Archive for January, 2013

I want a room for food photography

Unfortunately, the house we live in has terrible lighting conditions. Basically, there is just not enough sunlight coming in. This is not really a problem as long as there is one room which has sunlight sometimes during the day, but it is certainly never the kitchen. As a result, most food photos are taken under subpar lighting conditions and therefore never really look that great. We should do something about that.

It took less than 24 hours for all of these to be gone.

Lemon squares – well what can be said about them besides the fact that I absolutely love them? They are amongst my favorite pastries besides cheesecake and anything with strawberries. What’s more, you can make them (mostly) with artificial sugar! The recipe is very simple and in fact I chose it partially for this reason. The recipe on Smitten Kitchen calls for double as much butter (terrifying!) and David Lebovitz’ recipe uses an entire lemon and the food processor which I did not want to bother with. One day I want to try those other recipes too, but my gut feeling tells me already that simplicity is just as good. We will see.

Things I never blog about…

…because they don’t really look that nice, or because they disappear so quickly. Banana bread or pound cake are the kind of things that don’t look so great, and scones are the kind of things that typically disappear before I could take a picture. Both banana bread are just so delicious and comparably healthy – they are the kind of thing I can whip up quickly and enjoy as a pre-breakfast snack. (Pre-breakfast takes place sometimes between 5am and 7am, whereas breakfast is more like… 10am.)

As a matter of fact, these are the last two of the batch.

When my parents came over, they gave me a scone pan (technically it was not a scone pan but I am using it as such) so I knew I absolutely had to make some. Later on, there were some organic blueberries on sale… coincidence? Ever since I tasted one of Starbucks’ blueberry scones for the first time, I had been in love with scones. The recipe is pretty much the same, and one can easily substitute whatever scone type we are talking about with blueberries, e.g. by kicking out the vanilla and the glaze in this recipe, or replacing the chocolate chips in this recipe (in fact, chocolate chip scones are amazing too!), or ditching the streusel in this recipe. Even though I really like picking scones when I need a snack from Starbucks, luckily handmade ones are just as good.

Similar but not the same

I have a can of azuki bean paste (oh my goodness, I love it so much!) and tons of glutinous rice flour. (Actually I think I had 3 pounds, out of which one is now used.) The Chinese version, yuanxiao, is made with the flour, water and bean paste. The Japanese version, daifuku, is made with the flour, water, sugar and bean paste. However, besides the fact that I made ichigo daifuku (i.e. the daifuku have a strawberry in them), the difference between the two are huge.

It didn’t actually take that long to make these.

Yuanxiao are cooked in water and then also served hot in a sweet soup (in my case, I was lazy so I just diluted some brown sugar in the soup). This means that you make a dough which consists mostly of rice flour (and some water), which needs to be at the right consistency to wrap the bean paste in. If it’s too watery, it will stick and not hold its shape; if it’s too dry, it’ll break easily during the wrapping process. I figured out that having a slightly dry dough is fine, because you can just use water to fill the cracks. Speaking of cracks, amongst the 25 or so I made, only 2 ended up breaking apart during cooking. That’s pretty good for a first try, I would say!

It didn’t actually take that long to make these.

For the ichigo daifuku, you make something like a batter with a 1:1 water to flour ratio and add sugar more or less to taste (overall, I roughly had a 1:1:0.7 ratio). I was so terrified of this production process. I microwaved the batter for roughly 7 minutes and let it cool down while wrapping the bean paste around the strawberries. It’s a thankless and surprisingly boring task. Later I forgot about the mochi for a little too long, so the wrapping of the final mochi layer was probably also harder than necessary. But, surprisingly the end product ended up fairly round after all!

Yuanxiao used to be my favorite dessert of all times, but all in all, ichigo daifuku are better. The combination of strawberries, red bean paste and mochi is absolutely unbeatable. I love mochi, strawberries and red bean paste separately, but the combination is probably the most godly food in existence. To me.

I will try to make them cuter next time

When compared with the user examples linked from the recipe, arguably mine are amongst the worst looking. I made them in the same loaf form as I always make my banana bread (which never got a blog posting even though I have made it a million times by now), and I chose to be rather soft. The result is a perfectly brioche-like airy, fluffy and not overly sweet bread. (It only contains about a tablespoon of sugar for 300g flour after all.) The subtle taste of matcha and chocolate do really well for this bread. In terms of taste and consistency, I would say that my version turned out really well.

It didn’t actually take that long to make these.

Unfortunately all these nice qualities make it harder for the bread to be formed – and to keep its shape. The matcha part of the bread was rising a bit too much, squishing the white parts down… As a result, we have a somewhat squishy Panda face. Sad! For the great taste, however, I would totally make this bread again.