Quick Rice Cooker Castella

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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  This is going to be a quick post on an easy and quick recipe that I saw today and just HAD to try right away.  I was browsing FB and saw this video:  https://www.facebook.com/dingo.food/videos/854615187974792/

Bake a cake in a rice cooker????  say what???1230161535-1pm

I always wondered why my Zojirushi Rice Cooker had a “cake” button and who would be crazy enough to bake a cake in their rice cooker… I guess I was crazy not to try it sooner!  At least with this Castella recipe, the rice cooker was just the right amount of heat and steam to make a fluffy, light, and airy Castella cake, which is basically a type of sponge cake, but a far cry from those dry sponge cakes that need to be soaked with syrup.  It’s a childhood favorite growing up and now my own children have adopted a love for them as well. Try it with a tall glass of milk!  You’re welcome.

And without further adieu, here are my converted measurements for the ingredients which were all in grams.  (If you know Korean and you watched the video, you may have noticed I substituted Mirin for Soju, since that’s what I have in my pantry and we don’t have soju in our home.)

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Quick Rice Cooker Castella

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided into 1/2 cups
  • 1 TB Mirin
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 2  1/2 TB honey
  • 1  1/2 cups cake flour
  • 4 TB oil (canola, vegetable)
  • scant 1/4 cup milk

Directions

  1. Grease your rice cooker with Canola oil spray.
  2. Whip 6 egg whites in a clean stand mixer with whip attachment and add 1/2 cup sugar in 3 increments until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
  3.  Whip 6 egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar.  Add the Mirin, salt, and honey and whip.  Add the cake flour and mix.
  4. Fold in a third of the meringue (egg whites) into the yolk batter and carefully fold in.  Add another third and fold.  Finally, add the remaining meringue and fold.
  5. Mix the oil and milk together then fold into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into greased rice cooker pot and push your “cake” button or the video says “steam” setting for 60 minutes.
  7. carefully invert the cake out of the pot onto a plate, cool, and eat!

*Note: the top of the cake will look pale when you open the rice cooker and you may wonder if the cake is “cooked” through.  You’re welcome to try the toothpick test,  but it was nicely browned on the bottom of the cake (which becomes the top when you invert it).

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Now go and try it yourself!!!  I’m  never baking my Castella in the oven again!!!

Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!!!

-Flora

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Steamed Korean Buns

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It’s a cold, rainy day here and I’m enjoying just shuffling around the home and being grateful for the warmth, shelter, and food in our tummies.  I’ve got a little slot of time before the Thursday afternoon madness resumes  so I thought I would post an old-time favorite snack of mine that we made a while back but I never got around to posting.  If you noticed my last post was some time ago … there’s been some crazy real estate swapping that went on which kept me just a bit preoccupied.  I’m the type that likes to concentrate on one thing at a time and feel frazzled if I have too much going on and of course I ended up starting a part-time job at the same time we decided to sell and buy…  so there’s my excuse 🙂

Back in SoCal, I loved walking through our big neighborhood Korean grocery store and walking to the back of the store where they made “Wang Mandoo” and sneaking a pack into the grocery cart.  “Wang” means king and “mandoo” means dumpling.  So you can imagine they were giant, softball-sized dumplings filled with my favorite “Japchae” or glass noodles.  The slightly sweet steamed bun exterior mingled with the savory beef and veggie japchae interior was perfection that would leave you feeling like the “after” of a Snickers Bar commercial.

I found this recipe for steamed Korean buns many years ago on a Korean baking site, and it’s just perfect when you live 30 mins from the nearest Korean store (compared to 5 mins growing up) and you do not want to do the Caldecott Tunnel but you want some “Wang Mandoo”.  Plus, homemade is always better, right?   The recipe was all in grams so I measured all the ingredients into volume measurements for my own sake and I’m sharing them with you.  I didn’t notice any difference in the result when I used my converted volume measurements to make them again and again.

I made two different fillings for my buns: “Wang Mandoo” with Japchae filling and “Hobbang” with sweet red bean paste filling.

