Tuesday, 11 December 2012

ANPAN, Traditional Japanese sweet bread


Japanese food has always been close to me. One of my closest cousins used to cook delicious Japanese food,  and also near my home there was the best Japanese restaurant owned by a Japanese man who was not only a great chef, he was great company, whilst one being in the other side of the bar he will have great conversations. One time I went with Yoko, my Japanese friend, and she admitted that was a very good Japanese restaurant. So I knew that I was going to the best in town. When I visit Monterrey, the first thing I want is to eat my mum's food, and then, Sushi!!!! I live in a small town here in England, and although there is plenty of foreign food, there is no Japanese, lots of Chinese, Indian and Italian, specially!!! In all of this time of being in contact with Japanese food, I have never eaten Japanese desserts, nor even Japanese bread. What I learnt was that all bread making is of western influence, but Japanese have managed to make their own version of of them. 

I have a lovely Japanese neighbor who shares with me the passion of learning new creative things, her name is Yoshie Allan. She is very creative, and makes lovely things with her hands:  http://shieshie.exblog.jp/  she does not like cooking much, but she likes eating, specially those things that  remind her of her home land.  We decided to "shoot two birds in one bullet" as we express in Spanish  and use the time it takes for the dough to rise, so that I can teach her how to make crochet. 

We made the children play and dance and took care of sweet baby Melody, we spent a lovely Japanese-Mexican morning of sharing and learning!!! 

Anpan is a very traditional snack for Japanese people. As Yoshie mentioned, everyone loves them. And it is very common for children to take them to school. It is not surprising as the main flavor of it are a kind of bean called Uzuki (which is rich in fiber and minerals: magnesium, potassium, iron, folic acid) which are made into a very sweet paste called koshian that Japanese are crazy of! For me it was a very interesting experience and experiment. As a Mexican, I love beans, any form!!! but have never really tried them sweet, actually very sweet!!! I can say that the paste for me is too sweet, but combined with the bread, it makes a perfect match. Yoshie explained to me that this beans taste very sweet when hot, but the sweetness fades a bit when cold, and it is true. So in this recipe, I will not add measurements for the sweetness as each one could do them the way they feel is better for their taste likes. 

 Uzuki beans.

For the bread I have used a method taught to me by my beloved friend Monica Isabel from Colombia, who also likes to make bread and is very skillful in everything she puts her hands in, she also told me that it was a Japanese trick that I never saw before but that leave a very nice texture in the bread. 


Uzuki beans soaked over night. Cook them next day with enough water until very soft, than put them in the mixer to liquidize them, do not put so much water. Then put them in an extended pan to cook them again in low fire. this is the moment that you can add sugar or a sweetener. It has to be sweet. So if you try them and feel it is good, add a bit more sugar as the taste change when cold. 

175 ml. water
                                                          35 gr. flour

Mix the water with the flour well and then cook it in medium fire until thickened. This mixture has to be left aside for 3 hours covered, or it can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

570 gr. flour
60 gr. sugar
10 gr. salt
60 gr. butter
140 gr/ml milk
1 large egg

In a pan put the milk, the butter salt and sugar and warm it, it should't be too hot, just enough to help the butter soften. In a plastic bowl put the sifted flour and make a hole in the middle. and add the mixture of the cooked flour with water, the egg and the milk-butter mixture and star mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon first and then with your hands until the dough becomes soft and firm. If needed add more milk in case of being too dry or a bit more flour in case of too sticky.. but the mixture is almost perfect and I will suggest instead to keep kneeling until its firm (around 10 min.). Let it rest for 1 hour or when it has doubled its size. 

Lovely Yoshie knealling!!!



Preheat the oven at 180 grades. 
When ready, expand the dough on a surface and then roll it into a sausage shape. 

 Begin to cut pieces of 2 centimeters more or less and shape them into a ball. 

 Let them rest for 5 minutes and them flat them and add the koshian paste in the middle and close them making a belly bottom in the center and rolling them into a ball and place them in the tray. 



Preheat the oven at 180 grades and let them rest for 30 before placing them in the oven. Brush them with a mix of egg and milk with a bit of salt and put a pinch of black sesame seeds on top.

  Cook them for 12 minutes more or less or until golden on top. Enjoy!! :-)

Saturday, 20 October 2012


I feel very blessed that I have good Mexican friends in England. They give color and joy to my life. They root me down, nourish me and unleash creativity and love from my heart. Viva Mexico!!! I have a very strong connection between remembering Mexico and bread, specially on this time of the year, that the weather gets colder and it invites for sweet bread and chocolatito (hot chocolate) mmm... I have a wonderful Mexican friend originally from Oaxaca, her name is Adriana and she uses her hands in wonderful ways, what she touches nourishes. Her hands and her heart activate wonderfully and create and create, and help to grow, and help to heal, and help to help. Here an example of what her hands have place themselves to do https://www.facebook.com/colibri.arts?fref=ts Anyways, she decided to place her hands this time to make Pan the Muerto and other Mexican traditional breads and encourage me to make a class to share them with other friends. A long day, but the results were delicious and the company and experience lovely. I would like to share the recipes here for everyone else that would like to enjoy making delicious breads. 


