Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cinnamon Buns

I was skyping with my sister yesterday and she just happen to be finishing off a cinnamon bun. I couldn't not make some. I had previously found a small batch recipe for Amish White Bread on and decided to use that. The cinnamon buns caused a problem. I used very little sugar and have thus eaten way too many for breakfast this morning. At least I'm not consuming too much sugar.

Cinnamon Buns (Amish White Bread base)
1c warm water
1/3c sugar
2 1/4tsp dry yeast
3/4tsp salt
2tbsp vegetable oil
3c flour
sugar, cinnamon and slivers of butter
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water and then add the yeast. Let sit in a warm place until foamy. Mix salt and oil in to yeast. Mix flour in one cup at a time.
  2. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).
  3. Punch dough down and knead for a few minutes. Roll out on a slightly oiled surface until it is a large, thin rectangle. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and add slivers of butter here and there. Roll up and slice into 3/4" pieces. Put on baking sheet or in a pie pan. Let rise for about thirty minutes. After fifteen minutes, preheat the oven to 175 Celsius. Bake for about 15min or until golden on top and sound hollow when knocked on.
I made two pies pans with this recipe.

Potato Nuke

About a month ago I came across a great idea for baking potatoes on the blog Kalofagas. He sliced the potatoes very thinly and drizzled them with butter, spiced them with steak spice, wrapped them in tin foil and baked them. It looked like a marvelous idea so I tried it using the microwave. I have tried to bake potatoes in my oven and have found that it takes a lot longer than it should so I usually just microwave them.

Potato Nuke

5 small potatoes
1 bunch asparagus (substitute any vegetable you like)
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Wash potatoes and slice thinly almost all the way down to the bottom. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish. Crush the garlic into the butter and drizzle over potatoes. Try to get the butter between the slices. Cover and microwave for seven minutes. Baste the potatoes, add asparagus (cut into bite sized pieces) and toss with butter in bottom. Cover and microwave for another three or so minutes.

The leftovers make excellent hash browns the next day - and the potatoes are almost fully sliced already for you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Costco Spoils

We were quite delighted to find that one of Masa's friends and his wife (who have a car) wanted to go to Costco and Ikea for the first time. I have a membership but not having a car makes it impossible to buy fresh food unless I want to carry it all the way home on the train (approx 1.5hrs). We went two weeks ago and had a great time. We thoroughly enjoyed eating lunch there as well - pizza and hot dogs. I miss how pizza tastes back home. Pizza in Japan is either thin crust (absolutely delightful) or Japanese style thick crust pizza which just doesn't taste the same. Given that this is an entirely different country, it probably shouldn't. That being said, the Costco pizza was the highlight of my day.

We bought a massive package of red seedless grapes - 1kg in fact. They lasted 36hours. I had bought a nice salad/fruit bowl from Ikea and wanted to put the grapes in it making the grapes accessible for over-grazing. It is challenging to find red seedless grapes in my parts of the woods because Japan grows other very delicious varieties.

I also bought a wooden salad bowl from Costco. It is massive and beautiful. It's from the Emeril by Wedgwood. Interestingly enough, the price I bought it for was 1/3 of what the shopping sites from home have it set as.

Sparkling Sake

Japan is famous for sake with many varieties that can be drunk at various temperatures. I am not a fan of sake at all. I find the taste strong and despite it being sweet, cannot drink it. I was a little skeptical when my sister-in-law gave my hubby and I two bottles of sparkling sake. One was pink and the other white. They were absolutely fabulous with the pink being the better of the two. The bottle is also the perfect size for two - 300ml. I think this will be out standby celebratory drink as neither of us really enjoys champagne.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pickled Carrots and Japanese Cucumbers

For some reason I woke up this morning wanting to make pickled carrots. Luckily a few months ago I spotted pickleing spice in a international supermarket. I took a quick look on the internet and found a recipe on that looked similar to my moms. I followed it to the t.

1 lb. carrots (I used five Japanese-sized carrots)
1 1/2 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
3 tbsp. mixed pickling spice

Wash and scrape carrots. Cut into thin sticks. Cook carrots in boiling water until almost tender. (Can add salt if wanted.) Drain. In pot combine remaining ingredients with 1/2 cup water and bring to boil. Place carrots into hot sterilized jars. Pour over carrots and seal. Makes about 2 pints.

