I ran my last Anna’s Kitchen cooking class a few days ago, I’ve taught over 100 participants since I started and it has really been a joy. The last session was no exception, and was attended by a lovely group of people.
We made Gateau Chocolat, a recipe shared by a French visitor at the guesthouse last year. I have amended it slightly and cut the sugar content in half. It is an incredibly dense and rich dessert cake to be enjoyed in small slices. My students thought it went well with matcha, powdered green tea. It is gluten free as well.
- 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- 200g butter
- 100g sugar
- 100g corn flour
- 4 eggs
- Gently melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water
- Add the sugar and mix well
- Beat the eggs in a small bowl
- Add to the chocolate and mix
- Sift the corn flour into the bowl and mix so that it is incorporated into the mixture
- Pour the mixture into a lined cake tin and bake for 30-35 minutes
- The cake should be lightly cooked on top but still a little loose (it will harden when cool)
- Leave to cool completely before cutting, it is best left overnight
Valentines Day is big in Japan, and like most imported customs it has a unique Japanese twist. On February 14th, females give chocolate to males, which is reciprocated one month later on March 14th, or White Day, when supposedly it’s the girls turn (never seems as big as Valentines though…).
There is giri-choco, or ‘duty-chocolate’, that you are obliged to give your male boss and colleagues. For your romantic partner, however, you give honmei-choco, ‘true feeling chocolate’, which increasingly tend to be handmade. The shops are full of chocolate making equipment and packaging.
Recently it has become common for relatives or friends to give each other chocolates so last year my children got several little boxes of chocolates from their cousins.
For Anna’s Kitchen I decided to teach my easy healthy and sugar free ‘truffle’ recipe. We had 8 children as well as several adults so it was a lively and fun session except that my blender ended up smoking so bad it stopped working….. For a recipe that depends on this bit of equipment it was pretty disastrous. We ended up chopping the ingredients by hand, the texture was a bit courser than usual but they held together and still tasted great. And I don’t think many of the truffles made it home to be given to friends or relatives.
The basic recipe uses equal parts of dried fruit and nuts and seeds, which are processed to form a mass that can be rolled into balls (great for kids snacks). Adding cocoa powder and coconut oil gives them a richer texture and flavour.
Varying the nuts and fruit can give different tastes and textures. Cashews and macadamia nuts are creamy, cranberries add tartness, dates are dense and sweet while prunes are dark and moist, then spices can add a different flavour element.
To make the balls:
- 1 cup nuts and seeds
- 1 cup dried fruit
- ¼ tsp vanilla or spice (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg)
- pinch salt (Himalayan pink salt)
- 1 tbs coconut oil (or tahini/nut butter)
- 1-2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
To coat the balls:
- Cocoa powder
- Shredded coconut
- Sesame seeds
- Ground almonds
- If the coconut oil is solid, gently melt in a pan or place the jar in warm water
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball. Add a splash of water or extra oil if too dry
- You may need to roughly chop any large pieces of dried fruit or nuts first if you have a mini food processor like I do (I skipped this and shouldn’t have)
- Take a spoonful of mixture and roll into a ball in your hands
- Roll in the coating of your choice
- You may need to put in the fridge to harden in summer
- You can also coat in chocolate if you like
A very rich chocolate roll cake
For the chocolate sponge:
- 4 large eggs (or 5 medium)
- 100g sugar
- 65g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 30g cocoa powder
For the chocolate ganache topping:
- 200ml cream
- 225g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
- Knob of butter
For the cream filling:
- 100ml cream
- 2-3 drops vanilla (optional)
- 10g icing sugar (optional)
Makes 2 small or one large log.
To make the chocolate ganache:
- Break or cut up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl with the butter.
- Heat the cream till it starts to boil and then pour over the chocolate and mix until all the chocolate has melted.
- Leave to cool in the fridge for 1 hour.
To make the chocolate sponge:
- Butter and line the base and sides of a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
- Separate the eggs into two large mixing bowls.
- Add the sugar and 2 tbsp water to the egg yolks.
- Whisk the sugar and yolks together
- Sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa, and then fold in lightly.
- Using a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then fold into the cake mixture in 3 batches.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, and carefully spread to the edges.
- Bake for 10-12 mins, or until the cake feels firm to the touch.
- Put a large sheet of baking parchment on a chopping board.
- Turn the cake out and cover with a sheet of baking parchment, while still warm roll loosely then leave to cool.
To make the cream filling:
- Whip the cream (and vanilla and icing sugar if using) in a bowl until stiff.
To assemble the roll cake:
- Carefully unroll the cake, and peel off the paper but leave one sheet underneath.
- Spread the cream filling over the top.
- Roll up the cake again using the paper to help you.
- Cover the cake with the chocolate ganache.
