sutamina natto fork to belly
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I tried natto for the first time at a friend’s house on a warm summer night in Hawaii. I heard laughter coming from the kitchen as his Mom came into the living room and asked if I had ever had natto before. I followed her into the kitchen and saw a giant container of what I could only describe as sticky brown beans. Before I could say anything, I was promptly given a spoonful and cautiously took a nibble. After everything I’d heard about natto, I expected to hate it. But despite the slight slimey-salty-stinkiness of it – I didn’t. I mean, I definitely didn’t like it enough to go out of my way to… but let’s just say I could if I had to. After finishing the spoonful, I swallowed hard and wrinkled my nose while my friends broke into laughter.

sutamina natto fork to belly sutamina natto fork to belly

sutamina natto fork to belly

For those who aren’t familiar, natto is a traditional Japanese dish made of fermented soybeans. It’s commonly eaten for breakfast in Japan. The taste of natto is an acquired one (kind of like beer but on a whole ‘nother level). In the years to come, I’d try natto again every so often. Always curious to see if I’d finally start to love it as much as my friend Steph does – but then again, she’ll eat just about anything. It wasn’t until Roy started ordering something called Sutamina Natto at a Japanese restaurant we frequent in Little Tokyo that my tastebuds finally fell in love with natto.

sutamina natto fork to belly

There are many ways to serve natto. It can be eaten as is with a bit of hot mustard and soy sauce, served over a bed of warm rice, or in sushi. In Japanese, sutamina means energy or stamina. Hence, Sutamina Natto essentially means energy natto, which is a very fitting name considering all the ingredients in the dish. There’s a bunch of healthy protein from the tuna, natto, and egg yolk as well as all the added health benefits from the mountain yam and even fiber from the okra. I love the taste and I love that it’s good for the body. Fermented foods are great for gut health! Just a little disclaimer: if you’re not too familiar with natto or mountain yam or don’t enjoy the consistency of okra or runny egg yolk, the texture might be a little off putting the first time you try it. I did nickname this dish the “slimey bowl” the first time trying it. It took several months of sneaking bites from Roy, but now I finally do enjoy eating natto!!! I think it’s delicious, and I hope this recipe inspires some of you to try natto if you haven’t already 🙂

sutamina natto fork to belly

sutamina natto fork to belly

Sutamina Nattō
1/3 cup of sashimi grade tuna, cut into chunks
1 packet of natto, store-bought
3 okra pods, sliced and boiled for about 30 seconds
2 stalks fresh green onion, chopped
1/4 cup grated nagaimo, mountain yam (about 2 inches worth)
1 yolk from a quail egg
2 small pieces of nori seaweed
wasabi
soy sauce to taste

special tools
ceramic grater

1. After prepping all ingredients, choose a shallow bowl for serving.
2. In a counter clock-wise order, add the okra, sashimi, and natto. Leave room for the mountain yam between the natto and okra. Carefully pour in the mountain yam. Add a heaping tablespoon of green onion to one side of the natto. Carefully place the yolk near the center of the dish so it rests on the mountain yam.
3. To garnish, slide the two pieces of nori underneath the natto and sahimi. Add a dash of soy sauce to the mountain yam and place a bit of wasabi on the natto. Serve immediately. *Pro tip: Use chopsticks to stir everything together and season with a little more soy sauce if desired!

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korean fried chicken cake fork to belly
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I‘ve been laughing to myself all week – so excited to share this with you guys because look at this absolutely ridiculous cake. Roy’s Birthday has so far been one of my greatest baking challenges on the blog each year. How do you make a birthday cake for someone who doesn’t like dessert? That’s honestly almost like trying to recommend a book to someone who hates reading. The funny thing is that at certain points in the year, he’ll crave donuts or ice cream for a week and I’ll come home to a half eaten box of Krispy Kreme on the counter and pints of Häagen-Dazs taking up precious space in the freezer. Last year I thought I could get away with making a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake. It was one of my favorite ice creams I’d ever made, but a rather failed attempt in my book because he only ever asked for one slice. It obviously was not ice cream week.