After making the first pickles I just played around with the Japanese cucumbers. Here is my recipe:
Pickled Japanese Cucumbers

4 japanese cucumbers
1 1/4c vinegar
1tbsp dill seed
1/2c water
1/3c sugar
1tbsp salt

Slice the cucumbers thinly, put them in a bowl, cover with a heavy dish and let sit for 30min.
Add rest of ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Rinse cucumbers and put in steralized jar, cover with liquid and seal. Let sit for about a week.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Yummy looking pizza dough recipe

I recently realized that Masa and I have never made pizza together. If we lived in Canada we would have made pizza several times but since home made pizza is not that common in Japan, I never think to make it. I stumbled across a great looking recipe on Choos & Chews.
The recipe was originally published in one of Jamie Oliver's (The Naked Chef) cookbooks.

Measure out 1 kg of strong white bread flour and 1 level tbsp sea salt onto your work surface. Mix 14g of dried yeast (I used 10g of instant yeast), 1 tablespoon of castor sugar and 4 tablespoons of olive oil in about 650ml of tepid water. There is no need to let the mixture stand if you use instant yeast.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and trickle in the liquid. Using a fork, draw the flour in towards the liquid. When all the liquid has been incorporated into the flour, knead until you have a soft, smooth and springy dough. Roll the dough into a ball. sprinkle some flour on top. This recipe yields about 6-8 medium-sized pizzas.

Place the dough in a warm place to rise until it has doubled. This should take about an hour. Once the dough has risen, knock it back, that is, gently knead it so you push out some of the air.

Divide the dough into 6-8 portions, and you can either freeze your portions, put them into the fridge for later, or use the dough immediately. It's best to roll the pizzas out about 15 minutes before you intend to cook them.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll each portion of dough out as thin as you can. I didn't attempt a toss, but I did manipulate the flattened dough from palm to palm until they thinned out further. Play with your favourite topping (less is more!), drizzle on some good olive oil, a bit of sea salt if necessary, and freshly ground black pepper.

I topped one pizza with some blanched asparagus, lots of mozzarella, some asiago, oregano, black pepper, salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I baked the pizza at 220C for about 10 minutes.

I'm very excited to try this sometime this week. Then I'll have pizza dough ready for a variety of uses.

Tomato-Quinoa Bread

I was just reading Kitchen Confit and came across a delightful looking recipe for Tomato-Quinoa Bread. I love tomato bread and had always assumed that you needed sun dried tomatoes to provide tomato flavor. Much to my surprise and delight, you can use tomato juice instead of water and have the same effect. Who knew? I haven't actually done much research on bread making because I get put off by the plethora of bread machine recipes and lack of recipes for those who do everything from scratch. I don't each much bread and thus do not want to sacrifice precious Japan-apartment space for a machine that would get used once a month.

Changes to the recipe: millet instead of quinoa (I thought I had the latter but it was infact the former), regular flour (I didn't have bread flour), vegetable juice instead of tomato (I couldn't find regular tomato juice)

Anyway, the dough has to rise 8-12hrs in the fridge so pics of the finished product will have to come tomorrow. It is actually a much brighter color than it looks in the photos.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Peach Crisp

Yesterday we bought some peaches from a fruit vendor near Oji station. They were five for 500yen which is a pretty good deal around these parts. I wanted to bake something not so intensive last night so I decided to use one of the peaches and another one we already had to make peach crisp.

Peach Crisp for two
2 large peaches dash of cinnamon dash of ginger
2tsp tapioca

1/4c butter 1/2c rolled oats 1tbsp bran 1tbsp brown sugar dash of cinnamon dash of ginger
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Mix the filling ingredients together and put in glass baking dish. Put all topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix like pastry. Put over the filling and press down a bit. Bake for 30min and let sit at least 10min before serving to allow tapioca to absorb extra peach juice. Serve with ice cream if dessert or alone for breakfast.

Peaches in Japan are pretty bland but the crisp tasted like a little bit of home. I really miss my mom's apple crisp because the like the peaches, apples are also on the bland side in Japan. Japanese fruit growers seem to favor large, beautiful but tasteless fruit. I'll take the deformed, flavorful ones any day.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Good Hamburger

I was waiting for Masa in Korakuen last night and decided to try a newish burger shop, Zest Premium Burgers, on the first floor. It can be pretty tough to get a good burger in Japan albeit there is a plethora of fast food burgers. Every once in a while you need a good one. I was sold as soon as I saw that they make their own fries out of great Hokkaido potatoes. Who could resist? The patty was 100% Angus beef and they cook it right in front of you. Here is their description:
The new Zest Premium burgers use Angus beef, ground upon ordering, grilled to perfection and topped with locally-sourced veggies and our homemade Zest sauce. They're fresh, natural and juicy, the way a burger should be.
I had a burger, fries and a drink for 1070yen which is decent for a good burger. They seem to have two locations in Tokyo, Korakuen and Hiroo, if you wanted to check them out.