If you haven’t noticed already, I love to bake. I am not sure exactly when it all started, but somewhere around high school I started baking on a regular basis. Of all the things that I anticipated would be hard when I studied abroad the first time, not baking for 4 months was not something I took as a serious concern.
I knew going to Japan that Japanese homes are typically smaller, and that kitchens would be smaller/function slightly differently due to the size and the staple diet. I was not expecting that nobody I knew had an oven. I was not expecting that my host mom’s kitchen would be smaller than my parents bathroom.
At first I was too excited about being in Japan and all the traveling and adventuring around to really notice how much I missed baking, but by month two I was beginning to become desperate. But how to bake something when you can’t bake?
For a moment I was deceived into thinking I could bake at my friend Ryohei’s house, but it turns out he mistook his microwave for an oven. Yeah….I’m not even joking about that. But no worries, I needed to make something for someone badly enough that I took him up on his offer to use his kitchen.
Being fall/nearing Thanksgiving as it was, I focused on finding no-bake recipes that would fit the theme. I ended up finding some recipes online for No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake and Hot Chai Apple Cider. The next challenge: finding the ingredients!
Luckily for me, Kaihin Makuhari Station is home to an expensive but surprisingly extensive Gaijin store. I did have to make a few compromises, and considering my friend doesn’t bake anything ever I had to buy not only every single ingredient but also a bowl and a whisk (which I found at the hyaku-en or dollar store!) too.
After getting all the right tools and ingredients I headed off to my friend’s house…Only to discover that he has the world’s smallest kitchen ever.
While I prepped the ingredients and wrangled with this newly refreshed sense of culture shock, my friends acted like my children, playing in the other room on varying electronic devices.
Even with these amazing people in the next room, I was focused; this was my chance to make something and give it to my study abroad friends.
I started with the cookie base of the cheesecakes, crumbling cookies and mixing them with melted butter before pressing the mixture into the bottom of plastic cups.
Because of the lack of tools and also because its an awesome idea, I used a separate cup to press down the cookie crumbs to make a solid base. Otherwise when you add in the cheesecake layer the crumbs will get all up in it and it won’t look as good.
After that I whipped up the cream cheese, some brown sugar, vanilla extract and pumpkin puree to create the cheesecake layer. I shop for these ingredients all the time in the US, but in Japan I had to go armed with my trusty Japanese-English dictionary to interpret the kanji on strange brands I had never heard of. I was super paranoid that I would end up buying some sort of seaweed instead of brown sugar and ruin the whole thing.
The absolute hardest part of making the no-bake cheesecakes was the whipped cream. I have the pleasure of owning a Cuisinart stand mixer, which I use for absolutely everything. However, as I mentioned, Ryohei barely had a kitchen and I had to buy and bring my own whisk and bowl in order to make the cheesecake. So I whipped the heavy cream by hand in order to make the whipped cream. It ended up fine, which to me was a huge accomplishment because I have less than zero upper body strength.
After the whipped cream was mixed into the pumpkin mixture, I separated it into the cups on top of the cookie base.
After chilling the cheesecake, I finished it off with more whipped cream and caramel sauce.
All in all, I was super happy with how they turned out, especially given the circumstances. And they were a huge hit with my friends, so that was awesome. ^_^
No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe, as per Cooking Classy (with some changes due to available ingredients)
16 Biscoff cookies, or similar tasting cookie
2 T butter, melted
1 2/3 cup heavy cream
8 oz cream cheese
4 T caramel sauce + more for topping (I used store bought but you can make it yourself)
6 T light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1) Crush cookies (in a food processor or a large plastic bag) until fine crumbs, than mix with butter and divide into 6 plastic individual serving cups.
2) Whip 1 cup of heavy cream and set aside. Whip cream cheese, caramel sauce, brown sugar and spices until thoroughly combined. Fold in the pumpkin puree and then the whipped cream. Spoon over the cookie crumb crusts.
3) Set the cheesecakes in the refrigerator and let chill for about an hour.
4) Whip the remaining heavy cream and spoon on top of the cheesecakes and drizzle with caramel sauce before serving.
Thanks so much for reading, and a special thank you to Ryohei for his kitchen, and my friends Kohei, Grace, Marisa, Kaitlin and Mary for eating everything I made ^_^ It was greatly appreciated!