These last weeks have not been good for breakfast. Life has been rather rough, and it’s brought on a depression that leaves me weak-armed and unwilling to consume anything but smoothies and soup. But it’s autumn, and we should have nice things to eat. Scones are easy, and sage doesn’t have to be just for stuffing turkeys or making pumpkin turnovers. Try it with dried apricots and apricot jam in these simple cream scones.
More muffins! These fig-almond muffins are perfect for autumn. If you’re looking for a break from all the cinnamon and pumpkin products, try one of these!
It’s only now, right at the end of berry season here in the Pacific Northwest, that I’ve gotten this recipe to where I want it. For some reason, The Joy of Cooking‘s whole-wheat-muffin base recipe only called for 2 tablespoons of butter when the non-whole-wheat recipe calls for 4-8. Trust me, you need that “extra” butter.
Japan notes: Muffins are lovely to make in a moven/oven range. Blueberries tend to be in season in June-July, and culinary lavender can be purchased in Japan, though where you get it may depend on where you live. I found some at Ikeda Herb Center in Nagano and Nunobiki Herb Garden (English, 日本語) in Kobe, and a friend gave me some from Meidi-ya in Kyoto. If you don’t live near a place that grows lavender, you might try a gourmet grocery or import store, or online. Lavender meant for cooking may be referred to as dried lavender (kansô rabendâ, 乾燥ラベンダー ) or culinary lavender (ryôriyô no rabendâ, 料理用のラベンダー ).
I offered to bring tarts to a dear friend’s family Thanksgiving and found this recipe as I was considering my repertoire. Also, geeky-dessert talk: I’m a huge fan of Ikeda Riyoko’s The Rose of Versailles (Beru Bara) fan*, so how could I pass up the tarte bouquet de roses?
This tart looks and tastes elegant: the freshness of the (mostly) uncooked apples with the creamy maple custard and soft walnut crust creates a great combination of flavors and textures. In Alain Passard’s version, he cuts the apples with a machine into long strips, but those of us without mandolins can (carefully) slice the apples into paper-thin, translucent pieces.
A nice bright salsa to end the summer (never mind it’s been over for a month). This recipe is very simple, and I love the way the flavors and textures work together.
I like to serve this with homemade tortillas (or rice or quinoa), avocados, and roasted kabocha tossed with cumin and cayenne.
There are two import foods I can’t live without: peanut butter and oats.
Let’s talk about oats–I’ll get to the peanut butter later. Sometimes I buy Quaker Oats in bulk from online import stores; sometimes I buy Alishan or Alara jumbo organic oats at Diamond in Omicho Market; sometimes I get Nisshoku oatmeal from the regular supermarket, though I prefer bigger oats. At any rate, there’s a constant supply of oatmeal in my kitchen, which keeps my cereal-obsessed American self quite happy, especially in the dead of the Hokuriku winter when the morning oatmeal warms the kitchen and dining room.
But what about in summer?
That’s where overnight oats come in! It’s like making cold cereal — requires no heat and barely any effort, just 5 minutes before you go to bed!
桃栗三年柿八年 (momo kuri sannen kaki hachinen): it takes time to reap the fruit of one’s actions
(lit. [It takes] three years for [planted] peach and chestnut trees, eight for persimmons [to bear fruit]) (ことわざ学習室）
In late autumn and early winter (mid-Nov. to New Year), Omicho Market is awash in reds and oranges: strawberries, crabs, mikan, and persimmons. Before I moved to Japan, I had never seen a persimmon, though they seem to be available in California. There are two main varieties available in Japan: non-astringent (amagaki, 甘柿) and astringent (shibugaki, 渋柿). Fuyu (富有）, the tomato-shaped variety, are a variety of sweet persimmon; they are dull orange, firm, and ready to eat when they are sold. The human-heart-shaped Hachiya (蜂屋), on the other hand, is very astringent until the skin turns reddish and the insides turn to jelly.*
I tend to eat Fuyu persimmons plain, but I was inspired by The Food Librarian‘s “Fuyu Persimmon Bundt” to try something new. I used a sweet seedless variety (hiratanenashi, 平種無) with a cinnamon-colored flesh in one batch and a seeded variety with orange flesh in another. Both work equally well, though the color of the cake will vary based on the fruit. (Remove the seeds, of course, if applicable.) My coworkers compared this cake to a Western-style Christmas cake, combining sweet fresh and dried fruits with nuts and spices. I think I know what I’m making instead of Stollen for Christmas this year!