You can use my Japchae recipe here for the “Wang Mandoo” and the red bean paste filling was purchased at my past Korean store excursion.  You can really put anything you want inside the bun, Spam and kimchi is super yummy, too!  Or you can just make buns without any filling!  I made both japchae filling and the red bean paste filling and they were both so delicious!  Would be perfect for this cold, rainy day… wish I had some right now.

img_1843In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder.

img_1847Add the warm water and mix/knead until dough forms.  You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Once you have a ball of dough, add in the oil and knead until you have a nice, shiny dough that isn’t sticky.

img_1848Divide the dough into little balls (60 gram balls, about the size of a golf ball).  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 15 mins.

img_1861Flatten a ball of dough and fill with desired filling of choice.  Pinch ends closed then place onto a square of wax paper.  (If not using filling, just place ball of dough onto wax square)

Watch my mom pinch and close the dough for the bun.  Apologize for the static background noise.  watch with sound off 🙂

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This is my store-bought Red bean paste

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Traditionally for the “Wang Mandoo” you place the seam side facing up and for the “Hobbang” you place it seam side down.

img_1871Let dough rise in a warm place for 30 mins

img_1872While the dough is rising, start heating your pot of water for the steamer over med high heat

img_1874Place the dough into the steamer (don’t over-crowd, they will grow) once the water is boiling and you see steam rising.  Steam for about 10 mins. Don’t open the lid while steaming.

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And Voila~ beautiful, fluffy, warm, delicious buns!!!

Steamed Korean Buns Recipe (왕만두/호빵)

Makes: about 2 dozen buns

Ingredients (Bun)

  • scant 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 TBS baking powder
  • 1 1/2 TBS dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1 cup warm water (more or less)
  • 1/6 cup vegetable or canola or grapeseed oil

Filling

Japchae Recipe or store-bought Red Bean Paste or be creative! 🙂

Directions

  1. Prep: cut out 24 little 3″x 3″ squares of wax paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and dry milk powder.
  3. Add the warm water and mix/knead until dough forms.  You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.  Once you have a ball of dough, add in the oil and knead until you have a nice, shiny dough that isn’t sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into little balls (60 gram balls, about the size of a golf ball).  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 15 mins.
  5. Flatten a ball of dough and fill with desired filling of choice.  Pinch ends closed then place onto a square of wax paper.  (If not using filling, just place ball of dough onto wax square)  Traditionally for the “Wang Mandoo” you place the seam side facing up and for the “Hobbang” you place it seam side down.
  6. Let dough rise in a warm place for 30 mins
  7. While the dough is rising, start heating your pot of water for the steamer over med high heat
  8. Place the dough into the steamer (don’t over-crowd, they will grow) once the water is boiling and you see steam rising.  Steam for about 10 mins. Don’t open the lid while steaming.
  9. Carefully remove and enjoy your steams buns!!!
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Before my mom devoured hers 🙂

I’m going to get my butt out to the Korean store soon.  My stock of Korean ingredients is dwindling… probably when it stops raining.  Yes, I’m spoiled with good weather here and don’t go out when it rains… and my parents live in WA… ha.

Thanks for reading and stay dry and warm out there!

-Flora

Birthday Wishes… Shopkins

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My little girl just had a birthday; and of course no birthday celebration is complete without a cake topped with birthday candles to wish on before they are extinguished in one (or a few) puffs, which concurrently blankets the cake with tiny droplets of birthday girl germs.  But we digress… let them eat cake.  Germs are everywhere.  Besides, this cake is bulletproof!  It’s covered with homemade marshmallow fondant which no one likes to eat anyway.  I just peel mine right off and get to the good stuff: 4-layers of moist chocolate cake, devil’s frosting, and french vanilla frosting just under the peel, err… fondant.

I’m definitely not a fondant fan, but I must admit that certain cake requests (like this Shopkins cake) does require edible modeling clay to achieve that smooth, plastic look of a toy.  Most of my cakes are covered in buttercream or whipped cream, but I made an exception for this one since I didn’t think tinted buttercream would look as nice as fondant would.

My little princess got 2 birthday parties!  One on her actual birthday with family, including grandma who was in town, and her second party with a little group of friends at our humble home for a night of pizza, “Snow White” the movie, popcorn, and cake, followed by a spontaneous game of balloon war; organized chaos at it’s best!

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Of course I used Ina Garten’s Cheesecake recipe but without the jam, just topped with fresh raspberries.

So lucky mommy (yes, that’d be me) got to bake a cheesecake for her family party and this cute Shopkins cake for her party with her friends and I’m going to share my Shopkins cake construction process.

