It’s this time of the year again!
Marked by the burning of books and notes (nah, I’ve never actually done that), crawling out of my shell for the first time in weeks (okay, so that’s not so true either) and doing basically everything fun that comes to mind……….. it’s the holidays again!!
And it means that I finally have time to blog again, though I have to admit it’s not the most exciting of all my post exam activities…
During this time last year, I got into sushi making, and was rather obsessed with the idea of making cutely shaped sushi characters. Though they looked alright (a far cry from the professional ones in the book I used), they tasted too bland for my liking. The latest addition to my (rather small) collection of sushi brings me a little closer to making a better tasting sushi, being the first of the character sushi rolls which isn’t completely made out of rice!
The design itself is quite simple, with only a nose and mouth (as in the cat sushi) and some pretty straightforward crabstick ears to make. Oh, and plus two eyes which I was originally going to make with nori but didn’t have enough time so I photoshopped them on instead
And onto my post-exam celebrations:
I finally got around to cleaning my room yesterday, which is probably a bigger task than you might imagine. To be honest, the reason I dislike cleaning up is not because it’s tiresome, but because cleaning always inevitably leads to me parting with many once loved items which I know will never come to use again. In my drawer (which I only open once ever couple of months), I found my stash of wallets, phone bags and lanyards- each and every one I’ve owned since the beginning of high school. Stuffed in the corner was my pile of tween magazines, which my parents would only buy for me on the odd occasion. In the next drawer, I found a money box full of ‘special coins’ which I’d collected over the years, underneath that, a pile of old cartoon calendars, so cute and pretty I couldn’t bear to throw away eventhough I know the year 2003 won’t come by anymore.
I hate the feeling of going backwards.
Not physically, though I hate that as well (have i told of the story of how I got motion sickness after sitting facing the wrong way on a sushi train?), but as in the opposite of improving. We’ve been making a lot of sushi of all different types lately- simple salmon nigiri, California rolls, tuna rolls and whatever else we felt like rolling up or squeezing into balls. Try as hard as I may, all my rolls still end up loose and lopsided like they’ve always been 🙁
Okok, so I actually only personally made 2 rolls by myself- a little more practice may help 😉
What I’m really talking about is my progress with decorative sushi.
I used the leftover rice and nori to make this cat shaped sushi (a design from the same book as last time). I coloured it with sesame seeds for the black, tomato sauce for the orange (tomato flavoured canned tuna was my original plan, but I didn’t want to open a can of tuna just for this one roll) and also for the supposedly pink area around the mouth, since I couldn’t be bothered finding something pink.
Now, you would have thought I’d have at least some idea of how to place and space the different components after my first attempt at decorative sushi, but nup- I managed to do worse than last time! At first I placed too much rice on the base, so I had to take it all off and start again. Then, I accidentally put the nose on the eyes instead of the mouth (as you can probably see in the pictures)….which would have been fine if I were making a human!
Luckily, decorative sushi is quite forgiving, and even if it doesn’t look quite like what you had hoped, some massaging of the cut sushi and addition of features makes it look great again! But I was still disheartened at the fact that my sushi making ‘skills’ seem to be worsening more than improving!
On a more positive note, I did manage to take a couple of shots whilst I was making it, so I can look back before I attempt anything again….and if you want to make it too! Let’s just hope that my sushi making skills don’t go backward and further!
Kitty Cat Sushi
If you are attempting this, please read the complete instructions before starting as I don’t really explain things very well 😉
For one roll of sushi, you will need
a little more than one piece of nori
Some sushi rice (the book has some but I don’t use exact measurements)
Something Black eg. Black Sesame Powder
Something Orange eg. canned tuna (tomato flavoured)
Something Pink eg. pickled ginger
Kombu or Something dark brown eg soy sauce
1. First, you want to cut up your nori:
- once in half- this will form the big piece of nori which wraps around the outside of the sushi roll
- Cut the other half of the seaweed into four equal pieces (not lengthwise to make four long strips but the other way to make the shape in the picture below)
2. Then you want to colour your rice- do this by mixing some rice with whatever you’re using to colour your rice in a bowl. For each of the colours, you’ll only need about 2 large tablespoons of rice.
Now we can start shaping:
First, we make mini rolls using the small pieces of nori we cut up before (each should be 1/8th of the size of the original piece of nori). Place a small amount of rice on the edge or the nori and roll it up to make a thin roll.You will need 3 rolls of white rice and one roll of pink (for the mouth). Make two of the white rolls smaller than the white and the pink by using less rice and rolling up tightly (you could even only use half of the 1/8th sheet but that would be harder to roll up).
Because the nose is smaller, we make need to make a thinner roll. To do this, the book tells us to use a sheet of kombu onto the nori (again, using the 1/8th size one) and roll it up tightly. Since I didn’t have kombu, I coloured some rice brown and spread a very thin layer across the nori and rolled it up tightly- it doesn’t look as great, but it’ll do.
Slice one of the white rolls and the pink rolls in half
Place the half sheet of nori onto your sushi mat, lengthwise as we will be rolling ‘sideways’. Spread some white, orange and black rice onto the nori in the pattern shown in the picture above. Make sure that the width of the black and orange stripes is the same as those of the semicircle rolls you made above. The white stripe in the middle should also be the same width.
Place the two white semicircle rolls facing upwards onto the red and black lines.Fill the area between them with white rice and then place another layer of rice above this. (obviously, I didn’t put the layer of rice on in the picture above, so the nose ended up on the eyes….)
Place the dark brown ‘nose’ roll in right in the centre of the layer of rice.