In the years living here in England I have passed through different recipes for Pan the Muerto or Bread of the Death but non of them like the recipe that have been shared with me from my ever gorgeous friend with whom I enjoy the art of baking bread the must, Monica, from http://monique-saboresdelalma.blogspot.co.uk/ Besides being simple, the bread comes soft, well balanced in taste, light and delicious. The times I have made it at home, will be gone next day. But this recipe is a family secret, was given to Monica by her mother, a wonderful lady who was a master in the art of baking, just like my friend. From observing and letting my hands guide me I have developed a recipe which consistency is not as light as my friend's one, but its density makes this bread closer to a more traditional way of baking it. I hope you will enjoy it. 

First, make a mother dough by using:
100 gr. of strong bread white flour
50 ml. of hot water
75 ml of orange juice
25gr. of fresh yeast or 7gr. instant yeast
Let the mixture rest for a minimum of 3 hours.

On a bowl put:
400 of strong bread white flour
125 gr. sugar
75 gr. butter
50 gr. vegetable fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
with your fingers dissolve the fats with the flour as if making crumbles.

On another bowl put:
2 eggs
3 yolks
1/2 lemon juice
1 spoon of orange blossom
and mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the mother dough and mix them. Then begin to add little by little the dry ingredients and mix them with a wooden spoon or one hand as you feel comfortable. This mixture is by itself very sticky, but you may add from the very beginning one or two handfuls of more flour, later on I wouldn't recommend it as it will only create a very dense, heavy bread. 

You will need to work on the dough for around 10 to 15 minutes making short pauses in between to help the gluten do its job. I recommend to work on the dough in the same bowl, if it is plastic it is easier  turn the bowl around while the other hand lifts the dough up in a fast movement. You will notice the the dough is getting ready when it is beginning to collect the sticky dough of the bowl's wall and also it looks as if it has little airy balls inside. The mixture will still feel sticky, but don't mind. wash your hands and with a knife clean the bowl as much a s you can. put a little bit of flour on a surface and  just cover the dough to make it onto a ball and back into the bowl to let it rest for 1 hour or until has double its size.
It will be faster in a warm environment. In a cold environment put the dough near the heater or oven, it can even go inside  the oven if you warm it in the highest for 3 minutes and then close.. just make sure to cover the dough with a clean pack or plate so that it does not become dry.

When the dough has rise double size. Punch it down, collect it well and out it on a surface with a little bit f flour. make the form circle and decorate with what will be the representation of the bones as in the pictures. Wash it very well with 1 egg and a little bit of milk and put it in the oven at a 140 degrees for around 40 to 1hour cooking

It has to look golden in color and firm. Take it out of the oven and wash it with plenty of melted butter, and cover it with as much sugar as you like (I like a lot). Instead of buying caster sugar, use normal sugar but ground it for a few seconds, so that still has its consistency but there will be lighter ones that will help the sugar to stick well to the walls of the bread.

I really hope you will enjoy it and that will be easy for you to make. It requires a lot of patience and to learn to feel the dough till the point it is ready!

The beautiful altar that my friend Adriana created as a surprice for me to honour my grand parents! Thank you Adrianita!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Friday night, Challah and sugary doughnuts

