Author Notes: The theme of 'celery' vision filled my head. It was of spring green celery in an unexpected shape floating in a clear pond. Wagashi (Japanese Sweets) are delicate, intricately beautiful individual portions usually based on sweetened bean paste of a 'seasonal' ingredient, or related to an activity like viewing cherry blossoms. Some wagashi will be sold for a week or two and then gone until next year, like the cherry blossoms.
But what flavors do I give my East Meets West pie? Not being a 13th- or 14th-generation wagashi maker, I don't have their secrets. I decided to do what I know, a lemon aspic on top to hold the celery in place, to flavor the crust like thyme crackers, and for the filling use our favorite olive cheese ball reconstructed- a savory pie. Really delicious!
You can use Greek Yogurt in place of Yogurt Cheese. - BoulderGalinTokyo
Thyme Cracker Crust (and Yogurt Cheese)
- 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 Tablespoons thyme (fresh, if possible)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarse
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 Tablespoons cold water, as needed
- 450 grams (about 16 ounces) Yogurt (low-fat OK but no-fat doesn't work) or Greek Yogurt
- YOGURT CHEESE: Start several hours before making filling. Line a colander (preferably with stand or feet) with cheesecloth or Bounty paper towels. Place colander into a bigger bowl. Pour yogurt into colander, cover with more paper towels or cheesecloth ends. Put a heavy plate on top. Cover with film wrap and put in fridge. Empty bottom bowl occasionally.
- THYME CRACKER CRUST: Preheat oven to 410℉ (210℃) for gas convection. Others set 475℉ (240℃).
- Put flour, thyme, salt, pepper, and oil in food processor bowl. Mix. With processor running, add water slowly. (This dough won't make a ball like with butter which you may choose to use but lower the amount of salt)
- Pat into an 8-inch springform pan. I used 8 inch because the cheese mixture is a lot less than a regular baked cheesecake and I wanted some height to the cheese middle, but there is plenty of dough for a 9-inch pan if you choose.
- Bake for 12 minutes (convention oven) until golden brown. Tap top and crust should be firm. Cool.
Olive Cheese Filling and Lemon Aspic with Celery
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1/3 cup green olives with pimento + 8 for decorating (Spanish preferred)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 eggs, soft scrambled
- 1 cup sour cream or drained yogurt
- 2 teaspoons pickling juice from olives
- 6-8 stalks celery (enough to decorate the top of pie after cutting)
- 10 grams powdered gelatin (2 packets)
- 1 lemon, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 warm water (about 80℃ /176℉)
- 1/4 cup lemon liquor (I use homemade but Limoncello is fine)
- 1 teaspoon light agave
- 1 1/2 cups cold water (adjust according to your gelatin directions)
- OLIVE CHEESE FILLING: Take yogurt cheese out of fridge and squeeze any additional liquid out. The yogurt cheese should peel away from cloth or paper towels. Set aside.
- Cut cream cheese into eight pieces and put in food processor bowl with mixer (knife) blade. Cut garlic clove in half, and add to bowl. Add olives. Pulse until coarsely mixed. Add yogurt cheese and egg and pulse again.
- Put a little oil on sides of pan. Pour filling into prepared crust and bake at 325℉ (160℃) for about 35 minutes or until set. (About 30 min. for my convection oven but adjust to your oven)
- Combine sour cream and olive juice. If using yogurt drain well so it's not too watery. Spread over top of cheese filling. I didn't re-bake because I wanted a 'White' canvas for the celery.
- Cool for at least 4 hours.
- CELERY: Prepare celery first. Sharpen knife. Try to choose sections of celery that are the same width. Don't use the lower white celery sections. Start cutting from back of spine almost through, but not all the way through. Cut and count 1-10, slice through on 11. But do what works for you. Put each section in cold water. I cut 25 sections but used 21 (and one eaten because cut through)
- Slice OLIVES in half. I used 8. Depends on your design.
- LEMON ASPIC: Squeeze lemon juice. Strain pulp out. Sprinkle gelatin powder on warm-hot water and stir until it dissolves. Stir and cool somewhat. Add lemon juice, agave, and lemon liquor, stirring.
- Decorate top how you like with celery and olives. Celery will have curved somewhat. Position olives cut side up. Check if pimentos are in place.
- Add cold water to lemon gelatin mixture. Keep stirring and it will BEGIN to thicken. Being very careful of decorated top, pour lemon gelatin slowly over filling to not move celery or olives. Be especially careful of olives, some will float away so after pouring all gelatin, check your design again.
- Cool in fridge for several hours.
- TO SERVE: Try cutting along the lines of design to give the cut pieces the look of Japanese wagashi. See Photos. Warm knife to cut sharply through aspic but not too hot or aspic will melt. Put on Japanese music playlist and enjoy those cherry blossoms!
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Celery Recipe