Little princess wanted a chocolate cake, so little princess got a chocolate cake for her special day.  I used Toba Garrett’s chocolate cake recipe from her book “The Well-decorated Cake” and I promise it’s the BEST chocolate cake you will ever taste!  She claims it’s good to the last crumb, and believe me, it is!  For the filling, I made a HUGE mistake and accidentally  made chocolate icing!!!  Like the kind that you drizzle over desserts for the nice chocolate-spilling-over-the-edge look, and that doesn’t work for a cake filling unless you want a “Sleeping Beauty” type of cake look with all the layers sliding and frosting dripping and the whole cake leaning like the Tower of Pisa.  That’s why, my friends, we should stick to tried and true recipes when attempting a special cake for a special occasion.  Lesson learned.  SO, instead of dumping the chocolate icing, I just doctored it by adding more butter and powdered sugar and it was fixed!  Now, I had delicious devil’s chocolate icing buttercream that was perfect layered with the chocolate cake.

After that detour, I decided I didn’t want to risk the dark brown color of chocolate frosting possibly showing through the light yellow fondant so whipped up a batch of our favorite vanilla frosting, which is also found in Toba Garrett’s book (see above link) called French Vanilla Buttercream.  This buttercream tastes like vanilla ice cream and has a texture that’s lighter and in between a buttercream and whipped cream.  Definitely one of my go-to recipes and have used it in many of my past cakes.

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I made 2 batches of marshmallow fondant and colored one batch yellow then left a larger part of the 2nd batch white and colored some pink and a little black.

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I wanted a taller, cake but I didn’t want to bake a 3rd cake, so I cheated and used my inverted cake pan as my 3rd cake layer to give the cake more height.

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I was in a rush and wasn’t careful removing my 2nd cake from the pan and it broke in several places!

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see how much of the outside broke off?!?!

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But it’s okay!  Just take those broken cake crumbs and mix it with your frosting and now you have chocolate cement to fill in the cracks.  (This is also how you can make cake pops.  crumble cake, mix in frosting, shape, and stick onto sticks)

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Whew, there. Now the cake is good as new 😉

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I split my 2 cakes in half so I got 4 layers.  Put some frosting on my “fake” cake layer then stack cake, frost, stack cake, frost… you get the picture.  I purposely left the top layer rounded since I wanted to keep the rounded look for the Shopkins Wishes cake.  Refrigerate your stacked cake for about 30 mins so it’s easier to cover with frosting and doesn’t shift.

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Smooth on your vanilla buttercream frosting with an offset spatula and refrigerate again while you work on rolling out some fondant. Notice how I frosted my cake pan, the bottom layer of my “cake”.

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After you work your fondant with your hands to get it pliable again, roll it out as big as you can.  I wasn’t able to get it big enough to drape over the entire cake, so I just cut out two 6″ strips (height of the side of cake) and stuck it on.  Get a wet paper towel and run it over your fondant so it will stick to the cake. (dampen only the side that will be touching the cake)

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Carefully smooth it out with your hands or a fondant smoother tool.

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I used two strips to cover the sides of the cake. (you can see the small seam on the left)  It’s okay, I’m going to add the arms there later.

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Roll our your white fondant, then use an 8″ cake base (cheese board from Dollar tree) as a guide to cut out a circle.  You want enough of the white fondant to come over the side of the cake.

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Use a sharp knife to cut around the fondant like above to achieve the look of icing drips.

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Again, dab a wet paper towel over the fondant, then carefully position over the top of the cake.

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Now for the pink band around Wishes.   Roll and cut out an appropriate sized band

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Stick it on with some water then use a blunt knife or I used a wooden skewer to make the slanted indent patterns on the pink band.

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Now make your eyes, nose, arms, and lips and attach with some water!  It already looks so cute!

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Make 3 white snakes then coil into these little swirls

 

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Attach the swirls and make some white “sprinkles” and the cake is complete!  She wanted a “6” on her cake and didn’t want just green candles (which is what Wishes has).

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She loved her little party and was so excited she kept hugging me and telling me ‘thank you’.  That’s what makes my Saturday spent on a birthday cake, all worth it!

