Random Ramblings and updates

So I know I haven’t been baking much, but I do have a reasonable excuse. I was moving out from my lovely Gramercy dorm, where I spent a wonderful year. I am now located in Lafayette, which is very close to China town. I still have a pretty decent kitchen and some grocery stores near by, so stay tuned for more baked goodies soon. I did get a request to do some Thai cooking, so we’ll see how soon I can get to that. I’m also still working on getting a camera for my youtube version food blog, hopefully I can start sometime soon (maybe this year, maybe next). I will be going to Spain spring semester, so I’ll probably end up blogging about my trip more than food. Apologies in advance for that. I’m currently babysitting and she’s about to wake from her nap, so I’ll leave you all and when I come back, I’ll have an awesome recipe for you to try out! 

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Pass on the Inspiration ;)

Wow! A HUGE thank you to sweetaddict for nominating lil’ ol’ me for the award! It’s so great to know that there are people who are actually interested in my blog 🙂

The award looks awesome!

So a few things about me:

  1. I was born and bred in Tokyo, Japan, but currently I’m studying at NYU.
  2. One day I hope to work with Saveur, the Food Network or Bon Appétit
  3. I want to travel the world and explore all kinds of different cuisine
  4. I love to read books (Harry Potter, Redwall, Food writing)
  5. I’m a dog lover (I’m especially obsessed with my own dogs)
  6. I’m a choco-a-holic
  7. I’m also a huge disney fan

And here is a list of 15 blogs that I think are utterly inspiring! They are the food blogs that I drooled over during the semester (especially during finals season). They are also the food blogs that inspired me to pursue my passion for food and to really start a food blog of my own. If you love food blogs, then you should definitely check them out!

  1. Bittersweetblog
  2. plantandcreate
  3. Handle the Heat
  4. Sweetapolita
  5. Smittenkitchen
  6. picky-palate
  7. bakerella
  8. homemadedelish
  9. kirbiecravings
  10. whisksandchopsticks
  11. dessertfirstgirl
  12. Almost Bourdain
  13. What’s Gaby Cooking
  14. Tennesseesugar
  15. evilchefmom

Takoyaki

I finally decided to try making tako yaki. Tako yaki is, in my opinion one of the popular junk foods found within Japan. It’s a ball-sized snack made of flour based batter and cooked in a special tako yaki pan like this one:

These are filled with minced octopus (tako-meaning octopus in Japanese) and another assortment of toppings: tempura scraps, picked ginger, and green onion. They are then sprinkled with a green laver and bonito flakes. They are generally associated with food vendors, but they do have specialty restaurants particularly in Osaka and Kansai. My mother was born in the Osaka/Kansai area and so there were nights when we, as a family, made takoyaki at home. Because my sister and I hated octopus, my family made a variety of takoyaki with different fillings. There was the traditional octopus filled takoyaki for my dad and my mom and the beef filled ones for me and my sister. Later we began experimenting, filling a couple with shrimp, adding cheese to the beef filled ones, making some with beef and shrimp (I guess it was our version of surf and turf). Anyway, I loved making takoyaki. I loved flipping the dough and trying to make that perfectly shaped sphere. When I went off to college this year, my dad got me a takoyaki pan but I was too busy to try it out. Plus when I asked my mom for the recipe she was very vague about the measurements. Finally, I looked it up and found a recipe for takoyaki that seemed pretty good. Looking through that and using it as a spring board, I tried to recall what my mom had told me and made the batter. While I made three batches (the first being perfect, the second being a little too thick, and the third too thin), I think my first time making takoyaki by myself was pretty successful. I mean while some of the batches came out shaped a little wonky, they still tasted delicious.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get cooking!

