Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey
(Note: In Japanese, "fuwa fuwa" is used to describe something soft and flouffy, like lambs wool; "cakey" is actually Japanese for cake, quite possible because the first Japanese person who ever saw the English word pronounced the "e" in "cake" as "ee.")
Although food is something easy to love, it has its share of underdogs who find wide acceptance a little harder to come by--dried prunes, bran, and soy quickly come to mind. I think of these guys as the nerds of the foodyard, esculent equivalents of the brilliant, sensitive child that the grownups made the mistake of praising to the rest of the class.
Of all the dried fruit, prunes somehow got singled out for its laxative qualities. The words "prune juice" say it all--does anyone drink that stuff cause they think it's yummy? Uh, maybe. Next, bran. This word seems unable to go anywhere without "health" tagging along like an annoying little brother.
And then there's soy, the teacher's pet. When I was living in the U.S. a few years back, to me at least, soy often seemed sadly misunderstood. Magazines and newspapers were touting the benefits of soy, and people listened. They just didn't enjoy. All sorts of tricks were devised to sneak soy into the diet: soy milk blendered with lots of fruit in smoothies and shakes, tofu disguised in heavily seasoned casseroles. Recipes would come with promises like, "You won't even know there's tofu in here." Poor soy, swallowed dutifully like a vitamin supplement.
In Southeast Asia, soy enjoys a different status. In Singapore, for example, soy milk and tofu are as common, and loved, as bread and butter. You can find them in any supermarket and on many menus. And I don't know any Singaporean who consumes soy because of the health benefits. I actually didn't know there were health benefits until I moved to Canada and something godawful called soy burgers crept onto supermarket shelves. Taste a spoonful of cold, uncooked tofu: if it's good, there'll be a sweet, fresh fragrance and flavor, a pure delight.
So, for this eleventh (and my first!) Is My Blog Burning?, hosted by Cathy at My Little Kitchen, I thought a tribute to my favorite nerdy white kid--soy--would work nicely with the theme of beans. I did initially have another kind of bean competing in my head for attention, as I described in my slightly crazed post here. However, while flipping through a Japanese recipe book recently, I soon found myself riveted by a lovely picture: "Souffle Cheese Cake," the book said. It looked pale golden and pouffy and perfect for showcasing soy.
I, er, sort of memorized the recipe (Did I mention I was browsing in a bookstore?)--but then made HUGE changes, enormous changes. The original ingredients list included sour cream, lemon juice, and flour--none of which I use in my recipe--and of course didn't include soy milk (even in Japan, a country that adores tofu, soy milk is generally viewed as something more healthy than delicious; but then soy milk only comes in two forms here, salted or non-sweetened, neither of which I'd want to drink either). Also, I reduced the oven temperature to 160'C because the first time I baked at 180'C, there was quite a bit of cracking, and my cake did not in any way resemble this person's proud creation.
I swear I'm winding down and will get to the recipe in a second. I just wanted to explain a few things about this cake. First of all, although outside of Japan it seems to often go by the name "Japanese Cheese Cake," this cake isn't anything like a typical cheesecake. It is cheese-creamy, but it's also light as foam, and as it melts on the tongue, you can actually hear and feel all these little bubbles bursting.
Here's a macha (green tea) version whose color more clearly shows the bubbly crumb--although this picture doesn't do justice to how light the real thing is
One other point. All the recipes I came across for Japanese cheese cake included flour and/or corn starch, but perhaps because of the delicacy of the cake, I found the presence of flour disturbing. I could taste and feel the chalkiness on my tongue. I first tried cutting down the amount of flour, but still the floury taste lingered. I then tried substituting ground almonds, thinking the cake would collapse without something to offer support. But eventually, I said, "oh, heck," and just made a cake without any kind of flour. And the thing stayed up! The texture was creamier, and thus also a bit harder to slice into.
Messily cut cake: its fault, not mine
But a wonderful and unanticipated result: the taste of the soy milk was suddenly much more distinct. Suddenly, this wasn't a cake that just had a bit of soy milk in it; this was a fuwa fuwa soy milk cake!
Okay! I'm done. But I have to apologize for one thing: this recipe is for a mini cake that serves two to three people. You have to understand. I was making countless experimental versions. I simply couldn't keep making full-sized cakeys or my arms would probably have dropped off from all that egg white whipping.
Fuwa Fuwa Soy Milk Cakey (aka Japanese Cheese Cake)
60g cream cheese
3.5 tablespoons sugar (I use light brown)
2 egg yolks
75ml 100% fresh soy milk (use regular milk if you really hate soy, you big meanie)
1 egg white
*2 tablespoons candied beans (optional--they look pretty and actually taste delicious, but they also sink to the bottom and detract from the soy flavor)
1. Line bottom of 12cm/4.7-inch round cake tin with parchment paper; make a separate paper collar that rises about 5cm/2 inches above rim of tin.
2. Preheat oven: 160'C/320'F
3. Soften cream cheese in microwave or double boiler and stir until nice and smooth.
4. Beat into cream cheese: 1 tablespoon of sugar, egg yolks, and soy milk.
5. Whip egg white and rest of sugar only until soft peaks form.
6. Add a spoonful of whipped egg white into cream cheese mixture and mix gently but thoroughly.
7. Fold in rest of egg white in two parts. You want to be soft-handed but don't be too timid. The batter needs to be well mixed or it will separate while baking and you'll have a denser layer at the bottom.
8. Pour batter into tin. Soak some kitchen cloths with water (should be very wet). Put one cloth on oven tray and set tin on top. Twist rest of cloths into long ropes and wrap snugly around side of tin. Many recipes suggest a water bath, but my cake still cracked when I tried that. I find the wet towels work better--thanks to shiokadelicious! for teaching me this trick.
9. Bake for about 35 minutes. Let cake sit in oven, with heat turned off for about 5 minutes. Open oven door and let cool completely or as long as you can stand waiting before you have to unwrap it and have a taste. Mmmm.
Notice the bit of separation going on at the bottom? I didn't do a good job of mixing.
By the way, if you're curious to see what a typical Japanese cheese cake recipe looks like, this seems like a pretty nice one (it's at the bottom of the page).