Place both of the pink semicircles on top of the ‘nose’ facing downwards as shown. Then put a layer of rice over and around that so that t middle bit is a bit like a round mountain of rice.
Roll up the sushi using the mat then slice it up with a sharp knife. If you need to, give the sushi a bit of a massage to get it into the right shape.
Cut thin strips of nori and place them on the sushi to make whiskers.
Using the two small white rolls from before, cut each into the same thickness as the cat sushi for the ears. Place two ears on each cat sushi. You’re done!
Note: I was having trouble with making clean cuts on my sushi last time but had much more success this time thanks to Ann’s tip of moistening the knife with a mixture of water and vinegar and Shen’s tip of cutting quickly with one stroke and wiping the sticky stuff away. Thanks so much!
Sometimes I’m just too good at putting things off…..
….and completely forgetting about them.
Replying texts, facebook messages or emails is the first thing which comes to mind, closely followed by chores which I promise my mum I’d do (sorry mum!). And it’s not just things I don’t particularly like doing- this bear cake is a rather embarrassing example of this, as I’d promised my sister I’d make this cake for birthday…………..2 birthdays ago!
I’ve been thinking of the reasons why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to making this cake and I still can’t completely explain why. It’s not because I didn’t want to make this cake, or that I had better things to make………….. it just never ended up happening
I’m thinking that it may have partly been because of the effort I know it would require- though the design is quite simple, it’s still more complex than just baking a cake and eating it as is (hence the lack of iced and decorated cakes on this blog). I’ve been quite lazy this year, and have often found myself ambitiously planning to bake some time consuming things over the weekend, only to give up from lack of motivation when the weekend comes rolling around.
I guess it’s sort of like the reason I don’t blog that often- though I love it, it takes a lot of effort for me to write up a post. I was never any good at writing anything, and it takes a lot of deleting, writing and deleting before I can come up with something I wouldn’t mind sharing with others.
Sometimes I think of how much easier it would be if I just posted pictures and a recipe. I’d certainly have a lot more posts on my blog right now.
But that wouldn’t’ be as fun, would it?
Despite my slow progress, I have finally reached the milestone of 100 posts today. Ok, so maybe I may have cheated a little bit and also included my first ever ‘hello’ post (which consists of 3 sentences) in the count. And, it may come after 2 years and 3 months of blogging (yes, I’m well aware that most people reach this milestone before, or within close proximity of their 1st blogiversary). But hey, I got there 😉
And like my second blogiversary, I’m celebrating with chocolate cake. From the exact same recipe, to be exact. This delicious beetroot chocolate cake has become my go-to recipe for chocolate cake- it’s moist and chocolatey like mudcake, but with the subtle, underlying natural sweetness of beetroot. I know everyone already has their favourite chocolate cake recipe, but if you’re ever looking for a new one to try, I’d strongly recommend this one.
The design for this cake is taken from the ‘naughty bear’ cake at 85 degrees cake shop. It caught my attention, not because I thought it was particularly interesting design (when compared to the other beautiful cakes the bakery produces), but because of its simplicity- I was pretty sure I could pull off something like this at home.And so I showed it to my sister, who liked it as well and promised her I’d make it for her birthday………
The original cake was sponge cake and was covered in chocolate shavings but I thought my sister would like this cake better. I couldn’t be bothered making chocolate shavings to cover this cake, so I covered it with cake crumbs instead- an idea I got from Zoe’s blog (my cake looks quite similar to hers….don’t you think?). I personally think it looks better than the chocolate shavings because it makes the bear look more ‘furry’…..or is that just my imagination?
Well, it’s still months from my sister’s next birthday (I guess I’ll
have to try harder to be on time next time!!), but I think all was
forgiven once this cake was made- my family thought it looked and tasted
great! I immediately received requests to make it again, since the 15cm
cake was quickly devoured, and my sister even wanted me to teach her
how to make it 🙂
And in case you were wondering, we couldn’t bear to cut its face into pieces…..
So we took its facial features off first!! 😉
‘Naughty Bear’ Chocolate Cake Recipe
For the cake
adapted from Veggie Belly
Original Recipe from Ross Burden
makes a 15cm cake
60g dark chocolate
2 medium eggs
100ml sunflower or vegetable oil
200g cooked and pureed beets
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
20g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Pre heat oven to 350 f.
2. Melt the chocolate (for the cake) over a double boiler. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Slowly add the cooked milk, beet puree , the melted chocolate and vanilla into the egg mixture. Beat just untill combined.
3. Sift the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the beet batter. Fold just untill everything is combined. Dont over work or over mix the batter.
4. Spread a teaspoon of butter or oil over the surface of a 15cm cake pan. Sprinkle some flour all over, and tap out the excess. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for about 45 minutes, or till a tooth pick or skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Baking time may vary depending on the pan and oven you are using. (mine took around 1.5 hours)
5. When the cake is done, cool it on a wire rack.
For the chocolate ganache
150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
150ml heavy cream
1. Place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a sauce pan, just till
it starts to barely boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and
whisk till it forms a smooth sauce. Chill in the fridge until spreadable.
1. Slice off the top of the cake using a knife, to create a flat surface
2. Using the cake scraps, process them in a blender to create fine crumbs.
3. Place the base layer on a plate and cover with ganache. Cover with the second layer and spread the remaining ganache over the top and sides of the cake.
4. Sprinkle the cake crumbs of the top and sides of the cake to completely cover the icing
5. Place chocolate decorations (eyes, mouth etc) onto the cake 😛
Note: For the eyes, I used chocolate buttons and spread some (melted) white chocolate onto them.
For the nose/mouth, I used an egg ring to mould a white chocolate disc, a chocolate button for the nose and piped the mouth onto it.