Ingredients:

Batter:
– 2 ladles full of dashi (a broth made of water, konbu [kelp] and bonito flakes)
-1/2 cup flour
-3 eggs
Ingredients:
-ground beef
-scallions (or negi if you have it)
optional
-octopus
-pickled ginger (benishoga)
-tempura scraps (tenkasu)
Topping:
bulldog sauce
or
-tako yaki sauce

Directions:

  1. Make the dashi by filling a pot with water and adding in the konbu. Before you add the konbu, cut it into a 10 cm long piece and cut a few slits into it (against the grain). Heat the water at medium temperature until the water begins to simmer. Once the water begins to simmer, remove the konbu from the water. The water should smell like the ocean. Add in the bonito flakes for about a minute or two and then remove them.
  2. Let the dashi cool. Add the dashi, flour and eggs to a mixing bowl and mix until well combined.
  3. Place the ingredients into separate bowls. Meanwhile, heat the tako yaki pan and oil it with either olive oil or vegetable oil until it is very well oiled.
  4. Once the pan is hot enough, add in the ground beef into each cup and cook until the beef is browned. Pour the batter into the cups until the batter starts to overfill (I suggest using a large gravy boat or a tea pot to pour in the batter). Add in the other ingredients (the scallions, benishoga, tenkasu) and cook until the tako yaki is ready to flip. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Once you think the tako yaki is ready to flip, insert a metal or bamboo skewer along the edge of the cup and, basically, draw a circle. That sounds hard, but you’re basically outlining the circumference of the cups. Be swift with this as the speed will allow the takoyaki to rotate 180 degrees.
  6. Cook until it’s well browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan, top with the sauce and other toppings and enjoy!

I will definitely make these again because they are one of my favorite things to eat. I really do need to watch my mom make the batter though, so maybe I can get the right consistency. Despite everything I was really happy with what I made and both Pat and my friend enjoyed it. We also talked about how vegetarians can enjoy this by simply replacing the meat and making it without any filling, but I’m sure you could also add in some vegetables like onions and peppers.

Hugs and Puppies!

Mimi

Bacon Cups

As an avid bacon lover, when I first saw this article I knew that I had to recreate it. Pat had shared it with a friend and I, being the creeper that I am (just kidding, but with that facebook newsfeed everyone is technically a creeper whether they want to be or not), clicked the link. It looked so cool! The idea that you could make bacon into crispy little containers for other ingredients was mindblowing. Okay maybe not that amazing, but my mind is easily blown. It kind of reminds me of all those recipes where food becomes cupcake sized, like the mac’n’cheese baked in a cupcake tin or the pizza in cupcake form. I guess society is a tad obsessed with cupcakes at the moment. Okay enough of my rambling, anyway I just thought that the recipe for bacon cups would be a cool little cooking experiment and when I got home from work I started it right away. Now the recipe on the website suggests an egg or a salad. I decided that since I had some asparagus and some sun dried tomato, I would make the bacon cups and fill it with garlic sun-dried tomato asparagus. To go with that, I also made couscous, which I confess I do need to use more often.

So let’s get cooking!

Ingredients:

-a few thin slices of bacon
Filling:
-10 stalks of asparagus
-5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes
-1 clove of garlic
-1 tbspn olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a upturned muffin/cupcake pan, place three slices of bacon so that it covers the muffin cup. I found that wrapping one slice around the sides and then using the other two slices to cover the bottom works really well. carefully place another upturned muffin/cupcake pan on top of the bacon and press down firmly so that the bacon is sandwiched between two muffin/cupcake pans.
  2. Place the pans on a roasting pan and slide the entire thing in the oven until the bacon is nice and brown. For a mini cupcake pan it’s about 20 minutes but for a regular cupcake pan it’s about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling of the bacon cups. Cut the asparagus and the sun dried tomato into bite sized pieces and mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add in the garlic and the sun dried tomato. Once the garlic begins to brown, add in the asparagus and cook until the asparagus is al dente. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and set it aside to cool completely. Once it has cooled, remove the top cupcake pan and gently lift out the bacon cups. Let them drain upside down on a plate lined with paper towels.
  5. Once the bacon cups have drained, carefully fill them with the prepared filling.

