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Victorian Desserts - Dundee Cake

Around the time I was contemplating the delve into Victorian era baking, a dear friend went on a two week trip through the British Isles. She returned with two wonderful gifts: a book of puddings, and this lovely tea cloth. And according to this tea cloth, Dundee Cake is a traditional Victorian recipe from Scotland.


After doing some research far after I started collecting the ingredients, I discovered this was served more as a Christmas pudding. Well, obviously, now that I think about the ingredients. Though delicious, it was quite heavy for a warm spring day. I would recommend making it in the fall or winter months.


As this recipe calls for covering the cake in the oven, cooking in a rice cooker was ideal - not only for conserving power, but also for attaining the desired results. I left the steam vent on and cooked for the recommended time; it came out perfectly.

I made a few adjustments to the tea cloth recipe, adding 1/4c brandy to the fruits, adding less dried fruits, and using raisons instead of cherries. I was in the process of making glace cherries from scratch when baking this cake, and just used them in the Cabinet Pudding today, the recipe of which will soon follow. The cake was still very rich and fruity, and even better the next day. I would recommend making this cake a day in advance before serving.

Please visit my website if you'd like to see some images of the completed cake. It went well with the cherry liqueur I made last year. The final day I served the cake with a custard, which was also nice.

Candied Peel

The benefit of being sick for weeks is the loads of citrus that gets quickly used. At least... this is what I realized the last week of my illness. I'm not sure it would have been any better had I realized earlier, as in a very short amount of time the fridge was nearly full of peel. Why would I be saving the peels? Well, to make candied citrus peel for Victorian era sweets!

Premade candied peels and fruits are rather difficult to find in my area, so I gave the old recipe a try, tripling the volume of syrup to accomodate. After reading up a bit on the process in Chocolate and Confections, this batch has turned out much better than the last. The peels included lemon, mandarin orange, and amanatsu (sweet Watson pomello?).


After finally finding some finger cookies (as opposed to making stale ones from scratch), the last decision I have to make is whether or not to candy some cherries. They've just begun to show their face in the market, after all. The next recipe shall be Cabinet Pudding.

Vacation

Greetings to everyone - to those who read my irregular writings, or stumble upon this blog.

I've been away for some time, indeed.  As of January, the mister and I began preparations to move.  In mid-February, we made that move and currently reside near Akihabara station in Tokyo.  It was very exciting for the both of us, and living here feels much like living in a dream.

However, soon after we moved, there was a very serious earthquake in northeastern Japan.  Tokyo did not sustain much damage, and as we had just moved, most of precious breakables were still boxed up.  In my 5 1/2 years here, it was the first time I've had belongings flung about my apartment though, and the strongest earthquake I've experienced.  Even now we still get aftershocks almost everyday, but nothing like the initial quake on March 11.

Just when things were starting to feel normal, March 13 or so, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant began to show signs of serious trouble.  Four reactors were under duress, cooling systems were down, and buildings containing the reactors began to explode.  Radioactive elements spewed into the air, contaminating our water and soil, and elevating background radiation.

Everyone went into a panic, buying up daily necessities such as rice, bread, dried goods, canned goods, bottled water, bathroom tissue, and even feminine hygene products.  Rolling blackouts combined with the tsunami damage that wrecked businesses and ports caused the scarcity of many goods as well, including gasoline, batteries, paper, yogurt, natto, and even cigarettes.  Many newspapers and magazine publications were put on hold.  About a week later, many foods in the Kanto region were declared unfit for consumption, including fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and milk.  The Tokyo tap water was declared unsafe for infants, and the government began rationing out bottled mineral water to qualifying families.

However, even though I say panic, it's the most orderly kind of panic one could imagine.  No one was pushing, shoving or looting.  For example, I rode my bike around to every vending machine in the city block to find bottled water one day, and after finally finding one, purchased four bottles.  An elderly man saw me buying water and waited patiently.  When I grabbed my bottles and started packing them up, a few steps away, he very politely asked if I was finished and he could proceed.  In fact, everyone was going out of their way to be especially courteous and polite even if many shelves were barren.

It would be disingenuous to say I wasn't scared though - on a few occasions, I was downright terrified.  Though not as terrified as anyone I know in the United States, who despite their best wishes often become awash in misinformation, and act irrationally.  The government asked people to stop hoarding items, and as only certain items were gone, this did seem the case.  The government also acted very prudently regarding the water and potentially contaminated foods.  I'm not one to generally credit the government, but in this case, the Japanese government acted quite well under the circumstances.  Various other organizations and individuals were all carefully monitoring their response to the crisis and the numbers match up.

Personally, I feel like I've worked too hard to give up now.  We've just moved to Akihabara!  I'm walking distance from Ueno Park!  There's so much I still want to explore and just as many reasons I would dread leaving.  Nonetheless, I couldn't throw caution to the wind either, and invested a lot of time and energy monitoring the situation as well as dispelling rumors among family and friends.

