Chocolate cornets

In Japan, buns with sweet filling are popular and often eaten as a snack. I have shown you the recipes of an-pan (bread with sweetened red bean paste), cream pan (with custard cream filling) in the past.

I tried baking with chocolate cream filling, but my choco buns quite often ooze out the cream in the oven. I use very thick cream and pinch the edges very carefully to enclose the cream, but still the cream manages to escape from the dough, so I decided to change the strategy and decided to fill the cream after the baking.

These are buns called “Choco Cornets”, one of the popular sweet buns in Japan.
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Chocolate cornets are delicious chocolate custards filled bread cones. The dough is shaped wrapping the cornet mold and baked blind, and the cream is filled to the brim for a rich taste of chocolate to go along with every bite of the bread.

If you have your favorite bread dough recipe, you can use it. I use simple, basic bread dough recipe shown in the an-pan recipe. Since the bread will be filled with cream, the dough does not have to be rich.

You can buy tin cornet molds from a kitchen ware shop, but you can also make these easily with light weight cardboard and baking paper. I cut the cardboard to 15cm x 15cm or so, roll it and secure the edges with staplers. Then, wrap it with a sheet of baking parchment paper or a tin foil.
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You can find very well detailed recipes on internet if you search “choco cornet”. I do not go into detail here because a lot of people have done fantastic jobs explaining the steps. But here are my tips.

For the dough, after the first proof is done, cut the dough for each bun and roll it into a long oblong shape and give it about 10 to 15 minutes rest. I found this stage important.

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After the resting time, you roll it into a long, thin strips. If the dough tries to bounce back, it isn’t ready to be shaped, give a few more minutes to rest.

When you wrap the dough around the cornet mold, do not pull the dough, turn the cornet and gently place the dough around the mold.
And leave the dough for the second proofing for about 15 minutes. If the dough has gaps, do not worry because when it is baked, the dough will double the size.
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Brush the surface with egg glaze and now, ready to go into the oven.

Yes, done!
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Fill each bread with your favorite filling. You can fill it with chocolate or custard cream. I know some people like whipped cream.
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My older son prefers savory snacks, and he stuff the bun with a cooked weenie sausage with mustard and ketchup.

A baking idea for something a bit different, isn’t it?
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Knitted Harvest

I am celebrating autumn with this set.
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I saw a couple of little boys shopping for huge pumpkins with their Dad just before Halloween.
One pumpkin each.
Obviously, they were going to make lanterns out of them. They were very excited, but I wondered what would happen to the pumpkin flesh after carving. That is a lot of pumpkin for one family!

I like these orange pumpkins. They have the colour perfect for celebrating autumn harvest. We don’t get much of these in Japan, and the first time when I saw them in America, I was very impressed by the sheer size of them.

It is a bit of a shame that these pumpkins lose popularity the day after Halloween.

I knitted this harvest set for autumn nature table. I thought it would be nice to have it in the corner of my room.
I have large pumpkins and an apple basket in the farmer’s cart.
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This is something what I would love to do; riding in a cart like this.

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I ride squashed between all the Nature’s gift. I have a young ram on my rap to keep me warm.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
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Penguin campaign

My publisher is running a Penguin campaign, and I thought I should share the news with you.

Search Press Art and Craft Books

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Are you loving penguins at the moment like we are? Why not join in on our 12 days of Penguin fun with 12 days of FREE penguin projects!

On the first day of Penguin… we have this mini knitted penguin project from Mini Knitted Safari by Sachiyo Ishii.

FREE Download here: http://www.searchpress.com/project/2014/11/14/12-days-of-penguin-on-the-first-day-of-penguin #12daysofpenguin Knits by Sachi

Isn’t that nice?

Now, these penguins can be made into dangler charms like this.

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I have also added a hat for winter holidays.

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Here is the pattern for the hat.
Materials
small amounts of white boucle yarn or mohair, red DK (8-ply)
Equipment
A pair of 2.75mm knitting needles

With white boucle or mohair, cast on 10 sts. Break yarn. Join red DK and st/st 2 rows, starting with k row.
Next row: k1, (k2tog, k1) to end (7)
st/st 4 more rows.
Next row: (p2tog) three times, p1 (4)
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Sew the seam, using the fasten-off end of yarn. With the seam facing back, attach the hat to the penguin, using the cast-on boucle yarn.

It works as a Christmas tree decoration, too. Enjoy.

Japanese cooking made very easy.

My little knitted chef.
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I cook Japanese everyday, well, almost every day. I do prepare Western style meals as pasta, pizza or our country’s favorite, baked potatoes, but most days, I cook Japanese.

When I tell that to my Briton friends, they seem to be very impressed. Maybe they are imagining sushi and tempura or these dainty dish with exotic ingredients you see on Master chef as Japanese cookery. But in fact, we have a variety of dish you can easily cook at home. Japanese food can be made easy and inexpensive.

All you need is the basic seasoning.

In Japanese cooking there are 5 basic seasonings ingredients which are essential in most Japanese cooking. They are: SATO (砂糖) Sugar, SHIO (塩) Salt, SU (酢) Vinegar, SEUYU (醤油) Soy Sauce, MISO (味噌) Miso. It is called Sa(さ) Shi(し) Su(す) Se(せ) So(そ) of seasoning, which is the “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) in Japanese.

So, basically, if you season your food with some of these seasonings, you get Japanese food no matter what ingredients you use to cook. Simple.

