Friday, September 30, 2011

Crispy Shell Cream Puffs Recipe (Pai-Shuu)

Today I made some Pai-Shuu (Cookie Crust Cream Puffs, also written Pie-Shu)
My in-laws loved them so I couldn't wait to share my recipe.  In America, Australia and some Asian Countries you can get Shu-Cream a little similar at Beard Papa's.  These Pai-Shu cream puffs have a real pai-shu cookie crust, a bit like some the pai-shu or cookie-shu cream puffs in Japanese Patisseries.
Pai-Shuu Cream Puffs (20-24 large)
(Australian Metric 1 cup=250 mL) Click here for my recipe with American measurements

Cream Puff Pastry (Choux)
120 g butter
3/4 cup water
1 1/3 cup plain flour, sifted (must be sifted)
5 eggs (60g each egg)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Custard Cream:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
3 cups milk
30g real butter
1/2 or 1 vanilla bean OR Vanilla extract
+/- a cup of whipped fresh cream

Pai-Shuu Crust:
30g butter
1/3 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/3 cup SR flour    (OR plain flour with 1/2 tsp baking powder (or a pinch bicarb soda))

  • STEP 1:  Make Custard Cream several hours before or the day before
  • STEP 2:  Prepare Pai-Shuu Crust Dough if desired
  • STEP 3:  When everything's ready, make the Cream Puff Shells
  • STEP 4:  When Cream Puff Shells are fresh out of the oven, fill with cold Custard Cream and serve. (Or within 24 hours if possible.)

Custard Cream
1. Using a whisk, Combine flour and sugar, 
2. Add:  4 egg yolks and about 40mL of the milk, whisk until combined.  Add remaining milk and scrape in vanilla pod.
3. Stir over medium heat, till it thickens (Often scraping the bottom). When it's thick and bubbles start to blob up, remove from heat.
4. Stir in 30g real butter

5. Allow to cool with plastic wrap on surface to prevent a "skin". Refrigerate until cold.
+/- 6. If you like, fold a cup of whipped fresh cream into the cold custard cream.

Pai-Shuu Crust
1.  Gently melt butter (microwave or small saucepan)
2.  Stir in Sugar and Flour.

Cream Puff (Choux) Pastry
1. Place butter, salt, sugar and water in a large saucepan over high heat.  When butter is melted and it starts to boil, remove from heat and...
2. Immediately tip in flour all at once, and beat into a firm dough with wooden spoon.
3. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk 5 eggs.  Add approximately one egg to the dough at a time, beating well in between with a wooden spoon.
4. Spoon into a piping bag and pipe directly downward onto paper-lined tray.  If you like, use chopsticks or fingers to pull pastry upwards on the sides, to make them taller and rough-surfaced.
5.  Place discs of Pai-Shuu Crust Dough on top.
6.  Immediately bake in a very hot oven 210-220 degrees Celcius, 25-30min until well puffed and browned then down to 100 degrees C for 40 min or more to dry.
7.  Allow to cool (the puffs will firm up and become strong) before peeling the baking paper from the bottom of the puffs.

**oven MUST be well pre-heated, esp for big cream puffs.  And don't turn the heat down too early, or they might fall. Wait until they're well puffed and the colour is fully developed.
  • Custard Cream can be made the day before, but Cream Puff shells are best made the day they will be served.  If you need to make them the day before, leave them out on a tray or plate in the open air or in the oven (switched off, of course).  Placing them in a lidded container or in the fridge will allow the shells to loose their crispness as the inner moisture equalises with the outer crispness.
  • Fill cream puffs as close as possible to serving time, to preserve crispness.
  • If storing shells in the fridge or freezer, freshen them before serving by placing in a moderate oven for 5 min.  They will come out crisp and delicious.
  • If you want them really dry and crisp (like Beard Papa's) leave them in a cool oven (100degC or less) for longer (1 hour or more), until just before you serve/eat it.  Put the cold filling in right before serving.
  • Cream Puffs can be made using margarine, but the custard cream needs real butter if you want the flavour just right.
  • Vanilla Beans: I got excellent quality vanilla beans from India on ebay, sooo cheap!
  • Custard Cream: If you prefer a lighter, velvety custard cream, whip 1/2 cup fresh cream and then fold into the cold custard cream.
1.  Q) My cream puffs turned out flat.  What went wrong?