Now that I know we're going to be able to stay, and stay without endangering our health, unpacking has once again commenced.  Well, at least it had - until I received a big video game translation project.  After that was finished, I now find myself nursing a second consecutive flu.  Just as I'd gotten over the first one, the mister brought in a fresh one from his business trip in San Francisco.  He also brought spice drops, sweedish fish, and cinnamon candies - all difficult to find in Tokyo - so I consider it forgiven.

I will try to post more often now that this drama is finally coming to a close.  Thank you very much to those of you who have written letters of encouragement, and also to those who have been following the Kuroshitsuji Victorian Desserts series.  And many thank you's also to those who have made it to the end of this long and personal communique.

 

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The holiday season is finally here! What better a time than to try and create a fabulous Christmas Pudding. Hopefully the timing of this post will give you just enough time to gather the proper ingredients to make your own and enjoy it with family and friends.

As Sebastian mentions in episode 1, there are many English desserts that feature an animal fat for moisture and richness. And Christmas pudding is no exception; most recipes call for suet. Suet may be difficult to find, or you may likewise find it disgusting. Steamed puddings, such as Christmas pudding, also require a pudding mold (or so I thought), so I spent the better part of the year searching for one in my area. However, both troubles were put to rest when I found this recipe a couple weeks ago:

Titli's Christmas Pudding

What a truly delightful chef! I picked up a metal bowl at a 100yen shop, as I couldn't find a heat-proof glass one, and halved the recipe. There was no candied peel available in my area, so I used her recipe for that as well - substituting oranges for the more readily available mandarin oranges.

Of note, the bowl was much more than a pint, but could barely hold all the goodies. Also, during the cooking time, both rubber bands popped! I made a daring rescue, pulling the bowl from the boiling water to replace them, only to have these pop as well. The pudding turned out fine nonetheless.

This is a very rich, very fruity pudding that deserves an equally decadent custard cream. If you like ice cream or whipped cream, both would make excellent accompaniments. As the custard recipe I used was so-so, I shall not be sharing it, but the result when paired with the pudding was still delicious.

You can add lucky items to your pudding if you like (such as a ring, bell, or coin), or simply enjoy it as it is. Happy Holidays.

More pictures available at batsu3.org.

 

Yukata - Tips & Tricks

I've been surprised about how much attention my short piece on yukata hairstyling is getting, so why not put a few more tips and tricks on the table.

Unfortunately, yukata season is just about over, but that only leaves three seasons to figure out how you want to dress yourself up next year!! Maybe you have a yukata, maybe you have an obi - maybe you don't have either. Maybe you don't have the tools, or want specialized summer ones. Maybe you want to dress your hair differently, or find a better ornament. Maybe you want to play with more modern obi decorations, or try a heko obi. There are so many reasons to start now, and even more so if you only wear kimono a few times a year. Don't get rusty and make everyone wait while you frantically struggle to tie the right knot! ...You're going to miss the fireworks!

With all that said, this is not a comprehensive guide. There are quite a few out there, and I don't mean to compete - my attempt could not be any better. I merely want to outline some of the easy points that can be missed.

This will be kind of wordy, so I've divided sections by topic:

  1. Selecting the right yukata

  2. Selecting appropriate accessories

  3. Selecting the appropriate tools

  4. Putting on yukata

  5. Minding your manners

  6. A little known truth

Read more...Collapse )

 

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Yotsuba & Sunflowers


Yotsuba said I should cancel my dental appointment and take her to play with the sunflowers.
Who am I to question Yotsuba?

 

Please visit batsu for the whole gallery.^^

 

 

Nintendo Summer Fan


Last year, I reluctantly signed up for Club Nintendo, expecting it to work like any point system. For example, at my local game shop, every time you spend 1,000 yen, you get 1 stamp; after you've dropped 30,000 yen and produced said card at every purchase, you get 500 yen off. That's barely more than a 1% reward. Every place I shop has a point card, and for the most part, I refuse them. They are a bulky waste of time.

And so, somehow I decided to sign up anyway. At least the points are tallied via cell phone, limiting the ways to loose or forget about them. Then I came to realize you can actually trade the points for really cool stuff! Amazingly cool stuff! Delivered to your house for free!

I got a mail describing a new summer item last spring and immediately ordered it. In late July, it arrived. All I can say is, Club Nintendo really does help gamers feel more pleasure.


Odaiba Firework Festival: Lucky


While I don't tend to generally dislike the summer heat, there's nothing that sways my opinion more than a sultry summer's evening drenched in sweat - a great follow-up to any sunny day choked with humidity, of course. And, wow - I had been out shopping for a fancy bookmark, probably losing a few kilos in the process. So just when I thought visiting crowded Odaiba was the most horrible idea ever, and had pretty much abandoned the idea, a good friend who works for a big company invited us to view spectacular fireworks from the comfort of the 11th floor, in an air conditioned building overlooking the bay. Lucky?! It was nothing short of a miracle.

Upon arriving, the observation floor was full of workers and their families, but it didn't seem so bad to me. Someone else in the party with a pricey Canon decided that was unacceptable though, and led the way into her high-security 9th floor office - still, what a view! There were others (allegedly?) working at the time, creating a not-so-nice reflection on the glass, but the fireworks were mostly exploding at eye level, revealing a beautiful amount of intricate detail.

