Let’s make the bottom crust for the cheesecake. Gradually melt the butter using a bain-marie or microwave.
Line the removable bottom of the cake pan with wax paper.
Place the graham crackers into a food storage bag, seal and roughly crumble them with your hands.
Place the bag on a flat surface and pound the crackers with a surikogi pestle into smaller pieces. Then, roll the cracker with the pestle until powdered. Be careful not to break the bag.
Now, the butter is completely melted. Add the butter into the cracker, seal the bag and shake it thoroughly to combine.
Place the powdered cracker into the cake pan lined with the wax paper. Distribute it with a spatula and press the cracker evenly on the bottom of the cake pan. Then, store the pan in the fridge while preparing the filling.
Let's make the cheesecake filling. Put the whipping cream, plain yogurt, firm tofu, cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice into a blender. Cover with a lid, pulse and then mix until smooth. A tip to blend the mixture quickly is to put the liquid ingredients first. Turn off the blender.
Measure the hot water with a measuring cup and dissolve the gelatin power completely with a spatula.
Put the gelatin into the blender, cover and blend the filling again.
Remove the pitcher and pour the filling into the chilled cake pan. Let it sit in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours to firm up.
Now, the cheesecake is ready to serve. Place the cake pan onto a can to remove the cake. Slide the dampened spatula along the edge of the cheesecake to remove it easily from the cake pan. Push down the side of the cake pan, removing the cheesecake.
Place the cheesecake onto a cake turntable and remove the bottom of the pan. Wipe the blade of a cake knife with a dampened towel and cut the cake in half.
Cleaning the blade for every cut with the towel helps it to cut smoothly. Cut out a quarter piece and then cut it in half. Place the cheesecake onto a plate.
You can also make the cheesecake with small clear bowls and garnish each with your favorite fruits. This will reduce the cutting process, making the cheesecake more visually appealing.
Make sure to press the cracker on the bottom firmly to avoid a crumbly texture.
Let's drain the firm tofu. Remove the tofu from the package. Wrap the tofu with a thick paper towel. Use a dish as a weight and let the tofu sit for 20 minutes. If the room temperature is high, let the tofu sit in a fridge.
Let's cut the vegetables. Remove the root end of the garlic clove. Crush the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife. Remove the skin and chop the garlic into fine pieces.
Slice the ginger thinly. Stack the slices on top of each other and cut them into fine strips. Turn the strips and chop across the ginger.
Remove the root ends of the garlic chives. Cut the chives in half and chop them into half inch pieces.
Here is the Chinese-style chicken stock powder. Pour hot water in the heatproof measuring cup. Stir and dissolve the chicken stock well.
Dissolve the potato starch in twice its volume of water.
After 20 minutes of draining, gently remove the paper towel from the tofu. Be careful not to break it. First, slice the tofu horizontally and divide into 2 blocks. Next, cut vertically across the tofu. Finally, dice up the tofu into 3/4 inch cubes.
Let's make Mapo Tofu. Heat up the pan and pour in the sesame oil. Swirl the pan to coat it with oil. Stir-fry the ground pork at hight heat while breaking it into small pieces.
When the pork is thoroughly cooked and the color of pork fat becomes clear, add chopped garlic and ginger and reduce the heat to medium. Stir-fry until aromatic.
Move the pork to one side and make an extra space on the pan. Put the doubanjiang and tian mian jiang directly on the heated surface and fry at low heat to increase the flavor. Stir constantly to avoid burning.
Mix the condiments and pork together and stir-fry until evenly browned. Add the sake and stir until the moisture is gone.
Add the chicken stock, soy sauce and sake to the mixture and stir lightly.
Put in the tofu cubes and gently spread them in the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil at high heat. When it boils, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for two to three minutes. The tofu's moisture gets reduced and it will absorb the flavor of the sauce. This process will reduce the tofu's moisture and let the tofu absorb the flavour of the sauce.
Add in the garlic chives and gently stir with the wooden spatula. Mix and dissolve the potato starch evenly before adding it to the Mapo Tofu. Lift the pan from the burner and pour in the potato starch while swirling the pan.
Gently mix the content by sliding the spatula away from you, otherwise the tofu easily breaks into pieces. Heat over high heat for around 30 seconds and it's ready to serve.
Turn off the burner and serve the Mapo Tofu in the bowl. Sprinkle on Sichuan pepper if you like the unique aroma and flavor.
After adding the potato starch, heat the Mapo Tofu well until thickened, otherwise it will get runny when served.
You can also serve the Mapo Tofu on a rice bowl, making it Mapo Tofu donburi.
Doubanjiang, Tian Mian Jiang and Sichuan Pepper are found in the Chinese food section of most major grocery stores.
