Japanese Christmas Cake, a little Early

Japanese Christmas Cake, Anime Strawberry Cake, Strawberry Cream Cake, whatever you call it, it is amazing.  Simple and delicious, sweet and tart, I can go on and on about this recipe.  I like many others searched for this cake because I always see it enjoyed in anime’s yet never knew the name.  All I knew was, while watching anime’s the characters enjoy this lovely layered cake with strawberries and cream.  It looks like perfection, so elegant looking yet simple and delicious.  I found the name of the cake, largely in part to anime fansites, so I went on a hunt.  I wanted to keep it on the Japanese side, so I went with the japanese style of this cake from the sponge, to the trick to thickening the whipping cream, by using agar agar.

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White Wine Garlic Cream Pizza Sauce

Since I found the perfect pizza crust, for now.  Trying to get the perfect pizza combinations is my new goal.  I spent the better part of my day trying and looking up different ways to make a creamy garlic sauce for a pizza.  We used to get a pizza at a place that is now closed, but it was Chicken, Garlic & Tomato.  I know that most places use ‘ranch dressing’ as a white sauce but that just grosses me out.  For one, I wanted to know everything that was going into this and two, I wanted to use the last bit of wine left over from the chicken and artichoke dish.

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Mini Fruit Tarts with Berries

I have always wanted to make these, I am very very excited to share and more so happy with my results.  The crème pâtissière is thick and sweet, alone I would say it’s almost too rich.  However with the sour and tart fruit it is a perfect balance.  The flakey pastry crust adds the texture it needs for the most amazing balance.  I would have to say for personal preference, the blueberries and raspberries had the best balance, but the strawberries made it decadent.  I would not omit them by any means.  These would make a beautiful addition to any summer gathering.   The crème pâtissière can be made days in advance, as well as the pastry crust.    Then assemble the day they are needed.

I don’t own mini tart pans so I used a cupcake tin, it actually worked out quite well, just cut 4″ rounds out of the pastry dough and fitted into the tin pan.  Filled with a tiny piece of parchment paper and pie weightes made cute little tarts.    So, don’t think you -must- have a tart pan it may make for a prettier presentation of course, but I was please with the results of the cupcake tin.   The crème pâtissière is from the amazing Julia Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The crust is my sweet crust adaptation from Williams Sonoma.

French Pastry Cream
Creme Patissiere

  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Paste or 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes

Over medium heat in a small sauce pan bring the 2 cups of milk and vanilla to a boil (If using a vanilla bean, cut in half and scrape the beans out stir in the milk and add the whole bean pod in the milk as well). Place a 3 quart or larger sauce pan on the stove ready for use.

Place the egg yolks in a stand mixer, and with a wire whip gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating for a 3-5 minutes until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and it should form thick ribbons.

Beat in the flour until well combined.  Slowly on low speed, trickle in the milk in a thin slow stream.  Do not add the vanilla pod set aside for a moment. After the milk is added turn onto medium high speed and mix for 1 minute.

Pour the mixture into the 3 quart pan you previously had set on the stove, re-add the vanilla pod.   Turn to medium-high heat.   Slowly and  continuously whip with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom and sides of pan, until mixture thickens.   The mixture will get lumpy as it begins to thicken.  Keep whisking it and it will work the lumps out.   After a while you will notice the mixture start to decrease in volume down to a thick custard.  At this point turn it down to medium-low and keep mixing to work out any lumps.

Continue stirring for several minutes, anywhere from  5-10 minutes to cook the flour and thicken the cream. Be very careful about scorching cream in bottom of pan; be sure your pan is heavy, be sure to keep stirring, and do not use high heat, particularly after cream has reduced in volume and started to thicken.  It will be ready when the mixture is thick and heavy, but not so thick it resembles a roux.

Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.  Pour into a bowl, using a spatula to clean off sides of the pan to get all of the custard. Cover the bowl with cling film pressing it down lightly touching on top of the custard.  This will prevent it from creating a film from forming when refrigerated.   Will keep refrigerated for one week or frozen up to a month.

Sweet Pastry Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. very cold water

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture is a small crumb, and slightly resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.   Transfer the dough to a work surface, shape into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll to the needed size.  Fit into pan(s), prick dough with fork and fit a piece parchment over the top of the dough enough to cover up over the sides.  Fill with pie weights (alternatively and cheeper, you can use dried beans as pie weights).  Refrigerate the dough until firm 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool enough to handle, remove the weights and parchment.  Fill as desired.
To make dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt in the processor and pulse until combined.  Slowly add the butter and pulse until it forms a small crumb like coarse cornmeal.  Add the water and pulse until the dough starts to come together.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll to the needed size.   Fit into pan(s), prick dough with fork and fit a square of parchment over the top of the dough enough to cover up over the sides.  Fill with pie weights (alternatively and cheeper, you can use dried beans as pie weights).  Refrigerate the dough until firm 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool enough to handle, remove the weights and parchment.  Fill as desired.

