Happy Easter & Japanese Cheesecake

>> Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I had a good Easter break (but is now sad to see it almost over...)

I met up with some old friends, I made a somewhat strange fruit crumble (next post!), and took advantage of the awesome exchange rate and bought myself some books from the U.S (any recommendations for a good book/cookbook?) But most importantly, I reflected on the reason why we celebrate Easter.

I made this favourite Japanese cheesecake a while ago...but I didn't think to post it since out of the dozen times I've made this cheesecake, this was the first time it had a crack right in the middle...a deep, visible imperfection. However despite this fault, I kept these photos as they reminded me of my own imperfections. Some are deep too, painful to look at or to acknowledge!

I thought I'd post this today, during Easter, because it is during this time that we rejoice and celebrate!

We celebrate that in all our imperfections, God still sent His son Jesus, who in His perfect nature suffered and died for our sins. He paid the full penalty for us and conquered sin and death once and for all through His resurrection. And now He reigns! Total joy and freedom and hope!

And so how comforting it is to know that grace finds beauty in the ugly....

Recipe for this fluffy, super light and delicious Japanese cheesecake is here. The only difference is that I used a loaf tin for this instead of a normal cake pan.

You'll love it if you are a fan of lighter, springy cakes. I also love this version because it calls for less eggs than most recipes for Japanese cheesecakes! Beware though, it is likely that you'll have the whole loaf to yourself in one sitting!

Anyways, hope all of you had a lovely Easter break! 


Black Sesame Brownies

>> Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obsession: Black sesame.

Confession #1: Not a big fan of chocolate (except dark bitter ones).

Confession #2: Craves comfort food on cooler days. Please come back soon summer.

Confession #3: Get emotional when watching home renovation T.V shows as if I'm the owners of the house. I'm just kidding...hmmm really.

Conclusion: Black sesame brownie seems like a pretty swell idea.

Not convinced? 

Here is why I like black sesame...

- Keeps my hair black and shiny (although I may be too young to be graying)
- Are full of healthy goodness - calcium and magnesium amongst others.
- Will likely to never go out of fashion (little black dress, black cats, black Fridays)
- Tastes good...have you tried black sesame ice-cream?

And...how about black sesame paste

You can get these thick puree of roasted black sesame seed in a jar from good Asian/Japanese stores (I bought mine on my last trip to Japan - it seems smoother). I usually use it as a spread on my toast in the morning when I need a break from peanut butter.

Check out the comparisons...are you a crunchy or smooth type of person?

Anyways, this brownie is moist, slightly buttery and dense (but more cake-y than fudge-y). The sesame flavour is incredibly strong and having a slice or two is likely to make you fall in love with black sesame (if you don't already). Instead of salt in most chocolate brownie recipes to heighten the flavour, this recipe calls for soy sauce instead. Surprise much? This is definitely a very much Asian inspired type of brownie :)

You're of course welcome to use your favourite brownie recipe too but just substitute the chocolate for the sesame paste!

Black Sesame Brownies
Inspired from an old Japanese cookbook
Makes a square tin (or loaf tin)
  • 80g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 40g sugar (I used 25g - check whether your sesame paste is already sweetened or not)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 40g black sesame paste
  • 1/4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 50g flour (All purpose)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp black sesame (to sprinkle on top)

1. In a bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer on low, until it lightens in colour and texture then add the sugar (40g) and carefully combine.

2. Add in the yolk one by one, making sure to fully blend into the mixture before each addition.

3. Add the black sesame paste and soy sauce into the mixture.

4. In a clean bowl, beat the egg white with the remaining sugar (10g) with a hand mixer until the egg white is fluffy and does not fall when you tip the bowl upside down.

5. Combine and sift the flour with the baking powder. Add half the meringue/whipped egg white into the black sesame mixture as well as half the flour mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold and combine.

6. Further beat the meringue until stiff and finer in texture, then add into the black sesame mixture along with the remaining flour and baking powder. Fold and combine.

7. Add the mixture into a brownie tin, and sprinkle the black sesame seeds on the batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 150C.

8. After it cools down a bit, slice and serve!

Somehow I failed to notice that my previous post was the 100th (HUNDREDTH!) post - which makes this the 101th post!

Yay! Glad I started this blog and glad that it's still here!