Place the Kraft paper or bakery paper in the cardboard box wrapped with aluminum foil and distribute the coarse demerara sugar or coffee sugar crystals.
Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl with a hand mixer at a low speed. Add the sugar and mix.
Float the bowl in hot water and gradually heat the egg. When it begins to slightly warm up, remove the bowl and continue mixing. Turn off the burner and heat a glass of water.
Beat the egg at high speed for about 8 minutes until the color turns white, and it reaches a soft peak stage. When you lift the mixer, the rippling pattern should remain on the surface as you see here.
Dilute the honey with the heated water. Add it to the beaten egg and mix with the hand mixer for 1 more minute at high speed. Switch to low speed and mix for about another minute until it has a fine, glossy texture.
Distribute the bread flour onto the egg mixture. At medium speed, whip the mixture for about 2 minutes until it has a smooth texture again.
Drop the bowl a few times to break any air bubbles. Then, pour the batter into the square mold. Slash the batter with a spatula to remove any air bubbles.
Place the batter into a preheated conventional oven. For the first 15 minutes, bake at 170°C (340°F). Then, reduce the heat to 160°C (320°F) and bake it for about 50 more minutes. The baking temperature and time depend on the type of your oven, so adjust them accordingly.
Pierce the castella with a bamboo stick. If the stick is slightly moist, it is ready. When the stick is dry and clean, the castella has lost its moist texture. The moist texture is essential for delicious castella so avoid over-baking.
Remove the mold and drop it on the counter a few times to prevent the castella from shrinking. Place a tray covered with plastic wrap on top. Then, flip it over.
Before placing the tray onto the castella, we recommend making a cut along the corners of the Kraft paper and folding the edges outward. This will help avoid damaging the surface of the castella. Now, remove the mold.
Wrap it with 2 layers of plastic wrap crosswise, completely covering the castella. Let it sit to cool and then store the castella in the fridge for one whole day. This will make it moist and even more delicious.
Let’s serve the castella. Carefully remove the Kraft paper and slice off the edges. For each cut, wipe the knife with a dampened towel to help make a clean cut.
Cut the castella in half. Then, slice it into 3cm (1.2") pieces. Arrange the pieces onto a plate.
We will show you how to make the homemade mold for castella. This is the Kraft paper with 4 slits.
The cardboard box is wrapped with aluminum foil.
To wrap the box, carefully cover it with a long strip of aluminum foil.
Then, cover it with another aluminum strip crosswise. If you don’t have a square cake pan, try making it as shown.
All-purpose flour or cake flour can be also used but we recommend using bread flour to help create a moist and kind of gooey texture.
You can keep the castella in the fridge for 1 week or store it in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Castella goes great with green tea, coffee or black tea and it is a perfect gift for special occasions.
Let’s make the caramel sauce for custard pudding. Coat the inner surface of the custard cups with unsalted butter. This will make it easy to remove the pudding from the cups.
Put the sugar and water in the pot. Heat the pot at medium heat. Let it sit until the surface becomes lightly-colored. Swirl the pot and even out the sugar liquid. Caramelize the sugar like shown in the video and remove the pot from the heat.
Quickly add the hot water in 2 to 3 steps with a long-handled ladle. Tilt the pot away from you to avoid hot caramel sauce splashing and burning your hand. Swirl the pot and even out the hot caramel.
Pour the caramel evenly into the custard cups.
Let’s make the egg mixture for pudding. Crack the two eggs into a bowl. Lightly beat the egg with a balloon whisk. Don’t let the tip of the whisk leave the bottom of the bowl to avoid creating too much foam.
Add the milk and sugar in a pot. Turn on the burner. Stir with a spatula until all the sugar is dissolved.
Add the milk to the beaten egg while whisking the mixture.
Sieve the egg mixture with a fine mesh strainer. Scrape off the bottom of the strainer with a spatula. Remove any foam on the surface with a spoon. Pour the egg mixture into an easy-to-pour container.
Let’s steam the egg mixture. Gently fill the custard cups with the egg mixture. Cover each cup with aluminum foil. The foil will prevent the surface from getting dry. It will also help steam the pudding evenly.
Heat water in a pan and gently place the cups in it. The kitchen towel will soften the heat at the bottom. There should be enough hot water to cover the bottom half of the cups. Put the lid on.
Keep the water temperature just below the boiling point and steam the pudding for 18 to 20 minutes. Do not bring the water to boil otherwise the smooth texture of the pudding will be lost. Put kitchen gloves on and remove the custard cups. When they become cool, store them in the fridge.
Let’s serve the custard pudding. Scrape the side of the cup with the tip of a knife. Tap the cup on a kitchen towel and make a space around the pudding. Serve the pudding on a plate.
