not have the time or energy to go to our Japanese grocery store to look for the appropriate rice flour, I turned to Amazon and got "Mochiko"餅粉 meaning "rice-cake flour" which is milled in California by "Koda farms"  (Japanese name!). This is  made from "mochi gome" 餅米.  Mochi-gome* is a type of  rice specifically grown for making mochi 餅 or other rice dish such as "seki-han" 赤飯 (#1 in the composite picture below).  My thinking was this flour (by name and by Japanese association) must be the better flour to make dango.


for the Dumpling:
"Mochiko" rice flower 100gram
Sugar 2 tbs
Silken tofu about 1/2 (gradually added until right consistency is attained)

for Mitarashi sauce:(all weighed since amounts are rather small).
Soy sauce 40ml (or grams)
Sugar 60 gram
Dashi broth 100ml (or grams)
Mirin 15ml (or grams)
Potato starch 15 gram

For Dumpling:
Add the flour and sugar in a bowl (#2).
Add a small amount of the tofu (#3)  at times to the dry ingredients and mix by hand.
Add more tofu until the dough forms but is still soft (#4) (The Japanese instructions say "texture of an ear lobe).
Using a small ice cream scoop, make small balls (need to make at least 15, I made 19).
Cooking them in boiling water until they float on the surface and cook additional 3 minutes (#5).
Put cooked dango in ice cold water for few minutes and drain (#6).

*Footnote: The below are what I gleaned from the Internet. There are some conflicting information. It appears that there are three major kinds of rice flour. These are made from two different kinds of short grain rice; one is "eating rice" called "Uruchi-rice" うるち米 which contains polysaccharide amylose, another is called "mochi-gome" 餅米 which contains two kinds of polysaccharides amylase and amylopectin. Amylopectin gives a lot of sticky elastic texture when cooked. Rice cake or Mochi is made from this rice.

1. Shira-tama-ko 白玉粉
Made from milling washed uncooked mochi-rice with water, After the starch settles down, it is dried, very fine, mixed with water and then boiled. It makes a delicate soft dumpling with slippery surface which remains soft even when cooled.
2. Mochi-ko 餅粉
Made from milling  washed and dried uncooked mochi-rice, strong rice flavor and makes elastic dumpling by mixing with water and then boiled
3. Jou-shin-ko 上新粉
Made from eating "uruchi" rice, washed, dried, and milled,  mixing with hot water, steamed, and pounded to make elastic mochi like dumpling.

Tuskimi-dango is ususally made from either shira-tama-ko or mochi-ko. The red mill rice flour is similar to #3.  The way I made the dango using this flour was not proper or this flour is too coarsely milled. The ones I made from Mochi-ko, the dango was much better and close to commercial "dango" my wife and I are familiar with.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ricotta cheese tart リコッタチーズのタルト

For some reason, my wife wanted to try this recipe from "La Brea pastry cookbook". It is called "tart" but no tart shell is involved just the cheesy filling. In any case, my wife thought this is a good snack go with wine. She made it one-bite-small.

The main flavor is sage. We used fresh sage leaves from our herb garden.

3 cups Ricotta cheese
2 cups Parmesan cheese
2 large large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
7 sage leaves

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients #1,#2,#3. Scoop the cheese mixture into small muffin pan. (grease the pan even if it is "non-stick") #4. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the touch #5 and #6.

It was difficult to remove the tarts despite my wife's use of non-stick muffin tins. It required to use a small spatula to coax out the tarts. Next time, it may be advisable to grease the tin. In any case, this was nice cheesy mini tart (or quiche) with fresh sage flavor. It does indeed go well with wine.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Smoked salmon and salmon salad roll スモークサーモンとサーモンサラダ巻き

My wife is a firm believer that mayonnaise and sushi rice are a good combo. We tried her theory previously with tuna hand rolls and "Salmon salad" sushi. We regularly prepare grilled salted salmon with crispy skin (after salted and dried for few days in the refrigerator) We finish the skin but we make leftover salmon meat. I often make the leftover salmon into salmon salad by flaking it and dressing it in a mixture of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise. We enjoy the salmon salad as an appetizer as a canapé by putting it on the cracker. Since we had still some salmon salad left, my wife suggested this salmon salad roll with smoked salmon and caper. I took her suggestion and  I made a medium sized roll or "chu-maki" 中巻き (As opposed to Futomaki 太巻き fat roll or Hosomaki 細巻き thin roll). This differed from our previous post because it is a roll and includes smoked salmon

I made the salmon salad a few days earlier. I used a mixture of Greek yogurt, mayo, Dijon mustard  seasoned with Myer lemon juice, fresh dill, salt and pepper. to dress the flaked grilled salmon.

The rice was distributed a bit unevenly.

Since this was a weekday evening, I took a short cut and used frozen rice to make the sushi rice.  I have a Japanese container we got at our grocery store which was designed to store cooked rice frozen. The lid has either small air vent or by turning the lid 180 degree, the lid will leave small gap so that microwaving the frozen rice will steam the rice. I also microwaved sushi vinegar (from the bottle) to warm it up and dressed the warm rice and let sit for 5 minutes.

Sushi rice, 1 cup (see above)
Nori dried seaweed sheet, one
Smoked salmon, 3 slices or enough to cover the rice
Salmon salad, enough to spread to cover the rice
Caper, 20 buds

Place the nori sheet on the bamboo sushi mat
Spread the sushi rice in a thin layer on the nori to cover about 70% (for a medium roll)
Place one layer of the smoked salmon
Spread the salmon salad and top it with capers (see below)

Roll it with the bamboo mat and press to shape.

Wet the blade of a knife and slice the roll in half and then slice each half into 5 slices each.

This again proves my wife's theory that mayo and sushi rice go well together. The only problem with this iteration was that the salmon salad was a bit on the wet side with Greek yogurt and Mayer lemon juice but it tasted great. Sushi rice from frozen rice was not bad at all and this was a great ending dish for the evening.