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Eating a slice or two of cake helps, too.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

adapted from Toba Garrett’s “The Well Decorated Cake”

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1  1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2  1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • 1  1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2  1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 6 oz. melted semisweet chocolate (good quality), melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and parchment line two 8″ cake pans (2″ high).  Melt chocolate, set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together on med- low speed until fluffy.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl, set aside
  4. Add eggs into the butter mixture, scraping bowl as needed.  Add vanilla.
  5. Add in a third of the flour mixture, mix. then a half of the buttermilk.  Mix and scrape bowl. Repeat until you have ended with the rest of your flour mixture.  Scrape bowl.
  6. Add in your melted chocolate and beat on med-high until well mixed.  Scraping bowl as needed.
  7. Pour into your prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for about 50 mins or until toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool in pan for 10 mins then remove carefully onto cooling rack.
  9. Frost cake after completely cool.
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Her friends got to go home with these cute Shopkins keychains from the supplies I had left from a past party where I had bottlecap necklaces.

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I found that printable for free on pinterest and taped them onto pink craft bags.  My girl is into word searches so they got a word search booklet and mechanical pencil (from Dollar Tree) and a pretzel rod dipped in white chocolate w/ sprinkles, plus the keychains.

 

Good luck with your baking adventure!  Thank you for reading and please subscribe!

-Flora

Umma’s Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

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I have a confession to make.  I am Korean.  Okay, that wasn’t my confession.  Here it is:

I am Korean.  And I buy my kimchi.  -_-  I know, I know.  I don’t deserve to lay claim to my Korean roots if I don’t make my own kimchi or own a kimchi refrigerator.  (Yes, there is such a fridge and it keeps kimchi and regular produce fresh forEVER!)  But wait, do you know what kimchi is?  It’s only the best, tastiest, and healthiest Korean mealtime staple with natural probiotics and lots of Vitamin A and C.  Basically it’s fermented Chinese cabbage (can also be made from a variety of other vegetables and seasonings) that is eaten as a side dish and ranges from mild to spicy, to watery, to fishy.

My mom’s visiting and I’m taking full advantage of her Korean cooking skills and documenting her kimchi-making process so I can try to replicate it next time I run out of her kimchi.  I’ve made kimchi by myself once before in my lifetime and I must confess it was a fail.  My mom sort of walked through the steps and ingredients with me over the phone and I tried to mimic it… and well… it just wasn’t the same.  Hopefully, standing over her shoulder and breathing down her neck while watching her make this kimchi will help me the next time I attempt it.  We sort of measured the ingredients as she went along because, like many Korean moms out there, her measurements and recipe is in her head and her hand.  She just sort of eyeballs it and adds more or less by taste.  I was probably frustrating her whenever I stopped her to measure the ingredients 🙂  but she was super patient with me.  So here is how my mom makes her kimchi:

 

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Add lots of salt to a bucket of water (should taste like the sea). We used Kosher Salt because I don’t have Kimchi salt, but my mom prefers to use Kimchi salt (which might be the same as rock salt).

 

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Slice your cabbage in half, vertically.

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Slice again, so you have quartered your cabbage. Cut off the hard core/stem, but we want enough of the stem to keep the leaves together.

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Dunk your cabbage quarters in the brine water, let it drain, then salt between each leaf, concentrating on the thicker, white (non-leafy) portion of the cabbage.  Repeat for all.

Here’s a quick video to help you (and me) see how to prep/brine the cabbage.

 

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After salting all the cabbage, pour the rest of the salt water over the cabbage and let it brine for about 2-3 hours. (depends on how much salt and water.  taste it after 2 hours to determine)

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Turn and rotate the cabbage halfway through brining

 

Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste/marinade by chopping your onion, Korean pear, ginger, garlic, and radish, place in a blender, add your fish sauce, then puree.

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Add your red pepper flakes and brown sugar to your puree and you have your kimchi paste

After the cabbage is salty enough, dump out the salt water, then rinse your cabbage in running water 2-3 times and let drain for about 30 mins.  Now get on some food service gloves (the red pepper on your skin will sting) and smear on that kimchi paste all over and between the cabbage leaves.  “Wrap” the outer most leaf around the quarter of cabbage then carefully tuck into a glass jar.  Fill the jar (cover w/ lid) then place in the refrigerator (or to eat it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for a day).  And you lucky ducks with a kimchi refrigerator, you know what to do.