I have taken so long to be able to dedicate time to this blogg, but things happen because of a reason so now I am ready to share my experiences about the beauty and  soul lessons of making bread. Few months ago, I attended my second course on EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, which consists in unblocking negative energy in the body's magnetic field created by traumas and negativity in our life while working on the meridians of the body. (See: http://www.eft-courses.org.uk/what-is-eft.html). There I met a lovely lady with who spontaneously began to share our enthusiasm in making bread. I told her that one of my favourite breads to make was the Challah bread and she then told me that she was from the Jewish tradition. We had a moment of deep heart talking with each other, a moment in which we could imagine the unity and love in the Prophet Ibrahim's family and a deep desire that Inshallah, one day we will be able again all of us go back to the Prophet's way, described in the Qur'an as Al Hanif, the one living in complete consciousness of Al Haqq or The Reality without being manipulated or distracted by external or internal powers. The path in which there is no separation between his belief, his actions, his knowledge and his heart. The path that connects us to our fitra, our spiritual nature that we are all born with and unite all of us regardless of the spiritual tradition we follow, we all want to go back to it in the purest way. The Qur’an speaks of the Prophet Ibrahim standing against all the people of the town in a revel and revolutionary way against the worshiping of the pagan gods made of stone, a moment of complete truthfulness to own self and everything around him gave him the power for such bravery. In the clearing of negative patterns, ideologies and beliefs in the process of EFT this is all what it takes, recognise with truthfulness our own self. One of the greatest lessons I got from the course was to understand in a deeper level that everything around us speaks about our sickness and the medicine for our healing, and it is there for us placed mercifully to see when we are ready. Like this bread, the Challah, the lessons of life braid themselves in order to give us manna, the same way that God will feed the Israelites in the dessert. It is said in the Torah that God will give double portion on Fridays in order to be able to eat the next day, the Shabbat and spend the whole day in contemplation of God and our actions or creations it is a day dedicated to listen the way of the heart. This is what this bread means in its deeper level, to come back to the way of the heart and braid thoughts, actions, creations feelings in order to contemplate them being submerged in the One Reality as God commands the Israelites to offer one portion of the bread to Him once that they are able to start eating from the soil of the Holy Land.  (See: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/335973/jewish/The-Secret-of-Challah.htm).  In the Islamic tradition we will dedicate our Thursday night, or the night of Friday for duas, to talk and supplicate to God. It is very well known that by Friday, God would give you a sign to show you that your prayers have been answered which naturally leads us to a rested soul, a soul in peace and tranquillity free from needs and desires for Saturday.
Of course I don't  wait until friday to make challa bread, I do it every time I feel in mood of it. But I hae done it several times on friday wih the intention of thanking God for the blessings of the  week. Use the same recipe to make the doughnuts, although if your intention is to make only  the  doughnuts I will suggest to delete the egg yolks. This same recipe is also very nice to make bread buns. You can me the bread buns and doughnuts with no yolks and it will be fine. The yolks give a very rich taste characteristic of the challa bread. I personally don't like half way tastes, I will always suggest to use the best butter, full fat milk and free range eggs and when posible organic flour. Here is he recipe, enjoy!

If you would like to enhance the flavour you can start  one night before by making a sponge otherwise just join all the ingredients the same day (the ones off the sponge and of the next day):

200 ml full fat milk
250 gr. white strong (bread) flour
1 tablespoon of cane sugar (or honey)
15 gr. of yeast (fresh if possible if not, 1 tablespoon of active yeast activated in 50 ml. of water and delete 50 ml from the milk or 1 packet of instant yeast)

Mix all the ingredients and leave this sponge for 8 hours resting covered with a cling film or a bag. Remember, more you wait, tastier it is.

250 gr  white strong (bread flour)
1 tablespoon of cane sugar (or honey)
2 teaspoons of sea  salt
60 gr. room temperature butter
2 eggs and 2 yolks (if you decide to prepare only the doughnuts or half recipe for doughnut and the other half  for  buns, or just dont like the challa so eggy, delete the yolks and add 50 ml. of milk do so little  by little feeling the moist of the  dough first)

If you ad a sudden desire of bread, as it happens to me all the time, and cannot wait for 8 hours just use all the ingredients all at the same time and it will be allright and still delicious.

Mix the flour with the sugar and salt and with your fingers mix the butter untill is all incorporated to the flour then add the eggs and little by little mix the dough to the sponge and kneal well. (I will write soon my knealing technique) Let the dough rest until double size or for around 1 hour in  a warm place (I usually switch  on the heaters and put it on the top covered with blanckets).

 When ready, divide the dough in 2, one for the doughnuts and  one for the Challah or buns. Make the doughnuts quite small  balls and  let them rest for  half and hour to one hour and then fry in hot oil that has been  on medium heat for 15 minutes.  Fry for a few  minutes until folden and cover directly with caster sugar mixed with  a bit of cinnamon. 

For the challah braid  it as you like,  3,4 or 6 braids, there is plenty of ways in the youtube, even like a charachole.  Let it rest one hour and then mix a little of milk with an egg and a pinch of salt, brush your challah all over with that mixture and put sesame seeds or poppy  seeds  on top. Make the buns  as big or small you like them to be and let them rest 1 hour. Remember to preheat the oven in 220 degrees. Hope you will enjoy it.


Tips: Challah can be  sometimes a tricky bread, all depends on the  temperature or humedity of the day. Be
 patient when knealling, kneal little by little and let it rest  for a few minues,  two, three times  if necessary, clean your hands and go back to it and kneal it a bit more until the dough is not that sticky. Dont feel tempted to put more and more flour becuase the process will be endles and that is becuase you need to fie time for the gluten to activate and if you keep adding more flour you will just make it stickyer. Ony put flour at the very end to let the dough rest or when the dough feels far to wet.