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.

Here are 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, Mr. Batsu 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, Mr. Batsu 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.

Kuroshituji Desserts Ep. 12 – Christmas Pudding

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 video a couple weeks ago:

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 this custard recipe 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.

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

1. Selecting the Right Yukata

Some people will say, as long as you like it, there is no wrong yukata.  Kimono were designed to be one-size-fits-all garments to an extent, and so this statement is not inherently false.  You have to consider of course that women in Japan used to be more or less the same size, and for the most part still are.

Perhaps many of you in the audience may now be realizing, that size is nothing like your size.  Maybe you’re tall, maybe you’re fuller figured, maybe you’re both.  And fortunately, that’s OK. Even though getting a custom sized yukata has always been an option, albeit an expensive one, tall sizes are now available and will probably fit your needs no matter what category you fall in.

Another thing to consider is that Japanese women have been getting progressively taller.  My kimono teacher also says that even compared to 40 or 50 years ago, fashion now dictates skirts to fall longer.  In other words, if you put on a vintage yukata, it may be too short even if you are built small.  One way to check the size of a kimono if you are small or medium build is to hold it up compared to your height.  The kimono should be at least your height in length, and ideally about 1 head taller.

2. Selecting appropriate accessories

Once you have your yukata, you need to select matching accessories.  Personally, I tend to select basic colors and prints for accessories to make them more versatile, allowing me to pair them with various yukata and kimono alike.  At the very least, you will need an obi, shoes, and a purse.  A few additional but optional nice touches are (but not limited to)  a hair ornament, obi ornament, collar ornament, tabi, and fan.

There are two basic rules to follow when choosing accessories.  First, when wearing a colorful patterned yukata, choose accessories that highlight one of the background colors in the pattern.  Second, when wearing a very plain pattern or solid color yukata, choose accessories of a different color that will contrast with the yukata.  I’ll take some pictures of my combinations another day.^^

Your purse should ideally be hand-held.  Avoid any purse that interferes with your sleeve or collar – this will look sloppy and could possibly disshevel the garment.

Matching shoes and purse is a common element of formal kimono – but yukata are anything but formal.  Most girls I see nowadays wear Western-style sandals or heels.  When choosing shoes, select something clean and comfortable with an open toe.  Japanese style geta are of course a great choice, too, but don’t limit yourself if they’re uncomfortable or hard to find.  Geta should ideally match your color scheme in some way, but Western shoes can literally be anything you like.

As for other accessories, I recommend going easy at first to get a hang for what you have and how you want to dress it up.  There are a lot of choices out there, or you may opt to make your own, reuse a necklace or belt, or many other things.

3. Selecting the appropriate tools

So you have your yukata and all the accessories to match – let’s get dressed!  The basic tools you need are: a slip, 2 koshi-himo, 1 date-jime, and 1 obi ita.  However, there are many ways to get dressed.  Choose the tools necessary for the method you prefer.

Underneath you will need a slip or something similar.  You can get a special one, or wear something you already have, even a camisole and bike shorts are OK.  This is to protect the yukata and keep you covered should any accident happen.  Be sure though that your undergarment is significantly shorter than the yukata – around mid-calf to knee length.  This will prevent it from showing unintentionally.

Instead of 2 cloth koshi-himo, there are a variety of elastic choices.  Please look into them on your own – as I said there is no one right way.  For date-jime and obi ita, there are “summer versions” designed to be lighter and allow for better circulation.  Comparing the two in my own experience, I cannot discern a significant difference.

This section is as short as it is necessary.  If you have a beautiful kimono and obi, you want to try your best to wear them properly.  Don’t just put them on and expect the magic to happen – use the tools to keep everything in place and looking good!  In the summer, a set of starter “tools” costs about 2,000 yen.

4. Putting on yukata

As  I mentioned before, you should consult a another guide or video for comprehensive study on how to put on yukata, but here are a few pointers.

  • The image to aim for is “tube” – If you’re busty or thin and curvy, fold a face towel and wrap it around your waist, over your slip.  Keep it in place with a koshi himo, kimono fonde, etc.  This will allow your obi to sit better.  Another good idea is wearing a sports bra.  There are also other Japanese-style bras available, but avoid wearing a Western bra.  If you got it, flaunt it – but not when you’re wearing kimono.
  • Skirt length is key – too short and you look childish, too long and you look sloppy.  Go for ankle-length, riding just a smidgen above your feet.
  • Always have the left side on top.  When buying my first yukata, the elderly woman dressing me said this first and foremost.  Only corpses are dressed the other way; please be careful!
  • Don’t open the collar more than your collarbone.  Be sure the collar is pulled tight.

5. Minding your manners

You’re wearing yukata and looking beautiful – keep it that way!  There are a lot of manners and mannerisms to consider when wearing kimono, but at the same time don’t feel intimidated or restricted.  You’re probably going out to have a good time, too, so there’s no need to overdo it.  I’ve ordered them by personal priority so you get a feel of what I think is most important.  This will of course vary between individuals and teachers.  Keep in mind that most points are designed to help keep your yukata and obi in place, and will become easier the more you wear yukata.

  • Try to walk with a smaller gait, around 10-15 cm.
  • Sit and stand up straight as much as possible.  This will keep your collar in place.
  • If you need to use the powder room, lift your skirts straight upwards without opening, folding them at the hips.  Be sure to smooth everything back down, checking in a mirror or with a friend if possible.
  • When carefully getting into a vehicle, sit down smoothing your skirt, and then swivel your whole body to face forward.
  • When sitting in a chair, keep your knees and feet together.  Don’t lean back as this will crush your obi.  Sit on the edge and incline your calves and feet to the left or right if necessary, keeping your thighs on an even plane with the seat.
  • When standing at rest, keep your feet together and turned inwards, one foot slightly more forward.
  • Try not to let your elbows or upper arms show.  If you have to reach upwards, grab the outer part of the sleeve with your free hand.

6. A little known truth

After you’ve successfully put on yukata for the first time, there is reason to rejoice.  It’s something of a dying art; not even most Japanese women can do it.  Everyone will tell you you look great.  They’re immensely impressed, proud of you and your effort, and want you to keep it up.

Now for a bit of harsh reality:  you probably look not so good.  Did you put the right side on top?  Is your collar too far open?  Koshi-himo showing?  Obi coming untied or completely falling off?

And you know what?  It’s perfectly OK to look “bad.”  You didn’t perform a pirouette with your first steps, and you will probably not be a yamato nadeshiko the first time you go out, even if someone else dresses you.  But every time you try, you will do better.  People who compliment you mean no harm; they intend only to encourage you and are probably genuinely happy.  Accept compliments with the same sincerity, and when you see someone else learning to walk in those same shoes, be sure to return the favor.  Never tell someone they look bad, and only fix a friend’s kimono if they ask for help.  Remember, until you get that Level 1 Kimono Exam Licence, we’re all learning together!

I hope you found this useful!  Please feel free to write to me with any questions.  Good luck!

Batsu

Level 8 きもの知識検定

Level 1 きもの着付け免許状

Internationally Certified Kimono Lecturer

Yotsuba & Sunflowers

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

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.

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.

Lots of Gets

When Batsu goes 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 Miya all of the cool things I got for them that I pulled out the camera and photographed the whole ordeal.

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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?

Batsu:  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~!

Batsu: 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?

Batsu: Let me help you…

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

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

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Batsu:  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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Batsu: Do you like it?

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Miyu: Wow…  Alice…

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