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

So this year I took a different approach. Inspired by the Fried Chicken Cake by Bree’s Cakes that took over the internet a year or so ago, I tried my own hand at this savory cake and oh whoa has it changed my perspective on the definition of a *birthday cake*. If there’s one thing in this world Roy loves to eat, it’s fried chicken. His favorite spot lately has been Kyochon and their honey wings, which is where I got the kfc style chicken wings sitting atop this cake. They’ve got that typical Korean-style thickly battered and uber crunchy exterior, but made a million times amazing by it’s sweet and salty flavor.

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

I have always been about desserts, and sweet birthday cakes – decorated in marzipan, fondant, drizzled with ganache, topped with light and airy meringues – are what I know best. Naturally, I was really intimidated when it came to obstacles like using mashed potatoes in place of buttercream. There are so many ways to make mashed potatoes and the key part of a successfully iced cake is the consistency of the frosting. You can’t exactly Google “mashed potato frosting recipe”. I was also worried about getting the mac & cheese layers to hold together when removed from the pan. There were so many things I wasn’t sure about as I started getting to work in the kitchen, but the craziest thing about this cake is that it might just be the easiest cake I’ve ever made. Sometimes dessert recipes can be so challenging, but mac & cheese? Cornbread? Mashed potatoes? All so incredibly simple! PS did I mention that every component is even more delicious than I had hoped for??

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

The KFC Cake works like this: one layer of mac & cheese, one layer of cornbread, and another layer of mac & cheese, frosted with mashed potatoes, topped with Korean fried chicken wings, and drizzled with honey. Those problems I was worried about initially were solved with a little basic cooking knowledge. The mashed potatoes require a lot of butter and some warm milk to make the consistency extra smooth and spreadable. For the mac & cheese, I added eggs to the mixture to bind everything together (think quiche). It worked perfectly. Plus, I’ve discovered some new go-to recipes when it comes to making some all-American dinner classics.

We had a bunch of friends over this past weekend to celebrate Roy’s birthday. The cake was a hit! And the fact that I can pack Roy and I a slice of leftover *cake* for lunch is just the cherry on top.

korean fried chicken cake fork to belly

(not sponsored by Absolut Vodka…)

The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) Cake

for the macaroni & cheese layers
16 oz. box elbow macaroni
2 cups whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
4 oz. cream cheese, melted
4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1 cup for sprinkling)
salt and pepper
4 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line the bottom of two 8-inch pans with parchment rounds and set aside.
2. Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain the water and return the macaroni back to the pot.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the milk with the melted butter and cream cheese. Whisk lightly until evenly combined.
4. With the burner on a low heat, add the milk mixture and shredded cheddar to the pot with the macaroni. Stir together gently until the shredded cheese has also started to melt. Remove the pot from the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once seasoned, fold in the beaten eggs until evenly distributed throughout the macaroni.
5. Split the macaroni evenly between the two 8-inch pans. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese on top of the macaroni. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Halfway through baking, the pans may need to be rotated so the top of the macaroni is evenly browned. The macaroni may rise quite a bit towards the end of baking. As soon as it is removed from the oven, it should settle down into an even layer. Make sure both layers have cooled completely before moving onto the assembly.

for the cornbread layer
Adapted from Life Made Simple Bakes
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill medium grind cornmeal, which gave the cornbread a great gritty texture)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

6. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and line the bottom of one 8-inch pan with a parchment round and set aside.
7. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
8. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, and honey. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Stir in the buttermilk. Taking the flour mixture, add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions. Mix well with a spatula until there are only a few lumps left.
9. Pour the cornbread batter into the prepared pan. Let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before baking. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is golden brown and a cake skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before assembling the cake.

for the mashed potato icing
1200g starchy potatoes (I used yukon gold)
2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, warm
salt and pepper

