Honey Cake

IMG_7464This is a simple honey cake, but it comes together quickly and has a nice flavor. It can also be made as muffins.

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
240mL (1 cup) milk
57g (1/4 cup) butter, melted
60mL (1/4 cup) honey

* AP Flour: in Japan, mix 1/2 cup “strong” flour (強力粉) + 1/2 cup “weak” flour (薄力粉).

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Sift or whisk the four dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Beat the egg into the milk and add the honey and melted butter. Stir to combine liquids, and then add to the dry ingredients.

Mix just until combined. Pour the batter into a 21cm (8 inch) cake pan, or into 12 muffin tins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (15 for muffins), until golden brown on top. Test with a toothpick; if it comes out clean, the cake is done. You can also brush the top with additional honey if desired, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

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Flour Tortillas

tortillas2Tortillas are uncommon in Japan. They can be found at import stores or Costco, or bought online, but they can be quite expensive. (2015 update: I am seeing tortillas in large supermarkets more often now, as Mexican food is slowly becoming more well known.) My solution was to learn to make my own. I started with flour tortillas, and found it easier than expected.

Ingredients (makes 8 tortillas)
1-1/4 cups (160g) all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (50g) shortening
1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-120mL) hot water

Instructions

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the shortening and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives. Add the hot water little by little and stir in.

Knead dough 30-40 times. Let rest 1 hour.

Divide into 8 equal pieces. Let the pieces rest 20 minutes.

Roll out with a rolling pin (or press on a tortilla press) to make 8-inch (20cm) diameter circles. Cook in a dry frying pan over medium heat. It should take just a minute or so on each side to cook through and become brown in spots.

While cooking the remaining tortillas, cover the cooked ones with a towel to keep from drying out.

Ingredients in Japan: Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast

This post is part of a series about the differences in ingredients between Japan and the U.S. When I first arrived in Japan, I had a lot of trouble at times because I wasn’t used to these differences, so hopefully this information is helpful! For the full list of posts in this series, see this page.

Baking powder, baking soda, and yeast have been pretty much the same for me as they were in America, but at first I just had a little trouble finding these common baking chemicals in Japan. I knew that they must be available, but I wasn’t sure where to look or what they would be called.

First, baking powder. This was pretty easy for me to find because in Japanese, they just use the English name: ベーキングパウダー (beikingu paudaa), and in the brand they sell around here, it’s written in English letters as well on the can. (By the way, the can stumped me at first, since I had never used any product in that kind of container before – you have to use a butter knife or the end of another utensil to pop open the lid.) When I checked a dictionary, another word for baking powder was listed, 膨らし粉 (fukurashi-ko), but I have never seen it used in recipes or on the package.

baking powderBaking soda was a little harder. In contrast to baking powder, which was clearly marked with the English and katakana word, I always find it in the store as 重曹 (juusou), though the dictionary has that word along with the English word ベーキングソーダ (beikingu souda), and I’ve seen both terms in recipes.

baking soda Finally, yeast. This is the only brand sold in my local supermarket, though they have different packaging options. I like to buy my yeast in one big package (you can see it labeled on this box as 50g x 1袋), but they also have options of several smaller packages inside the box. Here again, we have the English word ドライイースト (dorai iisuto) for dry yeast. This box is the instant type (not required to activate in warm water before using), so it’s labeled 予備発酵不要 (yobi hakkou fuyou); it’s also marked as 顆粒 (karyuu), or granule-type. And finally, it mentions: ホームベーカリーにも使えます, or “can also be used in bread machines”.

yeastOnce I figured out what these things were and where to find them (usually with the other baking or cake-decorating supplies in the supermarket), I’ve had no trouble using them exactly the same way I did in America.