The color of caramel quickly changes over the heat so timing is important when adding the hot water.
Before you start to prepare the batter, preheat the conventional oven to 160°C (320°F). Line the bottom of the cake pan and the side with the parchment paper.
Put the eggs in a large bowl and beat them with a hand mixer at low speed. Add the sugar at once and beat the mixture for about 30 seconds.
Dip the bowl in hot water and beat the egg at high speed for 1~2 minutes. Temperature around 70~80°C (160~175°F) is ideal for the hot water. In this way, the egg mixture won't get too hot. Put your finger in the mixture. If it feels warm enough, take the bowl away from the hot water.
Add the milk to the unsalted butter and warm it up in the hot water.
Continue to beat the egg at high speed for 3~3.5 minutes until it forms a rippling pattern on the surface. As you lift the mixer, the mixture falls back slowly and seamlessly and the trail does not go away immediately.This stage is called soft peak.
Swap the hand mixer with a balloon whisk and mix the egg evenly. Shift the pastry flour into the bowl. Gently mix the flour from the bottom with a rubber spatula. Try not to break the foam and scoop up the batter about 30 times.
When all the flour is mixed in, pour the pre-heated butter mixture evenly over the batter. Scoop up the batter and gently let it fall from the spatula. Repeat this process about 50 times to mix.
When the batter gets glossy and smooth, pour it into the cake pan at once. Drop the cake pan a few times to break any air bubbles in the batter.
Place it in the preheated oven and bake at 160°C (320°F) for about 23 minutes. Remove the sponge cake from the oven. Pierce the cake with a bamboo stick and check if the batter isn't on it.
Drop the cake pan a few times to prevent the sponge cake from shrinking. Cover the cake with wax paper, flip over and let it cool down on a cooling rack. When it becomes completely cool, lift and remove the cake pan. Flip over the sponge cake and remove the wax paper.
Let's prepare the soaking syrup. Dissolve the sugar in the hot water and cool it down. Select 8 good-looking strawberries for topping and remove the stem ends. The rest of the strawberries will go between the cake slices. Remove the stem ends and slice them lengthwise into half inch slices.
Let's prepare the whipped cream. Add the sugar to the whipping cream. Dip the bowl in ice water and whip the cream with a balloon whisk. A hand mixer can easily over-whip the cream so we like to use the whisk. As shown in the video, whip the cream until in the 'soft peak stage'.
Let's frost the sponge cake with the whipped cream. Peel off the parchment paper and place the cake on a cake turntable. Before you divide the cake in half, draw a line along the side while rotating the turntable. Slice the cake horizontally along the line so that you'll get a clean cut. Place the upper cake slice on the rack with the cutting surface facing up.
Add the kirsch to the cold premade syrup. Brush the bottom cake slice with the soaking syrup. Repeat and let the other half soak the syrup.
Drop the whipped cream on the bottom cake slice. Spread the cream on the surface with a frosting spatula. Cover the cream layer with the sliced strawberries.
Drop the whipped cream on top and spread evenly. Add extra whipped cream to cover the strawberries completely.
Stack the upper cake slice on top with the syrup-soaked side facing down. Apply the syrup to the very top of the sponge cake.
Drop a generous amount of whipped cream on top. Spread evenly with the frosting spatula while rotating the turntable.
Grip the spatula vertically and cover the side evenly with the cream. Slide the spatula across the cake while scooping up the cream. Move the spatula diagonally towards your upper right, creating a decorative surface on the side. Finally, slide the spatula on top from the rim to the center, trimming the shape of the round cake.
Let's decorate the cake. Prepare the pastry bag with a star-shaped tip. Put the whipped cream in the bag. Give it a little squeeze to remove the air inside. As shown in the video, decorate the rim of the cake in a rippling pattern while rotating the turntable.
Squeeze out the cream for the strawberries to go on top later. Put the tip of the frosting spatula on the cake turntable, rotate and scrape off the excess cream.
Lift the cake with the spatula and serve it on a cake plate. Place the strawberries on top.
Sprinkle on powdered sugar to create the look of snow. Finally, place the Christmas ornaments on top and it is ready to serve!
Measuring the baking ingredients by weight is absolutely necessary so make sure to use a proper scale.
The measurements and whipping time for the batter are critical to make a sponge cake. If they are not accurate, the sponge cake will become flat.
Let the cake cool down in the cake pan as it will keep the sponge cake moist.
We recommend using the real whipping cream with no additives. It is rich-flavored and far more tastier than non-dairy alternatives.
The baking time depends on various factors for example the size of round pan and the type of oven you use. We recommend keeping your eyes on the cake while baking.
If the height of sponge cake is not enough, you might want to bake another sponge cake so that your Christmas cake will have 3 or 4 layers.