Fresh Fig Walnut Cake

My parents have a fig tree in front of their house. This is the time of year when the branches start to get heavy with figs, and we pull out the fig recipes or try to give them away to people who love them. This cake was a great way to use some of them up. It’s a good dessert, and an even better breakfast. It could also be baked as a quick bread in a loaf pan. Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s recipe for Fresh fig walnut quick bread.

1 and 1/2 cups chopped ripe figs
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 and 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Soak figs in sherry for 15 minutes.
  • Combine oil and sugar in a bowl. Beat until light-colored. Add eggs and beat again until thick and creamy.
  • In another bowl, combine flour, walnuts, baking soda, spices, and salt. Mix into egg mixture. Then gently fold in figs.
  • Scrape batter into greased and floured pie dish or cake pan. Sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar over the top.

    • Bake in center of oven until top is firm to touch, and cake tester comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes (if using loaf pan, bake for 75 minutes).
    • Cool 15 minutes, turn out, cool completely and enjoy! Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight or up to 4 days before serving, or freeze up to 1 month.


      Now that it’s fall, I’m craving the taste of cinnamon. Snickerdoodles are Dustin’s favorite cookie. Since today was his first day at his new job (YEA!) I decided to make these to congratulate him! It’s also important to note that these are the first cookies that I’ve baked in my new kitchen in Santa Cruz, using my wedding gift bowls, cookie sheets, and utensils! And you may remember my little Japanese oven from before. Now I’m almost overwhelmed by the size of American ovens!

      (From an old Holiday Martha Stewart Magazine that’s been laying around – except I always use salted butter)

      2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
      2 tsp. baking powder
      1/4 tsp. coarse salt
      1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
      1 1/2 cups plus 2 TBS. sugar
      2 eggs
      2 tsp. ground cinnamon

      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      • Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
      • In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in eggs one at a time. Gradually add the flour mixture.
      • In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 TBS. sugar and the cinnamon.
      • Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.
      • Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
      • Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden.

        Hi Jonas!  🙂

        Almond White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

        In search of something different from the usual chocolate chip, I saw this recipe on the nest and was immediately drawn to it. I have to bring something to a potluck tomorrow and the old Japanese ladies are always clamoring for “American style” cookies, so I thought I’d give these a try. As usual, we couldn’t get one of the ingredients – almond extract – so I just used vanilla instead. Even though they’re less “almondy” than they should be, they turned out great! I’ll definitely be using this recipe again.

        2 1⁄4 cups flour
        1 teaspoon baking soda
        1⁄2 teaspoon salt
        1 cup (230 grams) butter, softened
        1 1⁄2 cups sugar
        2 eggs
        1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
        8 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
        1 1⁄3 cups slivered almonds

        • Mix flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
          • Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well blended.
            • Gradually beat in flour mixture until well mixed. Stir in chocolate and almonds.
            • Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
              • Bake in preheated 375°F (190 C) oven for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (12 minutes in a Japanese oven).
                • Cool on baking sheet 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

                  Have you ever seen a Japanese oven? It doesn’t look like an oven, does it. Well, this is what I have to work with. It’s actually a microwave too! I don’t really like this oven. It’s small (I can only bake 9 cookies at a time), the buttons are hard to read, and it doesn’t brown things very well. I always have to add more minutes to the cooking time!

                  Yeah, it took me a while to figure all that out. It appears to have special settings for potato croquettes, milk and tempura shrimp. How specific!

                  And here’s the teeny tiny Oishii kitchen! Can you believe that’s our stove in the far left corner!?

                  Kiss Me, I’m Irish

                  Actually I have only a small fraction of Irish in me, but I love Irish Soda Bread and I fondly remember eating my Mom’s every year on St. Patrick’s Day and being pinched by my little brother if I forgot to wear green. This Irish Soda Bread is spiked with peppercorns for a spicy variation. This and a beer is the extent of my St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t even seen a single shamrock in Japan today! This recipe is sort of a combination of two: one from epicurious and another from this blog. I had to find a recipe that doesn’t use buttermilk, so ended up using recipes that call for sour cream and substituting Japanese yogurt instead. Ah, the joys of shopping in Japan.

