dried persimmon biscotti + miniature plum blossoms

Despite a cold winter rain persisting throughout the weekend, it was otherwise warmed by a lovely afternoon with friends for a visit to the special plum tree exhibition on display in the old castle in my town, which was followed by mugs of tea and the weekend’s baking endeavors. At half past two, my two very good friends arrived and we promptly set out for a wet and chilly walk up to Koriyama Castle. The road was crowded with people who had taken part in a festival that had just finished, and we wandered up to the exhibition’s entrance amidst generations of spectators: newborns bundled up in their mother’s arms, young children running around the garden and grounds, parents tiredly lost in thought, an arm out supporting their elderly relatives.

The compound in which the exhibition was held was a long, connecting corridor spanning the huge castle gateway below. We silently slipped off our shoes to tread the carpet in thin slippers, and entered the hall. The entire structure was made of a beautiful sandy-colored wood, with gold screens along the wall emanating a pleasant warm glow in the low-lit rooms. On either side of the carpet, huge, solid ceramic pots held the miniature trees. Many had started to bloom, and their branches were dotted with delicate, paper-thin blossoms in every shade of pink and white. Continue reading

oatmeal raisin muffins + regrets for an overly long absence

It is a failure of a blogger indeed to be dormant on one’s own site for almost three months! I offer my sincere apology for neglecting the kind readership that has encouraged me in this fledgling blogging enterprise. I admit, it wasn’t that the baking had stopped, but rather that the time between freshly baked, out-of-my-oven and wrapped, into the hands of others was cut tremendously short. Our lovely Saint Valentine’s day, for example, was a case-in-point: six dozen baked overnight and dipped in chocolate, packaged and given away the very next day!

Why six dozen cookies? Why the rush, you ask? Well, in Japan, Valentine’s day is somewhat different from the flower and box-of-chocolates tradition in America: it’s a day exclusively for girls and women to make homemade treats and truffles for friends, boyfriends, supervisors, coworkers, teachers, or in my case, all of the above. I should have taken advantage of the incredible ready-made boxes of exquisite fine chocolates–ganache, milk, dark, and white chocolates of all shapes, designs, and sizes–to dole out to my many kind fellows, but no, as a steadfast and silly stubborn goose, I refused all commercial help and made the darned things myself, all seventy-two hearty-shaped cookies. Next year, I’ll trade in my pride for a peaceful, stress-free St Valentine’s Day.  Continue reading