Gingerbread Houses 2012

Fondant was used to cover the house
I had never made a gingerbread house before I moved to Japan. I always made cookies at Christmas but had never challenged an entire house.

I will post the recipe I use for the gingerbread in the coming days.

Santa and the snowman
at the front 
We like cute houses in Japan

The door and window are hard candy which was
melted in the oven


Chocolate Cinnamon Christmas Cake

Let's start the Christmas season
 It is already the middle of December and I am just starting to bake for Christmas. The month is slipping by too fast.

This chocolate cake has cinnamon and red wine in it which gives it a nice zingy taste.

The recipe is originally from Christine Ferber who is  best know for her jams.

This cake is quite quick to put together - about 30 minutes total. You can either bake in two small pans or just one large one.

125 grams softened butter
125 grams sugar
5 grams cinnamon
75 grams dark chocolate (about 60%)
50 grams red wine at room temperature
125 grams flour
75 grams almond powder
5 grams baking powder
5 grams cocoa powder
125 grams egg

1. Mix the softened butter with the sugar and cinnamon using a whisk. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, almond powder, baking powder and cocoa together.

Wine and chocolate are ready to mix
Use a small whisk to combine together
2. Melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the wine in portions and use a small whisk to mix together. Put over hot water again if the chocolate becomes chilled.

3.  Add the egg to the chocolate in portions  using a small whisk. Add in the butter mixture in portions. Add the flour mixture and mix together well with a spatula.

4. Put into pans that have been coated with butter and flour. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 - 25 minutes.
Use a Kugelhopf pan if you have one since the pan also makes a nice design for the cake.

Cakes ready for the oven
Cake just out of the oven

Baked in a kugelhopf pan


Easy Delicious Dinner Rolls

Bread is ready - bring on dinner!
Finding a dinner roll recipe which is easy but packs a lot taste is difficult.  Parker House rolls are a traditional roll so I made a few changes to the basic recipe to reduce the butter but keep the soft texture.

This roll is made with milk instead of water which gives it a rich flavor.  Adding a whole egg to the recipe also adds the right amount of softness.

This recipe makes about 8 rolls of 50 grams each.

210 grams bread flour (sifted)
4 grams instant yeast 
3 grams salt
22 grams butter
120 grams milk (room temperature)
1 egg
extra butter for brushing on top

Add the butter to the dough
1.  Mix the milk and egg together. In a bowl, combine the flour, yeast, & salt. Add the milk mixture and use a dough scraper to mix. 

2. Put the dough on a flat surface to knead for about 10 minutes.  Roll into a ball and cover with a bowl for about 10 minutes. 

3. Remove the bowl and then add the butter to the dough. Use the dough scraper to cut the butter into the dough. Knead the dough until the butter is well mixed. Dough should be soft but not sticky.

4. If the dough feels stiff, add a little milk and knead again.

5. Roll into a ball and put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes.

Dough is ready to start the rising process
6. After the bread is finished rising. Put on the kneading board and cut into 50 gram pieces. Flatten each piece & roll each into a ball and let sit under plastic wrap for about 15 minutes (bench time).

7. Flatten & re-roll each ball. Put on a baking sheet. Brush each ball with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place.

8. Rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 - 25 minutes or until browned.

Measure all ingredients before starting
Brush with butter before the 2nd rising
Use a small rolling pin to make a crease in the middle
Bread just out of the oven
This bread has just the right amount of softness

French Style Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie decorated with powdered sugar
Sweet potatoes are still plentiful in the store even in late November so I couldn't resist making a pie.

I like sweets potatoes anyway they are cooked or baked so I didn't need much encouragement to bake this pie.

The traditional American recipe of baked sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows is not popular in Japan so I had to make this pie to serve my friends here. Recipe fits a 21 cm tart pan.

Pie Dough
200 grams flour
100 grams cold butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
5 grams sugar

1. Sift the flour into a bowl. Cut butter into small cubes and mix with the flour using a pastry cutter (use a food processor if you have one). Butter should be well mixed with the flour.
2. Add the egg, sugar, salt & water and mix. Put dough on a smooth surface and knead gently until it is soft and well mixed.
3. Cover in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before using.

Almond Cream (Optional)
50 grams almond powder
50 grams powdered sugar
50 grams soft butter
5 grams flour
1 egg
5 grams dark rum
1. Mix the butter and powdered sugar. Add the egg and mix. Add the almond powder, flour & rum. Mix well.

