Category Archives: All Posts

Frosted Winter in Stockholm

Photos from Stockholm during Christmas time. Though I complain so much about how cold it was, it was actually quite beautiful when trees were all covered in frost.

Frosted winter wonderland, so long till we meet again.

Frosted Winter in Stockholm

Frosted Winter in Stockholm

Frosted Winter in Stockholm

Frosted Winter in Stockholm

Frosted Winter in Stockholm

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One Delicious Pecan Tart

pecan pie

Ingredients:

Tart:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Filling:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups chopped toasted pecans
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Steps:

Crust:

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.

Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in–you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.

Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and , very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

How to press the dough into pan
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_vsVYhJZGIrw/R_tZaVgvuVI/AAAAAAAAIRs/4Y5ERgrOsy0/s1600-h/pressing%2Bcrust.jpg

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.

Don’t be too heavy-handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.

(Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet to bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a coking rack (keep it in is pan).

Filling:

While the crust is baking make the filling: In medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and stirring constantly, continue to boil for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts and the vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. (If the crust has cooled, return it to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through.)

Whisk the beaten eggs into the filling until smooth. Put the pie shell on a sheet pan and pour the filling into the hot crust.

Reduce the oven Temperature to 175 degrees C.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the edges are set but the center is still slightly loose, about 40 to 45 minutes. (If the edges get very dark, cover them with aluminum foil half way during baking.) Cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature.

The above recipe is adapted from the following two recipes:
http://cafejohnsonia.com/2008/04/dorie-greenspans-sweet-tart-dough.html
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/pecan-pie-recipe.html?oc=linkback


Though I am not the most dedicated baker and I have probably made less than 10 pies in the past 4 years, I would still like to say that I have not been completely satisfied with the crusts of any of the pies that I made. Filling is just so much easier to make than the crust! Somehow, the crusts always ended up being either a little too dry or a little too hard. So, instead of making a pecan pie, I decided to make a pecan tart for our New Year’s house party.

Since the crust recipe did not call for kneading nor rolling, I really started to doubt the recipe when I was pressing the dough crumbs onto the pie pan (see the photo link above). Especially since I made the crust in winter so the butter stayed pretty cold, it was hard to stick the dough together. I added an extra york in but I think it is also OK to add a little bit of ice water to moisturise the dough. Just make sure it’s not too much water.

The tart had the exact same tart consistency as the strawberry tarts found at Japanese cake shops and cafes. I was pleased. It is going to become my go-to recipe for sweet pie crust. It is delicious!

Serve it with whip cream, but remember not to add too much sugar to the whip since the pie is rather sweet.

delicious pecan tart

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies – Making the Best of Such on Your First Try

crispy oatmeal cookies

I am the only person I know who likes crispy cookies.

I have been studying ways of making crispy cookies and I would say that my biggest discovery is to make cookies by using granulated sugar. It appears that yellow sugar or brown sugar will likely give cookies a softer texture.

Like many of you, being a food enthusiast, I often search for new recipes online and see if I can make the best version of such and such. I wonder if what I am about to share is just common sense in the world of food enthusiasts (I hate stating the obvious, so please forgive me if it is). Instead of trying out a few of different recipes and see which one is the best, what I do every time I try to make something I’ve never made before is to compare a number of recipes of the same dish, combine or take out a few things, take some mental notes and then begin. Compare the similarities and the dissimilarities. Usually, by reading a few number of recipes, you will get to see what are the essential ingredients and what can be without. What needs to be done before what is extremely important. If you read through the steps and have a pretty good understanding of the process of making any particular dish, even if you’ve never made it before, the failure rate would be drastically lowered. If you are a picky eater like me, this tip can be a life-saver. I really don’t like wasting food and I really really don’t like eating stuff that doesn’t taste good, not even if it’s something I made.

crispy oatmeal cookies

I went through about 20 different recipes and decided to go with the following 2:

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/dishing/2013/04/the_fabulous_oa.html
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/thin-and-crispy-oatmeal-cookies/

Here’s how it looks when they are side by side:

crispy oatmeal cookies recipe

The two recipes look fairly similar, though one claims to yield 4 dozen and the other one claims 2…

Here’s what I get out of using the two recipes together:

  • Baking power, chocolate chips and raisins can be included or can also be left out
  • Follow whichever one when it comes to the proportions of butter v.s. flour; you can adjust the amount of flour during the process, see if your dough is too wet or too dry but keep the amount between 1 cup to 1 1/2 cup
  • Adjust the proportion of brown sugar v.s. granulated sugar to your liking, but brown sugar and granulated sugar should add up to an amount between 1 1/4 cup to 1 3/4

Voila! Make them exactly the way you like them even if it’s something you’ve never made before. Mine were very crispy, not dry, with lots of raisin and a little bit of chocolate chips, exactly how I wanted them to be.