Ingredients

  • 2 Napa (Chinese) Cabbage, washed
  • Lots of Coarse salt (Preferably Kimchi salt)
  • 1 cup fish sauce (I used Tiparos brand Thai Fish Sauce. Korean ones are saltier and less sweet, so add more or less according to taste)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Korean pear, chopped
  • 1 cup Daikon radish, chopped
  • 1 inch ginger root, chopped
  • ~13 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups coarse red pepper flakes
  • 1 TB brown sugar

*You will need a big, wide bowl to brine, a bucket, food service gloves, and wide-mouth glass (preferably) jar to store kimchi)

Directions

  1. Add lots of salt to a bucket of water (should taste like the sea)
  2. Slice your cabbage in half, vertically. Then slice again, vertically, so you have quartered your cabbage.
  3. Cut off the hard core/stem, but we want enough of the stem to keep the leaves together.
  4. Dunk your cabbage quarters in the brine water, let it drain, then salt between each leaf, concentrating on the thicker, white (non-leafy) portion of the cabbage.  Repeat for all.
  5. After salting all the cabbage, pour the rest of the salt water over the cabbage and let it brine for about 2-3 hours turning and rotating the cabbage halfway through brine period . (depends on how much salt and water.  taste it after 2 hours to determine)
  6. Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste/marinade by chopping your onion, Korean pear, ginger, garlic, and radish, place in a blender, add your fish sauce, then puree.
  7. Add your red pepper flakes and brown sugar to your puree and you have your kimchi paste
  8. After the cabbage is salty enough, dump out the salt water, then rinse your cabbage in running water 2-3 times and let drain for about 30 mins.
  9. With food service gloves (the red pepper on your skin will sting), smear on the kimchi paste over and between the cabbage leaves.
  10. “Wrap” the outer most leaf around the quarter of cabbage then carefully tuck into a glass jar.  Fill the jar (cover w/ lid) then place in the refrigerator (or to eat it sooner, leave it out at room temperature for a day).  And you lucky ducks with a kimchi refrigerator, you know what to do.

*I bought only one Napa cabbage but the recipe makes enough kimchi paste for two Napa cabbages so the recipe calls for two of the cabbages.

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Good luck to you (and to me)!

Thanks for reading!

-Flora (and my mom)

“Thunder Cake” Happened…

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I borrowed this book ,”Thunder Cake”, from the library a couple weeks ago to read to my children when it was raining nonstop here in the bay area and we had some hail and thunder (but alas, we saw no lightning, much to my son’s dismay).  Maybe because of the hills, trees, and homes that block our view of the sky…  But as my High School Chemistry teacher always used to say, “we digress”!

This book is a story about a little girl who is afraid of everything, especially thunder, and how her grandmother “distracts” her into overcoming her fears as they gather the ingredients to make this special ‘thunder cake’ that needs to go into the oven right when the thunderstorm is above them.  Much to my children’s delight, there was a recipe at the end of the book for this special thunder cake which uses a surprising secret ingredient in the chocolate cake that (I must admit) made me giddy with excitement to try.

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We did our own “gathering” of ingredients for the cake, most of which I already had stocked in my pantry, but we ran to the store to buy the ‘secret’ ingredient and some strawberries.   Our run to the store could have been spared since we didn’t end up baking the cake until today and only because the strawberries wouldn’t last any longer if we didn’t bake it and I didn’t want to make another run to the store for one ingredient.

So what is the ‘secret’ ingredient you ask?  Well, it’s pureed tomatoes!  Isn’t that something?  I was skeptical but hopeful that it would turn out into a delicious chocolate cake and BOY, did it turn out into a scrumptious chocolate cake! And dare I say, it may be the best tasting chocolate cake EVER, especially paired with some light, fluffy chocolate frosting and fresh strawberries.  My kids are funny.  They start with the strawberries and then they eat the cake.  Every morning, I give them their fruit after their ‘main’ otherwise, they won’t finish their food and only eat the fruit.

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*SEE BELOW for UPDATED METHOD!!! Some pointers about making the cake.  The recipe really doesn’t give the step-by-step directions I’m used to in a recipe, but having baked enough cakes in my life, I started off creaming the butter (I substituted the shortening for unsalted butter) then added the sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Then I transferred the butter mixture to a large bowl, thoroughly cleaned and dried my stand mixing bowl to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  I sifted the dry ingredients together and set it aside.  But here is where I panicked!  I added the water and pureed tomatoes to the butter mixture and of course with that much water, the butter is NOT going to incorporate it and looked like a curdled mess with the tomato puree and water mix.  But I just kept going, putting trust in the recipe (and crossing my fingers that it would turn out).  I started adding the flour mixture into the butter mixture then folded in some of the egg whites and repeated until I had cake batter!  It looked lumpy with butter still not incorporated in the liquid, but I still baked it according to the recipe and the cake turned out great!  It really tastes SO soft and moist!