1 sweet potato (baked, peeled & sliced about 300 grams)
1/2 sweet potato thinly sliced (these pieces will be boiled)
30 grams butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
15 grams honey
10 grams dark rum
2 egg yolks
100 grams cream

Arrange slices in a nice pattern
1. Soften the butter then add the brown sugar, honey, rum & egg yolks. Mix well with a whisk.
2. Boil the sliced sweet potatoes in water (add 1 tablespoon sugar to the water) until they are soft. Do not over  boil  or they will break apart.
3. Add the 300 grams sweet potato to #1. Use a food processor to mix together if possible. Add the cream. To remove the lumps, you can  put the mixture through a sieve.
4. Roll the dough to fit the tart pan and cut off the extra. Fill the inside with sweet potato filling. Cover with almond cream (do not add too much). Arrange the sliced sweet potatoes on top in a nice circle pattern.
5. Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes then reduce to 160 degrees and bake for 40 minutes until browned.

Use another tart pan for a more
interesting shape

Serve with coffee!


Creamy Chestnut Mousse Cake

Chestnut mousse cake decorated with glazed chestnuts
As you can tell from my postings, I like mousse cakes. A creamy mousse combined with cake and a filling makes for a great dessert.

My collection of chestnut recipes is growing -- which gives me a great idea for a cook book :)  Anyway, this is a new recipe I found this year and couldn't wait to try it.

This cake has 3 items to make but if you want to skip the chocolate ganache you could.

A layer of cake is on the bottom, followed by mousse, another layer of cake & chocolate ganache topped with mousse. Recipe is enough for a 18 cm x 5 cm ring.

Chocolate ganache
Chocolate Ganache
60 grams milk chocolate (chopped)
45 grams cream (36%)
1 teaspoon dark rum
1. Heat the cream until just boiling. Add to the chocolate in portions. Mix with a small whisk to melt the hot cream & chocolate. Add remaining cream. 
2. If the chocolate does not melt completely, put over a pan of hot water. Add the rum. 
3. Pour the chocolate into a ring which is placed on plastic wrap or baking paper. Put in the refrigerator to become firm.

Pan should not be too deep
this pan is  28 cm x 28 cm

80 grams powdered sugar
100 grams almond powder
30 grams flour
3 eggs
20 grams melted butter
130 grams egg white
60 grams sugar

1. Mix the 3 eggs in a bowl. Sift the powdered sugar, almond powder & flour together. Add to the eggs and mix well with a whisk.
2. Whip the egg whites and then add the sugar in portions until soft peaks form. Add to #1 above. Add the melted butter and mix gently with a spatula.
3. Pour into a baking pan and bake about 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

Marron Mousse
300 grams milk
45 grams sugar
90 grams egg yolks
12 grams gelatin
200 grams fresh cream (36%)
10 grams dark rum
180 grams marron paste
20 grams marron cream

1. Make anglais - mix the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and heat the milk in a pan. Pour the heated milk into the eggs & mix, pour back into the pan and heat until lightly thickened (do not overheat or you will have scrambled eggs). Add the gelatin.
2. Strain into a bowl and cool. Add the marron paste, cream & rum. Put through a sieve to take out any lumps.
3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. 
4. Add the whipped cream to the marron mixture. Use a spatula to lightly mix together. Put the bowl over ice water until the mixture becomes slightly firm. 

Put the Cake Together
1. Cut the cake so that it fits inside the 18 cm ring (put mousse film inside the ring). Fill about 1/3 with the mousse. Add another layer of cake (cut smaller) and the chocolate ganache. Add some pieces of marron around the inside. Fill the rest with the mousse. Put in the refrigerator until it becomes firm - at least an hour or two.

Place a piece of cake on the bottom
and put the ring on cake

Cake is ready for the refrigerator
to become firm


Chestnut Marron Cakes

It is only mid-November but I heard Christmas carols in the store this evening.

There are some great fall recipes that I want to share with everyone before Christmas so I need to get busy with my updates.

Cakes featuring chestnut paste are hugely popular in Japan. The infamous Mont Blanc cake, is another standard in all bakeries here.

This recipe is quite easy - mixing butter, sugar, eggs, flour, etc. The baking pan is unique though. It is in the shape of chestnuts. Not sure how easy this is to find in your country but I bought mine at Cuoca in Tokyo.
(makes 12 small cakes)

120 grams softened butter
100 grams sugar
Pinch of salt
30 grams honey
110 grams chestnut paste
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams sifted flour
10 grams rum
Slices of cooked chestnuts

Dough should be smooth
1. In a bowl mix the softened butter and sugar the add the salt and honey. Add in the chestnut paste and mix well. Add the eggs & rum.
2. Put every through a sieve since the chestnut paste does not mix together smoothly.
3. Add in the flour in portions and mix well. 
4. Batter should be smooth when you finish.