I show you one of the easy and very well loved dish called Niku-jaga (meat and potato).

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It is a dish of meat, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce. Generally, potatoes make up the bulk of the dish, with meat mostly serving as a source of flavor.
Thinly sliced beef is the most common meat used, although minced/ground beef is also popular. Pork is often used instead of beef in eastern Japan.

It seems each family has their own version of Niku-jaga recipe. I use the stir-fry meat since you cannot get thinly sliced meat at supermarket in UK. If you are a vegetarian, you can omit the meat all together.
It is a very relaxed home cooking dish which doesn’t require accurate measuring or weighing, but here is the guidance. You can control the seasonings as you like.

3 medium sized potatoes, about 350 g cut into chunks
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1/2 carrot cut into chunks
a few mangetout or green beans (optional)
150g meat
2 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp rice wine if you have
2 tsp sugar
2tsp vegetable oil
a pinch or two salt to taste

Heat a pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, and fry onions until translucent. Add the meat and stir-fry until cooked through. Add the potatoes, carrots and continue stir-frying for about 3 minutes.
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Add sugar, soy sauce, rice wine and 2 tbsp of water and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the carrots and potatoes are cooked.
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This is a simple, one-pot-dish. I know some people cook with a lot of liquid, adding about 2/3 cup of water, but I grew up with this recipe and comfortable with this method. I like it less watery and prefer to steam ingredients rather than boil them. Add more water if you think you need to cook through the ingredients.
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Add the green beans and cook uncovered until they are cooked through.

I like adding a bit of ginger to it. I also add soft boiled egg at the end.

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We serve it with steamed rice. This dish is nice hot or cold.
When I am lucky to have a bit of left over the next day, I bake it in the oven or mash it all up and make it into croquettes.

See, it is so easy.

Fabulous Baker Family

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In primary school, I had a friend whose parents own a bakery.

It was a small shop in town and wasn’t anything fancy or posh, but well supported by the community.
She always smelled like baking; baked dough and sweet cream. She used to get teased a little by classmates because of the scent she carried, but I thought she smelled amazing and used to follow her everywhere.

I even followed her home one day, of course, with her invitation. Her house was joined to their little bakery and, she walked through the shop when she came home from school. She grabbed one or two sweetened buns on the way to her room for me. Her life seemed so much more luxurious than mine and I wished that my parents owned a bakery,too.

I have been knitting series of people at work and I thought bakers would be a cute addition.
I made two adult figures first. I am quite pleased with the way the buns came out.
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And then, I thought about this friend of mine. I decided to add a child.
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I made a boy instead of a girl. Because I wanted to add a hat, I kept the hair simple. A little boy baker would be cute, I thought.

What do you think?
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Wouldn’t it be nice if they bake you fresh bread every day?

Halloween knits

I love knitting for seasons and occasions, and Halloween is certainly one of my favorite.

I don’t do scary too well, and all my knits turn out being on a cute side. These are something I made this year.

Set number 1: cheeky ghosts
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Cheeky Western ghosts. Our Japanese ghosts are troubled spirits which are not laid to rest and they take human appearances. Traditional ghosts wear long white kimono and have long hair and have no feet. They like coming out in summer and give you shivers on a hot night. Very eco-friendly.

Set number 2: Monster trio
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I know Franken is much bigger than the rest, but never mind.

Set number 3: Trick or treat
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I have children in three sizes.
The big sister dressed as a witch
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Her brother as the Count Dracula
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He is holding a pumpkin basket.

and their little sister (or brother?) in a cat suits
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I made the lolly with two strands of yarn. This was a challenge. I tried i-cord and crochet but didn’t quite work. I ended up with just twisting two strands of yarn and securing it with a few stitches. Simple is the best sometimes.

I am quite pleased with this little kitty.
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Happy Halloween!

Savory steamed Chinese buns

These are my family’s favorite: steamed buns with meat filling called Niku-man.

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You may have seen these. Niku (meat) manjū is the Japanese name for the Chinese baozi made from flour dough, and filled with cooked ground pork or other ingredients.

Nikuman are steamed and often sold as street food. You can often find these in Chinatown. In a cold day in winter, it is fantastic to see steams coming out from large bamboo steamers set outside of shops. You can say it is one of our comfort food.

You can make them at home quite easily. I like steaming food since it is the most healthy cooking method.

This is our family recipe. Some use yeast in the ingredients but this is a quicker version without proofing.

For the buns
100g strong flour
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100cc water
30g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1tbsp vegetable oil

For the filling
180g ground pork
12cm spring onion, finely chopped
1tbsp grated ginger
1tsp sesami oil
1tbsp soy sauce
a pinch salt
one large dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and finely chopped
2tbsp corn starch

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients for the buns. Shape it into a ball and rest it for 30 minutes. Add more water if the mixture is too dry.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling and roll them into 8 small balls.

Divide the dough for the buns into 8 and roll them into balls. Roll each dough into a 10 cm circle. Thin out the edges, until the circle is 12 cm.

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Center a meat filling on the dough circle and wrap the filling. Make little pleats as you wrap. If this is difficult for you, close up the bun and turn it over so you have the smooth side on top.
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Cut parchment paper into 10 cm squares, and put a bun on each piece. Put the buns in a steamer.
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Steam the buns for 15 to 20 minutes.
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Done. We like them piping hot, but do take care, the filling may be very hot.
Mine do not look as good as the shop bought ones, but still tasted yummy.

You can be innovative and experiment with different fillings and flavouring.
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