Decorated Gingerbread House

My friend's finished house
I still enjoy making and decorating gingerbread houses at Christmas. The first step is to make a template for the house you want to make. This is your chance to be design the house of your dreams!! My advice is to keep it simple though.

The gingerbread recipe below is very crispy and does not become soft easily. Good for making houses, not so good for making cookies.

Secondly, you need icing which is not too wet so that it dries relatively quick and the house can stay together.

Recipe makes 1 medium size house:
Vegetable shortening 70 grams
Sugar 85 grams
Baking powder 2 grams
Salt 3 grams      
Molasses (light or dark) 125 grams
Ground ginger 1 gram
Cinnamon 1 gram
Flour 325 grams
Water 25 grams

1. Mix the first seven ingredients in a bowl until well blended.  Add the flour and water next. Continue to mix until dough forms.
Cut the dough in shape of the template
2. Roll the dough directly onto the cooking sheet and cut out patterns using the gingerbread house template.
3. Cut the gingerbread with a sharp knife working from the inside out.  This means, if there are windows, etc. cut them first.  Then cut the sides.  Bake at 180 Celsius for about 15 minutes. Check for hardness. If soft, bake again for several minutes.

The house is ready to be baked


Powdered sugar 2 cups
Wilton meringue powder or egg white powder 2 tablespoons
Warm water 4 –6 tablespoons

1. Combine powdered sugar and meringue powder. Add the water and beat until it becomes fluffy. Icing should be able to hold its shape when piped.
2. Put the icing in a pastry bag for decoration. Keep the extra icing in a bowl covered with a damp towel since the icing will become hard quickly. 
Putting Together:
Start with the back of the house
1. Prepare a piece of cardboard covered with foil for the base. Make a line with the icing on the foil where the house will be put. Start with the back of the house and continue with the sides.
2. Place the back of the house along the back icing line. Then place one of the sides next to the back of the house and put a line of icing along the side to hold the two pieces together. Repeat the same process for the other side.
3. Pipe a line along the front of the house and place the house piece on it.

Pipe icing to attach roof

4. The next step is the roof. Pipe icing along the edges of the roof and place the house pieces on top of it. Be sure to center them correctly.

5. After putting the roof on, pipe icing along the top edge to help keep it together.

House is ready

Decorate as you like
 Note: if you want to make curtains for the house, be sure to attach the cloth inside the house with icing before you start step #1.
Merry Christmas

Christmas Stollen

Stollen with dried figs
Merry Christmas
Making stollen is not more difficult than making any other bread. Make this on a day when you have other things to do in the kitchen since it needs to rise several times and you can do other things during this time. I put large dried figs in this bread on one side. This adds a delicious flavor to an already tasty bread.

This recipe makes a large bread so you can reduce it by half if you don't need that much. Even if you make the whole recipe, I suggest dividing the dough in half to bake since it is really quite large.

340 grams dried diced fruits such as raisins, cranberries, apricot, etc. (soaked in brandy)
85 grams diced walnuts
85 grams diced almonds
140 grams milk (room temperature)
1 gram salt
60 grams egg
55 grams lukewarm water
9 grams instant dry yeast
120 grams sugar
400 grams bread flour (sifted)
100 grams butter (room temperature)
7 - 9 large dried figs

1. Soak the dried fruit in the liquor for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Drain extra liquid. You can add a 1 - 2 tablespoons of flour to the fruit to soak up the extra liquid before using.

2. In a bowl, mix the milk and egg. In a separate bowl, combine the water and yeast and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then add the yeast mixture to the milk and mix lightly with a small whisk.

3. Mix together the flour, salt and sugar with a whisk in a bowl. Add the milk mixture and mix together with spatula. If you have a standing mixer (Kitchen Aid) or a food processor you can use it to mix the flour and liquid.