A) Actually it's pretty easy to do. In my early shu cream experiences I did that a few times and I think I know just about every mistake that can possibly be made. There are a few points that are vital to getting the cream puff magic right.

  1. Add the flour to the butter/water mixture when it's still at boiling temperature, and as you mix, it slightly cooks the flour and makes it a very firm ball. 
  2. Beat in each egg really well before adding the next egg. 
  3. I use eggs from the fridge, they cool the mixture slightly as you beat them in. 
  4. As soon as you've piped the pastry onto the tray, place it in the very hot oven immediately (so that the pastry blobs don't droop), and quickly, so that the oven temperature doesn't drop. 
  5. If you've done everything else right it must just be the egg size is different. I used 58-59g eggs. If the volume of egg is too much it may make the pastry too runny. When you get to the 4th egg, consider "will adding one more egg make it too runny?" If so, leave it out or add half an egg. 

2. Q)  did you add fresh whipped cream to yours or not? 
A)  No, I didn't add whipped cream this time as fresh cream is so expensive in Japan! It doesn't really need it, but it does make the custard cream lighter (maybe more like beard papa's?).
Another thing that some Japanese Patisseries do is "pair cream": Put in mostly custard cream and then pipe whipped cream on top. Oh, there's so many variations...

If you don't have a piping bag:
I used to fold a sheet of cooking paper into a cone shape, cut off the end, and fill it with the entire batch of pastry. Make it a decent sized hole, as the pastry's quite thick.  You won't get quite so many cream puffs because some of the pastry will stick to the bag and be wasted. 
OR Just spoon the pastry onto the tray.

(22 Oct Update: Now I use disposable plastic pastry bags because I discovered them 8 for 100yen at daisy!)

How to make Strawberry Cream Puffs いちごシュークリーム

Monday, September 26, 2011


100 yen shops are one of my favorite things in Japan.  Here is just a small sample of Seria, a popular 100 yen chain in Kansai and Chubu.
And this is also your selection platter for the 
(in addition to the Japanese food items listed earlier)
Please comment below telling me what you'd like if you could choose 2 or 4 items from these photos.  (That will give you a better chance of getting what you really want when you win!)  
Don't forget to click "like" in the right sidebar to be in the draw, and "Join this site" (publicly) for a double chance to win!
Bento Boxes and Onigiri Boxes
Cutlery and chopstick sets to take with your Obento Lunch
This is what I always use in the shower: A Japanese Body Washing Towel.  They foam up nicely and do a nice exfoliation. made of nylon.
Japanese often use House Slippers inside the House
Face washers. Japanese Women always carry one of these in their handbag/purse

False Eyelashes
False Eyelash Glue and False Eyelash Cases 
Eyelash Curlers (my favorite. they always come with a spare rubber)
Hair Accessories 
Hair Accessories (the flowers are especially for wearing with a Yukata or Kimono)
Hairpins (my favorite)
Learner Chopsticks for kids, drink bottle cap with straw etc
Chopstick Sets 
Cute Kids Chopsticks, Pretty Chopsticks, Traditional Design Chopsticks

Lunchbox Picks for eating Fruit

Pouches/Pencil cases/ Makeup Cases
Cute little socks and long socks 
Tights and nylons
Miso Soup Bowls and other bowls

Getting Around Kyoto ...AND... Osaka to Kyoto Trains

If you want to visit a few places around Kyoto in one day, the Kyoto City Bus One Day Pass is 500 yen.
You can buy it from information desks at train stations.
(more information about Kyoto Buses and Subways)
A single trip on the bus nomally costs 220 yen or the subway is 210-340 yen.
On the back of this map is all the bus information in English
To go to Nijo Castle (Nijojo) we came out of the Hankyu Kawaramachi Station at Exit 7, which was right at Bus Stop D, where we got onto Bus 12.  Bus 12 goes to Kinkakuji (Golden Temple), but on the way we got off at Nijojo (Nijo Castle)

Bus 12, to Kinkakuji (and Nijojo)

Osaka to Kyoto
(since it's so much cheaper to stay in Osaka)

Going to Kyoto from Osaka, I often take the Hankyu line.  Hankyu is cheapest and the Hankyu Kawaramachi station is very central in town and close to the Gion district.  In contrast, the JR line takes you to Kyoto Station, which doesn't have quite so many interesting things around