I’m sure there are lots of other fillings you could attempt, a mushroom and cheese filling or a small salad. If you’re making the bacon cups for breakfast you could also add in the egg. I will say that my bacon was cooked, but not crispy like the saveur recipe which was probably because I used a regular sized cupcake pan and not a mini cupcake pan. I found another recipe from Not Martha that had the oven preheated to 400 degrees and she used a king sized muffin tin. So next time I’ll crank up the heat and see which one works better.

Hugs and Puppies!

Mimi

Churros!

I’ve been dying to try and make churros for quite some time and it even seemed like fate when I came across the churro recipe in my Saveur magazine. It was a mexico issue and listed first under the dessert recipes was none other than Churros con Chocolate Caliente (Churros with hot chocolate). Well I wasn’t really feeling the hot chocolate seeing as it was August, but I did have a mug of hot chocolate after dinner. So we (my friend Kelly, Pat and my roomie Diamond) decided to make a chocolate dipping sauce instead. There’s another reason as to why I decided to make churros and that was because today in the Olympics the Mexican soccer team beat the Japanese. Okay so maybe I’m betraying my native country (Japan) by celebrating the fact that the Mexican team won (yes I know dishonor on me, my family and all that) but I like to think that I’m just being a good sport. You’re probably thinking, “but Mimi, churros have nothing to do with the olympics!” well I agree they aren’t decorated with the five rings or the British flag, but churros are delicious and why not make a Mexican dessert to celebrate their victory? Don’t worry I’ll still be rooting for Japan in the women’s soccer match and I have a perfect dessert to celebrate with (whether they win or lose, because they will do an awesome job no matter what!). I’ll hopefully make more actual olympic themed desserts soon, but that’s for another post.

And on that note we will move on to what’s really important. The Churros!

Ingredients:

Churros:
-6 tbspn unsalted butter
-1 tsp kosher salt
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 stick cinnamon (or half a tspn ground cinnamon) plus 1 tbspn cinnamon
-2 1/4 cups AP flour
-2 cups sugar
-1 egg
-canola oil for frying
Chocolate dipping sauce:
-2 to 3 oz semisweet chocolate
-some heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Bring the butter, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 ¼ cups water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove and discard cinnamon (since I used grated cinnamon I didn’t really remove it), and add flour. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until a smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to a bowl, and add egg; stir vigorously until dough is smooth. Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with star tip and set aside. Meanwhile, combine sugar and ground cinnamon in a 9 inch cake pan.
  2. Fill a large pot until it has about a 2 inch depth of canola oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 400 degrees. I don’t have a oil thermometer, so I just waited until a thin stream of bubbles rose from the tip of a chopstick pressed against the bottom of the pot at a 45 degree angle. I did a test churro and since the oil didn’t bubble furiously around it, I heated the oil at a higher temperature (I suggest using a high flame, but be careful to not overheat the oil or you might break it down and then it’ll be useless).
  3. Once the oil is hot enough, pipe the churro dough in a fairly straight line in the oil. You don’t want to crowd the churros or else they won’t cook properly. Saveur suggests that you fry them in batches of 4 six-inch long churros in an 8 qt Dutch Oven. I didn’t have a dutch oven, so I just did two churros at a time and it worked perfectly. Fry them, turning often, until they’re golden brown, about 2 minutes each.
  4. Drain them briefly on a wire rack placed above a roasting pan lined with paper towels. Then roll them in the cinnamon sugar mixture until they are well covered.
  5. Meanwhile make the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate chips and the heavy cream in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until the chocolate melts and combines with the heavy cream. Drizzle over the churros or dip the churros in the chocolate and enjoy!

I didn’t think that churros would be this easy, but it was. I think the hardest part was making sure that the oil was hot enough. I would definitely make this again, especially since one of my other friends really loves churros. I didn’t use up all the dough (I made about 8 churros with a little less than half the dough), so I’m guessing that you can make a lot of churros in one batch. I love that you can pipe them to be a long or as short as you want. I really want to try and make them really long like the ones you get at Disneyland or something, but first I’ll have a get a Dutch oven. I definitely can’t wait to make these again! Ahaha okay so maybe churros aren’t really olympic themed treats, but they’re still delicious.

