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Archive for the ‘Dessert’ Category

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than a year since my last post.

It’s been a busy year, full of trans-pacific moves, goodbyes, hellos, and a lot of yet to be documented eating adventures!

Why not start off with a shave ice review?

shaveeice
I love all forms of ice dessert and syrup, including kakigori (and here), halo halo, ais cacang, and pat bingsu.

But the ice dessert that rules them all? Hawaiian style shave ice! The texture of the ice, made by “shaving” it off of a large rotating block, is lighter and much smaller than crushed ice. This creates more areas for the syrup to flow into, and not just collect at the bottom of your cup or bowl. The ice is then lightly shaped into a large softball sized ball. Then freshly made syrups and a quick swirl of condensed milk are added on top, and a scoop of ice cream at the bottom if you are so inclined.

My favorite is a combination of lemon-line, blue raspberry, and cherry, which usually means I end up with a well earned purple tongue afterwards.

RockinIce Truck @ Los Angeles, California

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I feel like in every country I visit, there is one dish or snack that I feel compelled to consume as much of as possible during my trip. In Thailand, it was mangos and coconut milk sticky rice and in Korea, it was hotteok .

In Taipei, it was hot soft soymilk pudding with a sweet peanut soup and sweetened red beans. You can find dou hua 豆花 in many Cantonese dim sum restaurants, usually served with a sweet ginger syrup, and sometime I see it in Japan, drizzled with a black sugar syrup. Taipei serves it up at stalls devoted to Chinese style desserts soups, and you can add a variety of sweetened beans, mochi made of taro and yam, and jellies to your order.

My standing order was dou hua with hot sweet soy bean milk, boiled peanuts and sweetened large red beans. Most stalls serve their dou hua in a light sugar syrup, but I much preferred the hot soy milk instead. The dessert is light and not too sweet, the tofu is custardy and silken in texture, mixing well with the soft peanuts and red beans. I had it for breakfast, and as a late night snack after a day of eating. I even lugged back instant dou hua mix and peanut soup in an attempt to make it at my apartment, but it isn’t the same. I guess I’ll have to make a trip back to Taipei to eat it again 😀

Ningxia Night Market @ Taipei, Taiwan

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Typhoon number 12 is currently trying to decide where or not it wants to plow through the kingdom of peaches and grapes, so while the weather is windy and rainy outside, I am inside thinking of desserts. 🙂

So before coming to Japan, I actually had never eaten a parfait before. I guess they just aren’t a popular dessert where I grew up. Count me among the happily converted though! In Japan, the parfait usually refers to layers of soft serve or scooped ice cream (sometimes both), whipped cream and toppings which range from cornflakes (surprisingly delicious) to custard, coffee jelly, jam or preserves, and fresh fruit piled high in a tall glass.


Recently, the one fancy fancy hotel in my city made the news with their seasonal fruit parfait, so of course we drove up the mountain to try it out. The type of parfait changes every couple months, and we were lucky to be there at the tail end of the the peach season.

I love peaches and there was very nearly a whole peach perced precariously on top of a scoop vanilla bean ice cream. The fresh peach was sweet with just a slight tang, pairing well with the mellow ice cream and the layers of thick custard and whipped cream underneath. About half way through the glass, I was surprised to find a couple layers of tangy peach preserves. I like to think of parfaits as the dessert that becomes more complex as you eat your way down to the bottom of each glass. I will admit, I was wishing for some crunchy cornflakes, but the extra spoonful of preserves at the very bottom was a nice surprise.

Fujiya Fruits Park Hotel@ Yamanashi City, Japan

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Just looking at this picture makes me want another kakigori!

I took another trip to Nagoya a couple months ago, and went to this tiny shop in the market district for quite possibly the best shaved ice of my life. The green tea syrup was not too sweet and not too bitter, and there is plenty of condensed milk. What sets it apart from other kakigori that I’ve had is the texture of the ice. Many places use crushed ice, similar to a snow cone, but this shop uses very finely shaved ice. It melts in your mouth really smoothly, and holds the syrup well, instead of letting it all sink to the bottom of the bowl.This shaved ice was really big, but I somehow managed to eat the entire thing ^_^

@Nagoya, Japan

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baked donuts 1
Now that the summer heat has started to hit Japan in earnest, I’m starting to miss the chilly weather that hung on until just a couple weeks ago. I stayed at a friend’s place last weekend, and made these cute baked mini donuts. The mini part was a happy compromise, as we wanted to buy a full sized silicon donut mold, and could only find the mini version at Tokyu Hands.