Adapted: Pastry Cream:  Julia Childs MtAoFC, Pastry Crust: Williams Sonoma

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Going to a friends for dinner I offered to bring a dessert.  The need to bake something different was calling me and this recipe was something I have wanted to do for a while now.   The snow is melting and spring is so close women are starting to break out the skirts and flipflops.  We are in Minnesota, and as soon as the tempature is above 40°F to us locals that is spring weather.

Today spring comes in the form of a Lemon Chiffon Cake.   This cake is so light and soft, sweet yet sour, and the smell coming from the kitchen while it bakes just makes you think of spring.  Fresh lemons with that tangy citrus smell wafting through the apartment and the building made this hard to resist till dinner tonight.   The glaze is sweet but not overpowering and is the just the perfect accompaniment to this cake.  you may be tempted to not add it, but you will be hard pressed to find another to complement the cake so well.

Lemon Chiffon Cake

  • 2 c Cake Flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 c Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 c Vegetable Oil
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • Juice of two large Lemons
  • 1/4 c Water
  • Zest of two large Lemons
  • 1/2 tsp. Cream of Tarter

Mascarpone Lemon Glaze

  • 6 tbsp. Mascarpone Cheese, softened
  • 2 c Frosting Sugar
  • Zest of half a Lemon
  • Juice of Half a Lemon
  • 1 tbsp. Milk

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into large bowl whisk to combine.   Whisk vegetable oil, egg yolks, lemon juice, water and lemon peel into flour mixture.  Combine egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl of a stand mixer. Using clean dry beaters, beat until stiff but not dry.   It should still look moist but have very stiff peaks.  Fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites.

Pour cake batter into ungreased 10-inch-diameter tube pan. Tap pan on counter or run rubber spatula through cake batter to release air pockets. Bake cake until springy to touch, about 60  minutes. Immediately invert cake in pan over neck of bottle. Cool cake completely. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake.   Transfer to a cake plate, and drizzle with the glaze.

To make the Glaze:

Whisk the cheese,  lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk until well combined and thick. Slowly 1/2 cup at a time add the frosting sugar. If it is too thick thin out with additional milk.  Only add 1 tsp. of milk at a time.   When at desired consistency drizzle over the cooled cake.
Adapted: Epicurious.com

Spaghetti Carbonara

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to make when I don’t know what to make and don’t really want to spend a lengthy amount of time in the kitchen.   Not to mention that it does well as a left over for next days lunch, my husband is a very big fan.

The combination originally was something that I was slightly apprehensive about, cream and bacon?  However after a few changes to the original I love this!  I know you will too!  The recipe originally was for a large amount of people.  However, being as I only need to feed two people and even have made this for a quick lunch for one it is easily altered to serve 1 or 6!  This recipe below makes 2-3 Servings.

Spaghetti Carbonara

  • 3 oz of Thin Spaghetti
  • 4 Slices of Bacon, diced
  • 1 Shallot, diced
  • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
  • 1/2 c Heavy Cream or Half and Half
  • 1/2 c Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c Frozen Pea’s (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Parsley, finely chopped (reserve a pinch for garnish on each plate)
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan, grated for garnish

Your sauce takes little to no time to make so make sure you start you’re pasta first.   Bring 2 quarts of lightly salted water up to boil.   When you’re water is at a slow simmer in a sauce pan over medium heat start to brown off your bacon.  Once it is brown and crispy, depending on the fat content you may want to drain a tbsp or two of the oil out.  At this point your water should be boiling, drop in your pasta.  Add the shallots and garlic to the bacon and saute till the shallots become translucent.   Take about 1.5 cups of the hot starchy pasta water and set aside, drain the pasta.   Add the cream to the bacon mixture, once mixed in and heated up add in the Parmesan, once melted add around 1/4 c of the starchy pasta water & parsley and bring to a light simmer.   If you chose to at this point add in the peas before you toss the pasta on top of sauce mix.   Toss the pasta with the sauce if it looks too thick like it’s not going to coat the pasta add about a tbsp of the pasta water at a time until you get the desired coating consistency on your pasta.    Serve and garnish with remaining cheese and parsley.

Adapted from: Martha Stewart – Great Food Fast