10. Wash and peel each potato, then quarter into even pieces. Rinse well with cold water and place in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Set on the stove over medium-high heat until the potatoes are so tender they almost fall apart (about 20-30 minutes).
11. Drain the potatoes and place back in the pot. Cook again over medium-high heat for a few minutes until any excess water evaporates from the pan. Transfer to a large bowl.
12. Use a potato ricer or potato masher to mash up the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
13. Add the butter to the mashed potatoes about a tablespoon at a time, using the potato masher to mix the butter and potatoes together. Once all the butter has been incorporated, begin adding in the milk. You may not have to use all of the milk so try adding a little at a time until you reach a smooth and creamy consistency. Season again with salt and pepper as needed.

assembly
14. Place one layer of mac and cheese on desired serving dish. While the mashed potatoes are still warm, ice the first layer. Add the cornbread layer, ice, and add the final mac and cheese layer on top. Crumb coat the entire cake and let chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
15. Use the rest of the mashed potato to finish icing the entire cake. I placed the last bit of mashed potatoes in a piping bag fitted with a star piping tip to create the swirly dollops crowning the top of the cake. Finish off with either homemade or your favorite store-bought fried chicken (I used the honey wings from Kyochon in Koreatown – it’s Roy’s FAVORITE) and drizzle honey down the sides just before serving. ENJOY, FRIENDS!!!!

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spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles
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I am so excited about all the things right now!!! I’m just going to sneak this in here but Game of Thrones last week?? Amiright? Dead. Ok but most importantly, guys, it’s #PopsicleWeek! A whopping 46 bloggers have already participated so far in Billy’s annual post party (100+ are expected!). 46 BLOGGERS AND COUNTING. How outrageous is that? I am such a huge fan of Billy’s unique photography style and his way of writing that makes you need to get a handle on your laughter if you’re reading his blog in a public setting. It’s so exciting to be joining in on the fun this year. Head over to Wit and Vinegar to check out the other amazing popsicle recipes!!!

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

Why do we all love food on sticks? Skewers, cake pops, marshmallows, corndogs, dango, spiraled potatoes, they’re the quintessential fair and night market food. First of all, they’re fun. But for me, a huge bonus is you don’t have to get your hands all oily/sticky. I was so excited when I set out planning something to make for Popsicle Week. But when I broke out my popsicle mold, I was met with an ugly little crack in it :(. But before rushing to the store to pick up a new one, I realized there are only two specific things that define a popsicle for me: it’s frozen and it’s served on a stick. Maybe I could make this work. One thing led to another and soon I was making cookie dough ice cream sandwiches, inserting popsicle sticks and absolutely loving not having to get ice cream all over my fingers – because that’s the reason we invented popsicles right? Someone please tell me.

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

Cookie dough ice cream sandwiches have been circling the internet for the past few months and I was very, very intrigued about this. I love cookie dough and I love ice cream and I love cookie dough ice cream, but do cookie dough ice cream sandwiches work? Yes. Yes they do. So I got busy with some egg-free cookie dough and Jeni’s ice cream base and this is what happened.

I gotta say, this ice cream recipe is a winner. I’ve made ice cream a whole bunch of times with egg yolks, and sometimes it’s a pain because you have to temper the eggs and stir forever and ever and then after all that work sometimes you get a bit of an eggy taste in your ice cream. I don’t really mind it, but I know some people definitely do. But what’s a girl to do when you want the richness of egg yolks but hope to skip out on that eggy taste? Well, you use Jeni’s ice cream base, that’s what ya do. Because it’s one of the best (I’ve officially been converted) and can be tweaked to suit virtually any flavor combo you’re going for!

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

Here I stuck with Jeni’s original recipe for good ol’ vanilla bean ice cream. It’s velvety, rich, and even has this amazing tangy bite to it that I’m assuming comes from the dollop of cream cheese in it. Best part, you don’t even have to refrigerate the base over night before churning it in your ice cream maker. Just set it down in an ice bath for 20 minutes and churn baby churn!