- Use a fork to create a bark effect.
- Transfer to a serving plate. Just before serving dust with a little icing sugar to look like snow.
Put a spring of holly on top – thanks to one of the participants for bringing some on the day. I haven’t seen holly in Japan…
As Anna’s Kitchen fell on Halloween my students requested we made pumpkin pie. I chose to use maple syrup instead of sugar to give a more complex flavour. I used less nutmeg than usual so the maple syrup really shone though.
For the pastry
- 175g plain flour
- 75g butter
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2-4 tbs iced water
- 10g icing sugar
- 20g finely chopped almonds
- Lemon or orange zest
- Vanilla essence
For the filling
- Half a medium pumpkin (about 350g of cooked pumpkin purée)
- 3 eggs
- 145g maple syrup
- 150ml cream
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp allspice
Makes 2 small or 1 large pie
To cook the pumpkin
- Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds
- Place on a baking tray and cover with foil
- Bake for 45 minutes or until soft
- Leave to cool
- Sift the flour (and icing sugar if using) into a large bowl
- Add the butter and chop into small pieces Rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips
- When the flour is like breadcrumbs add (the chopped nuts if using) 1 tbs water and the egg yolk.
- Mix with a knife, then finish with your hands to make a smooth dough. If it is sticky add a little flour or more water if still dry, the bowl should come up clean. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
- Prepare a board and rolling pin and dust with flour
- Take the pastry from the fridge and roll into a circle
- Place in a greased pie tin and trim the edges
- Prick the base with a fork. Cover with baking sheet and add baking beans
- Place on a preheated baking tray and bake for 15 mins, then remove baking sheet and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes
- Remove from the oven
- Scoop out the pumpkin flesh with a spoon and put in a bowl
- Add the maple syrup, cream, eggs and spices
- Blend until smooth Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pastry case
- Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes each for small pies or 40 minutes for a large pie or until the filling has set
- Let the pie cool before cutting
For the first Anna’s Kitchen at Ayabe Tokusankan this summer I wanted to go for something very yummy. This is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe, I toned down the chocolate and sugar content but they are still extremely chocolately and very morish. Nigella suggests that you can freeze scoops of dough to have ready to bake at anytime, however we never seemed to have any left over dough. Next time…..
- 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
- 150 g plain flour
- 30 g cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 125 g soft unsalted butter
- 115 g sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 200 g dark chocolate chips or chunks
- Chopped hazelnuts or flaked almonds (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 170°C
- Melt the 100g dark chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix together.
- Beat in the vanilla extract an egg.
- Add the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.
- Finally stir in the chocolate chips/chunks, and nuts if using
- Scoop out equal-sized mounds with a dessert spoon and place on a lined baking sheet with plenty of space between each one.
- Do not flatten them.
- Cook for 18 minutes, testing to make sure it comes out semi-clean and not wet with cake batter. If you pierce a chocolate chip, try again.
- Leave to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Brownies
Anna’s Kitchen recently took part in Ayabe Tokusankan’s Yasai Matsuri (Vegetable Festival). Of course, a vegetable recipe was called for and I chose to use sweet potatoes, that are just coming into season, and locally grown and dried red beans. I decided on a dense, fudgy brownie, adapted from a Hemsley and Hemsley recipe that uses no flour and maple syrup instead sugar.
Any floury beans can be used, black beans, kidney beans or red ingenmame, available here in Japan, but avoid soy beans which are too waxy. The best way to prepare the sweet potato is to bake it whole in the oven. Then split the skin and scoop out the flesh.
- 2 x 400g tins cooked black (or red beans), drained (or 480g cooked beans if soaking and cooking dried beans).
- One medium sweet potato, cooked (baked or steamed)
- 230g unsalted butter or coconut oil
- 4 medium eggs
- 90g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 150 – 175ml maple syrup (to taste)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 130g chopped walnuts
- 100g chocolate chunks
- Preheat the oven to 170°C
- Rinse the black beans and drain
- Melt the butter or coconut oil in a saucepan over a low heat
- Place the drained beans, sweet potato flesh, eggs, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt into a food processor or large bowl and use a hand blender. Pulse a few times and then blend until smooth
- Add the melted butter, slowly and blend
- Taste the mixture, add more maple syrup if needed
- Then, stir in most of the chopped walnuts, reserving a few, and the chocolate chunks, if using
- Grease and line the inside of a 24 x 20cm baking dish, pour in the brownie mixture
- Sprinkle over the remaining walnuts (if using) and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the brownie feels firm and springy and its surface is cracked.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares, they become even more dense and fudgy if left in the fridge
Ingredients from Ayabe Tokusankan
Explaining the recipe
Interview with local radio station FM いかる
Yasai Matsuri article
Local paper Ayabe Shimbun