4. Put the dough on a flat surface and start to knead. Knead until soft for about 10 - 15 minutes. Roll into a ball and cover with a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. After resting, add in the softened butter and knead until it is fully mixed into the dough.

5. The dough should be soft and easy to knead. If it feels too stiff add a teaspoon of milk or more until the dough is soft.

6. Flatten the dough on a flat surface and add the nuts on top. Fold the dough around the nuts and use a bread scraper to mix in the dough. After the nuts start to get mixed in then add the dried fruits and continue to mix together. The dough may be sticky if the fruit was too wet.

7. Roll into a ball and place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Keep in a warm place (about 28 degrees Celsius) for about 1 1/2 hours for rising.

8. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour then remove the dough from the bowl and place on the surface. Flatten to remove the air and make a ball again. Cover with plastic and let sit on the board for 20 minutes.

Place dried figs on the dough
9. Divide the dough into 2 equal size pieces. Flatten each piece to remove the air and use a rolling pin to roll each piece to about 15 cm x 10 cm. Add the large dried figs in a row to one side of the dough.

Fold the dough over the figs
And fold dough on other side too
10. Fold the dough over the figs. Also, fold the dough over on the other side as well.

11. Put in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.

12. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 35 - 40 minutes. If the bread starts to become too browned before baking is finished then cover lightly with foil just on the top.

13. After removing from the oven, brush with melted butter. Once the bread has cooled a little, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

The finished bread


Cooling Lemon Mint Cookies

Lemon Mint Cookies
It is the last day of August and feels like it is the end of summer. The temperature in Tokyo has dropped from a scorching 34 degrees Celsius (93 F) to cool a 23 (74 F). I am sure we will still have a few warm days left, but I think the year end count down has started.

I didn't bake much this summer since it was too hot, but I did try one new recipe - lemon mint cookies. This is a great combination for a summer treat and goes well with a cold glass of ice tea.

These are very fast to put together and bake quickly so you don't need to use your hot oven for a long period.

Here is the recipe:

Butter 80 grams (softened)
Sugar 80 grams
1 Egg yolk
Lemon juice 2 tablespoons
Flour 200 grams
Baking powder ½ teaspoon (sifted with the flour)
100 Mint leaves (chop about 60 of them)

 1.       Put butter in a bowl and mix with sugar until soft then add the egg yolk. Add the lemon juice.
2.       Add the flour and mix with a spatula. Add the chopped mint leaves. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic. Put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.
3.       To bake, use a teaspoon to spoon out pieces (about 15 grams each) and put on a baking sheet. Use a fork to push down each piece. Place a mint leaf on top before baking.

4. Bake at 170 Celsius degrees at for 15 – 20 minutes. Happy eating.

Summertime Raspberry and Lemon Mousse Cake

Cake decorated and ready to go
 It's still the rainy season in Tokyo so summer isn't quite here yet. Once July hits though, the heat will be full on. Mousse cakes are refreshing in the summer but you need to add extra gelatin so they can keep their firmness.

For this recipe, you could substitute any types of fruit puree. The lemon mousse matches with many other flavors such as mango or passion fruit.

There are 3 items to make in this recipe. The biscuit that is around the cake, the lemon mousse (bottom of cake) and the raspberry mousse.

You can buy the store bought biscuits if you want to shorten the preparation time.

Egg whites 4
Egg yolks 4
Sugar 125 grams
Flour 125 grams (sifted)

1. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until stiff.  Add the granular sugar in portions and whip until stiff.
2. Add the egg yolks and mix with a spatula. Add the flour and continue to mix.
3. Put in a pastry bag and pipe the dough into row
4. They should be same height as the ring that you are using.

After cooking, you can always cut the biscuits to fit the ring even if they are too long.