To put the dough into the baking pan, it is easier if you put it in a pastry bag to fill each piece.

The  baking pan I used is
in the shape of  a chestnut

This pan is super easy to use. You can directly pour the dough into the pan without using butter or oil sprays.

Fill each mold half way and add a piece of
chestnut in the middle & the fill
the rest of the way

Fill in the remainder and smooth the top to remove the extra dough.

Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for 15 - 20 minutes depending on your oven.

Let the pan cool for a short while then remove each piece.

Decorate each piece with melted milk chocolate and chocolate sprinkles.

Melt about 60 grams of milk chocolate in a bowl over hot water and then dip each end into the chocolate. Dip in the sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet.

Cakes topped with chocolate
and cookie crunch
Use whatever topping is in your house

This is the marron puree I found in Japan
This is a famous French brand


Autumn Apple Cinnamon Crumb Muffins

Fresh out of the oven
Here is a fast and easy one AND they taste great.

Apple walnut muffins topped with cinnamon crumble.

There are 3 parts to the recipe.


1. Apple Caramel:
60 grams sugar
40 grams butter
200 grams cubed apples

1. Heat the sugar in a pan until it turns golden brown. Don't wait too long to take off the heat since it changes color very fast.
2. Take off the heat and add the butter. Be careful when adding the butter since the sugar  is VERY hot.  Add apples after the butter melts.
3. Put in a bowl and let cool.

Butter melting in the caramel

2. Apple Crumble:
30 grams butter (room temperature)
30 grams brown sugar
60 grams flour (sifted)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Add the brown sugar to the butter & mix. Add the flour and cinnamon. Mix well.

3. Batter
100 grams butter (room temperature)
140 grams brown sugar
2 grams salt
2 eggs
100 grams milk
240 grams flour
8 grams baking powder
50 grams chopped walnuts

1. Mix the softened butter with the brown sugar using a whisk. Add the egg in portions.
2. Sift together the salt, flour & baking powder. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to #1 above and mix -- add 1/2 of the milk and mix. Repeat the process with flour & milk and mix well.  Add the nuts.

Putting Together:
1. Fill muffin cups about 1/3 full then add pieces of the apple caramel.  Add a little more batter and top off with the apple crumble.  Should make about 11 - 12 muffins.
2. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes then reduce the oven to 180 and bake for 20 minutes.

Muffins ready for the oven


Autumn Leaf Pies

These are a great idea for a brunch or even Thanksgiving.

It is a simple dough filled with your favorite ingredients.  I made a mixture of chicken and fall vegetables such as carrots and mushrooms to fill these.

You can make the dough a couple of days before and fill them on the day that company is coming.


200 grams flour
200 grams butter (cold)
1 egg
20 grams water
3 grams salt

1. Sift the flour. You can use a food processor to mix the flour and butter. Add in the egg, water & salt. Mix together well. Knead together lightly and roll into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least one hour before using.

1 chicken breast
mushrooms (chopped)
1 carrot & 1 turnip (any root vegetable you like)
1 egg
bread crumbs
salt & pepper 

1. Cut the chicken breast & lightly fry and add the mushrooms.
2. Cut the carrot & turnip into small pieces and boil until soft.
3. Put the chicken meat into a food processor with the egg and mix. Put into a bowl with bread crumbs, carrots & turnips.
4. Roll the dough out and use a cookie cutter to cut shapes such as the leaf cutter below. You can also use a pumpkin shape or something similar depending on the season. Put a small amount of the filling into the middle of the shape and brush with egg around the outside. Place another piece of dough on top and brush egg on top. Keep the dough cool while working with it since it can soften quickly. I put the first group of cut dough in the refrigerator before matching them with the bottom piece.
5. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 25 - 30 minutes until well browned.