By now, if you’ve been wondering why I turned Spiderman into a cookie dough ice cream sandwich, it’s because this happened: Stan Lee signed my Dad’s original Amazing Spiderman comic.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

My Dad was a huge Marvel fan as a kid and has been collecting comics since the 60’s. In Hawaii, his father owned a mom & pop grocery story where he told me about how he’d buy his comics for 12¢ a piece. The Amazing Spiderman was his favorite series. When one of my teachers mentioned he’d be working with Stan Lee in a few weeks, I asked if he could have one of Dad’s old comics signed. He said he’d try but couldn’t make any promises. Somehow thing’s worked out and I was able to go home one weekend to surprise my Mom for her birthday, I snuck my Dad’s favorite comic out of his collection and brought it back to LA with me. I gave it to my teacher and he so so so amazingly was able to get it signed by the man himself. I sent my Dad a photo of it just in time for Father’s Day. The Marvel Universe has always been an interest point that I’ve loved sharing with my Dad. We’d watch the films and he’d let me go through the comics (though I was forced to wear gloves). I’ve always felt like comic books are kind of our thing together, and I was so happy to be able to give my Dad something so meaningful for Father’s Day.

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

spiderman cookie dough ice cream popsicles

Spiderman Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwich Pops
Recipe makes 9 sandwiches. Ice cream base adapted from Jeni Britton-Bauer.

for the cookie dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
red food coloring (for desired color)

1. In a large bowl, microwave the butter and sugars on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir until everything is melted and combined. The sugar will begin to dissolve into the butter. Add in the milk, vanilla, salt, and red food coloring. Mix in the flour until everything is evenly incorporated. Transfer to the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
2. Line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave a few inches of the parchment hanging over the edge of the pan. Use your hands to press half of the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan. Try to make it as smooth and even as possible. Pull the first layer of dough out of the pan by grabbing the sides of the parchment paper and transfer to a baking tray. Line the square pan with parchment paper again and press out the remaining cookie dough into a second layer. Keep this layer in the pan and place both the baking tray with the first half of the dough and the pan with the second portion in the freezer. Freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

for the vanilla ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 oz. (3 tbsp) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
blue food coloring

3. While the dough is chilling, fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
4. In a large pan, combine the rest of the milk, heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (about 4 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and cornstarch mixture. Return the pan to the stove top and bring to a boil again. Cook on medium-high heat until the mixture has slightly thickened (about 1 minute).
5. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese, making sure to whisk until smooth. Whisk in the salt and blue food coloring. Transfer the bowl to the waterbath prepared earlier and let the ice cream base cool down for about 20 minutes. Make sure to stir it occasionally during this time.
6. Transfer the ice cream base to your ice cream maker and proceed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
7. Remove the cookie dough layers from the freezer. In the pan, spread the ice cream out over the cookie dough. Place the second layer of cookie dough on top and press it down lightly to secure it to the ice cream. Return the pan to the freezer. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
8. Fill a small piping bag with melted dark chocolate. Pipe out 9 spiders, evenly placed, onto the surface of the ice cream sandwiches while they are still in the pan. Return to the freezer for another hour or two to firm up again. When ready to cut, place the pan in a shallow dish filled with warm water. After a few seconds, lift the ice cream sandwiches out of the pan by pulling on the overhanging parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to cut the sandwiches into 9 equal pieces. Insert a popsicle stick into the center of each. Serve and enjoy!

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fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

Hi! I feel like it’s been a while. Summer has been really confusing in LA with warm days and cold nights, which even further confuses me when I emerge from the dark and chilly cave I spend 6 days out of the week in. I’ve been busy, real busy, with school and I don’t want to complain about it and take away from what you’re really here to read about – but it’s my little note to you on why the blog has been a little quieter lately. But isn’t that how summer sort of feels? Small businesses closed for holiday, uncanny bouts of quiet, and a lazy summer heat beating down on the city.