Lemon Mousse:
Milk 270 grams
Fresh cream 50 grams
Zest of 2 lemons
Sugar 30 grams
3 egg yolks
Fresh cream 40 grams
Gelatin 12 grams

1. Put the milk & cream (50 grams)  into a sauce pan. Grate the lemons then add the zest to the milk. Heat the milk until just boiling then turn off the heat and let the zest steep for about 10 minutes. Strain to remove the zest.
2. Mix the egg yolks and the sugar. Then add the milk to the egg yolk mixture and mix. Pour back into the sauce pan and use a low heat until the mixture thickens. Do not boil!! Take off the heat and add the gelatin. Mix until smooth. Cool over ice water.
3. Whip the cream (40 grams) then add to the lemon cream mixture.

Raspberry Mousse:
Raspberry puree 180 grams
Raspberry or strawberry liquor 15 grams
Fresh cream 200 grams
Gelatin 12 grams (softened in water)

Italian Meringue
Egg whites 60 grams
Sugar 20 grams
Sugar 100 grams
Water 30 grams

1. Heat the raspberry puree for about 5 minutes to reduce the water. Add the liquor and mix. Add the softened gelatin.
2. Whip the egg whites and the sugar (20 grams) in portions. Mix until stiff.
3. Heat the sugar (100 grams) and water in a sauce pan until 110 degrees Celsius. Remove from the heat and pour into the whipped egg whites. Continue to mix until stiff.
4. Add the raspberry puree to the Italian Meringue and mix with a spatula.  Add in the fresh cream and mix.

Putting together:
1. Put the biscuits inside a ring on top of a plate.
2. Pour the lemon mousse into the bottom and smooth with a spoon. Put in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the refrigerator. Pour the raspberry mousse over the lemon and smooth. Keep in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

When working with mousse be careful that the mixture doesn't become solid too quickly.


Cherry Blossom Roll Cake

Cherry Blossom Roll Cake
March is cherry blossom season and the beginning of spring. We had a snowy winter by Tokyo standards so I was happy to see the close of winter. I was excited to eat something special for the start of spring so rounded up all of the ingredients for making this cake.

The recipe is a basic sponge cake. You can use any filling you like with it. For this occasion I flavored the cream with cherry blossom flavor.

Sponge Cake:
1 egg
5 egg yolks
60 grams flour
10 grams cornstarch
45 grams butter
4 egg whites
95 grams sugar
5 grams cornstarch
Small amount of red food
coloring was added to whipped
 egg whites
1. In a bowl, sift the flour and cornstarch together.
2. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the flour/cornstarch mixture. Mix with whisk.
3.  Put #2 above into a bowl, add in the 1 egg & the egg yolks (in portions).
4. Whip the egg whites until stiff – add the sugar in portions while mixing. Add the 5 grams cornstarch at the end. Add a small amount of red food coloring.
5. Mix the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture mixture.  
6. Pour into the baking pan. Spread evenly. Tap it on the table to remove air bubbles.
7. Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes. Do not over bake or the cake will not be soft enough to roll.

I found these cherry blossoms that were soaked in a syrup. I put them at the bottom of the pan and poured the batter on top.
These may be difficult to find outside of Japan so apologies for that.
The container on the left side had the cherry blossom pieces which had been soaked in a sweet syrup.

Custard Filling: 
Milk 300 grams
Egg yolks 4
Granular sugar 75 grams
Flour 20 grams
Cornstarch 9 grams
Butter 20 grams
Gelatin 3 grams (soften in water and drain the water)
Cherry blossom flavoring
Fresh cream 120 grams
1. Heat the milk in small saucepan until just boiling.
2. Combine the egg yolks & granular sugar in a bowl and mix well.  Sift the flour/cornstarch and add to the egg yolk mixture.
3. Pour the warm milk into the egg mixture. Pour back into the pan and strain while pouring.
4. Heat until it becomes thickened. Use a whisk to mix
5. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and add the gelatin then the butter.  Mix well to remove any lumps.
6. Pour into a bowl and cool. Add the cherry  blossom flavoring.
7. Whip the fresh cream until a little stiff and add to the cream (#6 above).
 To save time, you can use powdered custard cream.
Putting Together:
1. Remove the cake from the cooking pan and remove the parchment paper. Use a clean sheet of parchment paper and put the cake on it.
2. Spread the cream on the sponge cake evenly with a palette knife.
3. Start from one end & roll the cake carefully to keep a good shape. Put in plastic wrap and refrigerator for about 1 
hour before serving


Dark Chocolate Coconut Brownies

 Still hot, the chocolate is melting.
Late again for postings. Apologies I have not
been sharing my recent bakings.