Thanks for coming to visit...definitely wouldn't have been the same without you! So thanks again - wish I could share this brownie with you too :D


A little bit of sunshine - Pineapple & Papaya Juice

>> Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thank you sun, for coming through the window today. You were missed.

Thank you pants, for being so forgiving after 2 nights of peking duck and crème brûlée.

Thank you butter, for making my kitchen smell so damn good.

Thank you legs, for not forgetting how to ride a bike and making me look sporty.

Thank you glasses, for allowing me to spot the bug on my mint. Now I know who's the owner of those black specks of poop on the leaves.

Thank you hand sanitizer, for killing (or claiming to kill) 99.9% of the germs.

Thank you fruit pickers/fruit deliverers/fruit sellers for making sure my pineapple and papaya were in a good state when I bought them.

This wonderfully healthy juice has just three ingredients (or four, I like to add chia seeds into everything and trick my family into eating them).

Papayas have the strangest seeds. Apparently edible too.

Freshly cut pineapples are the best (such a privilege to have non-canned pineapples!)

The mint is essential. Don't worry - the bug didn't get to all the leaves :)

Then you just whizz them together in a blender. It's like a bit of sunshine.

Voila, you're done! 

Plain papaya or pineapple juice by themselves would've been well, just plain and boring. But together, they taste great and is a great way to kick-start any day that needs a bit of sunshine. Like everyday.

Pineapple & Papaya Juice
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 2

  • 5 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 pineapple, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 medium papaya, peeled and seeded
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

1. Press all ingredients through a juice extractor into a measuring cup.

2. Stir to combine before serving.

Happy Friday and weekend ahead ya'll!

I am hoping to be eating apple crumbles and snugging in bed to watch movies. But I really should go out and be more active like riding my bike and climbing some stairs. 

We'll see.

What are you doing this weekend?


Gorgonzola Two Ways

>> Saturday, April 9, 2011

March came and went. It was an unusual month.

Apart from the devastating events around the world, for me, there may have been a lot of dreaming as well as dealing with the fear of decision making, changes and a case of unclear signs.

April signals that we are quarter way through the year (yikes!) and it's time to get serious about the goals set otherwise there will be nothing to show for in the passage of time....

April is also going to be filled with fun things like celebrating birthdays (thankfully not mine), walks in the park to greet my favourite four-legged friend (with a gorgeous nose), snapping more photos with my memory-keeper, wine sipping to accompany dinners (to work my way through the collection from those winery tours), and catching up with friends and books.

So I set a goal few months ago about getting to know different types of cheese (and thought I'd document part of that journey here!)

Even though I'm not a fan of the blue cheese (the smell is sometimes associated with something unpleasant which I shouldn't name here...stinky feet. Oops.), I've chosen the Italian gorgonzola to be the star of my first experiment. I wanted to see if I could grow in my love for it, if my mind could change and my taste buds have matured.

I opened the package to the cheese and took one look at the blue veins, one smell up close, and one taste of the crumb.

Why on earth did I choose this cheese to start with? There is a reason why this stinky dinosaur is named Gorgonzola.

Anyways, some facts I've learnt:

{one} Gorgonzola is a veined blue cheese, made from unskimmed cow's (or goat's) milk. Veined meaning that it has mold running through it giving it a unique and pungent taste.

{two} Two popular varieties include:
  • Gorgonzola Dolce (pictured above) is mild and aged for a shorter time, giving it a sweet taste. It is creamier and spreadable and doesn't smell as 'bad' as it's older version. (Dolcelatte is an even milder version of the gorgonzola)
  • Gorgonzola Piccante is aged for at least 6 months, creating a sharp, strong and pungent flavor. It's flaky and crumbly and darker in colour than the dolce version.

{three} You can assume that all gorgonzola are made are from Italy, since most of the blue cheeses in the EU carry a protected designation of origin (PDO), meaning the name is protected and can only be made in certain areas. Kind of like how champagne can only be made in the city of Champagne in France! 

Hmmm so what to cook with it?

I've seen a variety of ways people cook with this cheese...melted into a risotto, served as a sauce with short pasta and offered as pizza topping or in salads.

But since I had a box of potato at home, I decided to make me some Gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce!