*1/14/2016  So, I had to make this cake again and found a much better way to make this cake batter come together without lumps of butter.  

  1. Preheat oven to 350F . Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans
  2. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and the egg yolks.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. Measure out the cold water and pureed tomatoes. (I strained it so no seeds or tomato skin pieces) 
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add a third of the dry mix to the butter mixture, next add half of the tomato/water mixture, then another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the tomato/water mixture, and finally the remaining third of the flour mixture.  (So basically dry, wet, dry, wet, dry into the butter mixture.)
  6. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form w/ whip attachment.  
  7. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
  8. Divide the cake batter evenly into the two cake pans and bake about 30- 35 mins (toothpick test)

P.S.  I used fresh pureed tomatoes (and my son drank the rest and wanted more 🙂

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Oftentimes, I find butter cakes to be not as moist and soft as cake mixes, but this cake is so soft like a cake mix and tastes delicious!  I could only slightly taste a hint of the tomato (maybe because I knew there was tomato in it… the hubby couldn’t tell), but it was very good and even gives the cake a slightly red-velvet cake-ish hue.  I’m curious how the tomato helps the cake taste so good!

Now, the recipe in the book only says to frost the cake with a chocolate butter frosting.  SO, I used this chocolate frosting recipe:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate (melted)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

I melt the chocolate carefully in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments or you can melt using the double boiler method.  Beat the butter until light, then add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until light and fluffy.  Then add the melted chocolate (shouldn’t be hot).

After tasting the frosting, I decided I wanted to lighten up the frosting and whipped about a cup of whipping heavy cream added a bit of powdered sugar then folded it into the buttercream frosting.  It made the creamy, intense chocolate frosting, into more of a chocolate mousse-like lighter frosting that I think paired perfectly with this cake and the strawberries.

So, there.

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Who knew pureed tomatoes could make the best chocolate cake, ever!!!

My 7 yrs. old has already requested that I make a copy of the recipe and save it so he can have it for his birthday (which is not ’til Sept).  Then his 5 yrs old sister chimed in and said she wanted the same!  It’s really that good!  Don’t believe me?  You’ve got to try it yourself!

Daddy came home while we were enjoying dessert so he got to read the book “Thunder Cake” to them while they ate their ‘thunder cake’!  Nothing grand going on here, but they were all so happy.  It’s the little things that count.  🙂  I love my family.

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Thanks for reading!

 

Love,

Flora

Easy Seafood Soon Tofu (해물 순두부)

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Friday nights = I don’t cook nights.  With the exception of this past Friday night, that equation proves true.  We made a trip out to the Korean Market in Oakland a couple Saturdays ago and bought all the ingredients to make this Tofu Soup but for whatever reason, never got around to making Ken’s favorite soup.  Friday nights are always pizza and a movie night with the family and last Friday was going to be no exception, but I got a text message from Ken asking if we could have the Seafood Tofu Soup for dinner that night… I immediately thought to reply “of course not!  I don’t cook dinner on Fridays!” but then thought… well… I guess I could.  And that, my friends, is because this soup so easy and quick!

I already mentioned this soup is Ken’s favorite soup, and it’s also high up on the list for my kids as well.  They love Korean soups and like to dump their bowl of rice into their soup and eat it together, which is exactly what I did growing up, and is exactly what Korean moms feed their little toddlers after they start solids.  This tofu soup is a bit spicy but the kids didn’t have a problem finishing their food with a cup of water on hand.

Easy Seafood Soon Tofu (Korean Soft Tofu Soup)

  • 2 cups kimchi, finely chopped
  • 1 pack frozen seafood mix, 12 oz (or canned chopped clams, about 3 cans)
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
  • 5 packs silken tofu, 11oz each
  • 2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • finely ground red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • salt & pepper

Optional step: Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to hot, large pot and add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to make the spicy oil, then add the kimchi.

  1. Heat a large pot and add a teaspoon of oil.  Add the kimchi and cook the kimchi on med-high heat until it starts to become translucent, about 3-4 mins.
  2. Increase heat to high, add the frozen seafood and stir-fry until it is almost cooked. Or add the canned clams with the clam juice.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil.
  4. When the soup is boiling, add the silken tofu and break it up into big chunks with a spatula and bring to a boil.  Add the eggs and again bring to boil.
  5. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil and the green onions then season with salt and pepper.