I’m not sure if it keeps me sane or just drives me a little crazier, but I always have a tendency to future vacation plan during the summer months. Some girls have wedding Pinterest boards, I have ones dedicated to vacation ideas. Recently, I was doing a little internet snooping and discovered that a LINE Cafe has recently opened in Seoul – something that’s now on my list if we ever head back to Korea. LINE characters have been v accurately conveying my reactions over text since 2011. I downloaded the app so I could text Steph while she was in Taiwan and China over the summer (you can message + make phone calls from anywhere, for FREE, as long as both parties have a wifi connection!), and it somehow turned into our main method of text communication between us and our friends. It’s the stickers. Before Facebook adopted the sticker fad, there was LINE and their cast of hilarious original characters: James, Cony, Brown, Jessica. I’m including a little photoset of a few of my favorite stickers below for any of you who have no clue what I’m talking about.

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

Aren’t they absolutely hilarious?!
You can’t get this level of emotion across with emojis, that’s for sure.
fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

I think we can all agree that cupcakes are awesome – and if not for the taste or the bite-size cakeness or that swirly dollop of frosting on top, then definitely because they are so simple to make. The red velvet and vanilla bean cupcake recipes I’m using here are from another one of my favorite FoodTubers, Nick from The Scran Line! I absolutely love watching his videos. Nick is adorable and has such a talent for decorating his cupcakes in new and exciting ways with each video. Best of all, both of his red velvet and vanilla bean cupcake recipes use only one or two bowls, which is kind of the greatest thing about baking at home. No one likes a pile of dirty dishes in the sink when you just wanna rest your feet and finish that episode of Game of Thrones you missed last night, amiright?

Can I let you in on a little secret? Invest in an ice cream scoop. It is absolutely best way to make perfect scoops of cookie dough, red bean filling, and to portion out cupcake batter evenly. My biggest issue with cupcakes is I always have the hardest time getting them filled just right. Sometimes I use too little batter and the domes don’t make it past the top of the liner, while other times I use just a little too much and the cupcake spills out a little around the rim of the pan and I’m left with flat and slightly lopsided looking mini cakes. My ice cream scoop makes life a million times easier for portioning because you get consistent results and that little latch that snaps back and forth releases the batter neatly into the liner. If you’ve run into the same problem as I have, bake a lot of cookies, or just love eating ice cream, then you need to get yourself one!

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

I know, I know, I know. There are so many steps in this recipe! But, pleeeease don’t be wary of it! There are a lot of different elements, but every single part can be made in advance and stored in the freezer until ready to use. Plus, all the ingredients themselves are very simple to bring together! I split up the process into three days by focusing on the sugar cookies on day one, then baking all the cupcakes and icing the cookies on day two, then whipping up both frostings and putting everything together on day three. All the work felt well worth it seeing everyone’s faces when I brought them to class!

Notes: Once you’ve piped the icing onto your cupcakes, make sure to add the sprinkles as soon as possible! I waited a tad too long and the sprinkles wouldn’t stick onto some of the cupcakes. Another thing to note is make sure to stick the cookies on as soon as possible too! You might have noticed but the pink frosting has a few cracks in it because the surface had already started to dry before I added the Cony cookies at the end.

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

fork to belly LINE cupcakes

LINE Cupcakes!
Recipes adapted from The Scran Line and Cupcake Jemma, makes two dozen red velvet and two dozen vanilla cupcakes.

for the sugar cookies
• 3 cups all purpose flour
• 3 tbsp cocoa powder* (for chocolate sugar cookies, eliminate if making regular sugar cookies)
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg, room temperature
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg and vanilla extract.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. Add in the egg mixture slowly, beating for 30 seconds to 1 minute until full incorporated.
4. Add the flour to the wet ingredients in three additions, mix on low speed. Beat until just combined but the dough has not come together yet.
5. Dump the dough out onto a work surface, making sure to get any left over bits still in the bowl. Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until it comes together.
6. Split the dough in half. Shape both into a round disk and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate one half of the dough overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours. Store the other half in the freezer until needed.
7. The following day, let the chilled dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes until workable. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
8. Separate the cookie dough in half. Between two sheets of parchment, roll one half of the dough to about 1/4 inch of thickness. I used a circle cookie cutter about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, a large round piping tip, and a mini gingerbread man’s arm to cut out the bear and bunny faces and their ears. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone, then attach the ears on by lightly pressing the dough together and using a toothpick to score the two together. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies.
9. Freeze the uncooked cookies for 10-15 minutes. Bake for 9 minutes. Let the cookies cool to room temperature. They will harden and be ready to decorate.