The view was awesome. Slightly skewed by a couple buildings, but still awesome. It was also possible to see a lane of traffic crawling to a halt on the nearby expressway, as they also struggled to see the show, contributing cascades of comical commentary.

Despite the luck and convenience of watching one of Tokyo's best firework shows for free, we talked about throwing in for a room at the hotel blocking our view next year, or possibly a river boat firework cruise. For better pictures, of course.

Visit batsu3.org to view the gallery.

Boom - Edogawa Fireworks Festival


Of the twenty or so fireworks festivals in Tokyo, Edogawa is simply the best. There are no buildings obstructing the view. There is plenty of seating along the cool riverbank. It usually has the second most fireworks for a single show in the Kanto area. And probably best of all, I can get there by cab for a reasonable fare.

In other words:

*14,000 fireworks

*perfect view

*1,000 - 2,000 yen and I can arrive any time in a splendid yukata

Most of these points will apply to you, so if you find yourself in Tokyo one August, choose Edogawa. Of course, there will probably be close to a million people there, and like any fireworks display, things will be quite crowded. But even if you arrive late to Edogawa, you'll still be able to see the show! No ducking around buildings, straining to see through trees. No need to pay for a boat or helicopter ride. That may sound like a joke, but I assure you it is not.

This year was my fourth time attending the show in Edogawa, and even though many parts are remarkably similar from program to program, I honestly anticipate this day all year long. BOOM! I like to sit as close as possible, reveling in the light and reeling in the shock-waves from each explosion. Camera vaguely pointed at the sky, I more or less hold the shutter to take a continuous stream of photos - as if the majestic awe of the moment could somehow be captured.

Here is a video, documenting my favorite part of the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVHRMZwMvao

No one ever photographs me... save for the local bar visited on the way home. And usually, no one photographs the food I prepare; however, this year someone managed to capture some it. Even though it's not a great picture, it makes me happy.

So now, though there's not much to do but wait for next year, I can still take a look at these photos and know without doubt that Edogawa could beat the pants off of any other fireworks display. Since I alluded to living in the area, let me admit that these are my proud tax monies at work. BOOM! I hope you all take to time to enjoy this spectacular evening; don't worry, it's on me.

Please visit my website to see the entire gallery.^^ 
http://batsu3.org/2010/08/12/boom-edogawa-fireworks-festival/

Lots of Gets

When I go to a doll event, it's not usually for purpose of making purchases. I don't line up early, or try to arrive by a certain time; nor do I travel with a suitcase as many attendees do. I bring a camera, do a lot of looking, and usually walk away with a piece or two.

On the contrary, this time (Doll Show 28) I went with the specific purpose of buying everything. Why? Well, for one, I haven't indulged Miyu in a while. And for two, I've been feeling rather lackadaisical and haven't started any craft projects lately. The idea was to gain inspiration from the awe of others' work. (Let's see how well that works out.)

Upon arriving home, I was so excited to show Alice and Miyu all of the cool things I got for them that I pulled out the camera and photographed the whole ordeal.Read more...Collapse )

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They look real enough to eat - the large berry in particular makes it more doll-like and otherworldly. And delicious.


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Alice used to hold her little rabbit (purchased at another Doll Show) by the head. The basket adds about 200% more cute, though the other look was nice, too.


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I guess I was in a cute mood? The top dress was crocheted by hand and only 800 yen. They threw in an extra prop since I bought it off of the modelling doll - this was their last one. The bottom dress I wish I had found first; beautifully sewn by hand, and featuring elastic buttons and loops in the back as opposed to Velcro to both lay flat and avoid snagging her hair.

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I think she likes it.

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I got many things for Miyu... but first... the packaging for this one was adorable! I let her open the boxes herself.


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Miyu: So, you went to the Doll Show. Did you bring me anything?

Eva: Maybe... Let's take a look.


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Miyu: Oh! It's wrapped and everything! I have to be sure to open it carefully.


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Miyu: Whaa~!


Eva: What's inside?


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Miyu: A tiara! You finally realize I'm a princess.


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Miyu: Do I wear it like this?

Eva: Let me help you...


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Eva: It looks great! And even matches your ensemble! Do you like it?


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Miyu: I love it.


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Miyu: Wow - another one!? It's so pretty.


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Eva: It looks great on you, too. But perhaps you need a new dress or something to match.


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Miyu: What's this?


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Eva: It's candy - a tasty treat for good little princesses after meals.


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Miyu: Heh heh heh. Don't worry, I'll put this somewhere safe.


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Miyu: Oh, a new purse!


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Miyu: And a tea set!


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Miyu: It's too late - Hina Matsuri was weeks and weeks ago.


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Eva: I know... but isn't it cute? Look how small it is! You can bring it out from next year.


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Eva: And lastly... I thought you might like to read this book.


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Eva: It's a real book, and it's called Alice in Wonderland. Have you heard of it?


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Miyu: Wow! Alice...


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Eva: Do you like it?


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Miyu: Wow... Alice...