Done!

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Super quick and easy. The only prep you need to do is to chop the kimchi and the green onions.  Tip: I like to wear food service gloves when handling kimchi so I don’t end up with orangey-red fingertips and a lovely kimchi smelling hand.

The soup tastes great with canned clams as well!  The clam juice in the canned clams make the broth really flavorful and gives it a stronger seafood taste.  Just add less chicken stock if you are using canned clams since the juice in the cans will count towards the liquid you are adding to make the soup.

Korean Soon Tofu is closer to a stew in the sense that your tofu chunks should not be swimming around in a lot of liquid, but if you like it with more soup then add more of the chicken stock, just don’t drown your tofu.

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The only “exotic” ingredient I used for this dish is the kimchi, and even that can be found at your local grocery store around the Bay Area.  I must confess, I buy my kimchi from the Korean market and don’t make my own.  But I have tried once!  Fun Fact: Did you know many Koreans have a separate Kimchi refrigerator that keeps their kimchi at their perfectly fermented state for months?  They actually sell these little (and sometimes, not so little) kimchi fridges.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, see if you can’t spot a little jar of kimchi! I bet you’ll see it, if you haven’t already.

As always, thank you for reading and hope you have a great week!

-Flora

Orange Pound Cake with Lemon Mascarpone

It’s technically winter and spring isn’t here for another 8 days but it’s been warm the last couple days and I see beautiful, sweet berries at the store so I decide it’s okay to eat raspberries layered with orange pound cake and lemon mascarpone as dessert for book club before spring/summer.  This is my first time hosting book club and I’m still a newbie in the club so I was racking my brain for days trying to come up with a dessert to serve and I remembered this Trader Joe’s Cookbook recipe I love that uses ladyfingers soaked in orange juice layered with berries and lemon mascarpone.  I decided to try it with Ina Garten’s Orange Pound Cake and it had to be pound cake since the characters in the book had pound cake after their eventful dinner.  We just read the book “Mother of Pearl” by Melinda Haynes and we all agreed the first third of the book was really hard to get through.  There was a lot of crude words and language that really didn’t need to be there and should have been cleaned up by the editor.  Plus the story was difficult to follow as was keeping track of the characters in the beginning.  But once we got through the first couple hundred pages of the book, it finally started to pick up and things were starting to make more sense.  Also, we weren’t reading swear words and the crude words for body parts in every other sentence (okay, I exaggerate).  There were great relationship developments towards the end and it was overall a good read, IF you didn’t end up tossing the book at the beginning :).

I baked the Ina Garten Orange Pound Cake the night before so all I had to do was simply mix the lemon curd with mascarpone and layer with the pound cake and berries.  I think the raspberries go really well with the lemon mascarpone and the Orange pound cake rather than other berries, but strawberries would work well too.  It tastes great with ladyfingers but also tastes even better with the orange pound cake and all the wonderful citrus zest it it makes for a fresh, delightful dessert!  
It’s assembled into an 8×8 inch glass baking dish but can be made in individual glass cups for an even more elegant presentation.  It it is so fast and simple to make and even more so when you use store-bought ladyfingers!  Here are the recipes below! 
Orange Pound Cake by Ina Garten – it makes two loaves and you only need one loaf for the trifle dessert so you can always give away the other half, eat it yourself, or freeze it.
Better-Than-Tiramisu
adapted from “The I Love Trader Joe’s Cookbook”
Ingredients
1 (10oz) jar Lemon Curd
1.5 (8oz) containers mascarpone
1/2 cup orange juice
1 loaf Orange Pound Cake (recipe link above) or 1 package ladyfingers
about 2 cups fresh raspberries, washed and dried
Directions
1. Mix the lemon curd with the mascarpone cheese until smooth but don’t overbeat.  May become grainy if you beat too long.
2. Slice the pound cake into 1/2″ slices and dip it in orange juice.  Place dipped side up in the bottom of an 8×8″ dish and repeat until you fill the bottom of the dish.  Do the same for ladyfingers, if using.

3. Spread half of the lemon curd mascarpone mixture over the cake then top with half of the berries.
4. Repeat with another layer of sliced pound cake dipped in orange juice and top with remaining lemon mascarpone and raspberries.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.
  
Serve and enjoy~
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Cheers,
Flora