for the royal icing:
• 1 lb powdered sugar (453g), sifted
• 2 1/4 tbsp meringue powder
• 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1/2 c warm water
• brown, black, and pink food coloring

10. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the meringue powder and warm water together until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and vanilla and mix until combined.
11. Add in all of the powdered sugar at once. Use the paddle attachment for the mixer and beat on the lowest setting for 3-5 minutes. The icing will be on the thicker side. You can loosen the consistency by adding a tiny bit of water at a time as needed. You don’t want it to be so thick that it will hold a stiff peak or too thin to where it’s liquidy.
12. Transfer half of the icing to an air tight container. Make sure to cover the top with a layer of plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. You will only need half to decorate all the cookies. I store my icing in the refrigerator until needed.
13. Portion the remaining half of the icing into 6 small bowls. Use food coloring to create two shades of brown (one slightly darker than the other), two shades of pink (one darker than the other), and black icing. Leave one bowl of icing white. Transfer the colored icings into separate piping bags. Decorate the cookies, then let them dry completely before handling. This should take a few hours.

for the red velvet cupcake batter
• 400g all purpose flour
• 2 tbsp natural cocoa powder
• 320g caster sugar
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 190ml vegetable oil
• 3 eggs
• 250ml buttermilk
• red food coloring
• 2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 320°F. Line two cupcake trays with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, eggs, buttermilk, food coloring, and vanilla extract. Make sure to whisk together until well combined. To get that deep red velvet color, make sure to use a lot of the red food coloring as the color will fade after baking.
4. With your stand mixer, switch out the whisk attachment for a paddle attachment. Add in the wet mixture to the dry in a slow and steady stream with the mixer on a low speed. Mix until just combined and there are no longer any dry bits. Do not over mix. Scrape down the bowl and beat the batter for a few more seconds again.
*Tip: Use a large ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners with batter. The cupcakes will rise quite a bit so fill them about 1/2 way to overspilling. Bake cupcakes for 30 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

for the vanilla cupcake batter
• 430g all purpose flour
• 3 tsp baking powder
• 265g granulated sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 375ml whole milk
• 125ml vegetable oil
• 2 tbsp yogurt or sour cream
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 125g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 320°F. Line two cupcake trays with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt on low for a few minutes to aerate the dry ingredients.
3. In a bowl, combine the milk, oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and eggs. Whisk together until well combined. Set aside.
4. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until the mixture becomes grainy, almost like sand. Add in the wet ingredients in a slow and steady stream with the mixer on low. Combine until there are no dry ingredients left. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for another few seconds.
5. Use an ice cream scoop to fill each cupcake liner with batter. Fill them about 3/4 full and bake for 30 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

for the pink cream cheese frosting
• 100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 160g cream cheese
• 560g powdered sugar, sifted

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and cream cheese on med-high speed. Beat for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
2. Add in half of the sifted powdered sugar and beat for another couple of minutes, starting on a low speed and increasing to med-high. Add in the second half and beat again.
3. Add in a few drops of pink food coloring and beat until the color is evenly incorporated. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to get any extra bits, then give the frosting another quick mix. When done, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
4. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe big swirls onto the red velvet cupcakes. Sprinkle with white non-pareil sprinkles and add a Cony (the bunny) cookie.

for the chocolate frosting
• 300g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 540g powdered sugar, sifted
• 4 tbsp whole milk
• 180g dark chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
optional: 1 tsp instant coffee granules

1. Melt the chocolate in microwave or over a stove top in a double boiler. Don’t use until it has cooled to room temperature but is still liquid.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed for a few minutes until very pale and fluffy.
3. Add half of the sifted powdered sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add in the second half of the powdered sugar and beat again for 3 minutes.
4. Portion the milk into a small bowl and add a teaspoon of instant coffee. Mix together until the coffee has dissolved. With the mixer on low, add in the milk until combined. Next, add in the cooled chocolate and beat for about 2 minutes until the chocolate has been completely incorporated.
5. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe big swirls onto the vanilla cupcakes. Sprinkle with rainbow non-pareil sprinkles and add a Brown (the bear) cookie.

