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Hot August Baking

My first summer here in Pasadena is definitely a hot one. In Tokyo where I usually spend my summers, the heat is something I cannot even describe; it can only be experienced. Especially in urban areas of the city, the reflective force of the black asphalt combined with the relentless direct sunlight and intense humidity means that just standing at a bus stop or a train platform is nearly unbearable. Simply standing and doing nothing results in a sweat-drenched shirt. But even then, as we joke about how “I can’t win against this heat” (a common colloquial phrase in Japanese), we still gather together to eat fresh watermelon and tomatoes chilled in ice water, to enjoy the ‘obon’ season where we all walk together to our family graves and bring our ancestors home, carrying paper lanterns in the cooler dusk. In this way, the heat becomes a little more bearable through good fresh food and good company and evenings filled with festivals in the nearby parks.

Recalling these sweet memories of home is part of what is getting me through this hot July in my Pasadena kitchen. I’ve been trying a lot of new things - bagels, english muffins - and in my conversations with my customers who come to pick up those items, I always make sure to ask their opinion so that I can learn a little more. But the most enjoyable and heartwarming feedback I receive isn’t one of praise or criticism, but rather small comments like “my parents are so excited for next weekend’s sale” or “I have to get home quickly, since my son is waiting impatiently to eat these bagels for breakfast!” If I was back in Japan, my days would be filled with time in my mother’s kitchen making and sharing meals with her and my father, and I can’t help but feel that the sense of family I’ve found in my weekly baking in Pasadena holds some deep connection with my family and food back home.

This month, we will again feature a chocolate dessert. Likely because of my own obsession with the stuff, chocolate often seems to find itself into the menus. I will be making flourless chocolate cake; this is something I’ve been making for years, and I hope you can enjoy the rich soft taste and texture as much as I do. It pairs well with fresh fruits like strawberries and peaches, and of course with my favorite: ice cream. The cake doesn’t melt and can be kept outside the fridge, but it can also be frozen, so it’s perfect for summer. The other dessert will be a polenta almond cake. A variation of this cake is featured in Elisa’s cookbook, and I fell in love with this dessert at first sight. It’s made from my own freshly home-milled cornmeal and flour and is baked with almonds: simple but delicious. I hope you enjoy.

Additionally in August, I will be selling bagels and english muffins. If possible, I am also planning to sell sourdough croutons (perfect for all your fresh summer salads) and sandwich loaves. If you are interested, please email me.

I look forward to seeing you (again) this coming month!





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