This recipe has many of the great tastes I love together - chocolate and coconut. There are two items to make for this one. The traditional brownie at the bottom and another cookie topping for the top.

Total time to put everything together was about 30 minutes and it is quite easy. This is another good recipe to keep on hand when you need a delicious dessert to impress guests.


Brownie (bottom)
80 grams butter
2 eggs
75 grams dark chocolate
8 tablespoons coconut milk
80 grams sugar
100 grams flour (sifted)

1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl of over simmering warm water. Cut the butter into pieces and to the chocolate several pieces at a time. Use a small whisk to mix.
2. Take the bowl off the warm water and add the coconut milk and mix with a whisk.
3. Mix the eggs and sugar together with a whisk. Add to the chocolate above in portions. Mix in each portion with a whisk before adding more.
4. Add in the sifted flour and mix with a spatula.

Cookie topping
70 grams butter (room temperature)
100 grams powdered sugar (sifted)
1 egg
100 grams flour (sifted with baking powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons grated coconut
100 grams dark chocolate chopped

1. Mix together the butter and powdered sugar with a small whisk. Add in the egg and mix.
2. Mix in the flour and mix with a spatula. Add in the chopped chocolate

In a square pan (about 18 cm x 18 cm), pour the brownie mixture and spread evenly. Pour the cookie topping on top and spread evenly. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 30 minutes.

Coconut and chocolate !!


Exotic Green Tea Mousse Cake

Creamy mousse with green tea cake

Most people outside of Japan either love or hate green tea. Actually, a good tea is very tasty but there are a lot of poor products being sold. The green tea in this recipe is being paired with the taste of dark brown sugar.

The cake is decorated with powdered sugar on top with green tea sifted over the powdered sugar.

There are 3 items to make with this, the green tea cake, the brown sugar mousse and the green tea mousse.

Here is the recipe for a 16 cm ring.

Green tea cake:

Mix until yellow & fluffy
147 grams eggs
83 grams sugar
15 grams corn syrup (mizu ame)
34 grams milk
13 grams butter
75 grams flour
8 grams powdered green tea

1. Sift together the flour and powdered tea.
2. Heat the milk and butter in sauce pan just until the butter melts.
3. Put the eggs, sugar and corn syrup in a bowl and mix well. Put the bowl over a sauce pan filled with simmering hot water to warm the batter slightly. The batter will mix better when it is lightly warmed.
4. Mix the batter with a hand mixer until it is a light yellow color  and becomes slightly thickened then add the warm milk and mix with a spatula.
5. Add the flour/tea mixture and mix with a spatula. Pour into two 15 cm baking pans and bake at 170 Celsius degrees for 20 minutes.
6. Cool after removing from the oven.

Mix the flour/green tea with the egg mixture

 Brown Sugar Mousse:
54 grams egg yolk
45 grams dark brown sugar (darker than just regular brown sugar)
120 grams milk
4 grams gelatin
8 grams brandy liquor
180 grams fresh cream

1. Mix the egg yolks and brown sugar in a bowl.
2. Heat the milk in a sauce pan until just lightly boiling then add to the egg yolk mixture. Mix lightly and then add back to the sauce pan and heat on low temperature until it thickens lightly. Add the gelatin and mix with a spatula. Strain into a bowl.
3. Add the brandy liquor and let the mixture cool.
4. Whip the fresh cream until the cream is just lightly standing the add to the cooled mixture #3 above.