Use a cookie cutter to make shapes
Brush top with egg before baking
Use a knife to decorate the top
Make sure each piece is well sealed around the edges

Halloween Chocolate Mousse Cake

This recipe takes about 90 minutes to put together but it is well worth it.  I made a decoration on top for Halloween but if you want to keep it simple you can skip this part.
Delicious Chocolate Mousse Cake

Decorative Topping (optional)

Halloween decoration

10 grams soft butter
10 grams powdered sugar
10 grams egg white
10 grams flour

1. Mix the butter then add the powdered 
sugar, add the egg white then add the flour. 
Add coloring.
2. Draw your design on a sheet of paper and 
place under the  your parchment paper.
3. Put each color into a separate bag for 
piping. Your lines should be thin but not too 
thin, otherwise, they will not show up well 
after baking.
4. Put this in the refrigerator for about 20 
minutes so that the mixture becomes firm

I use a shallow square baking pan (27 cm x 
27 cm - height is 2 cm) covered with parchment paper to pipe the decoration on.

Use Cookie Cutter for Quick Decoration

Whip Egg Whites then add egg yolks
4 egg yolks
35 grams sugar
15 grams corn starch
15 grams flour
15 grams cocoa powder
35 grams melted butter
75 grams egg white
40 grams sugar

1. Mix the egg yolk & sugar (35 grams).
2. Measure the flour, corn starch and cocoa powder together.
3. Whip the egg whites and add the sugar (75 grams) in 3 - 4 portions. Add in the egg yolk mixture and mix using a spatula. 
4. Sift the flour mixture and add in. Mix with a spatula.
5. Pour the mixture over the parchment paper with the decoration. Bake at 180 degrees celcius for 15 - 20 minutes.

Pour cake over the parchment paper

Chocolate Mousse
125 grams fresh cream (36%)
2 egg yolks
25 grams sugar
3 grams gelatin
220 grams fresh cream (about 36%)
180 grams dark chocolate

1. Melt the chocolate over hot water and keep at about 40 degrees celsius. 
2. Whip the cream (220 grams) until just a little stiff.
3. Mix the sugar & egg yolks. Heat the fresh cream until just boiling then add to the bowl with the egg mixture then add back to the pan and heat on low heat until lightly thickened. Add the gelatin. Strain into another bowl and lightly cool. The chocolate and egg mixture should be the same temperature.
4. Mix the egg mixture into the chocolate in portions - use a small whisk to combine. 
5. Scoop some of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture and use a spatula to mix together. Add the remaining cream in portions and mix.

Putting together
1. Let the cake cool and turn upside down to remove the parchment paper. Cut out the decoration and a matching bottom and put the bottom inside of a cake ring. 
2. Fill the ring with chocolate mousse the place the decorate piece on top. Put in the refrigerator for at least one hour before removing the ring.

Place one piece of cake at the bottom of the ring then add mousse almost to the top. Put on the last piece of cake & put in refrigerator.  

Other ideas for decoration!

Cute Halloween Pumpkins

Pumpkins made from fondant
An easy way to make these cute decorative pumpkins is to use fondant. The one I used is from Wilton.

Fondant can be a little hard so to soften it just put a piece into the microwave oven for a few seconds. Only work with a small amount at a time so that it stays soft.

Also use Wilton colors to make the shade you need. Knead in the coloring - don't be surprised that this takes a few minutes to fully incorporate the color paste.

The pumpkin stems are pieces of clove. I brushed on orange and green powdered coloring which can be found at Sugarcraft baking supplies or other such stores.

This is a great activity for kids -- just think of all of the other fruit & vegetables you can make!!

Enjoy your decorating :)

Home Style Bread Pudding

Home Style Bread Pudding just out of the oven
Here is an incredibly easy one. Bread pudding is a good way to use old bread which is around the house. Prep time is about 15 minutes and baking depends on the size of the pan you use, but should be no more than 30 minutes.

In this photo, my pan is deep rather than wide so I had to cut the bread into squares. Try to fit square bread into a round pan :)

I've never seen bread pudding served in Japan but I shared this dish with many of my Japanese friends and they really enjoyed it.

Here is an easy recipe for a quick breakfast dish.


6 slices day old bread
2 tablespoons butter (cold)
1/2 cup raisins
4 eggs mixed
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix the milk and eggs in a bowl. Add in the sugar, cinnamon & vanilla.
2. Add a little of this mix to the bottom of the baking pan. Dip the bread into the egg mixture and a layer to the baking pan. Sprinkle the raisins on top and small pieces of butter. Continue this process of bread layers, raisins and butter until the pan is full.
3.  Sprinkle some sugar on top before baking. Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about 20 - 30 minutes depending on your pan size.
4. You can easily adjust this recipe based on how much you need to make -- it is quite flexible. Don't be shy to experiment.

Egg, bread & baking dish are ready