It was fun boiling 1kg of potato and mashing it by hand, and getting flour all over the place (including my poor camera). A mess. But a fun mess.

Rolling those pieces with a fork to create the groove marks was fun too but I looked at the clock and realised I was running out of time so I stopped making the indents. Or maybe I was just lazy. I can't remember.

After I cooked the gnocchi, the gorgonzola sauce only took less than 5 minutes to make.

The verdict? The gnocchi was soft and delicate, and the sauce is smooth and definitely has a bite to it  but it doesn't drown out the taste of the gnocchi. I enjoyed this dish - it looks mild and mellow but it is only when you taste it that the pungency of the cheese stands out (in a pleasant-ish way I promise). 

But I now found myself in a different situation...

a. I have A LOT of left over gorgonzola (I suggest you buy in small quantities!)
b. I love cheesecakes and was curious to see how gorgonzola could work in the sweets department.

So this Gorgonzola Cheesecake came out as a result.

This cheesecake is not for the faint hearted - it packs a punch and while it is smooth, the sharp aroma of the cheese is stays in your mouth (probably not a good thing if you're not crazy about the smell). For a blue cheese lover, this would be an indulgence, and while I have grown to enjoy the taste of gorgonzola from the gnocchi dish, I'm not sure if I could call this my type of cheesecake (yet). I'm just not ready so for now, a slice or two is enough. 

Gnocchi in Gorgonzola sauce
Adapted from Guy Grossi - My Italian Heart.
Serves 8 (I halved the recipe)
  • 2.5 kg waxy potatoes, washed but unpeeled
  • 5 egg yoks
  • 440g flour
Gorgonzola sauce
  • 200g dolce gorgonzola (or dolcelatte), broken into pieces
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
1. To make the sauce: combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and reduce until creamy (around 5 minutes). Keep warm until ready to serve.

2. To make the gnocchi: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the potatoes until tender, then refresh immediately in cold water and peel. Bring a fresh pot of lightly salted water to the boil.

3. Meanwhile, pass the potatoes through a potato ricer onto your work surface until well mashed. Madd the eggs and flour and knead until well blended.

4. Using your hands, roll the mixture into thin 'sausages' about 2 cm thick, then cut the sausages into small pieces. Roll each piece over the tines of a fork to create the traditional groove marks.

5. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water in small batches.

6 Remove them when they rise to the surface (2 minutes) and transfer to a large dish to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

7. Pour the gorgonzola sauce onto the cooked gnocchi and toss until well coated. Serve immediately.

Gorgonzola Cheesecake
1 small 12-15cm cake
  • 75g cream cheese
  • 40g gorgonzola cheese
  • 50ml fresh cream 
  • 45g sugar 
  • 1/2 whole egg
  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp cornflour
  • 6 kernels almond
  • 4 cashew nuts (or walnut)
  • 50g digestive biscuits (around 7 pieces)
  • 20g unsalted butter, melted
1. Coat the baking pan with butter then sprinkle with some flour to prevent sticking.

Preheat oven to 190C.

2. To make the base, place the digestive biscuits into a sealed plastic bag and using something similar to a rolling pin, bash the bag until the biscuits are evenly and finely cracked.

3. Mix the melted butter with the cracked biscuits and layer/press down evenly on a small baking pan. Leave it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to set.

4. Put the cream cheese in a bowl, and using a rubber scraper to mix until smooth. Slowly add in the crumbled gorgonzola cheese in 3 additions until evenly mixed.

5. Add sugar into the mixture, then using a mixer (I used a hand mixer) beat the mix then add in honey, yolk, whole egg and slowly pour in the cream, ensuring to mix evenly before each addition. Finally add in the cornflour and mix again.

6. Add this mixture into the prepared baking pan. Place the almond and cashew nuts on the mixture and place this baking pan on a shallow baking dish filled with hot water (which will come up to half way of the pan).

7. Bake the cake at 190C for 10 minutes, then turn it down to 170C to bake for another 25 minutes.

8. Once remove from the oven, let it cool for a while before putting it into the fridge for 1-2 hours (overnight is even better).

I'm looking forward to experimenting with another cheese soon. Maybe the Swiss Gruyere or the Spanish Manchego?

Any ideas? What are some of the cheeses that you've always wanted to try...or love to cook with?

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