Green Tea Mousse:

Green tea & brandy liquor
22 grams egg yolk
33 grams sugar
6 grams powdered green tea
80 grams milk
Green tea mousse cooling over ice
3 grams gelatin
3 grams green tea liquor
180 grams fresh cream

1. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and green tea in a bowl.
2. Heat the milk in a sauce pan until just lightly boiling then add to the egg yolk mixture. Mix lightly and then add back to the sauce pan and heat on low temperature until it thickens lightly. Add the gelatin and mix with a spatula. Strain into a bowl.
3. Add the green tea liquor and let the mixture cool.
4. Whip the fresh cream until the cream is just lightly standing then add to the cooled mixture #3 above.

Putting Everything Together:
Ring & cake sits on
 top of a cake board
1. Cut the cake smaller than the 16 cm ring and place at the bottom. Cut the other piece of cake smaller than the first. Put a piece of mousse film around the inside of the ring.

2. Pour the brown sugar mousse over the piece of cake and fill to about half full. Put in the refrigerator for a few minutes so the mousse begins to become firm.

3. Remove from the refrigerator and place the smaller piece of cake on top of the brown sugar mousse then spread the green tea mousse over the cake and fill to the top. Cleanly level off the mousse so that it is flat and put in the refrigerator for at least one or more so that the mousse can become firm.

4. Before serving, remove the ring and mousse film.


Creamy Cream Puffs-Chou Cream

Creamy chocolate custard fills these cream puffs
The last couple of months were busy so apologies for no posts. I was baking just not enough time for blog updates.

A new year has started with high hopes for an interesting & fun new year!!  Let's start baking.

Tokyo's winter isn't dreadfully cold so if we can survive Jan & Feb, then the worst is over.  Many blossoms start blooming in the warmer parts of Japan in late Jan and early Feb so looking forward to seeing them.

Actually, winter is the best season for cooking with chocolate so I like to use these months to bake all of my chocolate recipes and creamy mousses.

Cream Puffs (Chou Cream)

60 grams butter (cut into pieces)
60 grams water
60 grams of milk
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
35 grams flour (sifted)
40 grams bread flour (sifted)
2 eggs (room temperature)

1. In a sauce pan, combine the butter, water, milk, salt and sugar and keep on a low heat until the butter melts. When butter melts turn up the heat so that the mixture is lightly boiling then turn off.
2. Add the flours to the sauce pan and mix with a spoon and until it is well combined. Put back on a low heat for about 2 minutes.
3. Put the mixture into bowl and add the eggs in portions. Mix well each time the eggs are added. Keep adding the eggs until the mixture can just drip from the spoon - it will be thicker than pancake batter.
4. Put the dough into a pastry bag and use a wide nozzle (opening about 1 cm in width).  Squirt the dough to about to about 4.5 cm circles. Makes about 12 - 13 pieces.
5. Lightly tap down the top of each piece and spray with water VERY lightly.
6. Bake at 200 Celsius for 20 minutes; reduce to 180 degrees and bake for 15 minutes; reduce again to 150 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Pastries should be well browned but not burned.

Chocolate Custard

60 grams flour
80 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
480 grams milk
70 grams bitter chocolate (chopped)
1 teaspoon cooking brandy

1.  In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla then add the flour.

2.  In a sauce pan, heat the milk until just lightly boiling. Add the milk to #1 above and mix then add back to the sauce pan using a strainer. Heat on a low heat until the mixture thickens to a consistency of pudding.

3.  Take off the heat and add the chocolate in portions and mix with a spatula. Add the brandy. Put in a bowl and cool over ice water.

Putting together

1. Poke a small hole in the bottom of each of the puff pastries.
2. Put the custard in a pastry bag with a small nozzle and fill each of the cream puffs from the small hole.
3. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving as well.