Thursday, May 20
As I am leaving for Japan in a few days, I have been trying to do things that I can't do over there while I am still here - oven cooking; they don't have an oven at my sister's where I am staying at. I am cooking and baking as much as I can, so I won’t miss oven cooking so much while I am over there (I sure will anyways, but not as much), and also I can bring something nice for my sister and her husband.
So I went for the plan – I did cook a lot today. First round, I made gateaux chocolats and fruit cakes in the afternoon. This fruit cake (recipe in Japanese)has been one of my latest biggest hit. Loaded with dried fruits and nuts, this cake is very moist, soft, and satisfying, and on top of that, it’s sugar-free. I am not into making sugar-free or fat-free sweets usually, since I don’t want to use artificial sugar- or fat-substitutes so much, but this cake is sweetened only with maple syrup and honey (according to the recipe – but I omit honey), and dried fruits do the rest, And the best part is, the cakes taste really good!
I have made this fruit cake four or five times over the last half year or so, and I’ve come to make more than double the amount of marinated fruits and nuts originally called for, since the marinated mixture is actually really delicious itself. Often dried fruits for fruit cake are marinated in liquors such as rum, brandy, and/or whisky or maybe in strong tea if you are making a tea loaf, but this one you use orange juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. You can use any fruits and nuts that you like or you find at home – this time I used raisins, currants, blueberries, prunes, dates, black and white figs, candied ginger, and candied guava for the fruity part, and pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and crushed almonds for the nutty part. Okay, it’s not exactly sugar-free, since some of the dried fruits are candied with sugar. But it is still amazing how sweet all these fruits are on their own.
Then I cooked dinner. Today I made chicken & vegetable crumble and hot chocolate cakes, both of which turned out very good. Crumble recipe is from my recent favorite cookbook Mes petits plats preferes by Trish Deseine, in which the original recipe uses chicken and leek. I added zucchini, mushroom, and celery, while using sweet onion in place of leek. As did other recipes from this book that I have tried so far, the crumble turned out good, too. Only thing that may keep me from making it again soon is (well, other than the oven issue, obviously) the fat content in this dish… lots of butter, oil, cream, and cheese. This may be something that I enjoy just occasionally, not so often.
The chocolate cakes (recipe taken from the book Neiman Marcus Cookbook (2003, Clarkson Potter)) for dessert meant to be served immediately after they taken out of the oven, so I had all the ingredients ready in the kitchen before dinner, after which I fixed the batter quick and pour it into three pots and baked them just about ten minutes. The cakes, sizzling hot out of the oven, were absolutely gorgeous – just a bit crumbly on the surface and gooey inside, perfectly chocolate-y. They were very rich and sweet, even though I had secretly reduced the sugar down to the half. Well even he gave them two-thumbs up, despite the fact that he usually doesn’t like dark chocolate and I secretly halved the sugar in the recipe. This was a pleasantly easy cake that would make an impressive desert, even though you have to make sure that everyone is at the table, fully prepared to have their dessert without allowing it a chance to settle.
And I prepared two different kinds of cookies as well as bread dough after dinner. My oven-cooking/baking project will go on tomorrow....