Saturday, 27 February 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge February 2010 - Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

When I first read through this challenge I felt a little intimidated - all those components... and 4 days to make it?! I almost fired off a note making my excuses to sit this one out, but then remembered that this was exactly why I'd signed up to the Daring Bakers in the first place, I wanted to learn new methods and techniques, I wanted to be pushed to try something new :-) So I reread the challenge, started to work out a time plan... and suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to do - a Japanese-style Tiramisu using matcha and yuzu!

This month's challenge required us to make our own fresh mascarpone for use in the tiramisu, as well as well as Savoiardi Biscuits (Lady's Fingers). Even though I'd never tried making mascarpone before, I risked substituting the lemon juice with yuzu (a small citrus fruit ( grown in abundance in our local area) and fortunately (cream is expensive here!) it worked beautifully.

Likewise, I used yuzu zest in place of lemon zest when making the zabaglione and pastry cream. Other changes I made to the recipe provided included adding some matcha (green tea) powder to the Savoiardi Biscuit batter and dusting the biscuits with kinako (roasted and ground soy beans) before baking, using Yuzu Sake (made here in the town where I live - I couldn't believe my luck!), and replacing the espresso coffee with matcha. Finally, matcha was the obvious alternative to cocoa to finish the whole thing off!

The addition of matcha to the Savoiardi Biscuits was an afterthought. I'd already piped one batch of plain biscuits:

so stirring in the powder caused the batter to drop slightly and the resulting biscuits were a little more spongy than the plain ones, not as light. I think that this was the reason that they did not soak up the liquid quite as quickly when dipped, I think I should have been a little braver and let them get a little more soggy before adding them to the dish... am I the only one who had the problem of biscuits floating to the top whilst putting the dish together?!

I had a grand design in my mind - I planned on making a dome-shaped tiramisu by freezing it before turning it out of the dish - but the creamy mixture really did look rather runny and I was afraid that it might not hold it's shape as it defrosted, so I chickened out of that. Just as well, really, as I really don't think it would have turned out as desired. But have I mentioned yet how it tasted? Oh my, creamy heaven on a plate... Yes, it was a bit fiddly to make and required a fair bit of planning, but the result was certainly worth the effort. The flavours worked together beautifully, and I am thankful that I had lots of friends to share it with as it would have been a danger to my waistline had it just been me and the family eating it ;-).

Aparna and Deeba, thank you for this fantastic challenge - I truly enjoyed every step, and now have a star desert added to my repertoire!


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Nearly 40

There's a lot sitting in my camera waiting to be shared here, but the for last couple of weeks I have been dealing with poorly children and a severe lack of sleep and so whether you will get to see those photos or not remains to be seen.

Yesterday, according to my husband, I turned 'Nearly 40'. I take issue with this, as I still have another two years to go! But in spite of his comment, I did have a lovely day. Actually, it started a couple of weeks ago when my present fron K was delivered - a bread maker, and you wouldn't believe how happy this appliance has made me! There is absolutely nothing in this world nicer to wake up to than freshly baked bread (spread with butter, of course)... I fear for my waistline! Although I had nothing special planned, it was a day full of little surprises and treats (actually, the first surprise turned up on my doorstep the evening before), and although I would have given anything to be enjoying an Indian take-away with my friends back in the UK, I went to bed very happy!

A blogger friend caused me to rush out to the shops to buy the ingredients for a recipe I'd seen recently on NQN's blog (, and while we were out I was enticed by a cream puff from Beard Papa (premium chocolate, mmmmmmmmmmmmm)... I this is allowed on occasions such as nearly 40 birthdays :-)

The Tim Tam Cookie Pops were a doddle to make, and the kids could barely contain their excitement when I brought them to the table after dinner.

I must say, though, that I will not be sharing any more with M as she is far too wasteful:

Honestly, I felt so loved yesterday - I had so many cards, messages, phone calls, and beautiful and thoughtful presents.... it really was a special day!

Oh, and I thought I'd share with you the card my sister sent me (cheeky!):

Very nice, you might think...inside it reads, "Hallucinating and loss of reality are early signs of brain cell loss in women your age."

Sunday, 14 February 2010

One-sided Valentine

This year was the first year K didn't do anything for me on Valentine's Day. The tradition here is that women give chocolates to men, and then the men reciprocate with cookies on White Day (14th March), but K has always acknowledged that that's not how we Western women do things and bought me some nice choccies... but not this year. Well, if that's how he's going to play things, then I shall be expecting the traditional sankai gaishi (three-fold return) gift. Haha!

K didn't do badly today. He got some hand-made nama choco (truffles) made by my own fair hand (actually it was a joint effort by the Mama & Me group, we joined forces to make them), some chocolate beer:

which was far, far tastier than we could ever have imagined (dark and rich, mmmm), and a special dinner:

The above was my attempt at a tower of sushi, but I didn't have a suitable mould so layered it in a bowl and tipped it out before decorating. Very, very easy to make, just prepare some sushi rice and layer it with whatever you fancy. I used raw tuna, salmon and scallops, some chopped egg and mayonnaise, avocado, shredded lettuce and shiso, and salmon roe.

I wonder what he'll be cooking for me in return ;-) (Yes K, if you're reading this you can take that as a challenge!)

Monday, 8 February 2010

She's potty

Rather chilly here this morning, so have been playing with M to keep warm. Played peek-a-boo under the kotatsu:

Even she decided that it was too cold to strip off for the potty (I don't know who told her that all clothes need removing when going about her business), and she came up with her own version of a heated potty:

Yes, she's tucked under the kotatsu. Very clever, or at least I think so :-)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

License to kill

I was asked recently about how I got my Japanese driving license... gosh, where to start?

Ordinarily it should be a straight forward process. According to most sources it should have been a simple swap, my UK license for a new Japanese license. But this is Kagawa prefecture, where the police need to find something to do to occupy their time. Here's how it went:

1. K needed his UK license transferring as well, so he rang the licensing centre to book an appointment for us both. But they will only do one person per day, and they only hold these appointments one day a week. Great. K books me in for the following week.

2. The whole family accompanies K to his appointment, a 40 minute interview with a policeman. He is told to come back the following week to complete the process (photo, etc).

3. The whole family returns to the licensing centre for my interview and for K to get his license. I am interviewed by the same policeman, for well over an hour (and entirely in Japanese). Surely there should be a set list of questions that he needs to ask me? No, he wants to know everything about how I got my UK license (20 years ago). How much did I pay for my provisional license? How many driving lessons did I take? How much did each lesson cost? Where did I practice? How much did it cost to take the test? etc., etc. K is told that he will have to return to the centre in order for them to add the bike permit onto his license, as they can't do both car and motor bike on the same day.

4. The whole family returns to the licensing centre to complete and collect both of our licenses.

So much for straight forward - K had to take 3 half days off work, and I dread to think how foreigners who can't speak Japanese would get on. Grrrr.

Oooh, I've got a recipe for you! I made this Miso Mayo Teriyaki Chicken a couple of days ago and I've never seen Jack eat so quickly!

The meat was served with stir-fried spinach, sweetcorn and onion, and some daikon (mooli radish) and wakame (seaweed) soup.

Miso Mayo Teriyaki Chicken

4 chicken breasts
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons miso
4 tablespoons mayonnaise

Prick the chicken breasts all over with a fork, season with salt and pepper, and dunk in some flour before frying in a little oil until cooked through. Whilst the meat is cooking, mix together the remaining ingredients to make a sauce. When ready, pour the sauce over the meat and let it sizzle for a minute, turning to coat it all over. Slice the meat into chunks and you're ready to go!