 

 

Nothing Much, Just Two Very Similar Banana Bread Recipes Here

Banana Bread Recipe #1 a.k.a. Curtis’s Banana Bread
http://recipes.coles.com.au/recipes/2333/curtis-banana-bread/

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups Plain Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/4 cups Caster Sugar
2 large Eggs
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
3 large Ripe Bananas, mashed
2 tbsp Natural Yogurt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups Walnuts, toasted and chopped

Steps

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
Grease and line base of a large 13.5cm x 23.5cm loaf pan.

Beat eggs and sugar together in a stand mixer or with electric beaters on medium-high speed for 10 minutes, or until very thick and pale and the mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted. Reduce speed to low and beat in the oil in a steady stream. Mix in the vanilla and yoghurt and then the walnuts.

Add the bananas.

Sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate soda and cinnamon together in a large bowl and pour wet mixture onto the dry mixture, folding gently but thoroughly.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean when tested.

Cool in pan briefly then turn out onto a rack to cool.


Banana Bread Recipe #2 a.k.a. Flour’s Famous Banana Bread
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/flours-famous-banana-bread-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs 1/2 cup oil 3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Steps pretty much the same as the one above.

Wedding Thank-you Note Wording

We love every each one of them, but trying to come up with heartfelt messages can be such a daunting task. Below are links that I find very useful in help getting the job done.

Examples of how to title the envelops:
http://weddings.about.com/od/invitations/a/How-To-Address-Your-Wedding-Invitations.htm

Examples of thank-you note wording for bridal party:
http://www.thank-you-note-examples-wording-ideas.com/bridesmaid-thank-you.html

Examples of thank-you note wording for best man:
http://www.thank-you-note-examples-wording-ideas.com/thank-you-notes-for-wedding.html

Examples of thank-you note wording for guests who attended the wedding:
http://preciousinvitations.com/sample-wedding-invitations-wording/149-sample-wording-thank-you-cards.html

Examples of thank-yous note wording for guests who did not attend:
http://newlyweds.about.com/od/WeddingThankYouCards/a/Wedding-Thank-You-Cards-Etiquette_2.htm

image source: http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/0e/91/d6/0e91d65b96ffea0a9d7faea59ae8297a.jpg

在這個世界全球化的過程中,越來越多的人的另一半是「外國人」。另一半是外國人的華人中,有些人選擇中式的婚禮,有些人選擇西式的婚禮。大部份的新郎跟新娘在完成終身大事的日子都是穿著白紗和西裝,鳳冠霞帔已經非常地罕見。那中式和西式有哪些不一樣呢?我整理成以下三大點:

  1. 迎娶跟Yes, I do

迎娶應該是中式婚禮跟西式婚禮中最大的差異。為了籌備在台灣的婚禮,我把華人的習俗融會貫通了。一直以來我個人對於華人的婚禮儀式比較不能接受的就是男方把女方迎娶回家這件事。尤其是在台灣,女方的媽媽最後還得潑水的習俗真的很沒辦法接受。潑水這個儀式,應該是對於媽媽在心態上的調適有所幫助,畢竟女兒終究是要離開原生家庭,建立一個自己的家。然而,「嫁出去的女兒,潑出去的水」的概念….是把女兒跟水比較嗎?水會蒸發!女兒會回來!

不好意思,離題了。但簡單的來說,在華人的世界裡,當男方排除萬難地將女方迎娶至自己家裡,女方從此之後就成為自己的妻子了。而在西方的世界裡,「你願不願意娶某某某為妻?」和「妳願不願意嫁給某某某?」才是在眾人(和上帝)面前合約成立的瞬間。

2. 婚禮前後的活動

華人世界的大小禮聘和喜餅之類在西式的婚禮過程裡是沒有的。取而代之的是女方的女性親友為即將出嫁的新娘舉辦的Brial Shower。前來參加的女性親友們會準備禮物,據說目的是讓婚禮能夠更順利的進行。除此之外,剩下的應該就是眾所皆知的「單身派對」,給新人們一個最後一次做也許在婚後不是那麼妥當的事的機會。