My alterations: The night before I made the first round of this cake, I was out of butter, so I swapped in yogurt 1:1 by volume. Also, I think the natural sweetness of the persimmons more than makes up for the comparative lack of sugar in my version. This is also a half-size recipe to accommodate for the size of Japanese oven-ranges. For parties, I sometimes make a double batch in two cake pans and layer them, but that means that I have to cook them one at a time in the moven.
Although this site is called I’ll Make it Myself!, a lot of the baking I do is less recreating restaurant meals I liked and more reinventing recipes to make them healthier and to make them work in a Japanese kitchen.
Health-wise, my philosophy with baking is that almost any bread can be made over with whole grains and applesauce. For sesame-oil- or olive-oil breads, using the oil will favorably flavor the bread, so I don’t recommend changing it. However, if the recipe calls for vegetable oil or canola oil, you can swap those with unsweetened applesauce at a 1:1 ratio. That is, for 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, use 1 teaspoon of applesauce.
For the flour, swapping half the volume of all-purpose flour with an equal volume of whole-wheat flour generally works: for a recipe that calls for 1 US cup of all-purpose flour, you would use ½ cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup whole-wheat flour. The conversion isn’t as simple to remember if you measure in weight (grams) rather than in volume (cups), but 1 cup AP flour is 100 grams and 1 cup whole-wheat is 130 grams. Therefore, you would use 50 g of AP and 65 g of whole-wheat. (Please note that for this recipe, I added in oatmeal as well, so the ratio here is different.) This swap works best in muffins and loaf breads; for flat breads or flour tortillas, I have better luck with recipes that call for whole-wheat in the first place.
Regarding the kitchen, to solve the problems I often have with bread not cooking through in the oven range as well or as quickly as it does in a full-sized American oven, I opted for a brownie pan to increase the surface area and reduce the depth of the bread.
Finally, in banana breads, a combination of cinnamon and vanilla or lemon for a dimension of umami is common. I decided to use powdered ginger, lemon juice, and lemon zest along with vanilla. For a stronger lemon flavor, you could try lemon extract in place of the vanilla.
“Are those plums? Wait, what’s a マンゴ…ス..チ…ン?”
“Do you think it’s safe for me to eat?”
Ask me about my various strange allergies and I will give you a Cyrano-esque list of jokes I’ve thought up to make myself feel better. One of these is that I am a food allergy hipster–I was doing it before it was cool. (I was doing it before hipsters and indie kids were even a thing, for that matter.) My body decided at 12 that crippling seasonal allergies were trite and that Latex-fruit syndrome was more underground. And it was: I was diagnosed a good 5-10 years before the medical community caught up with this, and before Johns Hopkins announced that the use of latex gloves for the medical community was A Bad Idea. I was rocking my allergy when you couldn’t even buy non-latex bandaids at Kroger, that’s how cool I was.*
This was also before google was a verb, and so I spent a decade of my life being simultaneously terrified of eating new fruit and woefully ignorant about the non-fruit foods I ended up eating for the first time without a second thought. Latex-fruit syndrome is sneaky because you aren’t allergic to all the foods. Of this foods listed, I am only allergic to one of the four high-risks (kiwi) and one of the moderates (melons, but not watermelon).
When I moved back to Japan, I discovered that one of the grocery stores in my town inexplicably has a good selection of exotic fruit. Continue reading