Umeda (Osaka) to Kawaramachi (Kyoto) takes 44 min and costs 390 yen

From our Hotel at Doubutsuen-mae (subway)/Shin-Imamiya (JR) Stations to Umeda (Osaka), it's 170 yen and 16 min on JR loop line (from Shin-Imamiya) or 230 yen/13min by subway (from Doubutsuen-mae)
(I recommend the subway, since it's easy to mistakenly go the long side of the JR loop line and then it takes 25min, and when you get to Umeda, it's easier to find the Hankyu station from the Subway)

Train Routes
The most common form of transport in Japan is by train.  Trains run on time and are typically timetabled every 10 minutes.
It's easy to find your way around Japan by train if you know the names of the stations you're going to and from.
Jorudan is very simple and easy to use
Hyperpedia has a lot more options and detail
There are many train companies in Japan.
JR is the national train line, but it doesn't reach all local areas.
Each region has about three private train line companies, and large cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Kyoto) have subway networks.  The subways are also generally owned by more than one company.
Generally, non-JR train lines and subways work in co-operation, but JR is always separate.  So if you're taking a route which uses JR and non-JR lines, you need to buy  separate tickets (at the respective stations)
Google maps can be useful as it shows train stations in pink and Station names in Blue, with the name of the line written on the line.

Baby Boy reading Kyoto Guide Map on the way back to Osaka

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nijo Castle, Kyoto

Gate of Ninomaru Palace (Inside the Nijo Castle Wall)
With just one day for sightseeing in Kyoto, the itinerary was a hard decision.  We've both been to Kiyomizu Temple (my favorite Buddhist temple), Kinkakuji (The Golden Temple) and Gion, so we decided on Nijo Castle.

As a castle, all that you'll see is the wall and moat, but inside this castle wall is a real treasure...
Gate of Ninomaru Palace
...Ninomaru Palace, the home of the Shogun (Head of the Samurai) since 1603.
(well, 1603 until the end of the Shoguns and Samurai in 1867)
Ninomaru Palace
Take off your shoes at the genkan and step into the world of the Samurai.
The first thing I notice as I walk the ancient corridors is the sqeaky floorboards.
No, not just sqeaky floorboards, every floor board sqeaks.  No matter how softly you walk.  It's called the Nightingale Floor, and it's done for a very clever purpose.  
The shogun doesn't want silent-footed ninja from an enemy to come un-noticed.
Front Detail, Ninomaru Palace
As you listen to the chorus of nightingales, you pass various rooms, the walls covered with ancient artwork.  Each room has a different theme.  Unfortunately you can't take photos, so all I have to show you is my postcard:

The rooms of Ninomaru Palace:
  1. Yanagi-no-ma - Willow Room,
  2. Wakamatsu-no-ma - Young Pine Room  -- has ancient paintings of tigers which were done based on looking at hides, since there were no real tigers in ancient Japan.  They're quite strange-looking.
  3. Tozamurai-no-ma - The Retainers' Room
  4. Shikidai-no-ma - The Reception Room
  5. Rouchu-no-ma - The Ministers' Office Room
  6. Chokushi-no-ma - The Imperial Messenger's Room
  7. Oohiroma - The Great Hall: Consisting of three sections: Ichi-no-ma - First Grand Chamber, Ni-no-ma - Second Grand Chamber, San-no-ma - Third Grand Chamber, Yon-no-ma - Fourth Grand Chamber  --- The Great Hall is one of the highlights.
  8. Musha-kakushi-no-ma - The Bodyguards' Hidden Chamber
  9. Sotetsu-no-ma - Japanese fern-palm chamber
  10. Kuroshoin - The Inner Audience Chamber
  11. Shiroshoin - The Shogun's private living quarters --- This was quite interesting.
As you walk the set route through the corridors you'll go past each of these rooms.
Exterior of Ninomaru Palace
Garden behind Ninomaru Palace

Guard Station, just inside the gate of Nijo Castle

The wall of Ninomaru Palace
Detail of the Gate of Ninomaru Palace
Gate of Ninomaru Palace (the white spots are rain drops)

Map of Nijo Castle.  The large building in the lower half is Ninomaru Palace.
We had planned to also see Ginkakuji (The Silver Temple) today, but the rains came.

Entry to Nijo Castle is 600 yen for adults
From Kawaramachi-Shijo, Take bus number 12 (headed for Kinkakuji) and get off at Nijo-jo-mae (you'll see the big white wall and moat)
More Info on How to Get There and Planning your Trip: Here