3. 送禮的方式

大部份華人以外的人,應該都很難理解客人在送禮金的當下,錢立刻被拿出來數的這件事。當我第一次發現這件事時,其實也是嚇一跳。送多少錢被週邊的人當面在腦海裡評論,對客人來說應該真的是一件很尷尬的事情。大家對於西方婚禮的印象應該都是參加的客人會送新人在特定的百貨公司裡選好的禮物。不過最近送禮金的人應該有大幅增加的傾向。好像很多新人會指明希望大家以錢代替禮物,比較真的是比較實用。不過西式婚禮上,大部份送禮金的人會把錢夾在卡片裡,不會被拿出來數。雖然錢被拿出來數很尷尬,在自己經歷過喜宴的籌劃後,我發現這樣的方式十分的合理。畢竟和西式婚禮比起來,中式婚禮的賓客的人數一般來說多出許多。如果都由新人在婚禮前支出,就算是一半,也是一筆非常大的費用。相形之下,日本人的婚禮的支出就非常龐大。在中式的婚禮上,盤點完收到的紅包的總金額後,能夠立刻以其中的一部份將宴席的費用付掉,應該是一種心中的大石頭落下的感覺。

4. 喜宴的內容

待續

Forest Flower Bouquet in a Pre Wedding Photo Session

vintage themed bouquet

Taking pre-wedding studio photos is a norm in East Asia. It’s quite similar to the concept of taking engagement photos in the America. The purpose of such is to capture more romantic moments in a quieter setting as opposed to photos taken on the actual wedding day which is mostly about putting on a show for guests who participate at a big banquet.

Unlike engagement photos, taking in semi-formal or casual wear, typically the bride-to-be and the groom-to-be will take pre-wedding studio photos in wedding dresses and tuxedos. This is often an opportunity for the soon-to-be-married couple to look at their best, especially since editing is a big part of the photo package. The edited photos will later on be used for decoration for the wedding banquet.

I am not sure why there’s such cultural difference, but I do notice that many Asian couples prefer what I call “celebrity-style” photo shoot. Many of them prefer to be much accessorised and pose in a way that is more likely seen in fashion magazines than in real life. This is rather different from the minimalistic approach of taking photos in simple and intimate setting that is popular in the West.

When my husband and I went to a photo studio to discuss the details of our pre-wedding studio photos, our person in charge had to double-check with every choice that I made since no one wanted to look “clean and simple” in their wedding photos. “Clean and simple” meant elegance to me but shabby in Chinese standard.

forest flower bouquet
Muted color bouquet, perfect for a fairytale-themed wedding

 

We didn’t end up taking our pre-wedding studio photos in Taiwan, but we still needed some studio photos for our debut wedding video, so we found a Swedish photographer to take our photos while we were on vacation in Sweden. Here are a couple of photos of the bouquet I put together from flowers picked from my mother-in-law’s lovely garden to be used for our photo shoot. I just love this kind of pale, muted colour palette.

sunlight
Our pre-wedding photo taken in a forest

bridal shower

Bridal shower, a gift-giving party traditionally thrown by the maid of honour or a good friend, a celebration for the bride-to-be is  the most common in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Here in Japan, it seems to be a thing that people have never heard of. I am so very lucky to have my maid of honour, who is my high school friend from Canada living in Japan as well. She planned a such a beautiful party. I had a blast. It’s a day that I’d always remember.

The theme was ‘British afternoon tea’. We had a bruschetta bar which included pan-fried baguette and three kinds of toppings such as a mix of tomato and basil, fresh ricotta cheese and a mix of avocado and shrimp.

It would not be a British-themed tea party without scones. I didn’t know what clotted cream was, though I am still not sure what it is. All I know is that it’s yummy and it can actually be found in the Japanese supermarket nearby. Mmmm…scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam…mmmm.

bridal shower advice treasure box

Here’s a couple of pictures of the advice box created by MK, my maid of honour. Sheep sticky notes for advices to be read next year in the year of sheep; pig ones to be read in five. How cute and adorable. And I got my very own BRIDE CHAIR!

bridal shower finger food

ブライダルシャワー(bridal shower)というの結婚を控えた女性にプレゼントを贈る北米で一般的なパーティーです。

結婚式前に女子同士集って質問やゲームをしたりして楽しむパーティーをすることです。結婚前の独身のひとときを女同士で楽しく過ごすという意味合いが含まれています。日本にはブライダルシャワーする習慣がないですね。日本人の友達は来る前に大体ブライダルシャワーという語彙についてネットで調べたそうです(笑)。

私たちはスウェーデンで式をするので、日本にいる友達はなかなか来られないです。式の前に日本にいる友達をブライダルシャワーに呼んで楽しい時間を過ごしました。


a bridal shower table

英国のアフタヌーンティーを主題としてスコーン、マカロンとケーキを準備しておきました。紅茶はもちろん v(^0^)v。ミニブルスケッタバーも準備しておきました。

高校時代からの友達、今も日本に住んでいるMちゃんがこのパーティーを計画してくれて本当にありがたいです。嫁だけの椅子まで作ってくれた。感動…

ゲームもしてきて、プレゼントももらってきて、大好きな親友と素晴らしい一日を過ごしました。

最高♥。