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It takes multiple experiences of failures, stumbling over one’s own feet, harsh face plants, terrifying moments, feeling lost, losing people in your life to  understand the idea of appreciation for the joyous times, your stronger moments, love, happiness… to realize you took it all for granted when you did get it, have it, possess it, were loved… the list goes on. Why does it take these kinds of incidents for us to finally see the bigger picture? Or sometimes, unfortunately, for us to continue on being blinded and not learn from our mistakes? Why is that? Is it really our natural instincts that push us forward in life with burdens of regret or the continuation of stupidity because we weren’t brave enough to accept it the first time? It seems to me it is this inevitable, terrible cycle that makes little sense because we simply say, “I didn’t get it the first time, okay?” and then it’s back to not getting it again and again. If in everything we did, we could use one statement to brush it off, clean it up, explain it, we wouldn’t have much of a life. Life would simply just lose its meaning in general – you could pretty much live vicariously through reading books and movies.

I don’t want to live knowing that I keep messing up and that I still haven’t grasped some sort of growth. Strangely enough cooking has shown me that. This experience and progression of each meal, each new dessert, recording my thoughts, expressing my successes and failures to some unknown audience has taught me something bigger than just not substituting one item for the other. It’s taught me that we’re given chances, opportunities, perfect “times,” to do things, and sometimes, we mess up, we miss these gifts, and either we can lose it all together and stay on the ground feeling sorry for ourselves, or we can pick ourselves up and realize there’s a lesson to be learned and move on. Life is like a cooking – you’re given suggested directions, ingredients (i.e. the norm, right versus wrong, etc.) and what you do with these is what changes the outcome. Sometimes you get it on the first try, sometimes it takes ten times – either way, you have to learn to appreciate it when you get it, when you don’t, when you fall, and when you get up again.

Appreciation.

For life, for love, for failure, for success, for everything.

Life’s lessons are all cliches – but they’re only cliches cause everyone knows them but no one really gets them.

Simplicity seems to be the key thing I overlook in everything that I do. It’s the terrible curse of loving the challenge and then overcomplicating life. Whether it’s the events I encounter or the food and desserts that I make, thinking in the most direct and simplest way possible never seems to be the first thing on my mind. Granted, as a person, in my speech, I am quite straightforward, often times saying things before thinking it through, and saying things in the simplest terms ever. But then there is a “but” and “however” – I only do so when asked to, I never willingly just say whatever is on my mind. I prefer the passive state. The quiet state. Thus the complication of it all.

So, you’re probably wondering, why has she brought up this idea of simplicity? Complications? Is this relevant to her blog at all? Well, yes, I promise it does.

I recently bought a couple of cook/dessert books, and started whipping up desserts from them or combining recipes from the internet. Today, I finally received my Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking book, amd let me just say, it’s magnificent. Every recipe is short, simple, and concise – there’s no way you could really complicate it unless you decide to get creative with adding things or subsituting things. (Ahem, like I usually do)

After my short-of-successes with the upside-down blueberry cake and the french silk chocolate pie, I decided to make a simple cheese cake. The reason being that Japanese cheese cakes are phenomenal. They are light, fluffy, and absolutely delicious, and there’s just something about them that sets them apart from other cheesecakes that I’ve had.

Harumi’s Baked Cheesecake – from Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking by Harumi Kahara

*My notes in bold mixed in with the original recipe/directions

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used cheerios and a little bit of cinnamon sugar)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup granulate sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Make sure the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature. Line the cake pan with wax paper. (I left the butter and cream cheese out of the refrigerator for a bit, and instead of using a cake pan, I used a 9″ pie tin, so make cake isn’t as tall.)
  2. Put the graham crackers in a plastic bag and roughly crush with a rolling pin. (This worked out really well. I used to just bash it with a glass couple, but this was a lot faster)
  3. Soften the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs. (I microwaved the butter for about 10 seconds and then tried to beat in the butter, but it clumped together. Try using  a large wooden spoon for nicer results)
  4. Pour the graham cracker mix into the bottom of the pan and press down lightly to make the base. Preheat the over 340 degrees Fahrenheit. (I used a regular spoon to flatten it into the tin and I made sure to constantly scrape down any of the mixture that got on the sides of the tin)
  5. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until soft, then add the rest of the ingredients, in order, mixing each one thoroughly first before adding the next. (Because I do not own an electric mixer, I threw everything into the blender and then poured it out and beat it by hand. I highly recommend following the directions, and don’t do what I did.)
  6. Continue until the mixture thickens, then pour into the cake pan, on top of the graham cracker base. Bake in the oven for 45-50 min. Remove and leave to cool.
  7. Once it has cooled, remove from the pan, discard the lining paper and leave on a rack too cool completely.

What I loved about this recipe was that above the directions, Harumi added some of her own commentary about the cake, stating that, “When you take the cake out of the oven it is very light and soft like a souffle, but once it has cooled down it becomes creamy and smooth. If you then refrigerate it, it becomes thick and rich. It is almost like having three different cakes.” That’s definitely exciting! You can serve it in different ways and get totally different results 🙂

Now for my results:

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  1. Use a 7″” spring-form pan – otherwise it’ll be a bit thin.
  2. Use graham crackers – it will smell even nicer and taste sweeter (Mine turned out fine with the cheerios and sugar mixture, but it’s not as sweet)
  3. Don’t eat it right away – haha, I always tend to do that! Let it sit, and then enjoy it 🙂
  4. If you prefer the cheerios mixture, I’d suggest whipping up either your own whipped cream or have some sort of fruit or chocolate syrup on top.

Alright, well, it’s back to the books, and then more work…internship…work stuff 🙂

Expect a post in a week or so, unless I happen to decide to post up cooking pictures or new poetry or photography!

Oh! and from a couple of days ago…

Mini French Silk Chocolate Pies…

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XOXO,

Ainsley