Speaking of silicon cook and bakeware, they are suddenly very popular in Japan. There have been a ton of mooks (magazine books) coming out with recipes and free cookware, including everything from vegetable steamers to cake molds. Baking with silicon molds is being promoted as being the “healthy” option for making donuts, cakes and even churros. I don’t know if it is actually healthier, but it does make me want to fill my kitchen with rainbow colored bakeware! Baked donuts are leading the boom, popping up everywhere from Mister Donut to my local supermarket bakery. I can only assume that is why it was impossible to find a full sized silicon mold for donuts!

Using the mold is simple, we just made a batter using a store bought pancake mix, eggs, milk and butter. Then we added cocoa powder, green tea powder and kinako (roasted soybean) powder to make different flavored donuts. After spooning the batter into our mold, we baked the donuts for 1o minutes, let them cool, and started decorating.

It was an awesome way to spend a rainy Sunday morning. The only downside? Now all I can think about is other flavors of donuts and icing that still need to be tested!

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I’ve started to count the seasons here by not the weather, but the appearance and disappearance of Japanese sweets, wagashi from the local grocery store.kashiiwaa
I have one weak spot for wagashi devoted wholly to kashiwa mochi 柏餅,which is rice cakes formed into a pancake like shape, and filled with a sweet bean paste, then wrapped in a oak or kashiwa leaf. The sweet is associated with Children’s Day 子供の日 in May. I specifically love the ones filled with a mixture of miso an, or sweet white bean paste mixed with a small amount of salty Saikyo miso paste.

From the middle of April, I start to keep an eye on the wagashi corner of the grocery store, and do a little happy dance when I spot them for the first time in the season. Because these sweets definitely  have a season!  Wait more than a few days after the 5th of May, and you’ll have to wait another year before they come back.  While I like red bean mochi, and generally enjoy the taste of sweet bean paste, sometimes the tooth aching sweetness can be a bit too much even for me.
kashiiwaa2
Miso an filled kashiwa mochi is at once sweet and salty, the miso paste lends a depth of flavor missing from regular red bean paste, making the filling taste almost creamy. I guess adding the miso to the filling is the same concept as adding flaky sea salt to a chocolate cookie, or salted caramels, the salty taste accenting the taste of the white bean paste and preventing the filling from being overly sweet. It’s difficult even in Japan to find wagashi shops that still make miso an kashiwa mochi, but if by chance you do find a place selling them, please give them a try!

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sugar cookie
Sometimes things happen in life that kind of knock you out of your regular routine, and it takes you a little bit to get back into the swing of things. Baking delicious things that simultaneously heat my apartment and make it smell like warm butter, sugar and vanilla is my way of getting back a sense of normalcy.

This recipe makes sugar cookies that are slightly crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. They are simple and not perfect, but exactly what I wanted to munch on while curled up with some tea and watching back episodes of Good Eats.

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter, salted, softened
  • 200g powdered sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g flour
  • 20g baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

—————
1. Preheat oven to 170C. In a medium bowl, cream softened butter and powdered sugar together until well combined, and until it lightens in color and is slightly fluffy. (use a stand mixer if you like)
2. Mix in eggs, one at a time until well combined.
3. Stir in vanilla extract, almond extract and nutmeg
4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking power and salt, then add it to the butter and sugar mixture. Stir well.
5. Use a spoon or cookie scoop to drop roughly golf ball sized balls of dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are just about to turn a pale golden brown. Bake less for softer cookies, and a bit longer if you like your cookies crisp.

**while I tend to just eat these cookies as they are, I’m pretty sure they would be fantastic frosted, or rolled in sugar as well.

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