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kitty cat anpan fork to belly
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I’ve been on an early 2000’s teen movie binge recently. A Walk to Remember (No, I didn’t cry for the 9th billion time), The Hot Chick, Clueless, and Just Friends – DID YA GUYS KNOW YOU CAN FIND THEM FOR FREE ON YOUTUBE??? Also I’d like to comment on how I never realized how many of these movies Anna Faris was in. What were some of your favorite movies growing up? I’d love to hear about ’em! I am totally up for watching anything, except horror films because that genre just about turns me into a big baby.

Have you had Anpan before? It’s one of my favorite childhood snacks. When I’d stop by the local bakery with my Mom and Grandma, I’d get to pick out a few things for myself. Amidst the strawberry danish and ham & cheese rolls, I’d choose an anpan without fail. I’ve had them two different ways, either filled with azuki bean paste or sweet potato. But my absolute favorite type of anpan is filled with azuki bean and is indented in the middle with a salted cherry blossom. I’d eat around the outside of the anpan and save the tiny bit of sweet and tangy flavor from the flower that soaks into the middle of the dough for last.

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

You know the saying from Maya Angelou, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” That completely describes how I relate to food from my formative years. I am all about food as something highly visual and I totally believe that we eat with our eyes, but there are some meals I had as a kid that I can only remember through a shoulder-bunching, smile-spreading, glee-filled first bite.

I hadn’t had anpan for years, but for some reason I suddenly had a huge craving for it that just wouldn’t quit. Funny thing is I couldn’t remember the name of my most favorite type of anpan. I knew the sour taste and the pinkish color of the little hole poked into the middle of it, but I didn’t know the name. I’d always assumed it was always dotted with ume, a pickled plum (p.s. is it just me that thinks shiso leaf and ume are totally related?? Are they?). After combing through a google image search, I found out in the middle of that secret anpan was actually – dun dun na nuh! Salted cherry blossom!!

That’s what I was planning on sharing today, but I couldn’t find salted cherry blossoms in any Japanese markets in the area and Amazon asks for an arm and a leg for a big bag of them. So we’re going to be talking about classic red bean filled anpan and my other favorite, the sweet potato filled kind. I made two types of anpan with two different fillings. The sweet potato filled are traditionally shaped and decorated with black sesame seeds. But I had to see if I could make little animals out of a second batch and that’s how the azuki filled anpan turned into little kitties. I cheated a little and bought red bean paste instead of making my own because the stuff is hard work. If you want to make your own or don’t have an asian market nearby that sells it, check out this video for the recipe and process. The sweet potato filling is much easier to make though a bit more difficult to work with when trying to fill anpan with it. Typically, sweet potato anpan is made with a slightly different type of dough but is just as tasty when used here. But if you’re a fan of azuki/red bean then definitely go for that filling because there is nothing better than the classic version sometimes.

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

kitty cat anpan fork to belly kitty cat anpan fork to belly

Anpan takes some time and effort for only eight individual servings. That being said, there are some key steps to making sure your final product is the best it can be!

(1) The most important of these is how you wrap the dough around the ball of filling. I’ve included a GIF for reference above on how to do this right. You want to keep as much dough on the top of the anpan as possible or the anpan will not puff up and may start to flatten outwards as it rises. To get around this, when pressing out each ball of dough and preparing it to be filled, keep the edges of the circle thin and the middle thick. After you pull the edges together and begin to wrap up the filling, you’ll flip the anpan over and set it down to rise. Now the top will have much more dough and the filling will sit closer to the bottom of the anpan, allowing that dough on top to rise up and not out.

(2) When checking to make sure the dough is ready to be worked with, use the windowpane test. You should be able to stretch the dough out a few inches till very thin and slightly translucent without it breaking. If it rips, continue to knead the dough until the gluten has developed enough to hold its structure.