                  2 cups all-purpose flour
                  1/2 tsp. salt
                  2 tsp. baking powder
                  1/4 tsp. baking soda
                  1/2 TBS. sugar
                  1 TBS. black peppercorns
                  8 oz. plain yogurt (or sour cream)
                  1/4 cup 1% milk
                  1 TBS. butter, melted

                  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Grease a baking sheet and set aside.
                  • In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and peppercorns.
                  • Add the yogurt and combine.
                  • Add the milk and stir just until dough is evenly moistened but still lumpy.
                  • Form dough into a ball and shape into a domed 6-inch round on baking sheet. Cut a 1/2-inch-deep X on top of the loaf with a sharp knife, then brush with butter.
                  • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is brown and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool before slicing.

                    "American Taste" Lemon Bars

                    Last year we threw together a Friday-night English Coffee House event at our church for all of our English students. They enjoyed listening to some live music, mingling and conversing (in Japanese, as much as we had hoped that they might want to take advantage of the English-theme of the night) while drinking freshly brewed coffee and eating these lemon bars. Several students less-than-fluently exclaimed, “This have American taste! Oishii!” I’ll take that as a compliment. This recipe has never let us down with its buttery shortbread bottom and tangy lemony top. It comes from the cookbook Gourmet’s Casual Entertaining.

                    First, make the shortbread base:

                    1 1/2 sticks (170g) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
                    2 cups flour
                    1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
                    1/2 tsp. salt

                    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Process all ingredients in a food processor (I don’t have one, so I just picked up the bits of butter, and rubbed them with the flour between my fingers) until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle into a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and press evenly onto bottom with a metal spatula. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
                    • While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon topping:

                    4 large eggs
                    1 1/2 cups sugar
                    3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
                    1/3 cup flour

                    • Whisk together eggs and sugar in a bowl, then stir in lemon juice and flour.
                    • Pour lemon topping over hot shortbread when it comes out of the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees (150 C) and bake in middle of oven until set, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars.
                    • Sift confectioners sugar over bars before serving. These can keep for 3 days, covered and chilled.

                    I’ll leave you with a current picture of Arius …

                    (Redemptive) Banana Bread

                    The first time I made this banana bread in Japan, I added a cup of salt to the batter instead of sugar. Salt & sugar are packaged in the same clear bags here, and I couldn’t tell the difference between the characters on the packages! I didn’t notice my unfortunate substitution until I licked the spoon at the very end. It’s almost been 2 years now, and since then I’ve redeemed myself with plenty of successful loaves of this banana bread (the recipe I grew up eating, originally from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s book City Cuisine). We’ll be enjoying it for breakfast for the next few days toasted with butter. It’s also good with peanut butter! Yum!

                    1 stick of butter (120 g), softened
                    1 cup sugar
                    2 eggs
                    3 ripe bananas
                    1 TBS. milk
                    2 cups flour*

                    1 tsp. salt
                    1 tsp. baking soda
                    1 tsp. baking powder
                    1 cup chopped walnuts**

                    *I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose flour

                    **I omitted this time, per Dustin’s request

                    • Preheat oven to 325 degrees (160 C). Butter a loaf pan.
                    • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
                    • In small bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Mix in milk and nuts (if using).
                    • In another bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
                    • Add banana mixture to creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.
                    • Pour into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

                    My Great-Great-Grandma Selma’s Best Oatmeal Cookies

                    Okay, it’s about time I shared my (and my family’s) favorite cookie recipe. It came from my Great-Great-Grandma’s recipe files, and my mom has been baking these for as long as I can remember. This is a damn fine recipe, and the cookies taste like my childhood (and my mom’s, and her Dad’s!)

                    Selma’s Best Oatmeal Cookies

                    1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
                    1 cup sugar
                    1/2 cup brown sugar
                    1 beaten egg
                    1 1/2 cups flour
                    1 tsp. baking soda
                    1/4 tsp. salt
                    1 1/2 cups oats
                    3/4 cup finely crushed nuts (we  usually skip this)
                    1 tsp. vanilla

                    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C).
                    • Cream together butter (Selma used shortening, but we’re so over that), sugar, brown sugar, and egg.
                    • In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
                    • Add oats, nuts (if using), and vanilla.
                    • Next, Selma says to chill the dough for 1 hour, and put walnut sized pieces on a baking sheet. Then butter the bottom of a small glass and dip it in sugar, and flatten each cookie with the glass. (This is the cookie my mom says she grew up on, and they make excellent ice cream sandwiches). But we do something a little different:  Add a 12-ounce package of bittersweet chocolate chips (or some good quality chopped chocolate), spoon onto baking sheet, and skip the sugared glass.
                    • Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.The result is a thin, crispy, and very flavorful oatmeal cookie!