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi

Sweet Italian Sausage Rolls

So this weekend, I ended up playing with more yeast dough. I looked through my bread recipes from cooking class and decided to make the sausage bread. However since I didn’t have cabbage I decided to deviate from the recipe and create a different filling. Instead of cabbage and sausage, Pat and I decided to fill our bread with sun dried tomato cream cheese, sweet Italian sausage and red bell peppers. I really like making this bread because not only do I get to sort of braid the dough, but it’s also a really good bread to eat on the go. With all the fillings wrapped into it, it becomes a sort of sandwich without having the fixings spill out on you. You can definitely make your own fillings with this. I’m dying to try and make this with my pimento cheese dip or maybe make it into some sort of sweet bread and fill it with Nutella, but that’s another post.

So let’s get started!

Ingredients:

Bread:
-140 g bread flour
-3/4 tspn instant dry active yeast
-1/2 tbspn granulated sugar
-1 tbspn egg (beaten)
-70-80 cc warm water
-1/3 tspn salt
-15 g butter (about 1 tbspn)
Filling:
-sun dried tomato cream cheese
-2 sweet Italian sausages
-1 red bell pepper

Direction:

  1. In a large bowl place half the bread flour. To one side, place the sugar and the yeast. Make a small well in the flour and pour the egg inside. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the other half of the flour, the salt and the butter. Pour the warm water over the yeast and mix until well combined. Once it is well blended, add in the other half of flour.
  2. Once the flour is well incorporated, place the dough on a clean surface and knead. I suggest using a pastry scraper like this. It’ll make it easier to knead the dough/ You will need to knead the bread until it comes together and, once rolled into a ball, the surface of the dough is smooth and sort of “bounces back” when gently pressed.
  3. Place the dough in the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let it rise. To create the perfect temperature for bread rising (which is about 104 degrees), I placed a bowl of steaming hot water in the microwave and placed the dough in the microwave for about 40 minutes to an hour. The hot water will warm the small enclosed space in the microwave and allow the gluten to be developed. Once the dough has doubled in size, proof it by covering your finger in flour and poking the dough. If the hole doesn’t immediately close up, your dough is ready.
  4. Punch down your dough and remove it from the bowl. Divide the dough into four equal parts. Roll each amount of dough into a ball and place under a damp cheesecloth for 10 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While the dough is resting, prepare your filling. Make the sun dried tomato cream cheese and slice the red peppers. Take you sweet italian sausage and cut them in half horizontally. Then cut them in half again, but this time cut them lengthwise. Wrap the sausage in a paper towel and plastic wrap and microwave it for a minute. If you want a grilled flavor, grill them in the frying pan until it forms a crust. Set aside.
  6. Take one ball of dough out from under the cheesecloth. Roll it out until it’s about 18 cm long and 10 cm wide. Spread the sun dried tomato cream cheese in a straight line down the middle.
  7. Line both sides with the red peppers, and top the cream cheese with the sausages.
  8. Cut diagonal lines into the sides of the dough (using a pastry cutter) so that it looks like this:
  9. Fold the strips of dough over the top of the sausage alternating sides. It should end up looking like this:
  10. Place the dough a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover the dough with the damp cheesecloth and let it rise for another 15 to 20 minutes. Once the dough has risen, brush the tops of the bread with a beaten egg.
  11. Place the bread in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Let them cool a little bit and eat.

Pat and I realized that we should have removed the casing to the sausages, but other than that it came out pretty delicious. I can’t wait to try and make these with different fillings. I also realized that if I made them smaller, they would make really cute bite sized party snacks. I also think that if it were a Halloween themed party they could look like mummified food. The possibilities are endless!

Hugs and puppies!

Mimi