(3) Egg wash! Don’t be stingy and don’t work carelessly. Make sure to wet each anpan with a good amount of egg wash and be conscious of getting every nook and cranny – even the exposed edges of the underside of the dough so it all turns an even shiny, golden brown.

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

kitty cat anpan fork to belly kitty cat anpan fork to belly

The anpan recipe is adpated from Just One Cookbook, a blog I source a lot for Japanese recipes because Namiko wonderfully provides videos along with her recipes. I highly recommend watching the video before and even during making anpan at home because it is so incredibly helpful to be able to have visual cues when working with bread dough!

kitty cat anpan fork to belly

Anpan Kitty
Adapted from Just One Cookbook. Recipe makes 8 individual anpan buns.
Notes: Anpan can be made with different kinds of fillings. I filled one batch with red bean paste and the other with sweet potato but feel free to use whichever you like. I purchased the red bean paste from my local asian supermarket. If you want to make it yourself at home, watch this video.

sweet potato filling
1 (about 200g) Japanese sweet potato, *you will need more milk for a purple Okinawan sweet potato vs a typical one
1/2 of the weight of the sweet potato in milk (ex. 100g if using a 200g sweet potato)
1/4 of the weight of the sweet potato in sugar (ex. 50g if using a 200g sweet potato)

red bean filling
35g x 8 (280g total) store-bought anko (azuki/sweet red bean paste)

anpan dough
225g (1 3/4 cup) bread flour
25g (scant 1/4 cup) cake flour
50g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
4g (1 tsp) salt
3g (1 tsp) instant dry yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
50 ml (3 1/2 tbsp) whole milk, at 86F
50 ml (3 1/2 tbsp) water, at 86F
35g (2 1/2 tbsp) softened unsalted butter, cubed

for the toppings and egg wash
a few tablespoons of black sesame seeds
1 egg

1. Steam the sweet potato until tender. I filled my rice cooker with water and steamed it for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can pop it in the microwave as well. Let the sweet potato cool completely, then remove the skin. Cut the sweet potato into smaller pieces and place in a food processor. Add the milk and blend until smooth.
2. Transfer the pureed sweet potato to a saucepan and add the sugar. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the consistency of the sweet potato has thickened. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside to cool. Once cooled, portion into 35g balls.
3. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the bread flour, cake flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Add in the beaten egg, milk, and water.
4. Attach the dough hook and knead on medium speed for a few minutes until the dough has come together. Add in the butter and continue to knead until the dough is elastic and passes the windowpane test. It should be tacky but not so sticky you can’t handle the dough. When the dough is ready, pull the sides of the dough underneath itself and shape into a ball. Place the dough into a bowl with the rounded side facing up. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size.
5. Once the dough has doubled, test it by sticking your finger in the center of it. If the hole does not close, it’s ready. Next, deflate the dough by pressing it down with your hands. As if the dough was shaped like a rectangle, fold two opposite sides into the center, then fold the other two sides to the center. Flip the dough over and shape the dough into a ball by rotating your hands with the dough still on the counter.
6. Use a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Tuck the sides of each dough piece underneath itself and shape into a ball again. Cover with plastic wrap and let the balls rest for about 15 minutes.
7. When ready, flatten each ball out with your palm and repeat the folding process from step #3. After forming into another ball, flatten out the dough again making sure to keep the edges thin and the middle thicker. Add one ball (35g) of anko or sweet potato filling to the middle. Grab the sides of the dough and pinch together to seal the filing inside. Flip the dough over and rotate with your hands against the counter to shape the dough back into a ball. If making kitty anpan, use kitchen scissors to cut two small ears at the top. Once each ball of dough has been filled and shaped, transfer them to a baking tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment and let the anpan rise in a warm place for about an hour until they have doubled in size.
8. Half way through the rising period, preheat the oven to 400°F. After the anpan have risen, brush each with an egg wash. For traditional anpan, sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top. Bake for 13-15 minutes until they have turned a dark golden brown color. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. These are best enjoyed warm but will keep well for a few days stored in an airtight container after cooling completely.

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